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This Week In Techdirt History: January 19th - 25th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2015, newly released documents from the Snowden leak revealed how the UK's GCHG collected emails from journalists and used compromised hardware to get data from iPhones, and how the NSA harvested data from other surveillance agencies. We also learned more about the DEA's role in the surveillance world, while the FBI was touting another of its own manufactured-then-foiled terror plots as evidence that the PATRