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April 2019
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If Epic Vs Steam Is To Be A PR War, Epic's Boss Just Issued A Brilliant Retaliatory Strike

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Things are getting interesting. For the past few months, we've been discussing the emergence of a new player in the digital games distribution business, in which Valve's Steam platform has been dominant for roughly a decade. Epic Games' platform has begun gobbling up new AAA game releases, signing them to 6 month exclusivity deals. Those deals have generally angered the majority of gamers, leading to the kind of review-bombing of already-released titles on Steam that Valve has previously pledged to prevent.It has appeared for all the world that a new era of game exclusivity has begun in the PC gaming space. This is not a development that gamers like. Nobody wants to find out that a PC game that by nature cannot be hardware exclusive has suddenly become distributor exclusive. But even as the outrage has grown, most have seen this as a business model competition, with Epic trying to ramp up its user numbers by signing these deals, which themselves are signed by offering developers a flat 88% of the revenue generated, whereas Steam only offers anywhere from 70%-80%.The majority of reports are somewhat slanted to make Epic the bad guy in all of this. After all, it is the one introducing exclusivity into the industry. In that light, this is as much a PR battle as a business battle. And if that's true, then Epic boss Tim Sweeney just fired off one of the great PR counterattacks the gaming industry has ever seen.

Last night, Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney tweeted that his company would end its controversial exclusivity agreements if Steam raised its revenue cut for developers. It’s a strong statement, even if there are reasons to be skeptical of Sweeney’s position.“If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached,” Sweeney wrote, “Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam.”
It's brilliant messaging for a number of reasons. First, it further solidifies Epic's position as the more pro-developer distribution partner. After all, the message here is that Epic isn't only looking out for developers on its platform, but it's trying to better the take for developers on Steam as well. That isn't a message that will be lost on game companies. Second, it's a direct response to the gamer community. It says, "Hey, you love games, we love games, and we all need the people who make them to do well. All we're trying to do is make the gaming industry such that there is more incentive to release more games." That too is a powerful message, even if all of this is a bluff, with Epic assuming Valve is never going to bow to its demands.And it's worth pointing out one other thing in all of this as well. While many in the gaming industry scream about how too many gamers just want everything for free and that piracy is ruining the industry, this message only works if there is a healthy ecosystem of gamers willing to pay for games. Were piracy to be the death-threat to the industry as we so often hear, these platform wars would be entirely irrelevant.Again, this could be all a bluff designed to make Epic look good. But if it is, Sweeney is a particularly skilled poker player.
In a followup tweet, Sweeney wrote, “Such a move would be a glorious moment in the history of PC gaming, and would have a sweeping impact on other platforms for generations to come. Then stores could go back to just being nice places to buy stuff, rather than the Game Developer IRS.”
Again, this is fairly brilliant, and it's going to be interesting to see how Valve responds. Your move, Steam.

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posted at: 12:00am on 30-Apr-2019
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NYPD Oversight Report Confirms NYPD Not Interested In Being Overseen

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New York City's Department of Investigation can only do so much. The rest is up to the NYPD. The DOI made 145 recommendations in 2018 -- covering everything from use of force reporting to sex crime investigations. To date, the NYPD has implemented less than half of those. It has completely rejected 31 recommendations, a third of those covering proposed changes to its use of force reporting.Oversight is only as good as the agency being overseen. The NYPD doesn't care much for accountability. So, it's chosen to ignore the things it doesn't like and half-ass its way towards compliance with recommendations it feels it might be able to live with.Most of the rejections come from changes to use of force reporting. The NYPD would prefer no use of force reporting. The DOI would prefer 100% accountability in this area. A "compromise" has been reached. From the report [PDF]:

Separate from T.R.I. forms, officers are also required to indicate the use of force on arrest reports. OIG-NYPD found that in at least 30% of the arrest reports with resisting arrest charges in the 2016 study period (and 55.9% in a 2017 sample), officers stated that “No” force was used but still filed a T.R.I. form affirming that the officer indeed used reportable force during the incident. This means that officers are underreporting force on arrest reports. This accuracy issue not only undermines the efficacy of future oversight audits, but risks engendering a false sense of compliance.
As was detailed in last year's report, this resulted in the NYPD claiming officers only used force in 1.3% of arrests, when it was clear the number was actually much higher.The NYPD rejected completely any public reporting on use of force statistics, including the demographics of officers deploying force and of those who force was used against.The bad news continues. The NYPD's sex crime division remains too understaffed to handle investigations. On top of that, the limited resources are prioritized badly, resulting in too little attention being paid to larger problems.
In late 2016, OIG-NYPD began tracking a troubling trend. While reported sex crimes—especially those where the perpetrator was known to the victim—were trending up, arrests were trending down. In early 2017, OIG-NYPD received credible complaints regarding dysfunction at the NYPD Special Victims Division (SVD) squads that investigate adult sex-crimes. OIG-NYPD then launched a full investigation of SVD, focusing on the units’ staffing resources.[...]the investigation also found that NYPD had understaffed and under-resourced SVD for at least the last nine years. As a result of understaffing, OIGNYPD’s investigation also found that NYPD had prioritized so-called “stranger rapes” and other more high-profile cases, while “acquaintance rape” and other investigations received less attention.
Many New Yorkers might like to know how much NYPD misconduct is costing them. The NYPD has vowed to be of no help on that issue, preferring to remain ignorant of the monetary damage its officers cause.
OIG-NYPD also found that, despite NYPD’s prior acknowledgement of the benefits of analyzing litigation data, NYPD had abandoned plans to use its early intervention system to track the number, types, and monetary outcomes of lawsuits filed against individual officers.
The middle finger to the public is extended further by the NYPD's rejections: any public reporting of lawsuits filed against the department or tracking of litigation to see what officer behavior problems might need to be addressed.The shafting of the public continues with the NYPD's handling of complaints against officers and supervisors. If the NYPD isn't slow-walking investigations itself, its software will pitch in with the foot dragging.
On February 7, 2017, OIG-NYPD released a review of how NYPD tracks OG complaints as they move from NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau to the Office of the Chief of Department (OCD)’s Investigation Review Section (IRS). The investigation found inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the process, including outdated technology that is incompatible with other NYPD systems, and which slows the process for completing investigations.
The good news is the NYPD is using new software to track investigations as they move through the system. The bad news is everything else.The NYPD claims it can process investigations in the 90-day timeframe allotted, rendering a papertrail for extended investigations unnecessary. As proof of this expeditious handling, the NYPD handed its oversight… nothing at all.
NYPD further asserts that allowing investigators to request extensions invites the possibility investigators may request such extensions more routinely and unnecessarily delay completion of the investigation within 90 days. However, when OIG-NYPD asked NYPD to run a report of how many 2018 cases were closed within 90 days, NYPD could not do so.
The NYPD is still "undecided" whether or not the public gets to know how many complaints have been filed against officers. Periodic reporting is still "under discussion" and it seems unlikely it will be moving past that point anytime soon.The NYPD also promises to continue to surveil people participating in First Amendment-protected activity, like frequenting their house of worship or participating in protests. It rejected three of the DOI's five recommendations: written justification of investigations impacting First Amendment rights, documentation on confidential informants placed in Constitutionally-sensitive locations, and written guidelines setting standards for all phases of these investigations.The NYPD argues the Handschu guidelines -- the ones it ignored for years while surveilling Muslims -- are more than up to the task of policing the police agency that won't police itself. Very reassuring.The agency that has strongly resisted every attempt to control it continues to view itself as the final arbiter of police work. Outside opinions aren't welcomed, even as the NYPD insists its opinion on policework should be respected around the world. Without change, the aspects of the agency that are bad can only trend towards worse. It's clear from this report the NYPD feels it should answer to no one, not even the public signing its checks.

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posted at: 12:00am on 30-Apr-2019
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This Week In Techdirt History: April 21st - 27th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2014, James Clapper was busy giving speeches to students to try to prevent any admiration of Ed Snowden, and working hard to stop members of the intelligence community from talking to pretty much anyone. Homeland Security was warning parents that typical teenage behavior might be a sign of terrorist radicalization, while a court was telling the DOJ it must release the memo that described the justificiation for a drone strike on a US citizen.Meanwhile, we were wondering why the US government was getting involved in the Aereo case (on the broadcast industry's side of course), though at least it appeared at the time that the SCOTUS justices understood the gravity of the case, even as so many people persisted in describing Aereo's compliance with copyright law as circumvention of copyright law.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2009, while the entertainment industry was doing its best to celebrate the recent verdict against the Pirate Bay, some folks in Sweden noticed that the judge in the case appeared to have ties to the copyright lobby, while journalists were beginning to realize that Google can do anything The Pirate Bay could. Meanwhile in the UK, British Telecom was voluntarily blocking the site as an act of unnecessary self-regulation.We also took a look back at ten (failed) years of the V-Chip, and witnessed the end of an era when Yahoo announced it was killing off Geocities.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2004, we witnessed both slightly good and worryingly bad omens regarding the future of patent reform — but we also saw the birth of the EFF's excellent patent-busting program. A lawsuit over liability for Napster's investors was headed to court, while the RIAA was ditching its absurd amnesty program for file sharers, various groups were trying to automate the booting and blocking of file sharers — though there were early signs of a shift in piracy from file sharing to stream ripping. We also saw the first person ever charged under a seven-year-old internet stalking law.

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posted at: 12:02am on 28-Apr-2019
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Records Requests Show Even More California Police Departments Started Destroying Records Before The Public Could Get Its Hands On Them

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More details are coming to light about California's opacity activists. Faced with impending transparency, a handful of law enforcement agencies decided to fire up the shredders rather than risk turning over police conduct records to the public under the new public records law.Inglewood's police department was given the go-ahead to shred years of responsive documents last December in a council meeting that produced no record of discussion on the matter or the council's determination.Public records requests filed after the new law went into effect in January uncovered moves made by the Fremont city council to help local police rid themselves of records the public might try to request. The city lowered the retention period for officer-involved shooting records from 25 years to ten and allowed the department to destroy 45 years of police misconduct records it had decided to hold onto until it became inconvenient for it to do so.Darwin BondGraham of The Appeal has discovered even more record destruction by California law enforcement agencies occurring ahead of the law's implementation.

Union City, a suburb adjacent to Fremont, also destroyed a large number of police records in June 2018 while SB 1421 was moving through the legislature toward the governor’s desk for signature.Police shredded reviews of officer-involved shootings, vehicle collisions resulting from high-speed pursuits, and use of force reports from 1983 to 2015, according to documents obtained through a public records request.
In addition to these records, Union City police memory-holed 12 records detailing incidents in which officers fired their service weapons, including two "unintentional" shootings.Meanwhile, over in Livermore, more police records were being purged, although city officials claim the destruction of records prior to the new law taking effect was just "routine" yearly destruction, rather than an attempt to rid the PD of documents it would rather not hand over to requesters. Routine document destruction is indeed part of most government agencies' practices, but some of what was done during this last purge seems anything but "routine."
Livermore is in the process of destroying files for 27 complaints made to the police department’s internal affairs unit during 2012, according to documents obtained through a public records request. A list of files doesn’t reveal the allegations in these cases, whether they were sustained, or whether any officers were disciplined.Also on Livermore’s list of records to destroy are hundreds of use of force reports spanning 2008 to 2012, and six reviews of officer-involved shootings that occurred in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
While it's true California law only mandates retaining these records for five years, the purges happening here (and elsewhere in the state) show police departments are holding onto these records for much longer than they're legally required to. These records must have some value to the agencies if they're willing to retain them this long. And if they have value to police departments, they certainly are of some value to the general public, which deserves to know how the police forces they pay for are behaving.Departments are willing to hold onto misconduct/shooting records for decades, but only start destroying them when it looks like they might have to share. Agencies can point to mandated retention periods all they want, but the argument doesn't wash if they're only sticklers about it when transparency is being forced on them.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Apr-2019
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Minnesota May Be First State To Pass A Right To Repair Law

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Minnesota appears poised to be the first state to pass "right to repair" legislation taking aim at corporate efforts to monopolize repair. The grass-roots technology movement in support of these bills began in rural America, where the draconian DRM embedded in John Deere tractors made repairing them a costly nightmare for many farmers. The movement has also been prodded along thanks to efforts from companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Apple to effectively ban third-party repair of games consoles and phones; a move that not only restricts consumer freedom and drives up consumer costs, but creates additional unnecessary waste.California recently became the 20th state to eye such legislation, though Minnesota appears likely to be the first to actually pass such a law. Minnesota's law has passed through committee and awaits a vote in the Minnesota House, and if approved (which seems likely) would take effect in early 2020.Not too surprisingly, both John Deere and Apple lobbyists have descended upon Minnesota to prevent that from happening. For its part, John Deere doubled down on the primary (and false) argument most of these companies are making; namely that if you let consumers and authorized third-party shops repair consumer tech, you're putting consumers at risk:

"A John Deere spokesperson said the parts, diagnostic and manuals are already available to its owners, and that customers can contact a dealer where trained technicians provide expertise and assistance with service issues in the shop or, in many cases, remotely in the field. It stands by the general opposition to release software to the masses, citing the software's purpose to make sure equipment runs safely, properly, and up to changing standards. Other companies also argue intellectual property should be protected."
Granted that ignores that in many rural areas, there's no "authorized" repair option for hundreds of miles, meaning that farmers often have to pay to have the tractor shipped that distance (generating huge additional costs). In desperation, some tractor owners have turned to using pirated Ukrainian firmware, which obviously creates its own issues in terms of security and stability.Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and Verizon have all utilized similar arguments, all focused on the unsubstantiated claim that breaking down these repair monopolies will result in a steady parade of untold security and safety horribles. When a similar law was proposed in Nebraska, Apple lobbyists attempted to claim that passing such a law would turn the state into a "mecca for hackers" and various ne'er-do-wells. It's a pretty flimsy argument, one used specifically to obscure one goal: to pad revenues by banning repair shop competition.As such Apple can often be found harassing independent repair shops all around the world, while ignoring one central truth: as owners of these devices, they should be able to do whatever the hell they'd like to do with them as long as they're not harming themselves or others.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Apr-2019
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NCSoft Has A Great Opportunity To Be Awesome And Human To 'City Of Heroes' Enthusiasts

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You will hopefully recall a few posts we had previously written about Blizzard pointing its considerable legal guns at fan-run World of Warcraft servers. In 2016, and again in 2018, Blizzard issued takedown notices and legal threats for two fan-run servers that were running the "vanilla" version of WoW that came out way back in 2004. With the nostalgia fad in full swing, fans of the game were interested in going back to its roots. Blizzard does not offer any vanilla experience of this sort, so fans of the game got together and offered one for themselves. Blizzard got both instances shut down.But in those cases, Blizzard argued that the vanilla product competed with the current iteration of the game. What if there had been no current iteration? What if World of Warcraft had simply shut down, with Blizzard no longer offering any way to play any version of it?Well, that's exactly the situation NCSoft finds itself navigating, as it recently came to light that a smallish group of enthusiasts for MMO City of Heroes had been hosting a server for the game that had been completely shut down in 2012. Perhaps the most surprising part of the story is that the folks running the server kept it private and mostly secret for something like six years. Perhaps the least surprising part of the story is that, when word eventually got out about it, pretty much everyone went into full freak out mode.

Word of the secret City of Heroes server—run by a group calling themselves the Secret Cabal of Reverse Engineers, or SCORE for short—first got out last week thanks to a now-deleted video by a player named Destroyer Stroyer. For six years, the video said, a few thousand die-hard City of Heroes fanatics had been able to keep playing the beloved game despite its official shutdown, thanks to the server. Blowback was immediate and fierce. The City of Heroes subreddit exploded with threads from players who felt like they’d been “lied to,” who felt that they should have been informed so they could have suited up once again as their bitterly mourned superhero alter egos and gotten back into the game. SCORE programmer Leandro Pardini told MMO-focused site MassivelyOP that he and others had been so hush-hush about the server because they’d seen NCSoft issue cease-and-desist orders to similar projects for games like Tabula Rasa, and they didn’t want to risk it. Following the video, however, the City of Heroes private server team decided to release their server code to the public so that other people could also reverse-engineer their own servers.It would have been a tidy ending to a messy situation, but it was not to be: Yesterday, the public server’s moderators shut it down due to legal concerns. Operating a server entails replicating NCSoft’s copyrighted game code without permission, which flew under the radar when the server was secret and private, but would have caught the eye of lawyers if it were open to the public.
So, because NCSoft has gone the legal route with fan-stuff in the past, the operators of this fan-run server went public and then panicked, pulling everything offline. All over copyright concerns for a game that is no longer publicly available. Whatever this is promoting, it sure seems not to be promoting the progress of anything at all. Instead, this is exactly the kind of chill on the public access to the arts that too often serves as the antithetical output of copyright enforcement.Adding to the confusion in all of this, however, was the about-face SCORE did shortly afterwards.
A few hours later, however, the team did a 180 and came to the conclusion that there was no imminent legal action coming after all. Innocuous chalked it up to “some fuckups that lead to mass server panic,” which partly stemmed from their own “inexperience.” The team then claimed to be working on getting another public server up. 24 hours later, they’ve yet to make any more announcements.
And so now the server is backup. Why? Well, it seems that some CoH fansites that have splintered off into wanting to create their own public fan-servers have been in discussions with NCSoft and there is a sense that the legal action so feared may not be coming.
The Titan Network, a long-running group of City Of Heroes fan sites, now claims to be “in talks” with NCSoft about a community-run server. “Things are looking positive, so stay strong,” said ParagonWiki head Tony V on Twitter. “We don’t have a timeline right now, but we’ll provide more updates as soon as we can.”
And what really needs to be hammered home here is the opportunity that NCSoft has in all of this to come out as a PR hero. Considering this is all about a game that has not officially been on the market since 2012, it's virtually impossible for NCSoft to claim any real harm here. The company has shut down a product, refusing to sell it, while someone else has filled that demand because they are fans of it.Nothing precludes NCSoft from figuring out a way to be awesome and human and let this go forward. Options for doing so abound. All that remains to be seen is if some official arrangement can be inked that makes NCSoft the hero of its own story.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Apr-2019
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The Next Step In The Podcast Wars: Two Companies Looking To Be The Netflix Of Podcasts Start Fighting

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A few months back, we wrote about the concern that Spotify buying Gimlet Media and supposedly betting big on podcasts could signify the end of the open era of podcasts. The fear was that Spotify would ramp up the effort to put many podcasts behind its paywall, and silo off certain podcasts. To be fair, Spotify would hardly be the first to do so. Stitcher has been doing something like that for years. But, of course, there are other players in the field as well. Over the last few months there's been a lot of buzz around a company called Luminary which has raised somewhere around $100 million to, in its own words, become the Netflix of podcasting.The idea behind Luminary is that it would offer up an app that could access all the usual podcasts via RSS feeds, but that it would also push people towards a monthly subscription fee that would include some "premium" ad free podcasts that it would develop itself. Over the past few months, it's been clear that Luminary has been putting that $100 million warchest to work, announcing premium podcasts from the likes of Trevor Noah, Malcolm Gladwell, Russell Brand, Adam Davidson, Manoush Zomorodi, Hannibal Burress, Conan O'Brien's team and a lot more.And this week the company finally launches, and apparently Spotify is blocking Luminary from offering all of its podcasts, even the ones that are freely available for everyone else from Gimlet:

When it rolls out to the public on iOS, Android, and the web, Luminary's podcast app will be missing some of the industry's biggest shows, including The New York Times' The Daily and Gimlet Media shows like Reply All and Homecoming. Shows by Anchor's network of smaller creators won't be on the app, nor will series from Parcast, both of which are owned by Spotify.By withholding their shows, the Times and Spotify are setting Luminary up to fail or at least struggle to get off on the right foot with users. It certainly seems like the first shot fired in the inevitable premium podcast war and could destabilize one of the first buzzy, well-funded entrants before it can make a dent in the industry. The decisions that happen now will reshape the way podcasts are distributed in the future.
As John Bergmayer rightly points out, there's no one to like in this situation. Part of the wonder of podcasts is that it was a totally open system, built on an open protocol in RSS. But the effort to put a paywall around it and push for exclusivity in order to bundle exclusives means that we're killing off the open part of podcasting and pushing proprietary silos. And that's a real shame.Perhaps it was inevitable that this day would come, but at a time when the world would be a better place if we were moving towards open protocols, it's disappointing that we're continuously moving away from them.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Apr-2019
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Mercedes Goes To Court To Get Background Use Of Public Murals In Promotional Pics Deemed Fair Use

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The unsettled nature of how copyright law applies to public works of art like murals continues to be frustrating in the extreme. We've already seen examples of how this becomes an issue with mural artists whose work briefly appears in unrelated works, such as music videos, as those works are filmed in public. You guys remember public, right? It's that place we all get to coexist and enjoy together without constantly stomping on each other's necks over intellectual property rights. Except we don't anymore, as far too many artists believe that they can imprint their art in full view of the public and then disallow any commercial depiction of that public space.And if that doesn't sound idiotic to you, you need psychological care.This is once again at issue, as Mercedes has asked a court to make it clear that murals appearing on public walls in the background of a few promotional photos of their vehicles is fair use. This is in response to the very threatening noises made by four mural artists to their murals appearing in the background of some Instagram images. To be clear, Mercedes is suing only to ask for a court to declare images, like the following, fair use, not to attack the artists themselves.

That partial mural in the background is one of the murals in dispute by the four artists. The mural is not the focus of the photo. It's not the subject of the photo. It's just that Mercedes took pictures of its vehicle driving around in public and those murals are in the background, partially depicted. Whatever that is, it sure doesn't sound like copyright infringement, and sure does sound a hell of a lot like fair use. Which is exactly what Mercedes is asking the court to declare.
Mercedes has filed lawsuits against four artists after they accused the car company of infringing upon their copyright by including graffiti murals in the backgrounds of car photos posted to Instagram.The Detroit News reports that in its lawsuits filed on March 29th, Mercedes is asking a federal judge to rule in its favor against claims being made by artists Daniel Bombardier, James “Dabls” Lewis, Jeff Soto, and Maxx Gramajo.
It was only a year after the photos were published that the artists began accusing Mercedes of copyright infringement. All that harm must have really been delayed, I suppose. As a symbol of their artistic dedication, even after Mercedes took the photos down from Instagram due to the complaints, those same artists continued to demand Mercedes pay them for the images. In its suit, the car company is arguing both that its use was fair use and that the murals are exempt from copyright as a matter of law.
Mercedes argues that its inclusion of the murals was fair use and that the murals are exempt from copyright protection under the Architectural WorksCopyright Protection Act since they’re permanent parts of the architecture.
Which seems like a bit of a stretch. Permanent is not the word I would use for graffiti, having seen it, you know, removed before. The fair use argument is much stronger, given the limited nature of the use, the fact that it wasn't the subject of the larger use, and the damned fact that all of this is in full view of the public. Mercedes was using Detroit to sell its cars, not these murals. Calling this copyright infringement would make no more sense than a restaurant across the street from the murals being accused of replicating a public performance by putting in patio seating in full view of the mural.So let's hope the courts get this right and we get some caselaw to do with public murals.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Apr-2019
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3 Steps to Reimagine Your Digital Experience

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By Steve Megitt, director of Filament Creative Remaking a digital experience is more than just revamping your style.Being trendy can make organizations feel ahead of the curve, but the challenge comes in knowing when trends stop being relevant.For this reason, a simple redesign only scratches the surface of what it means to create compelling, objective-oriented […]The post 3 Steps to Reimagine Your Digital Experience appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Apr-2019
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Marcus Hutchins -- The Guy Who Stopped Wannacry -- Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy Charges

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Almost two years after Marcus Hutchins, a.k.a. MalwareTech, was detained by the FBI at the airport as he left a security conference in Las Vegas, the government finally has finally gotten its man.Charges were stacked and restacked over the past couple of years, as the government brought pressure to bear on Hutchins, who maintained his innocence right up to the point he signed the plea agreement [PDF]. Faced with possibility of spending several years in jail -- and evidence of his past, somewhat shadier exploits continuing to surface -- the man who saved the world from the Wannacry ransomware has pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges. This means the government will be dropping the other eight charges against Hutchins, which will hopefully keep the researcher from spending several years in jail.

The defendant voluntarily agrees to plead guilty to Counts One and Two of the superseding indictment.The defendant acknowledges, understands, and agrees that he is, in fact, guilty of the offenses described in paragraph 4. The parties acknowledge and understand that if this case were to proceed to trial, the government would be able to prove the facts in Attachment A, as well as the facts set forth in Counts One and Two of the superseding indictment, beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant admits that these facts are true and correct and establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The information in Attachment A is provided for the purpose of setting forth a factual basis for the plea of guilty. It is not a full recitation of the defendant's knowledge of, or participation in, the offenses.
The agreement says both counts carry a possible five-year sentence each, but it seems unlikely it will ask the judge to depart upward from the guidelines. Marcy Wheeler's back-of-the-envelope math puts this at about six months per charge, given Hutchins' lack of criminal history. It may end up being more than that if the DOJ pitches something longer as some twisted form of payback for Hutchins exercising his right to defend himself against criminal charges. That's not exactly unheard of.Hutchins has also posted a short message at his personal website, admitting guilt and apologizing for the damage he may have caused.
As you may be aware, I’ve pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware in the years prior to my career in security. I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes. Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks.
Hutchins' plea brings an end to a dubious DOJ prosecution -- one that makes the unproven assertion that creating and selling malware is a criminal act, whether or not Hutchins himself engaged in illegal acts using this malware. And it only further blurs the lines security researchers operate in, increasing the chance that research -- which often includes the creation and deployment of malware -- will be treated as criminal activity.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Apr-2019
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Content Marketing in Boring Industries: 5 Things Every Startup Needs to Know

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By Mary Walton A startup is a relatively new company that is still in a phase of developing. Generally, startups are small and are financed by one or more people that are also working in a startup company. Often, these types of companies offer something new on the market. The startups are trying to get […]The post Content Marketing in Boring Industries: 5 Things Every Startup Needs to Know appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Apr-2019
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Another Week, Another Hollywood Company Files A Takedown Against TorrentFreak

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The news site TorrentFreak tends to get more false DMCA copyright notices than other sites, in part because of its name. It seems that people who don't bother investigating anything jump to the wrong conclusion that because it has "Torrent" in its name, it must be a "piracy" site, rather than a news site that reports on news about copyright and filesharing. So last week, TorrentFreak got some attention after Starz not only sent a bogus DMCA takedown over a TorrentFreak news article about leaked TV shows, but then started DMCAing anyone who even tweeted that Starz was abusing the DMCA this way. Starz eventually admitted it had made a mistake and issued a pretty lame apology.You might think that others in Hollywood would at least pay a little attention to this sort of thing -- but apparently not. This weekend TorrentFreak reported that yet another tweet of yet another of its stories was removed due to a copyright claim -- this time from Warner Bros. Just like last time, where Starz utilized an awful third party service (The Social Element) to handle these takedowns, this time Warner Bros employed a company called Marketly, one of a few such companies who claim they're in the "brand protection" business and go around issuing often dubious takedowns.

The takedown notice, sent by Warner Bros' anti-piracy partner Marketly, accused us of posting a tweet that made computer program(s) available for copying through downloading, without permission of the copyright owner.We hereby give notice of these activities to you and request that you take expeditious action to remove or disable access to the material described above, and thereby prevent the illegal reproduction and distribution of this software via your company's network, the notice added.
Except that nothing in the tweet in question made a "computer program" available for copying. The tweet was pointing to a story from last month entitled Former Kinox.to & Movie4k.to Admin Freed, Tax Office Retrieves €1.75m:
While it is a story about former pirate streaming sites, you'd think it's the kind of story a company like Warner Bros. would like to keep up, as it talks about the operator of such a site going to prison and handing over a ton of money.I sent Marketly a bunch of questions regarding this takedown, and the company got back to me actually defending the takedown and insisting it was appropriate. The argument was that because Twitter automatically turns URLs into links, so the headline itself was "linking" to two pirate sites:
The hyperlinks Twitter inserted in TorrentFreak's tweet directed users to webpages that are infringing on Warner Bros. content causing Marketly to issue a notice as noted in TorrentFreak's article.
But that's questionable on multiple levels. First of all, no one is using those particular links to magically discover pirate websites. Second, they are still news articles, reporting on news about these sites, and the fact that those should be censored raises serious 1st Amendment questions. Third, even if those links do go to the sites, they are still not links directly to Warner Bros. infringing material. Instead, they are links to sites whereby people might find Warner Bros. infringing material. But that's also true of Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter itself and much, much more. Does Marketly take it upon itself to block links to those sites as well?The DMCA does let you block links to specifically infringing content, but not to entire sites across the board, yet Marketly (and apparently) Warner Bros., don't much seem to care about the specifics of the law. Like so many in Hollywood, the incorrect assumption they make is that if a site has some infringing material, then there's no problem with wiping out the entire site.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Apr-2019
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Good News From The EU For A Change: A Strong Directive To Protect Whistleblowers

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A lot of bad stuff has been coming out of the EU lately, notably the awful Copyright Directive with its upload filters. So it makes a pleasant change to report on the passing of strong legislation to protect whistleblowers revealing breaches of EU law, a move which the Pirate MEP Julia Reda describes as "One of the greatest successes of this mandate!". Its scope is wide. Areas covered include public procurement, financial services, money laundering and terrorist financing, product safety, transport safety, environmental protection, nuclear safety, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, public health, consumer protection, and -- of particular interest to Techdirt readers -- privacy, data protection and security of networks and information systems. Two key components of the new directive are "safe reporting channels" and "safeguards against retaliation", as the European Parliament's press release explains:

To ensure potential whistle-blowers remain safe and that the information disclosed remains confidential, the new rules allow them to disclose information either internally to the legal entity concerned or directly to competent national authorities, as well as to relevant EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.In cases where no appropriate action was taken in response to the whistle-blower's initial report, or if they believe there is an imminent danger to the public interest or a risk of retaliation, the reporting person will still be protected if they choose to disclose information publicly.The law explicitly prohibits reprisals and introduces safeguards to prevent the whistle-blower from being suspended, demoted and intimidated or facing other forms of retaliation. Those assisting whistle-blowers, such as facilitators, colleagues, relatives are also protected.Member states must ensure whistle-blowers have access to comprehensive and independent information and advice on available procedures and remedies free-of-charge, as well as legal aid during proceedings. During legal proceedings, those reporting may also receive financial and psychological support.
There is now one final vote by EU ministers, expected to proceed without the drama that accompanied the similar vote for the Copyright Directive. Once passed, there will be a two-year period during which EU Member States need to implement the directive in their national legislation.The general consensus among activists in the digital sphere seems to be that the new directive is probably as good as it could be given the past resistance of some governments to the idea of protecting those who reveal their wrongdoing. It is particularly welcome against the background of the Copyright Directive's upload filters, which will create a convenient mechanism on the main Internet services for blocking documents obtained by whistleblowers. What we need now are the creation of more online sites that are not subject to the Copyright Directive -- because they are not for profit, for example -- willing to host material from whistleblowers encouraged to act by the legal protection afforded by the new EU directive.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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City Of Marathon Hand-Waves Stupid Cease And Desist Sent By Councilman Over City Seal

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Earlier this month, we were discussing the odd (read: stupid) campaign by a City Councilman for the City of Marathon in Florida to get his city to trademark the city seal. The whole thing was frustratingly stupid for all kinds of reasons. For starters, trademark law is very clear that municipal governments can't trademark their seals, full stop. Councilman Mark Senmartin wanted his own government to do something it couldn't legally do. Cool. The city seemed mostly unaware of this at the time, instead refusing to bow to Senmartin's demands since there had been virtually zero issues with people using the seal inappropriately elsewhere, with one minor issue during a local political campaign notwithstanding. And, to wrap the absurdity of it all in a nice little dumb bow, Senmartin proceeded to apply for the trademark himself and send his own city a cease and desist notice, apparently in an attempt to prove a point.That point appears not to have taken, however, as the City of Marathon has flicked the C&D off of its shoulders, having apparently educated itself on trademark law.

The Marathon City Council’s refusal on March 12 to canonize an official city seal led to Councilman Mark Senmartin applying to trademark the town’s logo with the state a week later. However, according to Marathon City Attorney David Migut, that won’t prevent the city from using the logo.Senmartin gave the city a 30-day cease-and-desist notice March 26 at a Marathon council meeting, but Migut said after researching the matter that state and federal law recognizes “first-to-use” rights regardless of a trademark application being filed. The city chose the logo during a design contest after incorporation in 1999 and began using it in 2000.Migut wrote in a memo to the council April 9 that first-use rights mean the city does not have to worry about the cease-and-desist notice. Migut also wrote that a municipal insignia cannot be registered as a trademark, according to state and federal law. He added that if the city wanted more enforcement power over use of the logo, it could adopt an ordinance. Thus far, three councilman have refused to pass such an ordinance.
It's enough to make you wonder if one of you fair folk simply sent Migut a copy of our post on the topic, because he basically tracks the arguments we made. I shudder to think what the reaction from Senmartin will be, given the brash displays of ignorance in the past, but hopefully this will now all go away. I also can't imagine he made many friends in the government of which he is a part, having tried to C&D his way to a point that never had any validity.Still, there's something refreshing in the age of ownership when a group so forcefully pushes back on the idea of trademarking all the things.

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State Investigator Granted Immunity For Hours-Long Detention Of Doctor At Gunpoint During A Search For Medical Records

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How far can a law enforcement officer go to ensure an administrative search -- one looking for records, rather than contraband -- is carried out without interference? Pretty damn far, it appears.A case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals alleges Fourth Amendment violations during a search for medical records. Dr. Ikechukwu Okorie was on the receiving end of a search due to the state licensing board's suspicion he was over-prescribing opioids. Okorie wasn't facing criminal charges. The state board of licensing had suspended his license while it investigated. Okorie sought recertification. The board agreed to meet with him but also sought an administrative warrant to search his medical office for evidence it needed to make a determination on his recertification.Serving a warrant of this type -- one not linked to any criminal accusations -- takes a village, apparently. From the decision [PDF]:

According to his complaint and Rule 7 supplement to that pleading, a large team made up of the following executed the warrant: five Board investigators, a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent, a Hattiesburg High Intensity Drug Trafficking Agent, and two federal DEA agents.
Lots of bored federales hanging around Hattiesburg, it seems. That initial show of force -- nine officers, most of them armed -- was followed by more shows of force. One officer in particular -- a board investigator -- was especially enthusiastic about ensuring Dr. Okorie didn't leave the premises or disrupt the search.
On entering the clinic, Board investigator Jonathan Dalton brandished his gun and pushed Okorie into his office. He then served Okorie with the warrant. After reviewing the warrant, Okorie attempted to leave his office to discuss it with his staff. Dalton stopped Okorie. He pushed Okorie down while saying, “if you don’t sit down I will put you down!” Okorie feared for his life. Dalton eventually allowed Okorie to instruct his staff to fax the warrant to his lawyers and print the requested patient records. But while Okorie did so, Dalton stood next to him with his gun drawn.
This is extremely odd behavior for a Board investigator, especially since Dr. Okorie had approached the board to ask for a recertification hearing. But that wasn't the extent of the investigator's abuse of his position.
Once Okorie briefly spoke with his staff, Dalton brought him back into his office, where Okorie was detained for the remainder of the search. After two hours had passed, Okorie asked to go to the bathroom and was told no. Okorie “plead[ed]” with Dalton, explaining that he would have to urinate himself if not allowed to use the restroom. At this point, Dalton, “with his gun drawn,” escorted Okorie to the bathroom. Dalton forced Okorie to leave the bathroom door open the entire time, even though a female investigator and other individuals were present. Dalton also instructed Okorie to keep his hands where Dalton could see them. Only when the agents were done executing the search, three to four hours after it began, was Okorie allowed to leave the clinic.
The lower court granted the investigator immunity, ruling that it was not clearly established government agents couldn't act like unreasonable assholes during an administrative search not related to a criminal investigation. Sure, it seems excessive, considering how many officers were present during the search (nine) and how cooperative Dr. Okorie was, but there's a dearth of caselaw related to the Fourth Amendment and administrative searches.The Fifth Circuit Court notes that these cases are becoming more common -- suggesting the government behaves just as badly during non-criminal searches. This is the third case dealing with administrative searches it has seen in the last year. Unfortunately for everyone who isn't a law enforcement agent, the cases haven't been perfectly identical, so government employees keep escaping being held personally responsible for rights violations.The last case the Fifth Circuit examined dealing with these issues resulted in a win for the accused officer and a blistering statement from Judge Don Willett on the farce that is qualified immunity.
The court is right about Dr. Zadeh’s rights: They were violated.But owing to a legal deus ex machina—the “clearly established law” prong of qualified-immunity analysis—the violation eludes vindication. I write separately to register my disquiet over the kudzu-like creep of the modern immunity regime. Doctrinal reform is arduous, often-Sisyphean work. And the entrenched, judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity seems Kevlar-coated, making even tweak-level tinkering doubtful. But immunity ought not be immune from thoughtful reappraisal.[...]To some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior—no matter how palpably unreasonable—as long as they were the first to behave badly.
There's no dissent attached to this one, even though it ultimately finds in favor of the government. The court says Okorie's claims are valid. There was nothing about this search that justified the show of force by Dalton.
Though law enforcement has understandable safety concerns when initially securing any scene, cf. Bailey v. United States, 568 U.S. 186, 195 (2013) (noting that Summers recognizes a need to “secure the premises” and for officers to take “command of the situation”), that would not seem to support hours-long detention of nonviolent individuals present at an administrative search. Yet Dalton allegedly drew his gun while accompanying Okorie and made him keep his hands visible at all times, even two hours into the detention. By this point, concerns about safety did not justify such intrusive measures. And with nine agents present in the office to execute the search, the need for such an intrusive detention was even lower.[...]Nothing indicates Okorie would have been uncooperative had he not been detained, and certainly nothing indicates that a drawn gun was necessary to keep Okorie restrained.
Even so, the lack of anything on point means Dalton can't be held accountable, seeing as he was the first to violate someone's rights in this particular manner.
As we have discussed, that at a minimum affects the balancing of Summers’s interests in analyzing the intrusiveness of a detention even if it does not outright eliminate the government’s right to detain without probable cause. But we have never considered the question, and only a few other courts have. The dearth of caselaw on this question might indicate the government rarely detains people while executing administrative searches, a fact that would be consistent with Okorie’s view of the Fourth Amendment. The consequence, though, is that Okorie is unable to point to caselaw clearly establishing the unlawfulness of this type of detention. As a result, qualified immunity defeats Okorie’s claim.
Here's the silver lining: if any armed officer decides to violate someone's rights this way in the future during an administrative search… well, they've been duly warned.
Going forward, an hours-long detention of a person during an administrative search of a medical clinic or similar establishment, during which a gun is drawn, will be unlawful absent heightened security concerns.
That's the bright line. It's very specific, dealing with only one type of search, and has requirements that could possibly be overlooked if the government can make the court believe the search presented "heightened security concerns." Careful with those "furtive movements," searchees.

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Does Privacy Exist?

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By Peter Koeppel The last couple of years have brought the concept of digital privacy into the spotlight. It's not that this wasn't an issue of some concern in the past, but recent scandals such as that of Cambridge Analytica/Facebook really forced everyone to take a look at the nasty side of data collection and […]The post Does Privacy Exist? appeared first on Adotas.

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5 Keys to Content Monetization in Affiliate Marketing

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By Hanan Maayan, CEO, Trackonomics Declining payouts. Growing user privacy concerns. Ad viewability issues. All of these are factors that are forcing large content publishers in the U.S. and U.K. to look for diversified approaches for monetizing their digital content. Media publishers no longer believe that display advertising on its own can cover the cost […]The post 5 Keys to Content Monetization in Affiliate Marketing appeared first on Adotas.

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This Week In Techdirt History: April 14th - 20th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2014, the world was dealing with the Heartbleed bug and turning its attention to the NSA's possible awareness of it — leading Obama to tell them to start revealing flaws but with no particular incentive to actually do so. It wasn't clear if the NSA had definitely known about and used Heartbleed, but there was nothing stopping them and people certainly weren't going to take their advice on dealing with it. Overall, the simple truth was that the government pays to undermine, not fix internet security. Meanwhile, the Guardian and the Washington Post won Pulitzers for their coverage of the Snowden leaks, which made a lot of folks angry including Rep. Peter King and CIA torture authorizer John Yoo.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2009, the BSA was using the spate of stories about Somali pirates to talk about software piracy in a stunningly tonedeaf fashion, NBC was crafting its plans to make Olympic coverage worse and more expensive, the Associated Press was admitting its attack on aggregators looks stupid to the "untrained eye" while failing to explain why it shouldn't look stupid to everyone else too, and a hilarious but frightening warrant application got a college student's computer seized in part for using "a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on". DMCA abuse was chugging along as usual, with an activist group using it to hide exposure of its astroturfing and a news station using it to cover up video of it embarrassingly falling for an April Fool's story. And long before the Snowden revelations, not only were we already seeing revelations about the NSA's abuse of power, we were already unsurprised.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2004, the internet was still beginning to embrace some of the innovations that define it today: location-based services were on the rise, with Google launching localized ads and mobile phone navigation systems threatening to oust expensive dedicated hardware (something also happening in other areas like event ticket handling), and more and more people were going online wirelessly in one way or another. Of course, along with this was the rise of some more problematic trends too, like patent hoarding houses and DRM. In California, the first two arrests were made under a new law banning all kinds of video cameras in movie theaters, while one state senator was seeking to completely ban Gmail (which was still new) for some reason — though at least the legislature shot down another ban on violent video game sales to minors.

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How Email Marketing Helps Build Brand Awareness

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Email marketing is that form of marketing where the businesses are interacting with the clients on a one-on-one basis. The data gathered through the online activity of a user gives businesses an idea about their target audience. With the help of engaging emails, the marketers try to convert these audiences into prospective leads and eventually […]The post How Email Marketing Helps Build Brand Awareness appeared first on Adotas.

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Can Greater Transparency Increase Mobile Programmatic Advertising in 2019?

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By Inbar Chap, Chief Business Officer, Appreciate Though there were many efforts to clean up the programmatic media buying ecosystem in 2018, most notably the growing adoption of Ads.txt, there is still work which needs to be done. Issues like bid caching and the continued concerns about supply chain transparency, including media rebates and other […]The post Can Greater Transparency Increase Mobile Programmatic Advertising in 2019? appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 20-Apr-2019
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Don't Regulate The Internet Like Every Company Is The Same

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This year seems to be the year in which governments all over the globe really, really want to regulate the internet. And they're doing a ridiculously dumb job of it. We've talked a lot about the EU, with the Copyright Directive and now the Terrorist Content Regulation. And then there's Australia with its anti-encryption law and its "abhorrent content" law. India has already passed a few bad laws regarding the internet and is discussing a few more. Then there's the UK, Germany, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Cameroon, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea.Oh, and certainly, the US is considering some really bad ideas as well.When you look at what "problem" all of these laws are trying to solve, it can basically be boiled down to "people do bad things on the internet, and we need to regulate the internet because of it." This is problematic to me for a variety of reasons, in part because it seems to be regulating the wrong party. We should, ideally, be going after the people doing the bad things, rather than the tools and services they are using to do the bad things (or to merely promote the bad things they're doing). However, there is an argument -- not one that I wholly buy into -- that one reasonable way to regulate is to focus less on which party is actually doing the bad thing, and more on which party is best positioned to minimize the harm of the bad thing. And it's that theory of regulation (applied stupidly) that is behind much of the regulatory theory on the internet these days.Well, there's also a second theory behind many of the regulatory approaches, and it's "Google and Facebook are big and bad, so anything that punishes them is good regulation". This makes even less sense to me than the other approach, but it is certainly driving a lot of the thinking, at least in the EU (and possibly the US).Combine those two driving theories for regulating the internet and you've got a pretty big mess. They seem to be taking a sledge hammer to huge parts of the internet, rather than looking for narrow, targeted approaches. And, on top of that, in focusing so much on Google and Facebook, so many of these laws are written solely with those two platforms in mind, and with no thought to how it impacts every other internet company, many of which operate on a very different basis.Earlier this year, I wrote up my thoughts on what sort of regulatory approach would really "break up" big tech while preserving an open internet, but it's an approach that would require a very big shift in mindsets (one I'm still hoping will occur).However, Ben Thompson has taken a much more practical approach to thinking through regulating the internet. He, like me, is skeptical of most of these attempts to regulate the internet, but recognizing that it's absolutely going to happen no matter how skeptical we are, he is proposing a framework for thinking about regulating the internet, in a way that would (hopefully) minimize the worst outcomes from the approaches being used today.You should read the whole thing to understand the thinking, the background, and the approach, but the key aspects to Thompson's framework are to recognize that there are different kinds of internet companies -- and that's true not just up and down the stack, but across the different kinds of services. So his hope is that if the regulatory approaches were more narrowly targeted to a manner in which they fit better we'd have a lot less collateral damage in trying to shove a square regulatory approach through a round internet service.Another key to his approach is a more modern update to the common "free as in speech v. free as in beer" concept that everyone in the open source world is familiar with. Ben talks about a third option that has been discussed for decades, which is "free as in puppy" -- meaning something that you get for free, but which then has an ongoing cost in terms of maintaining the free thing you got.

Most in the West agree, at least in theory, with the idea that the Internet should preserve free as in speech; China in particular represents a cautionary tale as to how technology can be leveraged in the opposite direction. The question that should be asked, though, is if preserving free as in speech should also mean preserving free as in beer.Specifically, Facebook and YouTube offer free as in speech in conjunction with free as in beer: content can be created and proliferated without any responsibility, including cost. Might it be better if content that society deemed problematic were still free as in speech, but also free as in puppy that is, with costs to the supplier that aligned with the costs to society?
With that premise, he suggests a way to better target any potential platform regulation:
In theory, this lets various countries who believe there are certain problems on the internet more narrowly target their regulations without harming other parts of the internet:
This distinct categorization is critical to developing regulation that actually addresses problems without adverse side effects. Australia, for example, has no need to be concerned about shared hosting sites, but rather Facebook and YouTube; similarly, Europe wants to rein in tech giants without and I will give the E.U. the benefit of the doubt here burdening small online businesses with massive amounts of red tape. And, from a theoretical perspective, the appropriate place for regulation is where there is market failure; constraining the application to that failure is what is so difficult.
Please don't comment on this without first reading Ben's entire piece, as it gets into a lot more detail. He very readily admits that this doesn't answer all the questions (and, indeed, likely creates a bunch of new ones).I will admit that I'm not convinced by this model, but I do appreciate that it's given me a lot to think about. At the very least, in targeting just the ad-supported platforms for regulation solves two problems: (1) the mis-aligned incentives of ad-supported platforms to consider the wider societal impact of the platform, and (2) the sledge-hammer approach to regulating all internet platforms, no matter what type and where in the internet stack they reside, by more narrowly focusing it just at the application level and just at a particular type of service. And, frankly, this kind of approach could potentially move us towards that world of "protocols, not platforms" that I envision (a more regulated ad-supported platform world might push companies to explore non-advertising based business models).I still have lots of concerns, however, for all of the complaints about what Google and Facebook have done with an ad supported model, we should be willing to admit that an ad supported model has created some incredibly powerful services that have really done amazing things for many, many people. Everyone focuses on the negatives -- which exist -- but we shouldn't ignore how much of the good stuff we've gotten because of an internet built on the back of advertising. Can it be improved? Absolutely. But targeting internet advertising as "the problem" still feels too broad to me (and, in fact, I think Ben would likely agree on that point). If there must be a regulatory approach, it should not be targeted just by the nature of the platform, but around the specific and articulated harm that it is trying to solve. At least that way, we can weigh the harms such a law might mitigate, against the good aspects it might hinder, and then be better able to judge whether or not the regulatory approach makes sense.I'm still skeptical that most plans to regulate the internet will do a very good job of narrowly targeting actual harms (and to do so without throwing away lots of good stuff), but since we're going to be having lots of discussions around these regulations in the coming weeks, months, and years, we might as well start having the discussion of how we should view and analyze these proposed laws. And, on that front, Ben's contribution is a useful way of thinking about these things.

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FCC Under Fire For Putting ALEC Rep On 'Consumer' Advisory Board

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In 2017, FCC head Ajit Pai came under fire for filling a new "Broadband Deployment Advisory Council" (BDAC) task force with oodles of industry representatives, but few if any consumer representatives or local town or city officials. Not too surprisingly the panel saw a significant amount of controversy, several protest resignations, and the arrest of a one-time panel chair for fraud, but the panel itself never actually accomplished much of anything to address the problem it was created for.Fast forward to last week, and the FCC has once again found itself under fire for appointing a member of the The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the agency's "consumer advisory" panel:

"A committee that advises the Federal Communications Commission on consumer-related matters now includes a representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which lobbies against municipal broadband, net neutrality, and other consumer protection measures. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his Consumer Advisory Committee's new makeup on Wednesday. One new member is Jonathon Hauenschild, director of ALEC's Task Force on Communications and Technology. He and other Consumer Advisory Committee will serve two-year terms.
The most obvious problem is that ALEC is directly employed by the telecom sector to undermine and eliminate consumer protections.ALEC played a starring role in helping the broadband industry pass blatantly-protectionist bills in more than 21 states that hamstrung or simply banned towns or cities from building their own networks, even in instances when private industry refuses to. It has also bandied about cease and desist warnings against critics who've pointed this out. Both ALEC and Hauenschild have lobbied against net neutrality protections that continue to have the overwhelming bipartisan support of the public. You'd be hard pressed to find a single actual consumer advocate who'd agree with ALEC's positions on these issues.While Hauenschild likely holds some personally divergent opinions from his employer, there's very little in his background or time at ALEC that would qualify him as expert on consumer telecom issues. Certainly nothing that would somehow position him above a universe of objective experts or academics who've actually worked to protect consumer welfare. And while Pai appointing a like-minded ally to an FCC panel isn't surprising, involving ALEC also raised a few eyebrows given that even AT&T and Verizon have recently backed away from the organization due to its recent hosting of a bigoted, far-right extremist:
"ALEC has long received financial support from the telecom industry. But Verizon left ALEC in September 2018 after it hosted a speech by right-wing activist David Horowitz, in which Horowitz argued against the legalization of abortion and gay marriage, compared the left wing's support of "redistribution of income" to slavery, and said that "at the K-12 level, school curricula have been turned over to racist organizations like Black Lives Matter, and terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood."Verizon explained to The Intercept that it "has no tolerance for racist, white supremacist, or sexist comment[s] or ideals." AT&T subsequently ended its membership in ALEC, also citing the Horowitz speech."
While ALEC certainly has expertise in consumer protection, it comes in the form of trying to prevent it from happening. Again, Pai surrounding himself with like-minded allies isn't surprising. But appointing an ALEC rep to a consumer issue advisory panel is kind of like inviting a hungry shark to your swimming safety seminar: there's certainly experience there, just not of a variety you're going to find useful. And certainly not helpful when it comes to fixing the universe of problems consumers face in a telecom sector dominated by wealthy and well-connected natural monopolies.

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Tennessee Sheriff Defends Department's Armored Vehicle With A String Of Non Sequiturs

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Recently, the Greene County (TN) Sheriff's Department spent the day being owned on Twitter. It wasn't necessarily the sheriff's fault. The Tennessee Dept. of General Services decided to show off the Sheriff's armored vehicle, obtained via the Defense Department's 1033 program. This program allows agencies like the GCSD to obtain military equipment so they can ensure the safety of [checks census figures] the 68,000 residents of Greene County.This is the tweet from the Department of General Services that became the landmine under the Sheriff's Department's MRAP's wheels:

This gaudy ratio-ing of the GSC tweet -- filled with a long list of responses ridiculing the Sheriff's Department for its war machine -- led to the Sheriff himself defending the acquisition to local journalists. This went far worse than anyone probably expected. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the cognitive dissonance on display here.Sheriff Wesley Holt first says the MRAP is for the children.
Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt said the MRAP has so far been used "primarily to show the kids" and not for any other purpose.
This is attempt to get residents to view it as the equivalent of a monster truck: big, impressive, but mainly just an oversized toy with zero war machine implications.Then Holt says, actually, it's kind of a war machine, but mainly something that protects officers, rather than assaults citizens.
According to its application submitted to General Services, the sheriff's department intended to use the MRAP for SWAT response, including for barricaded suspects, during active shootings and for natural disasters.Holt pointed to a police shooting Sunday that left two Greeneville Police Department officers injured after exchanging fire with a suspect inside of an apartment."We could’ve took this armored vehicle over there and pulled right up to the front door and kept our officers safe inside that armored vehicle," Holt said.
This makes more sense. An MRAP definitely provides defensive cover for officers responding to dangerous situations, but still probably overkill in a county like Greene's. This is a little better than the "toy to show kids" argument. It's too bad the Sheriff's Department didn't have the MRAP before the recent shooting—
[D]espite the state agency showing off the MRAP this week, Holt said the department received it a couple years ago."We've had that thing for a while," Holt said. "What we finally did was had it striped."
W. T. F.Sheriff: "We can use this vehicle in dangerous situations just like the dangerous situation we didn't use the vehicle in." A police department from the county seat of the county the sheriff oversees ended up with officers wounded while the sheriff's MRAP stayed in its garage. So much for interdepartmental cooperation.It's confirmed. It's a shiny toy meant to entertain the smallest minds. Also children. It will only be used defensively in dangerous situations but probably not even then. The Sheriff's Department didn't need this vehicle. It wanted it and there was nothing standing in the way of obtaining it. Now it has it and it's not even using it for the things it should be using it for. Chances are, residents are going to have to protest something to see this MRAP loaded full of cops.

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Everything you should know about email deliverability

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By Hiren Patel As we approach the end of the 1st quarter of 2019, it's important to review our business promotional strategies. On one hand, it's critical that we use the right social media marketing strategies for 2019. On the other, it's equally important that we improve our existing promotional strategies by gaining deeper insights. […]The post Everything you should know about email deliverability appeared first on Adotas.

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Dallas Mavericks Fail To Get Trademark For Its Star Player's Nickname

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We've not been shy about pointing out that the recent practice by famous athletes of trademarking their nicknames all seems somewhat silly. The whole thing smacks of some combination of a money-grab over terms often not coined by the athletes themselves, and the kind of protectionism by the famous that is just all the rage these days. A recent incidence of this concerning the trademark application for Luka Doncic's nickname carried with it a twist, however, in that the applicant was not by Doncic himself, but by the Dallas Mavericks, the team for which he plays. The thrust of our post on the matter was roughly: well, that seems kind of shitty. After all, NBA players tend not to play for the same teams forever, though it's worth pointing out that the Mavericks pulled this off with Dirk Nowitzki, so there's that. Still, should Doncic move to another team, what happens to that trademark on his nickname?Mark Cuban appeared to show up in the comments.

Typical techdirt. Don't ask why. Dont do any research. Just pretend they know somethingWe have been grabbing player urls and trademarking and copyrighting player related terms for years.It's to protect players.You know what's worst than your article ? Some scammer trademarking or copyrighting a nickname or slogan they read about onlineAll of our players have the right to use them, but never do. They just appreciate that we are looking out for them.
After I was done yawning at the "Typical techdirt" part of the comment, it took me roughly thirty seconds to think up a far more player-friendly option: the team could simply educate its players on how to trademark their own nicknames if they so choose, rather than attempting to trademark them itself. After all, the team is just looking out for the players, right? My research into our own comments tells me that the Mavs do, at least.It would probably also help protect the players if the team was successful at the trademark process, something that was most certainly not the case this go around.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office denied the Dallas Mavericks’ trademark applications for two of Luka Doncic’s nicknames. The Mavericks sought to acquire the rights THE MATADOR and EL MATADOR, last December. Doncic picked up the nickname of Matador while playing for Real Madrid in Spain before joining the NBA .According to trademark lawyer Josh Gerben, who has been following the application process, the refusal isn’t a surprise. In a video posted to Twitter, he states that the reason that the applications were rejected was because the USPTO found 20 other preexisting Matador trademarks that it views as too similar to Doncic’s marks.
Gerben went on to note that the team may have made its application harder to approve by packing as many market designations into it as it possibly could. This is somewhat common, but for a mark that is already approved for other markets, this broad shotgun-based approach doesn't win you any points with the USPTO. It's also the case that protecting players is not a market onto itself, meaning that the Mavericks would have had to show a real intent to use the marks in the markets requested. Perhaps a failure to do so also counted against the application.I'll give Cuban credit where it's due, however, because often times when he's quoted I find myself falling just a little bit more in love with him.
For now at least, it doesn't look like Doncic will have to worry about the Mavericks acquiring the rights to his Matador nickname. The team won't be challenging the USPTO’s ruling. When contacted, Cuban was blunt about the ruling.“Shit happens,” Cuban said via email. “Moving on.”
Never change, Mark. Well, maybe just a little...

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6 Easy Ways To Optimize your Site with WordPress

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Image byKevin PhillipsfromPixabay Search engine optimization has evolved across the years. The level of competition on search engines has necessitated websites to compete at a whole new level. Businesses that fail to compete actively are often left behind to watch as their competitors grow with search engines. A majority of today’s population use search engines […]The post 6 Easy Ways To Optimize your Site with WordPress appeared first on Adotas.

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5 Reasons Why Page Load Time Is Affecting Your Business

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The most concealed way to increase sales? Well, check the loading speed of your site. Most of the site owners do everything to attract clients, invest in better design, add plenty of content, post videos, but forget to check load time of the site. Why load time or speed of the site is really so […]The post 5 Reasons Why Page Load Time Is Affecting Your Business appeared first on Adotas.

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The End Of The Absurdity: Iceland, The Country, Successfully Invalidates The Trademark Of Iceland Foods, The Grocerer

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Way back in late 2016, we asked the same question that has been on the minds of all of humanity for eons: who gets to trademark Iceland? If that seems like an odd question to you, perhaps a little context will help. See, Iceland has been a sovereign nation since the early 1900s, whereas Iceland Foods has been a grocery chain in the UK since the 1970s. And, yet, somehow the latter managed to get an EU-wide trademark for the term "Iceland" and then went around bullying companies from Iceland out of using that term in their own names, even when they weren't competing in the grocery marketplace. How did the EU manage to think it would be okay to grant this trademark in the first place, you ask? By not putting a whole lot of thought into it, would be my guess.Well, when Iceland, the country, applied for a trademark for "Inspired by Iceland", only to have it blocked by Iceland Foods, it apparently represented the last straw. Iceland petitioned the EU to invalidate this absurd trademark, leading to reps from Iceland Foods trekking to meet with the nation's officials. The outcome of that meeting was apparently Iceland Foods being totally confused as to why Iceland wasn't just being cool, maaaaan.Well, this story has finally reached its conclusion, and that conclusion is the EU reversing its original error and invalidating the trademark.

Now, years later, EUIPO has ruled in favour of Iceland – the country – and invalidated the supermarket’s trademark entirely, noting that “It has been adequately shown that consumers in EU countries know that Iceland is a country in Europe and also that the country has historical and economic ties to EU countries, in addition to geographic proximity.”Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said he welcomed the ruling, but was not surprised by it. “…[I]t defies common sense that a foreign company can stake a claim to the name of a sovereign nation as was done [in this case],” he remarked.
Well... yeah. That's right. The idea that the EU granted a trademark for the name of a nation within the European Economic Area is the kind of thing that proves it's impossible to write parody any longer. Sure, Iceland isn't officially in the EU, but trademark law has always cast narrow eyes at applications for terms that represent geography. None of this is new. Or difficult. Yet, for years Iceland Foods has been able to wield its absurd trademark against other businesses from Iceland, and against Iceland's government itself.Now, Iceland Foods has the option to appeal the ruling over the next couple of months. I can't imagine it will do so, though I wouldn't have guessed one could trademark "Iceland" to begin with, so...

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John Oliver Has Famous Actors Act Out The Deposition Richard Sackler Is Trying To Hide

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One of the issues that we've discussed quite a bit on Techdirt over the years is the lengths that some people want to go to to hide court records and important public documents. The main story on this past weekend's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver tackled this issue in relation to Richard Sackler, the former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, the company that developed and promoted Oxycontin. Much of the episode focused on questionable things said or done by Sackler, but towards the end, Oliver notes that Sackler has done an amazing job hiding from public scrutiny. There are very few pictures of him even online and no real videos they could find.

Most of the Sackler family has done its very best to avoid publicly talking about the marketing of Oxycontin, or the astounding mess it has created for the world (though, some members of the family have recently been complaining about guilt by association). However, a few years ago, in a lawsuit over the marketing of Oxycontin, Richard Sackler was forced to give a deposition in the case, which has been held under seal.Somehow, ProPublica was able to get its hands on the transcript of the deposition and published it back in February. Since then the family has been fighting against the release of the actual video recording of Sackler's deposition. There is tremendous public interest in this as Oliver explains in the video above, and ProPublica wrote about upon the release of the document:
As part of the settlement, the Kentucky attorney general agreed to destroy its copies of 17 million pages of documents produced during the eight-year legal battle with Purdue. But some of the same documents remained in a sealed file in a rural eastern Kentucky courthouse. STAT filed a motion in 2016 asking the judge in that case to make the documents public, and he ordered the unsealing of those documents, including the Sackler deposition.The court sees no higher value than the public (via the media) having access to these discovery materials so that the public can see the facts for themselves, Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs ruled in May 2016.Purdue appealed the ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which upheld it in December 2018. The company then asked the state Supreme Court to review that decision.
ProPublica also notes that this "is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned under oath about the illegal marketing of OxyContin and what family members knew about it." That's why the transcript is so important.However, as Oliver notes, the Sacklers have continued to fight the release of the video and various other documents related to the case -- so to "help out," he brought together a group of talented actors to act out parts of the deposition and put them up on the website SacklerGallery.com -- a nod to the fact that the Sacklers have been getting lots of museums to name galleries and wings and other things after them. The actors include Bryan Cranston, Michael Keaton, Richard Kind, and Michael K. Williams. I'll leave it to John Oliver in the video above to explain why each of them are used, because it's truly wonderful.

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Motel 6 To Pay Out Another $12 Million For Handing Guest Info To ICE

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A handful of Motel 6 owners and operators suddenly decided the best use of their guest info was as fodder for law enforcement agencies. In Connecticut, a Motel 6 just decided to start faxing its guest list over to the local cop shop every night. After this questionable practice was made public, the PD announced it never asked for this info and was going to route it right into the shredder going forward.Other Motel 6 owners decided ICE needed to know about every suspected illegal immigrant being housed overnight at their franchises. Using a highly-technical process that narrowed forwarded guest lists to those with foreign-sounding surnames, Motel 6 owners sicced ICE on paying customers in an effort to… I don't know… earn good citizenship awards or something.It may have netted ICE a few busts and warmed the cockles of meathead managers who had discovered a way to increase occupancy turnover rates with the federal government's help, but it also netted Motel 6 a handful of lawsuits.Last November, Motel 6 agreed to pay a $7.6 million settlement for sending guest lists to ICE offices in Arizona. NPR reports the chain is now about $20 million lighter, thanks to a similar settlement being reached in Washington.

The hotel chain Motel 6 has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington after several locations gave information on thousands of guests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without warrants.Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday that Motel 6 shared the information of about 80,000 guests in the state from 2015 to 2017.
The chain also swore [PDF] it would never allow its franchisees and operators to deputize themselves as Lil' ICE Helpers, and would tell them to keep their guest lists to themselves.
Defendants shall maintain a policy ("The Policy") that they will not share 24 guest information with law enforcement, including ICE agents, without a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena, except where there is a credible reason to believe that a guest, employee, or other individual is in imminent danger.[...]Defendants will train and require their employees not to provide guest information in response to any request, warrant, or subpoena from law enforcement, including DHS/ICE agents, without first obtaining authorization and directions from Defendants' legal department or other trained individual(s) designated by Defendants.
$10 million of the settlement will be going directly to Motel 6 guests whose information was given to ICE, whether or not they actually had to suffer through any interactions with the overzealous agency. Hopefully, the substantial settlements will encourage Motel 6 to keep better tabs on the activities of its site operators -- some of which apparently believe they're operating ICE honeypots rather than short-term housing for travelers.

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Are You Maximizing Your Company's Marketing Data?

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Society's digital transformation along with near-constant technological advances have brought more new marketing platforms, strategies and data points to the table than ever before. A couple of decades ago, marketers were putting all of their efforts into TV, print and out-of-home advertising. Fast forward to today, and they're spreading more of their budgets across web […]The post Are You Maximizing Your Company's Marketing Data? appeared first on Adotas.

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Take-Two Dismisses Its Lawsuit Against Pinkerton Agency As The Latter Runs From Its Own Cease And Desist

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At the very start of the year, we discussed a lawsuit filed by Take-Two Interactive against the Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations agency over content within the hit game Red Dead Redemption 2. Take-Two filed the suit seeking a declaratory judgement that its depiction of Pinkerton agents within the game was fair use, as Pinkerton had fired off a cease and desist notice to the game developer declaring that the game was violating its trademark rights and demanded either a lump sum payment or royalties as a result. Pinkerton, which most gamers will not know is a real-life union-busting, outlaw-getting agency that has existed since the west was still wild, probably thought Take-Two would pay it to go away. After all, the arguments for fair use and the First Amendment are quite clear when a work of fiction portrays a parody-take on an historically accurate and quite infamous agency of the wild west.We said at the time that it was hard to see how a ruling by the court in favor of Pinkerton would do anything other than force artists to license history, which is about as clearly antithetical to First Amendment law as could be imagined. It seems that Pinkerton's lawyers agreed, as Take-Two announced it has dropped its suit as Pinkerton has agreed to withdraw its demands.

Take-Two and its subsidiary Rockstar filed the suit in January, striking back at a cease-and-desist notice from Pinkerton, which argued Red Dead Redemption 2 had infringed on its trademark. The publisher wanted a court to rule that its use of the Pinkerton name — as part of a game that emphasizes historical accuracy — was fair use. But GameDaily.biz notes that the suit was dropped today, apparently ending the dispute.“Take-Two can confirm that the present-day Pinkerton Consulting and Investigation company has withdrawn its claims against Red Dead Redemption 2, and Take-Two will not continue legal action against Pinkerton. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a work of fiction set in the late 1800s that references historical entities active during that time,” a spokesperson for Take-Two told The Verge.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of all of this is that it took four months to get here. Any sober look at the claims by both parties in court would have resulted in a win by Take-Two. What's the alternative? Movie makers paying the Abraham Lincoln estate to make Lincoln? The White Sox demanding a license over the portrayal of the franchise in Eight Men Out? That isn't how art is supposed to interact with history.As always, despite the happy ending to this specific case, the real enemy in all of this is the pervasive culture of ownership that causes the Pinkertons of the world to think they can control speech and content.

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Brands that succeed fulfill a consumer's search for meaning

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Emmanuel Probst, VP of Media & Content at Kantar This year again the advertising industry is expected to grow by almost 4% to $563 billion, according to GroupM's forecast. Consumers are exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements per day, yet can hardly remember one of them. To make things worse, brand loyalty is on […]The post Brands that succeed fulfill a consumer's search for meaning appeared first on Adotas.

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Game Exclusivity Wars Are Upon Us And Valve's Anti-Review-Bombing Process Is Without A Rip-Cord

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Earlier this year, we wrote about the rather sudden emergence of Epic Games' entry into the game distribution business. In a move to directly compete with Valve's Steam, the Epic's store has been attempting to gobble up AAA titles into a program of limited exclusivity, typically six months. The lure for all this is a split for Epic and the game publisher that is more generous for the latter. Valve, meanwhile, responded to one of the larger stories about a game going Epic exclusive, Metro Exodus, by complaining that it was bad for gamers generally and Steam users specifically. That quite predictably served as a rallying cry for Steam users to go to the store pages for other Deep Silver Metro games and bomb those pages with negative reviews that had nothing to do with those games and everything to do with the exclusivity deal.All of which is at odds with Steam's policies and the platform's stated goals of preventing review-bombing of this type. But as the exclusivity wars appear to be upon us, with more games jumping on with Epic, it's becoming clearer that this is probably a purposeful strategy on Valve's end. The latest example of this is the announcement that the next game in the Borderlands series has signed on with Epic to be exclusive for six months. The backlash on Steam was almost immediate.

Over the course of yesterday and today, Borderlands 2 has received nearly 1,600 new negative Steam reviews, while Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has been hit with 420 and Borderlands: Game Of The Year Edition has picked up 320. These games are receiving renewed attention not just because of the Borderlands 3 announcement, but also because Gearbox recently updated the Borderlands Handsome Collection with new HD textures and put the series on sale. Still, you need only look at Borderlands 2's top reviews to see what much of the negativity is about.“Love the game, but I can’t recommend it because the sequel will be exclusive somewhere else,” reads one highly upvoted review.“Scummy company that insults every single person that purchased the game on this site,” says another. “Skip it.”
It's quite obvious that these are not legitimate reviews. They are, however, quite useful as a barometer for how gamers generally see these kinds of exclusivity deals. Much like the market fragmentation that has become the streaming entertainment industry, these types of deals can only serve to frustrate the gaming public. Suddenly, due strictly to business interests, gamers aren't certain where to find the games they want, or if their platform of choice will even have them, or when. That's not a great concept for maximizing the growth of an industry that has exploded mostly without this type of fragmentation. While the console market has always had some of this, expanding it to the PC market makes little sense, since there's no hardware-specific tie in. It's just going to piss people off, and that's already starting.On the other hand, Steam and Valve sure seem to be taking the most cynical route possible, given that it recently committed to ending this kind of review bombing.
Last month, Valve revealed a solution to Steam’s increasingly ubiquitous review bomb problem: a new system where a human team digs through reeking piles of fishy reviews surfaced by an automated program, and—if they find those reviews to be sufficiently suspicious—they’ll “mark the time period it encompasses and notify the developer.” Then they’ll remove those reviews from the game’s overall score and stop other reviews posted in the same period from counting.Currently, it’s impossible to say whether or not Valve has reached out to Gearbox, but the company has yet to make any marks or remove these clearly trolling reviews from Borderlands games’ scores.
That sure makes it look like Valve is just letting this all happen to punish a company that chose to do business with another platform. If that isn't what this is, then Valve should come out forcefully and say so. If it is what Valve is doing, then it's hard to conclude anything other than the company is undermining its own user review system, which is one of the most useful aspects of Steam.Regardless, it appears the exclusivity wars have come to PC gaming. And that sucks no matter the specifics around Borderlands reviews.

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As Expected, EU Nations Rubber Stamp EU Copyright Directive

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As was widely expected, the EU Council (made up of representatives of the EU member states) has officially rubber stamped the EU Copyright Directive that the EU Parliament passed a few weeks back. There had been some talk of various countries, such as Sweden, Germany and the UK possibly changing their vote. Sweden, in the end, actually did do so, but to stop the Directive, it was necessary for the UK or Germany to do so as well, and they did not.There is some irony in the UK (still a part of the EU for the moment) voting to approve this. After the EU Parliament passed the Directive, the UK's Boris Johnson (who is somewhat famously buffoonish) tweeted about how this was yet another reason for the UK to leave the EU.

If you can't read that, it says:
The EU's new copyright law is terrible for the internet. It's a classic EU law to help the rich and powerful, and we should not apply it. It is a good example of how we can take back control.
The only problem with this is that Boris' own Tory government has been strongly supporting the law all along and, of course, voted happily for it today. Boris Johnson being full of shit is perhaps not newsworthy, but it's at least worth pointing out just how silly the whole thing has become.A few countries besides Sweden also voted against the law: Italy, Finland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Belgium, Estonia and Slovenia abstained from voting. So, basically most of the larger countries voted for it.And, now, the big question is how will the various countries implement the law. Technically, they have two years to do so, and this should be watched closely. France's culture minister has already said he's hopeful that France will implement the law by the summertime, so that country may be the first. That would be interesting, considering that France has also been the most committed to the absolute worst ideas around the law. France may then "set the standard" for how to implement Articles 11 and 13 in a manner that some smaller countries may mimic. Of course, if France actually follows through on the dumbest of all implementations (a decent possibility), it will also make for an interesting test case to see if companies simply decide to block services in France.Either way, once the laws are implemented, we expect there will be legal challenges to them, and then we'll have years of court battles to fight, while the EU continues to wonder why successful internet companies don't seem to ever come from the EU...

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5 Advantages of Having a Flat Design Implemented on Your Website

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Flat design has been ruling the UI/UX space. It's especially for the past couple of years when it has been pushed mainstream. What’s more surprising is that even large companies are following through its design approach. So why did it become so popular? Well, just because, it works. Having a flat design enhances user experience […]The post 5 Advantages of Having a Flat Design Implemented on Your Website appeared first on Adotas.

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Uberall Defines Online Voice Search Readiness (VSR) With First-Of-Its-Kind Study of 73,000 Business Listings

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A study by location marketing technology leader finds that Google, Yelp & Bing top Facebook for VSR; Also finds that almost half of all business locations analyzed had incorrect opening hours Uberall, Inc., the location management solution for businesses competing to attract and win local brick-and-mortar customers, released its Uberall Voice Search Readiness Report 2019, […]The post Uberall Defines Online Voice Search Readiness (VSR) With First-Of-Its-Kind Study of 73,000 Business Listings appeared first on Adotas.

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From Myspace to Instagram - How Social Media Has Changed for the B2B Marketer

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By: Amber Cooleen, Senior Director, Marketing This year marks a full decade since IEEE GlobalSpec published its first study on social media use in the industrial sector. When we first began surveying engineers and technical professionals on their engagement with various social media platforms, adoption and usage specifically for work-related purposes was limited. With social […]The post From Myspace to Instagram - How Social Media Has Changed for the B2B Marketer appeared first on Adotas.

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This Week In Techdirt History: April 7th - 13th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2014, former NSA and CIA boss Michael Hayden was getting pathetically aggressive, calling Dianne Feinstein too emotional to judge the CIA torture report (which we were only learning about via piecemeal leaks), and calling congressional staffers "sissies" while accusing Ron Wyden of not acting like a man. At the same time, Mike Rogers was still pushing his "Ed Snowden is a russian spy" angle, while Snowden himself was saying the NSA lied in its claim that he didn't raise concerns through proper channels, and telling the Council of Europe about how the agency spied on Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.Meanwhile, Hollywood was piling on to the already-dead Megaupload with a far-reaching lawsuit that packed in multiple attacks on the internet in general, and was quickly followed by the RIAA filing a virtually identical suit of its own.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2009, Amanda Palmer was sharing insights into how her fans support her work while Trent Reznor was taking his business model experiments into the mobile space, and a new service was announced that would let musicians pre-fund their releases (and it's not around anymore — but two weeks later, Kickstarter would launch).The Associated Press announced its plans to sue news aggregators, Fox fired a movie columnist for reviewing a leaked copy of Wolverine, old-industry guard like U2's manager and Andrew Lloyd Weber were out trashing the internet, and Hollywood's favorite lawmakers were preparing for the next big copyright expansion push.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2004, we saw the first court ruling to state that online content aggregation was legal, setting the stage for later tantrums like the AP's, and the outrage of some publishers today. Gmail was the new kid on the internet block and people weren't sure how they felt about it (or whether it violated EU data privacy laws), just as mathematicians weren't quite sure how they felt about proofs that rely on computer calculations — while some clueless analysts were very sure about how much they hated the "fad" of camera phones. Google and Yahoo both stopped accepting ads for online casinos, seemingly out of the blue until we learned of some nasty letters recently sent out by the DOJ.This was also the week that we saw the beginnings of a terrible idea that simply refuses to die, and rises like a zombie every now and then to this day: the WIPO broadcast treaty.

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What Will Happen When Governments Disagree Over Who Is A Terrorist Organization... And Who Needs To Be Blocked Online?

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You may have heard the recent news that President Trump has decided to label the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization." The IRGC is Iran's powerful military/security/law enforcement apparatus -- that also owns a ton of businesses. As the White House itself admits, this is the first time a foreign government agency has been referred to as a foreign terrorist organization. This is big news in a huge variety of ways -- in large part because it could end up criminalizing lots of people and businesses who unwittingly do business with the IRGC including (checks notes) a firm called The Trump Organization.But, leaving that aside, it raises some other issues as well. We've been talking about the impact of the terrible EU Terrorist Content Regulation that the EU Parliament will soon be voting on. But, as we've discussed in the past, there are lots of questions about who decides just what is "terrorist" content. Daphne Keller tweeted about the IRGC decision, wondering what happens when one country's laws demand the removal of content from another country's government and suggests (accurately) this is going to lead to a huge mess.

Of course, it also gets even more complex than that. On a recent On The Media episode, they discussed efforts by a few different websites to archive terrorist propaganda, both to learn about what's happening (in the form of open source intelligence), but also for the purpose of historical records. As the piece notes, many researchers and reporters find those archives to be incredibly valuable. And yet, they're dealing with issues of demands for the content to be taken down as "terrorist content."This is not a new issue. For years, we've pointed out how demands to delete "terrorist content" online has regularly resulted in the silencing of human rights groups documenting war crimes.Combine all of this together and we're creating a recipe for disaster. The EU is demanding that all "terrorist content" be deleted with one hour's notice. The US is designating government organizations as terrorist groups. And human rights groups trying to document war crimes are being kicked off the internet. None of this seems like a good way to actually fight terrorism. It really seems like a solution designed to pretend that terrorists can be swept under the rug, like if we don't know what they're doing out there, they'll just magically disappear.

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Six Mistakes That Companies Make On Social Media

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By Charles Phan For modern businesses, social media marketing has been absolutely revolutionary. Marketing reach has never before had such versatility nor measurability, and marketing trainees spend a lot of time and money trying to keep up with emerging technologies. But for many companies, the field is moving rather too rapidly, and it can be […]The post Six Mistakes That Companies Make On Social Media appeared first on Adotas.

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AB/InBev, Jealous Protectors Of Trademark, Pretty Blatantly Committing Trademark Infringement

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Even if you haven't read through our previous stories about giant beer brewer AB/InBev being very much into protecting its intellectual property to the extreme, you probably would have guessed that to be the case as a matter of instinct. With a large legal war chest and an equally large legal team, the company has had no problem with gobbling up questionable trademarks and then wielding them as a weapon against even the smallest of non-competitors. With such a strict view on its own IP rights and such an expansive view on trademark law, you would think that InBev would be super into making sure it's own actions fell well within the bounds of trademark law.You'd be wrong. Patagonia, the rather well known clothier, has sued InBev over how it's used a trademark it received in 2012 for "Patagonia". While you're sure to be wondering how there could be customer confusion, as the apparel and beer markets are quite different, the details in this case definitely matter. We can start with what InBev did in the early days of holding the trademark, which mounts to essentially: not a thing.

AB InBev was granted a trademark to sell Patagonia beer in the United States in 2012, but the company sat on the name until 2018, when it started selling beer with the branding. Patagonia says their brand was created in the 1960's and is registered in 90 countries.
So, one party has been using its trademark for decades while the other spent half a decade sitting on theirs. The rest of the details matter as well. For starters, Patagonia released its own brew, called Long Root, in 2016. InBev has also finally started using the Patagonia branding in part to tout a reputation for environmental work that InBev is now getting into. Patagonia, the company, has long been heavily involved in environmental initiatives as well. On top of that, InBev suddenly began setting up pop-up stores on ski hills and in ski villages, which is a prime marketplace for Patagonia. As part of those stores, InBev began selling Patagonia apparel, its rival company's market for its own trademark. And, keeping all of those details in mind, there is the logo InBev chose to use.

Now, are those logos super-duper similar? Absolutely not. On the other hand, given all of the details and shady actions mentioned above by InBev, it's not outlandish for Patagonia to suggest that the logos are close enough to be confusing when all other factors are taken into account.Once again, as seems to always be the case, we find a huge proponent of intellectual property, one that has been happy to use lawyers to bully others, is likely committing trademark infringement itself. It's enough to make one wonder if there are any true champions of IP among large companies, or only cynics willing to use it when it suits themselves.

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March Madness Fans to Advertisers: Make More Interactive and Visual Ads

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Over 40% more likely to make a purchase after seeing March Madness ads Arkadium, the company innovating visual, interactive content for more than 500 of the world's leading publishers and brands, released new data on how U.S. sports fans perceived online advertising and marketing campaigns for 2019's March Madness Tournament. For the study, Arkadium commissioned […]The post March Madness Fans to Advertisers: Make More Interactive and Visual Ads appeared first on Adotas.

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Marketing Automation: Delivering the Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time

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By Marion Selista Implementing a digital marketing strategy can be hard work and difficult to schedule as there are so many channels and activities involved. Would it not be wonderful to have all the posting of content and sending emails automated? Some small businesses use email lists and blast customers from time to time with […]The post Marketing Automation: Delivering the Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time appeared first on Adotas.

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Google & National Research Group Unveil Future of Voice in Entertainment Report

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NEW RESEARCH FROM GOOGLE & NRG REVEALS PERSONALIZED CONTENT RECOMMENDATIONS ARE KEY TO DRIVING SATISFACTION WITH VOICE & AI National Research Group (NRG), a leading global insight and strategy firm specializing in entertainment and technology, today released the first in-depth thought leadership study centered on how consumers' media and entertainment needs have evolved with the […]The post Google & National Research Group Unveil Future of Voice in Entertainment Report appeared first on Adotas.

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Investor Lawsuit Accuses AT&T Of Downplaying Streaming Video Losses

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So we've noted how AT&T's latest round of merger mania isn't providing quite the returns the company expected. After spending $67 billion to buy DirecTV and another $86 billion to acquire Time Warner, AT&T had hoped to become a juggernaut in the internet video and online advertising space. But those efforts haven't gone quite according to plan. The company has been losing both traditional TV (DirecTV, IPTV) and streaming video (DirecTV Now) customers at an alarming rate, thanks largely due to AT&T price hikes imposed to try and recoup the massive debt load AT&T acquired during its fit of merger mania.A new lawsuit (pdf) is now complicating AT&T's ambitions further. The lawsuit, filed last week in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, accuses AT&T executives like CEO Randall Stephenson of violating the US Securities Act by "knowingly or recklessly" making false statements to investors by failing to disclose that the company's DirecTV Now streaming platform wasn't doing all that well.More specifically, the lawsuit accuses AT&T of issuing press releases, filings, and other public statements that actively downplayed or omitted the fact that the company's streaming customers were headed for the exits (267,000 in Q4 alone), in large part thanks to several rounds of rate hikes on the company's DirecTV Now streaming platform.The firm backing the lawsuit focuses specifically on the June 2018 registration statement issued in connection with the stock issuance during the Time Warner Merger, which proclaimed that the losses AT&T was seeing on the traditional TV front (DirecTV) weren't that big of a deal because they'd be offset by growth at the company's new streaming service. Omitted was the fact that price hikes were actually driving subscribers away, resulting in the company's stock taking a notable dive when the collective video losses were formally announced in October of 2018:

"AT&T's registration statement touted yearly and quarterly growth trends... including quarterly subscriber gains in its DirecTV Now service sufficient to offset any decrease in traditional satellite DirecTV subscribers, such that AT&T was experiencing an ongoing trend of total video subscriber 'net additions,'" the complaint said.But in reality, "DirecTV Now subscribers were leaving (i.e., not renewing) as soon as their promotional discount periods expired, while at the same time new potential DirecTV Now customers were unwilling to pay the higher prices and therefore not subscribing at all," the complaint said. By the time AT&T bought Time Warner, "AT&T's reported 'net additions' growth trend was already reversing into a severe 'net loss.'"
Like Verizon, AT&T had hoped to pivot from stodgy old telco to sexy new online Millennial advertising juggernaut. But also like Verizon, AT&T executives tend to have a worldview crafted by decades as a government-pampered monopoly, resulting in market behaviors that don't always make sense in context. Like hiking prices on your new streaming service in the wake of soaring video competition (despite having just received a $20 billion tax cut), for example. Or buying a satellite TV provider on the eve of the cord cutting revolution, as another example.All told, consumers are pissed at AT&T because of rate hikes and the company's frontal assault on net neutrality. Competitors are pissed at AT&T because it immediately began using its Time Warner acquisition as a weapon to drive up the cost of "must have" channels like HBO. And investors are pissed because these deals were supposed to revolutionize AT&T's business, not result in soaring debt and subscriber declines. All in all, not quite the televised revolution AT&T had promised anybody in the chain.

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Trump Campaign Uses 'Dark Knight' Music In Campaign Ad, Warner Bros. Says It's Looking At Legal Options

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Every political campaign season, which now apparently perpetually overlap and place us all in a never ending and hellish new reality, we always end up hearing about supposed copyright infringement by political campaigns. These claims typically involve music that accompanies candidates at public events, and the claims typically are misguided, as campaigns usually get a blanket license for this music. Still, more recently, we've also seen the occasional use of music by a campaign that actually does appear to be infringement, as both Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee have found themselves having to defend their use of music on the trail. As you keep that history in your head, place it directly next to the rather infamous view Donald Trump has taken on intellectual property in general, and even on how his campaign has used it jealously in particular.And then read about how the Trump 2020 campaign decided to release a campaign video that just flat out used music from The Dark Knight for some reason.

President Trump’s latest 2020 campaign video was removed from Twitter Tuesday night after Warner Brothers Entertainment requested it be taken down due to the use of music from “The Dark Knight Rises'” score in the clip.“The use of Warner Bros.’ score from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in the campaign video was unauthorized,” a Warner Brothers spokesperson said in a statement before the removal. “We are working through the appropriate legal channels to have it removed.”The two-minute video not only utilized Hans Zimmer’s “Why Do We Fall?” from the 2012 threequel, but also shared the font used for the film’s title cards.
What makes this all interesting is, again, Donald Trump's and his family's long history of IP use, enforcement, and their willingness to wield litigation as a cudgel. It seems hypocritical for the Trump campaign to bandy about using well-known movie scores in a campaign advertisement. It's also plainly understandable why Warner Bros. wouldn't want to be seen as backing any particular candidate by remaining silent on the use of its music. While we regularly rail against silly takedowns over copyright, this one seems to make sense.Or, if you are to believe Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, this is all somehow CNN's fault.
Now, if you think that tweet makes even a modicum of sense, I... just... no. AT&T does indeed own Warner Bros., and CNN too, but it takes more mental yoga than I'm capable of to somehow twist the mind into believing that a takedown of obvious copyright infringement is somehow to do with a parent company's ownership over a long-standing cable news company.Maybe just don't hypocritically slap a movie's soundtrack onto a campaign ad?

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Kobe Bryant Every Bit As Useless As His Lawyers Predicted In Trademark Opposition

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Late last year, we wrote about a fairly strange case of a trademark opposition involving Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals and its Black Mamba HYPERRUSH line of diet pills, and Kobe Bryant and his Black Mamba line of being a basketball player. The whole thing was both messy and rather pointless. Pointless because the pharma market and anything Kobe Bryant is involved in are quite divergent marketplaces, making the trademark opposition fairly pointless. And, yet, it's been going on for years. Messy, because the timelines are not particularly in Bryant's favor, given that Hi-Tech applied for its mark a year before Bryant applied for his, leading to Hi-Tech requesting to depose Bryant and get documents from him detailing exactly how he came up with his nickname. Bryant's lawyers rebutted the request by suggesting that deposing Bryant would be like deposing Lil Wayne, because the present is a farce we're all somehow forced to live through.Instead, Bryant's lawyers insisted he answer only written questions, all while warning that Bryant's answers would probably be entirely useless. They predicted that Bryant wouldn't recall the answers to the questions Hi-Tech would want to ask, which is more than a little odd, given that this all centers around how he came up with his now-famous nickname. But, give credit where credit is due: Hi-Tech is now complaining that Bryant has been every bit as useless as his lawyers predicted.

The pharma company says they fired off a list of questions they wanted to be answered by Kobe and certain documents they requested him to turn over. The company claims that Kobe has given evasive or incomplete answers and refused to turn over everything based on “unreasonable objections.”Hi-Tech argues they cannot prepare for the upcoming trial if Kobe does not hand over the docs ASAP.They want answers on how he came up with the nickname “Black Mama,” saying their research shows he has given different answers over the years. They allege Kobe has once said it was based on the species of snake but also claimed it was because of the film “Kill Bill,” which had a character named “Black Mamba.”The pharma company is demanding Kobe turn over all documents and communications concerning his use of the name in business and records of any products sold under the mark.
It's worth keeping in mind that Kobe Bryant is the one that issued the opposition to Hi-Tech's trademark application here, not the other way around. And, again, the timing of each party's application doesn't serve to bolster Bryant's side of things. Given that the nickname is the center of this conflict, the questions that Hi-Tech is asking aren't exactly unreasonable. And the company sure seems to think Bryant has answers or documents that are going to be good for its case.A case which, again, is of an opposition that never should have happened. Kobe Bryant does not make drugs or diet pills. Nothing about Hi-Tech's branding suggests there is any involvement by Bryant. Other athletes, in fact, have used the Black Mamba nickname. Maybe it's time for Bryant to drop this and move on.

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Court Says Virginia PD's Use Of Automatic Plate Readers Violates State's Data Privacy Law

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The ACLU has secured a win for privacy in Virginia after taking on the state law enforcement and their many, many automatic license plate readers.The state's ALPR track record isn't great. Law enforcement and other government agencies love the tech, even if they have a considerable amount of trouble showing that plate readers do anything more useful than catch property tax cheats. Law enforcement agencies have turned their plate readers on political rally attendees, raising First Amendment issues along with the usual privacy concerns.The ACLU attacked the state's use of plate readers using one of the state's own laws. According to the "Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act," the long-term collection of untargeted plate data was illegal. The state's attorney general even issued an official opinion to this end, pointing out that active collections seeking targeted plates was permissible, but passive collections with no end date and unrelated to ongoing investigations wasn't.That opinion -- issued in 2013 -- did nothing to alter law enforcement ALPR operations. A lawsuit followed when records requests showed plenty of passive collection was still taking place. The ACLU pointed out (again) these collections violated state law. Fairfax County Circuit Court judge Robert J. Smith agreed.In his 5-page opinion [PDF] granting the ACLU an injunction blocking the Fairfax County Police Department from engaging in passive, untargeted collections, the County Court agrees with the state Supreme Court's findings: the ALPRs are subject to the state data privacy law and the ALPRs -- despite law enforcement protests to the contrary -- collect protected personal info.The FCPD argued the passive license plate collection did not automatically connect plates to car owners. The additional steps officers needed to perform somehow exempted this collection from the state's data privacy law. The court disagrees, pointing to the part of the state law the FCPD decided to ignore when crafting its argument.

If the only issue before the Court was whether the link must be automatic to be found invalid, the defendant's position might well carry the day. However, the Data Act defines "information system" as:The total components and operations of a record-keeping process, including information collected or managed by means of computer networks and the Internet, whether automated or manual, containing personal information and the name, personal number, or other identifying particulars of a data subject. Va. Code §2.2-3801 (emphasis added).The methodology here requires no less than two computer programs and three passwords. Such requirements, while perhaps cumbersome, do not necessarily preclude an establishment of a sufficient link under the Supreme Court's analysis and the Data Act.
According to the court, these steps link the mass collections to individual people. While the plate readers may only collect plate and location info, the fact that this database is tied to others containing identifying info is enough to make the collection subject to privacy protections guaranteed by the state.
After reviewing the evidence presented at trial, I find that the ALPR system provides a means through which a link to the identity of a vehicle's owner can be readily made. The Police Department's "passive use" of the ALPR system therefore violates the Data Act. Accordingly, the petition for injunction is granted.
This may only prevent the FCPD from passive ALPR collections but the state Supreme Court's ruling should have some effect on law enforcement's use of the tech across the state. No one else has been blocked from letting their ALPRs run day-and-night with no nexus to ongoing investigations, but that day will be coming. It might take a lawsuit to force the issue, but unless law enforcement lobbyists can pressure legislators into rolling back these privacy protections, the courts have made it clear ALPRs collect personal data in an indiscriminate fashion.

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Brand Stewards Face A New Family Dynamic - Millennial Parents

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By, Allison O’KeefeWright –EVP, Managing Director of Research & Strategy atOpen Mind Strategy Marketing to the New Family Dynamic Millennial Parents Millennials are nowraising children. Forty percent are parents or 33 million people.Brands need to understand the millennial parenting style and how it is shaping the next generation. Key themesof thenew family dynamic We’re […]The post Brand Stewards Face A New Family Dynamic – Millennial Parents appeared first on Adotas.

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European Parliament Moves Forward With 'Terrorist Content' Regulation That Will Lead To Massive Internet Censorship

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Last week we wrote (not for the first time) about the really dreadful Terrorist Content Regulation making its way through the EU regulatory process. As we noted, this is Article 13 on steroids. Everything that's bad about Article 13 is worse in the Terrorist Content Regulation, even though it's getting much less attention.Perhaps because it's getting so little attention it just sailed through an EU Parliament committee's approval process. This was in the LIBE Committee, which is supposedly in charge of protecting civil liberties. And yet here, it seems to be stamping them out.

The text, as it was adopted, states that an authority (administrative or judicial) can order any actor of the Internet to remove a content under one hour. This unrealistic obligation will destroy small and medium platforms and, in contrast, reinforce Google and Facebook which are already working together with States to enforce mass and unchecked censorship - this is the very purpose of the Regulation proposed last September by the European Commission.Once again, the European Parliament has proved that it was unable to resist from the pressure of the European Commission and governments. After the adoption of the Copyright Directive two weeks ago, this vote is a new and even more aggressive step towards mass and automated censorship.
Apparently, the LIBE did strip out some of the other problematic elements of the Regulation -- including its attempt to effectively weaponize terms of service to be legally binding on platforms to take down content even if it's legal. However, it leaves in the 1 hour takedown demand, which is concerning. Also, some in the EU Parliament supposedly plan to offer amendments to add back in the awful stuff that LIBE took out.The text will now go before the entire EU Parliament, perhaps as early as next week.La Quadrature du Net has put together a campaign page to help EU citizens contact their MEPs to educate them about what a disaster this regulation will be. Unfortunately, with the issue receiving so little public attention (especially compared to things like the EU Copyright Directive), there's an unfortunate chance this thing just sails through. It's the type of thing where politicians who don't understand the issues at all will see something to stop "terrorist content" and assume "that sounds good." The fact that the EU Commission and now the Civil Liberties Committee just let this move forward is a travesty. But, as we've noted, the EU seems intent on stamping out every nice thing about the internet, so it'll just throw this one on the pile.

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Canadian ISPs Call For Standardization And Fines For Copyright Trolls Ignoring Changes To Copyright Law

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Sometimes stories that appear to have good outcomes end up with unsatisfying ends. Such appears to be the case with the recent changes to Canada's copyright laws. After ISPs in Canada began making a great deal of noise about the plague that is settlement threat letters, which ISPs are required to pass through to their customers under threat of fines, the government did the unthinkable and changed the law. The changes made it so that copyright trolls could not force ISPs to pass these letters to ISP customers if the letters contained the usual tactics: offers to settle the claim of infringement, requests for payment or personal information, a reference or link to any such demands, etc. This should have been the end, in other words, of copyright troll fishing expeditions as facilitated by ISPs.But, as Michael Geist pointed out at the time, that hope was always fleeting, as the new law failed to put in place any punishment for copyright trolls should they simply ignore the law. And ignore the law they most certain did!

Unfortunately the new rules – as predicted – are being abused by companies who feel the law doesn’t apply to them.As reported by TF earlier this month, anti-piracy outfit Digital Millennium Forensics (a Canada-based company), in conjunction with Elevation Pictures, is continuing to send notices that breach all of the rules, especially the demands for cash settlement. Since the publication of our article, TF has received numerous additional copies of notices sent to even more customers of Eastlink, the ISP featured in the piece. The government says that ISPs don’t have to pass abusive notices on but Eastlink told us they don’t have the capability to filter them out, since there are so many of them.Since then, the flow has continued. TorrentFreak has received even more copies of abusive notices sent by Digital Millennium Forensics and forwarded by other ISPs. They include Shaw, one of Canada’s most prominent providers, through to Xplornet, the country’s “leading supplier” of rural high-speed Internet.
The examples continue to flourish from there. ISPs that have bothered to comment have pointed out that they have no good way of filtering the letters trolls send to them for content that violates the law. There are so many of these letters, which was the entire problem to begin with, that doing this manually would be a full on nightmare. It's also worth noting that the ISPs' job is not to confirm that third parties are complying with these new aspects of Canadian copyright law. So the ISPs are throwing up their hands, forwarding all notices along as they had been before, and nothing has changed.Well, some ISPs have suggested how this might be fixed: the standardization of these notices and some actual teeth in the law to punish violations.
Unfortunately, Xplornet did not respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment. Shaw Communications did, however, and a spokesperson indicated that it’s aware of the issue and is calling for measures against senders of abusive notices.“Unfortunately, some rightsholders and their representatives may continue to disregard the requirements of the notice-and-notice regime. Shaw makes it clear to our customers that they are not obligated to comply with settlement demands,” Shaw said in its response. “At the same time, we are urging the introduction of measures in the Copyright Act to end this practice – such as monetary penalties applicable to rightsholders who issue notices that include settlement demands or other prohibited content.”
Frankly, the very least the government could do would be to give its constituents some reason to comply with its written law. After all, if the law was worth writing, isn't it worth making sure that that same law is actually followed? Not to mention that ISPs are already under threat of monetary fine if they don't comply with the law in forwarding the notices on to customers, so why not ensure rightsholders are treated the same?Geist is back again, pointing out that this is all a problem of scale. A problem of the copyright trolls' own making.
“The problem is that the government’s approach does not penalize sending settlement notices via this system. Instead, it merely states that ISPs are not obligated to send such notices,” Geist told TF. “However, given that ISPs are still required to send compliant notices under threat of penalty, many ISPs will send all notices because it is too difficult to manually distinguish between compliant and non-compliant notices.”Like the ISPs, Geist says there are potential solutions, such as the standardization of notices or establishing penalties for sending non-compliant notices, as suggested by Shaw. As things stand, however, things are likely to continue as they are.
Making the much-needed changes to Canadian copyright law is an exercise in mental timewasting and isn't worth whatever paper the law was written on. The encouraging part of all of this is that ISPs were able to get this law written in the first place. Hopefully, they'll be able to get the law some actual teeth as well.

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Instagram's branded content update: what it means for brands and influencers

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Ed Brew - Head of Strategic Partnerships, PostForRent As the nineteenth century came to be defined by the Industrial Revolution, and the twentieth by social revolution, this century has so far been characterized by the digital revolution. There are now more than four billion people connected to the internet globally, with more than three billion […]The post Instagram's branded content update: what it means for brands and influencers appeared first on Adotas.

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9 Tactics for a Successful Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

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By Martin Ochwat Marketing strategies communicate at the social, personal and emotional level to have an impact on a customer's decision making. The success of your marketing campaign is also dependent on how well you understand social media platforms. Facebook is the most popular and influential social networking platform out there. Do you want to […]The post 9 Tactics for a Successful Local Facebook Marketing Strategy appeared first on Adotas.

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Former Police Chief Says Conviction Requirement For Forfeitures Makes It Too Hard To Take Cash From People

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One of the worst defenses of civil asset forfeiture has been penned by retired police chief Robert Stevenson for the Michigan news site, the Bridge. It's written in response to two things: pending forfeiture reform bills in the state legislature and the Supreme Court's Timbs decision, which indicated forfeiture may fall on the wrong side of the 8th and 14th Amendments.Michigan definitely needs to overhaul its forfeiture laws. Law enforcement claims it's dismantling drug cartels, but a look at the state's forfeiture stats shows cops are just piling up low ball seizures to create a suitably impressive total. Cash seizures are routinely below $1,000. Vehicle seizures are also popular with Michigan cops, but the average value of vehicles taken from alleged drug dealers also falls below the $1,000 mark.It's these tiny seizures -- the ones not worth fighting in court -- that the state legislature is trying to curb. It's hoping to implement a conviction requirement for any forfeiture under $50,000. Chief Stevenson says this would let the drug dealers win. But beyond using some florid language to flesh out a tiny parade of horribles, Stevenson cannot actually say why this conviction requirement would harm drug enforcement efforts. He tries. Lord, how he tries. But there's nothing coherent in his defense of cops taking property from citizens just because.First, Stevenson argues that cops should be able to take money they feel deeply in their hearts is derived from drug dealing even if it can't find any evidence linking the person carrying it to a crime.

Law enforcement will be severely handicapped if state lawmakers succumb to the misconception that no forfeiture should take place without a conviction on proceeds under $50,000. It is a dramatic misunderstanding that a conviction can be obtained in all drug cases. Drugs and proceeds are not always discovered together which makes obtaining criminal convictions in certain instances impossible. Linking civil asset forfeiture to a criminal conviction allows drug dealers to continue profiting from dealing death in our communities.
In the eyes of LEOs like Stevenson, cash being carried by people stopped by officers can only be the product of illegal activity. It's simply inconceivable anyone would carry cash in this day and age, apparently. This isn't conjecture on my part. Stevenson actually states that people carrying cash are legally obligated to explain its origin to cops.That part comes in his second argument for forfeiture -- one that says even if cops have all the evidence they need to push for a conviction, they still should just be able to take the cash instead.
The $50,000 threshold found in this legislation simply means that drug dealers will transport money in sums of less than $50,000. The scenarios I fear involve finding suspects in a house or a car in possession of $49,000 in cash with no valid explanation.
There are two mind-blowing statements in this paragraph and they're both worth singling out.Stevenson says people should have to explain their cash to cops. That's a really weird statement to make, considering previous forfeiture reform efforts raised the burden of proof for the state, not for the public. The public doesn't owe law enforcement a "valid explanation" for cash (and other property) it possesses. This is completely the wrong way around and it explains law enforcement's inherent resistance to conviction requirements. Cops want the cash, but they don't want to put in the work needed to link seizures to illegal activity. They want the burden of proof to rest most heavily on those whose property has been taken.Then Stevenson says cops shouldn't have to pursue convictions to take cash even when they have enough evidence to support a conviction. These sentences resist parsing:
Drugs may not be present, but everything else confirms and indicates drug trafficking, i.e., ledger books, scales, pre-recorded narcotics buy funds and packaging materials. In this particular scenario, as well as a multitude of others, the police and prosecutors could not establish a case to seize anything if Michigan adopts the $50,000 threshold.
The proposed law would just determine which case needs to be established first. If cops have enough to establish a case for prosecution, it can move forward with trying to seize the cash. The only possible way this argument makes sense is if Michigan law enforcement is so inept it can't cobble together a prosecution using a shitload of evidence. If that's the case, Michigan law enforcement definitely needs to have convictionless seizures because that's the only way it's ever going to take possession of all this "unexplained" cash.I'm sure Stevenson felt pretty self-righteous (and regular righteous, to be fair) handing this op-ed in. But the lack of logic displayed by his spirited, but incoherent, defense of the state's long-running "free money for cops" programs made more of case for reform than if he'd simply said nothing at all.

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Horse Race Announcer Sues Over Bill Murray Firm That Included His Trademarked Tagline

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People's confusion as to what trademark law protects and doesn't protect is a source of neverending frustration for those of us who simply cannot stand the growth of ownership culture. There is this pervasive and growing sense by those who aren't particularly well informed that trademark law simply allows one to own a word or phrase to the exclusion of every other person's use. That, obviously, is not the case and it's always worth reiterating over and over again that the point of trademark law is to prevent the public from being misled as to the source of a good or service. And, yet, that baseline fact eludes far too many people.Such as Dave Johnson, for instance. Johnson is a rather renowned announcer for horse racing, having spent time on the Illinois circuit and, more famously, calling races at Santa Anita Park. If you're a fan of the pony races, you may know his signature call even if you don't know his name: "And down the stretch they come!" Johnson trademarked the phrase in 2012. He also recently sued the Weinstein Co. over the 2014 Bill Murray film, St. Vincent, in which Murray uses the line.

In the federal lawsuit filed in New York, Johnson takes issue with Murray’s use of it in the film “St. Vincent.” In the movie, Murray plays a “retired grumpy alcoholic who gambles regularly on horse racing,” the suit states.The suit alleges that by putting his words in the mouth of an “unsavory character,” the film “infringes, damages, blurs, tarnishes, and dilutes the mark and the rights and reputation of the mark’s creator and owner, Dave Johnson — an esteemed and accomplished gentleman who is a universally respected legend in sports broadcasting and entertainment.”
It's a lawsuit that seems ridiculous on its face. Trademarking the phrase doesn't somehow obliterate the First Amendment rights of a filmmaker, after all. And it seems painfully obvious that there is no potential customer confusion over which to be concerned. The tarnishment allegation is the only one that seems even remotely plausible, except that claiming a fictional character's use of the phrase in a creative work somehow tarnishes the mark or its creator in real life is much more of a stretch than would appear in any race Johnson might call. This feels like a pure money-grab. And not one that is likely to prevail.Complicating this further is that Murray's character is a grumpy alcoholic gambler, not an announcer. All of which divorces the phrase from the claim that Murray's film somehow is trying to imitate Johnson in real life.In other words, none of this makes sense and this suit should be dismissed upon request.

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Recognizing the Biggest Instagram Marketing Trends of 2019

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Instagram marketing techniques and trends are always changing as an increasing number of brands try to capture the attention of their target audiences. Marketers need to be aware of what their audiences are taking a liking to so that they can leverage the opportunity for driving engagement and boosting conversions. Some of the most trending […]The post Recognizing the Biggest Instagram Marketing Trends of 2019 appeared first on Adotas.

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Lifestyle Marketing: Hows, Whys, Logos, and real world stories

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By Aditya Kathotia Sometimes as lifestyle marketers, it's highly significant that we think from the customers' shoes. After all, everything starting from branding techniques to customer needs is evolving today at the rate of knots. To know what makes a customer tick, we need to think like one first. The question is: 'Why would a […]The post Lifestyle Marketing: Hows, Whys, Logos, and real world stories appeared first on Adotas.

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Q&A with Gil Becker, CEO of AnyClip

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Q&A with Gil Becker, CEO of AnyClip on brand safety, GDPR, and why contextualized ads will help clean up the industry Discuss your thoughts on the state of brand safety in digital advertising? How does AnyClip play a role in cleaning up the industry? Let's first define what we mean when we say brand safety. […]The post Q&A with Gil Becker, CEO of AnyClip appeared first on Adotas.

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Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Permanence

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Well, here we are at our final spotlight post for winners from our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1923. It's the winner of the Best Analog Game category: Permanence by Jackson Tegu.Permanence is probably the most intriguing and unusual of all the submissions we received, and it piqued the curiosity and imagination of many of our judges. It's also just about as analog as a game can be: it takes the form of a book. Indeed, the instructions advise (somewhat apologetically) that you professionally print and bind the included PDF to create a real book to hold in your hands — but in a pinch, a basic print-out will suffice.But this isn't a book of instructions... not quite. Nor is it a book to simply read... not quite. Rather, the book is the instructions, the game, and the story all at once. It is designed to be played by seven people, but not all at once — each player will, on their own time, take their journey through the book. And they won't leave the book the same as they found it: each player is instructed (poetically) to "free their traveler from the page" with scissors, and then to leave behind their traveller's "attachments" as small bookmarks between the pages. All this throughout the course of a meditative roleplaying journey based on two 1923 works that have entered the public domain: the painting Metempsychosis by Yokoyama Taikan, and poems from the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

If you're still feeling a bit unclear on what exactly Permanence is, don't be discouraged — it is a game to be discovered via play, not mastered beforehand. Its unique and creative approach made it a shoe-in for Best Analog Game, and the only way to understand it is to print it out and give it a try. You can download it now from its page on Itch!And with that, we wrap up the series of winner spotlights for our public domain game jam. Once again, a huge thanks to everyone who participated, and who played the games that were submitted — we never expected such a great response, and we're thrilled with how it went. You can still check out the full list of winners and the collection of other entries at any time, and if all goes according to plan with the finally-expanding public domain, we'll be back with another edition next year!

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Appeals Court Says It's OK For Cops To Steal Stuff From Citizens

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Qualified immunity isn't a codified defense. Congress never passed a law granting public employees this exception to Constitutional protections. This exception -- one that allows public servants to avoid being directly sued by the public whose rights they've violated -- was crafted by the Supreme Court. The theory is it's too hard for the government to fully comprehend the rights it's supposed to be guaranteeing, so there needs to be an escape hatch for government employees.This escape hatch has allowed an amazing amount of abuse to go unpunished. As long as the government employees were the first to engage in egregious Constitutional violations, they're given a free pass. The free pass runs indefinitely if courts refuse to draw a bright line in published opinions. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to comply with the Constitution, but here we are.Qualified immunity has again been extended in a case where the behavior the government engaged in was not only unconstitutional, but criminal. (h/t Clark Neily)In this case, an illegal gambling investigation led to the search of property owned by the plaintiffs. The search warrant authorized the seizure of cash, gambling machines, and anything else the government determined was derived from illegal activity. So, the government did some seizing. But the inventory sheet didn't match up with what was taken. From the decision [PDF]:

Following the search, the City Officers gave Appellants an inventory sheet stating that they seized approximately $50,000 from the properties. Appellants allege, however, that the officers actually seized $151,380 in cash and another $125,000 in rare coins. Appellants claim that the City Officers stole the difference between the amount listed on the inventory sheet and the amount that was actually seized from the properties.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says there was no Fourth Amendment violation because the officers were authorized to seize this property. As for the theft, the court says it won't even examine the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment implications of the alleged misconduct because it must consider the defendants' qualified immunity defense first. That leads directly to this jaw-dropping statement from the court:
The panel determined that at the time of the incident, there was no clearly established law holding that officers violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment when they steal property that is seized pursuant to a warrant.
This dismaying conclusion was reached by examining similar caselaw from other circuits. The Ninth Circuit isn't the only circuit saying rights aren't violated when the government steals citizens' property… so long as the theft is accompanied by a warrant.
At the time of the incident, the five circuits that had addressed that question, or the similar question of whether the government’s refusal to return lawfully seized property violates the Fourth Amendment, had reached different results.
Four of the five circuits have stated the Constitution does not protect against theft by the government provided the initial seizure was legal. The only holdout is the Fourth Circuit, which stated theft of property (obviously) interferes with citizens' interest in the property they no longer have.Worse, the Ninth Circuit is unwilling to establish this right and put the government on notice that similar theft in the future will be considered a Constitutional violation.
The allegation of any theft by police officers—most certainly the theft of over $225,000—is undoubtedly deeply disturbing. Whether that conduct violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, however, is not obvious. The split in authority on the issue leads us to conclude so.
Given that law enforcement is still allowed to steal property when executing search warrants, the court's final words to the plaintiffs are the appellate equivalent of "thoughts and prayers."
We sympathize with Appellants. They allege the theft of their personal property by police officers sworn to uphold the law. [...] But not all conduct that is improper or morally wrong violates the Constitution.
Sure, but we expect our government to engage in proper and moral behavior. Qualified immunity allows the government to do the opposite of that, and to violate Constitutional rights on top of it, all without having to answer for its misdeeds.

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Video Optimization - Q&A with Kevin Jones

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Contributor: Kevin Jones,Senior Director of Media Buying at Digital Remedy Where are advertisers failing when it comes to video optimization? A missed opportunity for advertisers is sticking to one KPI and not worrying about a secondary one. If video completion rate (VCR) is performing well, but viewability is low (or vice versa), the performance metric […]The post Video Optimization – Q&A with Kevin Jones appeared first on Adotas.

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New Research Shows Marketers Who Focus on Subscriber Engagement Get More Email Delivered to the Inbox

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The State of Email Engagement report, released by Return Path in partnership with Demand Metric Email remains an effectiveand importantmarketing channel. Far from being an outdated or dead marketing channel, our research shows that email effectiveness is improving. In fact, almost 80 percent of the study's participants reported that email is holding steady or improving […]The post New Research Shows Marketers Who Focus on Subscriber Engagement Get More Email Delivered to the Inbox appeared first on Adotas.

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Marketing Madness: Advertising for the March Madness Frenzy

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A new study from social media competitive intelligence platform, BrandTotalanalyzedall of the paid social campaigns for some of the biggest brands (e.g.AT&T, Buffalo Wild Wings,Infiniti, etc)advertising for the March Madness frenzy - here are a couple of the findings from the report: Did you fill out abracket? A common question around the office this time […]The post Marketing Madness: Advertising for the March Madness Frenzy appeared first on Adotas.

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Ironically, Too Many Video Streaming Choices May Drive Users Back To Piracy

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To be very clear the rise in streaming video competitors is a very good thing. It's providing users with more choice, lower prices, and better customer service than consumers traditionally received from entrenched vanilla cable TV companies. It's the perfect example of how disruption and innovation are supposed to work. And given the abysmal customer satisfaction ratings of most big cable TV providers, this was an industry that's been absolutely begging for a disruptive kick in the ass since the 1980s.But we've also noted that, ironically, the glut of video choices--more specifically the glut of streaming exclusivity silos--risks driving users back to piracy. Studies predict that every broadcaster and their uncle will have launched their own direct-to-consumer streaming platform by 2022. Most of these companies are understandably keen on locking their own content behind exclusivity paywalls, whether that's HBO Now's Game of Thrones, or CBS All Access's Stark Trek: Discovery.But as consumers are forced to pay for more and more subscriptions to get all of the content they're looking for, they're not only getting frustrated by the growing costs (defeating the whole point of cutting the cord), they're frustrated by the experience of having to hunt and peck through an endlessly shifting sea of exclusivity arrangements and licensing deals that make it difficult to track where your favorite show or film resides this month.In response, there's some early anecdotal data to suggest this is already happening. But because these companies are fixated on building market share, and this will likely be an industry-wide issue, most aren't seeing the problem yet.Others are. The 13th edition of Deloitte's annual Digital Media Trends survey makes it clear that too many options and shifting exclusivity arrangements are increasingly annoying paying customers:

But the plethora of options has a downside: Nearly half (47%) of U.S. consumers say they're frustrated by the growing number of subscriptions and services required to watch what they want, according to the 13th edition of Deloitte's annual Digital Media Trends survey. An even bigger pet peeve: 57% said they're frustrated when content vanishes because rights to their favorite TV shows or movies have expired.Consumers want choice but only up to a point, said Kevin Westcott, Deloitte vice chairman and U.S. telecom and media and entertainment leader, who oversees the study. We may be entering a time of 'subscription fatigue.'
As it turns out, people don't like Comcast, but they do ironically want a little more centralization than they're seeing in the streaming space. What that looks like isn't clear yet, but it's something that will slowly get built as some of the 300 options (and growing) currently available fail to gain traction in the space:
All told, there are more than 300 over-the-top video options in the U.S. With that fragmentation, there's a clear opportunity for larger platforms to reaggregate these services in a way that can provide access across all sources and make recommendations based on all of someone's interests, Westcott said. Consumers are looking for less friction in the consumption process, he said.
Variety's otherwise excellent report doesn't mention this, but a lot of these customers are going to revert to piracy. It's not clear why this isn't mentioned, but it's kind of standard practice for larger outlets to avoid mentioning piracy in the odd belief that acknowledging it somehow condones it. But if you don't mention it, you don't learn from it. You don't understand that piracy is best seen as just another competitor, and a useful tool to gain insight into what customers (studies repeatedly show pirates buy more content than most anybody else) really want.It's easy to dismiss this as privileged whining ("poor baby is upset because they have too many choices), and that's certainly what a big segment of the market is going to do.But it would be a mistake to ignore consumer frustration and the obviously annoying rise of endless exclusivity silos, given the effort it took to migrate users away from piracy and toward legitimate services in the first place. The primary lesson learned during that experience is you need to compete with piracy. It's not really a choice. It's real, it's impossible to stop, and the best way to mitigate it is to listen to your customers. Building more walled gardens, raising rates, and ignoring what subscribers want is the precise opposite of that.

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Updated Guide to Facebook Advertising Placements

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With over a billion people logging into Facebook every day, the popular social media platform has become a powerful tool for digital marketers worldwide. Tapping into that rich and diverse audience can spell wonders for your business and allow you to reach KPIs and metrics for your effortsif you do it right. When Facebook Ads […]The post Updated Guide to Facebook Advertising Placements appeared first on Adotas.

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UK Government Misses Another Ship Date On Its Porn Filter

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Good news, UK porn aficionados: the porn filter is backed up.

The U.K. Government has postponed the introduction of controversial new regulations that have come to be known as the 'Porn Block' and would have blocked those under the age of 18 from viewing online porn from April.[...]According to the Mirror Online a Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) spokesperson has now "confirmed that the official rollout plans will be announced shortly" and the April 1 commencement date no longer stands.
And so the plan that won't work -- one that's going to under- and over-block when not being circumvented with remarkable ease -- is on the back burner again. This doesn't mean the government is going to fix it. It just means the government hasn't been able to convince anyone in the private sector that it's being foisted upon that it will work as intended.The government "refreshed" its porn blockade late last year, softening a few mandates into suggestions. But the newly-crafted suggestions were backed by the implicit threat of heavier regulation. All the while, the government has ignored the hundreds of critics and experts who have pointed out the filtering plan's numerous problems -- not the least of which is a government-mandated collection of blackmail fodder.The government is no longer demanding retention of site logs by sites performing age verification, but it's also not telling companies they shouldn't retain the data. Companies likely will retain this data anyway, if only to ensure they have it on hand when the government inevitably changes it mind.As for keeping kids away from porn, the proposed system is already an admitted failure. Exemptions are in place for sites like Reddit, which has no shortage of porn to offer. Meanwhile, the government continues to insist this will all work out wonderfully whenever the long-delayed filtering system is finally rolled out.
"This is a world-leading step forward to protect our children from adult content which is currently far too easy to access online," a spokesperson for the Department for Digial, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said. "The government, and the BBFC as the regulator, have taken the time to get this right and we will announce a commencement date shortly."
"Shortly." April 1st will come and go with no porn filter. The next best guess is around Easter (April 21st). But I'd wager that date comes and goes as well with zero new porn filters. The UK government only knows what it wants. It has no idea how to get it. If UK citizens are lucky, the porn filter will end up being government vaporware -- a minor annoyance only noticed every time a ship date is cancelled.

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German Government's Bullying Of FOI Group Provides A Warning Of How EU's New Upload Filters Will Be Used For Censorship

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One of the many concerns about the upload filters of the EU's Copyright Directive is that they could lead to censorship, even if that is not the intention. The problem is that once a filtering mechanism is in place to block unauthorized copies of materials, it is very hard to stop its scope being widened beyond copyright infringement. As it happens, the German government has just provided a good example of the kind of abuse that is likely to become a commonplace.FragDenStaat -- literally "ask the State" -- is a German freedom of information (FOI) organization. It obtained and published a six-page report about the herbicide glyphosate. The document was written by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, a publicly-funded body that provides scientific advice to Germany's federal government on issues relating to things like food, product, and chemical safety, as well as consumer health protection. Even though the report was paid for by the German public, obtained legally -- and can still be requested by anyone -- FragDenStaat is not allowed to distribute it. The Regional Court in Cologne has ruled that would be an infringement of the German State's copyright, and ordered it to be taken down. FragDenStaat says it will appeal -- to the Court of Justice of the European Union, if necessary -- and comments:

The federal government abuses copyright law to prevent the publication of public interest documents. This is possible because German copyright law is hopelessly outdated. We believe that copyright law should ensure that tax-financed documents such as the Glyphosat report may be used freely. But in contrast, the German government wants to tighten copyright law further, which will further reduce the amount of information the public receives about important topics like this.
Leaving aside the issue that all such reports funded by the public should by freely available unless there are very good reasons to withhold them -- not the case here -- there is the particularly troubling aspect of this bullying of FragDenStaat by the German government. At the moment, there is little to stop copies of this document being requested, then uploaded and shared around the Internet. But once the EU Copyright Directive's upload filters have been installed, it will be easy for the German government to require sites to block these attempts. The fact that the authorities were willing to waste money taking FragDenStaat to court over a six-page document suggests they won't hesitate for a second to use upload filters to block sharing.It won't just be governments. It is inevitable that leaked documents showing evidence of wrong-doing by companies will be blocked on all the major sites once upload filters are available. No court order is required, so it will become the first thing companies trying to hide their dirty washing will do. Upload filters will not only cause legitimate material produced by Internet users to be blocked by over-cautious online platforms, it will also make life even harder for whistleblowers to expose the truth about corporate crimes and misdeeds. How convenient.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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New Study: 34% of Traffic and 28% of Orders for Large Online Fashion Retail Brands Come Directly from Search and Social

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Facebook and Instagram generate majority of sales coming directly from paid social 34% of traffic, 28% of orders and 26% of the total order value for large online fashion retailers come directly from search and social sites including Google and Facebook,new global researchsuggests. Of all traffic arriving directly from paid social, 80% is from Facebook […]The post New Study: 34% of Traffic and 28% of Orders for Large Online Fashion Retail Brands Come Directly from Search and Social appeared first on Adotas.

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Russia Expands Site Blocking To VPNs

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Over the last few years, Russia has been one of the most aggressive countries in using claims of copyright infringement to push for full site blocking at the ISP level. Of course, that has resulted in tens of thousands of innocent sites getting blocked (collateral damage!), not to mention a corruption scandal and... no meaningful decrease in piracy. Apparently, the answer for the Russians: head deeper into the infrastructure to push site blocking even further.Now, apparently, beyond just demanding ISPs engage in massive site blocking, various VPNs have been ordered to start blocking full sites as well.

During the past few days, telecoms watch Roscomnadzor says it sent compliance notifications to 10 major VPN services with servers inside Russia - NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, Kaspersky Secure Connection, HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, and OpenVPN.The government agency is demanding that the affected services begin interfacing with the FGIS database, blocking the sites listed within. Several other local companies - search giant Yandex, Sputnik, Mail.ru, and Rambler - are already connected to the database and filtering as required.
You can understand how this came about: as site blocking gets more popular, more people sign up for VPNs that allow them to get around local censorship and access content as before. However, it appears the Russians are trying to stop that as well. While not quite as bad as when China started banning VPNs completely, this still represents quite a threat to securely surfing the internet.I was actually in Moscow a few years ago, very briefly, to speak on a panel, and I came armed with three separate VPN services to (hopefully?) stay safe and be able to tunnel out of the Russian internet. That was well before the big crackdown, however, and it must be more and more difficult to use the internet safely there. We've also discussed Russia's supposed plans to test disconnecting from the internet -- and it might not need to do much if it continues to reach deeper and deeper into the internet ecosystem to make it harder and harder to use the internet safely and securely.And, of course, as Professor Annemarie Bridy notes, none of this is really about copyright infringement. This is entirely about authoritarian control of the internet and censorship:
Indeed, remember a few years back when the Russian government used questionable claims of copyright infringement to intimidate government critics? The US's infatuation with copyright has handed a tool of out and out censorship to authoritarian leaders, who can censor freely while insisting they're doing so to help American copyright corporate interests.

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Proven Content Promotion Strategies to Get More Traffic to Your Website

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By Clara Beck No matter how good is your content is, at some point, you might have strived to get your eyes on your blog to drive more traffic. Why does this happen even after spending hours together to create one good eye-catchy content? There is more, a lot more to go around for content […]The post Proven Content Promotion Strategies to Get More Traffic to Your Website appeared first on Adotas.

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Judge Rips Drug Task Force For Going On Asset Forfeiture 'Shopping Sprees'

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A Pennsylvania judge has delivered an earful to the York County Drug Task Force and its handling of property forfeitures. Christopher Hawkins, represented by Korey Leslie (who was kind enough to email me the ruling the York Dispatch couldn't be bothered to post with its article), challenged the seizure of two vehicles and a bunch of electronics from his house. Hawkins was arrested after a controlled heroin purchase. There appears to be no question Hawkins participated in drug dealing. But that doesn't excuse the government's decision to take two cars and some TVs from him as "evidence."Judge Craig T. Trebilcock doesn't like anything about the Task Force's seizures, since it appears to be more concerned with taking things with resale value, rather than property with an actual nexus to drug distribution. The opinion [PDF] repeatedly calls Task Force detectives out for their lack of credibility and the dollar signs continually dancing in their eyes. The Task Force originally seized four vehicles from Hawkins before returning two of them for a lack of drug nexus. But it still couldn't connect the two it kept.

Detective S. testified that the Dodge Neon and the Mercedes were kept by the police because "we thought there was clear and convincing nexus between drugs and those vehicles" However, no credible facts were provided by Detective S. to substantiate these conclusions. During cross examination. Detective S. indicated the vehicles did not play any role in the drug transactions on the 22nd or 23rd.
The only thing Detective S. offered as evidence of this drug nexus was a statement by Hawkins that he used the Mercedes to "meet people for money primary for drugs." But, as the court notes, this statement was not corroborated by any other detectives involved in the arrest and seizure, nor was it recorded in any fashion. The court, however, knows exactly why these two vehicles were seized, even if the Task Force members won't admit it.
Detective S. testified that there was no lien on either the Neon or Mercedes Benz, the apparent sole distinguishing factor as to why they were seized, instead of the other vehicles.
The detectives also couldn't offer a good explanation for the seizure of two flatscreen TVs from the house. One claimed Hawkins wasn't working, so he couldn't have purchased them with legal funds. Again, the court points out Hawkins offered proof of his employment with a temp agency and lived with his girlfriend, who had a full-time job. And again, the court knows the Task Force just took the TVs because it thought it could turn them into cash quickly.
[T]here was no factual evidence to support the conclusion that Mr. Hawkins (or another resident) could not legitimately afford a television being present in his home. The task force seized the property simply because it had resale value.
The judge also calls out the perverse incentives that have led to the task force appearing before him repeatedly to forfeit televisions, video game systems, and vehicles -- all without making much of an effort to tie these items to illegal activity.
Forfeitures… result in additional income streams to the very officers seizing the property, a source of concern to this Court.
The court notes that the state's forfeiture laws are Constitutionally sound. But not when they're applied the way the York County Task Force applies them. The court says the task force engages in "arbitrary" seizures that violate citizens' due process rights. Then Judge Trebilcock hammers the point home:
This case is being decided on the facts of this case alone. It is important to note, however, that overzealous forfeiture actions by the Drug Task Force in the time frame of this case have not been isolated in nature. Dozens of forfeiture actions are brought before this court each year. While the property seized may vary from case to case, with some cases involving automobile, firearms or other property, a disconcerting pattern is evident that Drug Task Force officers seize big screen TVs that are present in the property regardless of any link to drug money or illegal activity. In addition, they disproportionately seize all game systems and video games, present in the property. The decision as to which property to seize is driven, in the words of Detective S., by which property has resale value. The Drug Task Force does not seize furniture or clothing, silverware, or other items that have low resale value. They focus upon items that have high resale value. That is not a problem in itself, until the police begin to ignore that there must be a nexus to drug dealing or drug money to seize those higher high value assets. [...] In this case the Drug Task Force personnel ignored the need for such a nexus and engaged in a shopping spree, for the benefit of their budget, based solely on the property's resale value.
The court goes even further than this. It suggests the Drug Task Force also uses these seizures to coerce confessions or plea deals from defendants. It says it may not have happened in this case, but the court is sure it has happened in the past. Going forward, the York Drug Task Force will be under the microscope every time it tries to forfeit property.
[I]n the absence of reform and a greater demonstration of responsibility in future Drug Task Force practices, this issue will remain to be decided to the voluntariness of plea deals, questions of double jeopardy, and the personal or institutional liability/culpability of those officers who seize private property unlawfully.
In the future, Trebilcock's court will also be requiring hearings for all forfeiture -- hearings that defendants will be allowed to attend and testify at on their own behalf, even if they're currently incarcerated. Trebilcock signs off his scathing opinion with this:
Taken in its entirety, the testimony of the officers in this case indicates that the police made the subjective assessment that the Defendant is too poor, absent drug dealing, to have nice possessions. This was nothing more than a hunch, unsupported by any investigative rigor, and clouded by an overzealous desire to forfeit the possessions.
Not enough judges are willing to go this far when criticizing law enforcement's abusive practices. This probably won't result in a come-to-Jesus moment for the Task Force, unfortunately. It may decide these drug cases now have a federal nexus and ask Uncle Sam to help them keep robbing people. But at least they know they're no longer welcome to pull this bullshit in Trebilcock's court, so it's a start.

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Office Depot And Partner Ordered To Pay $35 Million For Tricking Consumers Into Thinking They Had Malware

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I have worked in the B2B IT services industry for well over a decade. Much of that time was spent on the sales side of the business. As such, I have become very familiar with the tools and tactics used to convince someone that they are in need of the type of IT support you can provide. One common tactic is to use software to do an assessment of a machine to determine whether it's being properly maintained and secured. If it is not, a simple report showing the risks tends to be quite persuasive in convincing a prospective client to sign up for additional support.Done the right way, these reports are factual and convincing. Done the Office Depot way, it seems only the latter is a requirement. The FTC announced on its site that Office Depot and its support partner, Support.com, Inc., has agreed to pay $35 million to settle a complaint in which the FTC alleged that consumers were tricked using a computer health application into thinking their machines were infected with malware when they often times were not.

Office Depot has agreed to pay $25 million while its software supplier, Support.com, Inc., has agreed to pay $10 million as part of their settlements with the FTC. The FTC intends to use these funds to provide refunds to consumers.“Consumers have a hard enough time protecting their computers from malware, viruses, and other threats,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “This case should send a strong message to companies that they will face stiff consequences if they use deception to trick consumers into buying costly services they may not need.”
The complaint itself, embedded below, is quite the read. Office Depot's scheme went like this. For a decade, Office Depot would take in customers' computers for diagnostics. Through it's partnership with Support.com, PC Health Check would be run on these machines and the owners of them would be given a short questionnaire to fill out. While that application can in fact be useful in detecting malware on machines, the FTC alleges that the "report" delivered to consumers was based entirely off of the short questionnaire instead. And what kind of questions were consumers asked to answer to indicate whether their machines were infected with malware or not?Well...
These included questions about whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the Internet.The complaint alleges that Office Depot and Support.com configured the PC Health Check Program to report that the scan found malware symptoms or infections whenever consumers answered yes to at least one of these four questions, despite the fact that the scan had no connection to the “malware symptoms” results. After displaying the results of the scan, the program also displayed a “view recommendation” button with a detailed description of the tech services consumers were encouraged to purchase—services that could cost hundreds of dollars—to fix the problems.
Members of the IT industry are already laughing at this. There is a universal understanding in our industry that if you ask a user if his or her machine is running slow, he or she will say yes. Full stop. To base a recommendation off of this answer, never mind to configure software to report malware symptoms based on it, is ludicrous in the extreme. Unless, of course, you're building a tech support business on the strategy of tricking consumers into thinking they have malware infections when they do not. In that case, all of this makes perfect sense.Except that it's also a violation of laws against deceptive practices. It's also dumb in the extreme, as it's the kind of trick you can only get caught at once to torpedo your reputation and cause the public to never seek out your help for tech support again. Put another way, there is zero reason for anyone to ever seek out Office Depot's help for their computers ever again.That's no way to run a business.

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posted at: 12:00am on 03-Apr-2019
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Local SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Higher Rankings

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By Elaine Bennett Source: Pixabay Research says that 46% of Google searches are local. Moreover, 88% of local searchers call or visit the business they found online within 24 hours. However, to get your small business noticed in the overcrowded SERPs, you need to optimize your website for local search. Local SEO is what helps […]The post Local SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Higher Rankings appeared first on Adotas.

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FamilyTreeDNA Deputizes Itself, Starts Pitching DNA Matching Services To Law Enforcement

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One DNA-matching company has decided it's going to corner an under-served market: US law enforcement. FamilyTreeDNA -- last seen here opening up its database to the FBI without informing its users first -- is actively pitching its services to law enforcement.

The television spot, to air in San Diego first, asks anyone who has had a direct-to-consumer DNA test from another company, like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, to upload a copy so that law enforcement can spot any connections to DNA found at crime scenes.The advertisement features Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City teen who was abducted in 2002 but later found alive. “If you are one of the millions of people who have taken a DNA test, your help can provide the missing link,” he says in the spot.
Welcome to FamilyTreeDNA's cooperating witness program -- one it profits from by selling information customers give it to law enforcement. The tug at the heartstrings is a nice touch. FamilyTreeDNA is finally being upfront with users about its intentions for their DNA samples. This is due to its founder deciding -- without consulting his customers -- that they're all as willing as he is to convert your DNA samples into public goods.
Bennett Greenspan, the firm’s founder, said he had decided he had a moral obligation to help solve old murders and rapes. Now he thinks that customers will agree and make their DNA available specifically to help out.
FamilyTreeDNA sounds like it's finally going to seek consent from its customers, but only after having abused their trust once and under the assumption they're all going to play ball. While some DNA companies like 23andMe are insisting on at least a subpoena before handing over access to DNA database search results, other companies are staying quiet about law enforcement access or specifically targeting law enforcement agencies with ads promising to help them work through their cold case files.Consent is great, but it's never going to be complete consent, no matter how FamilyTreeDNA shapes the argument. As Elizabeth Joh points out at Slate, there's a whole lot of people involved who will never be asked for their consent once a customer agrees to allow DNA-matching sites to hand over their samples to law enforcement.
[W]hen you volunteer your DNA sample, you’re volunteering your genetic family tree, without having asked your parents, siblings, cousins, and distant cousins if they agree. That upends the usual way we think about providing information to law enforcement. You can’t give the police lawful consent to search your third cousin’s house, even if your third cousin (who you may never have met) is suspected of having been involved in a serious crime. Why are we allowing a distant relative to grant police permission to your DNA?
There's no informed consent happening here. Customers are being treated as data points law enforcement can peruse at its leisure. A customer who agrees to be a good citizen (by clicking OK on a submission box on a private company's website) may learn later their sample was used to lock up a close relative. Some people will be fine with this outcome. Others may regret being the critical piece of evidence used to incarcerate one of their relatives.Whatever the case is, very few companies are being upfront about the effects of opening up database access to law enforcement. FamilyTreeDNA is using a crime victim's parent and the founder's Team Blue sympathies to hustle its customers towards compliance. Users who don't like this turn of events will likely find it far more difficult to remove their DNA from FamilyTreeDNA's database than simply hold their nose and become an willing part of this partnership.

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Facial Recognition Tech Now Capable Of Getting You Kicked Out Of The Mall

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Facial recognition tech continues it kudzu-like growth. It's not just government contractors providing tech for law enforcement and security agencies. It's also making inroads in the private sector -- a place where there's even less oversight of its use.Cameras everywhere have long been part of retailers' operations. But retailers are now adding third party facial recognition software to the mix, further increasing the chance innocent people will be punished for software screw-ups.

[W]ith facial recognition, getting caught in one store could mean a digital record of your face is shared across the country. Stores are already using the technology for security purposes and can share that data -- meaning that if one store considers you a threat, every business in that network could come to the same conclusion.One mistake could mean never being able to shop again.
Kogniz, the company behind one strain of shopper-oriented facial recognition tech, says no retailers are currently sharing data and recordings with other retailers. At this point (if Kogniz is to be believed), retailers are still operating within their own silos. But that could change. And it could change without notice. There's nothing in place legislation-wise that regulates this market. The government isn't keeping an eye on these developments, leaving it up to companies to self-regulate. They've responded by doing nothing.
Without any legal restrictions, companies can use facial recognition without limits. That means being able to log people's faces without telling customers their data is being collected.Two facial recognition providers told CNET that they don't check on their customers to make sure they're using the data properly. There are no laws requiring them to.
This means there's no baseline for accuracy and no limits on sharing or retention. This also means law enforcement can ask to be added to the "sharing" list without running afoul of legal restrictions. False positives could result in bans and/or visits from local law enforcement. One Kogniz client is already sharing its login with local law enforcement, ensuring the government gets pinged every time the system registers a hit.Even the companies providing this tech directly to government agencies are unconcerned about how it's used.
Gemalto, a digital security company, has been providing facial recognition to the Department of Homeland Security, which uses it at US exits to log foreign visitors leaving the country.[...]"Once the customer has it, they're going to operate with the standards that they define," said Neville Pattinson, Gemalto's senior vice president for government programs. "It's not our responsibility to have involvement past the point of delivery."
Fair enough. But the federal government has also decided they need to do almost nothing. Self-regulation isn't working any better in the public sector. That's why the EFF and ACLU are pushing for someone -- anyone -- to start acting like the adults in the room. Fortunately, a handful of local governments are stepping into the legislative void.
In late January, San Francisco supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed legislation to completely ban the city's government agencies from using facial recognition. State lawmakers across the US have suggested similar legislation, like in Washington and Massachusetts.
This is a good step forward, if extremely geographically-limited. Tech development has always moved faster than the government. But that excuse is pretty hollow when it comes to facial recognition tech. The government has been an aggressive early adopter. The legislators are late to the party, but at least they're finally starting to arrive.

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posted at: 12:00am on 02-Apr-2019
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Nearly Half of Social Media Users View Facebook Negatively After Cambridge Analytica Scandal but Many Still Use the Platform, New Survey Finds

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Two-thirds of social media users (65%) are aware of the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data breach, and 37% say they use Facebook less often after news broke of the scandal last March, according to a new survey.   Forty-four percent of social media users (44%) still have a negative opinion of Facebook because of the Cambridge […]The post Nearly Half of Social Media Users View Facebook Negatively After Cambridge Analytica Scandal but Many Still Use the Platform, New Survey Finds appeared first on Adotas.

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Court Documents Show Canadian Law Enforcement Operated Stingrays Indiscriminately, Sweeping Up Thousands Of Innocent Phone Owners

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A wide-ranging criminal investigation involving eleven suspects has resulted in the reluctant disclosure of Stingray data by Canadian law enforcement. The Toronto PD and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police joined forces to deploy a surveillance dragnet that swept up thousands of innocent Canadians, as Kate Allen reports for the Toronto Star.

Toronto police and RCMP officers deploying controversial “Stingray” surveillance technology over a two-month period swept up identifying cellphone data on more than 20,000 bystanders at malls, public parks and even a children’s toy store.As police sought cellphone data for 11 suspects in a 2014 investigation, they deployed a Stingray — also known as an IMSI catcher — at three dozen locations, including the middle of Yorkville, at the Dufferin Mall, at Vaughan Mills Mall, near Trinity Bellwoods Park, near Kensington Market, and at a Toys ‘R’ Us store in Richmond Hill.
These sweeps occurred years before either law enforcement agency admitted to possessing and deploying Stingray devices. In prior years, Canadian prosecutors dropped charges rather than discuss the devices in open court. This case must have been too big to let go. It involved 50 raids, 112 arrests, and a plethora of charges ranging from gun possession to murder.Multiple defendants are now challenging the evidence derived from the multiple Stingray deployments, arguing that it was gathered unlawfully. The courts may decide to see it the defendants' way, but it's unlikely these deployments broke the agencies' own policies. Pretty much every law enforcement agency anywhere that has acquired a Stingray has deployed first and developed policies after their Stingray use could no longer be kept secret. The agencies involved here are no exception:
An RCMP spokesperson said that policy regarding deployment and resting time is “still being developed,” and that interim guidelines state that the devices will generally operate for three minutes, though may be operated for longer periods under certain circumstances and if permitted by a judge.
From what's contained in the tracking logs submitted as evidence in these cases, there appears to have been very little done to limit the tracking of non-suspects.
According to the logs, police deployed the device at three dozen locations between March 18 and May 23, 2014. In all, the device logged approximately 25,000 captures. The same cellphones may have been captured more than once in that time, since police used the device multiple times at some locations; with those repeat locations excluded, a minimum of 20,000 bystanders in Toronto and the GTA saw their cellphone data swept up.
At one location -- a condo where a target was suspected to live -- law enforcement operated the device for nearly ten minutes, sweeping up 1,400 cellphones.Many of the logs show violations of the limitations law enforcement set for itself when applying for a warrant. The officer obtaining the affidavit failed to mention the device's ability to act as a tracking device. The officer also stated the device would only be operated for three minutes at a time, followed by two minutes of "rest" -- a minor concession meant to limit the impact on phone operation in the area. Instead of doing either of these things, officers switched frequencies every three minutes, running the device pretty much uninterrupted during each deployment.This whole thing started out with the RCMP farming out the warrant request to a novice -- one who probably swore to his own "training and expertise" while combining boilerplate cribbed from other warrants with his subject matter inexperience.
According to court documents, the Toronto police sergeant who obtained the warrant testified he had never used an IMSI catcher before, and that he copied and pasted a set of “standard” wording used in a warrant for a previous case. The RCMP’s program manager for deployment of the technology testified that the standard wording was written “by people that are not operators of the equipment so they didn’t fully understand the capabilities and how it operated.
To reiterate: the Stingrays were (and are) being deployed in an operational policy vacuum. According to a statement given to the Star, the policies the RCMP said it would draw up after it publicly admitted it owned and used Stingrays still aren't in place. An interim policy, instituted in 2017, is the only internal legal framework guiding Stingray use. In practice, this means the RCMP isn't controlling deployments. In this case, it also meant sending an amateur to do a professional's job when it came to securing a warrant. Put it all together and you have the mess both law enforcement agencies created by simply assuming no one would ever find out they'd been using these devices.

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Q&A: How the Instagram + Facebook Shutdown Took a Toll on Advertisers

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Q&A with Jon Mottel, Director of Social Strategy at Undertone What are your thoughts on the recent Instagram/Facebook outage? What impact did it have on your business? Being in the ad technology space, we're accustomed to the occasional outage or technology snafu that affects our day to day. This one specifically was much longer than […]The post Q&A: How the Instagram + Facebook Shutdown Took a Toll on Advertisers appeared first on Adotas.

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3 Trends for Mobile Advertising in 2019

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As the mobile app industry steps into 2019, the post-dividend era signifies that mobile market has already reached a saturation point. Everyday, there are thousands of new apps listed on app stores, the competitiveness has become even fiercer. The whole industry is consistently looking for new marketing and product breakthroughs, meanwhile forging an optimum business […]The post 3 Trends for Mobile Advertising in 2019 appeared first on Adotas.

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Try These Offline Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business

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By Emily Wilson As a small business, you have to do everything in your power to get ahead. You are, after all, facing conglomerates, multinational corporations, they are all vying for the attention of your customers. That's why you need to utilize your strengths. You have flexibility, you can focus on one point more easily, […]The post Try These Offline Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business appeared first on Adotas.

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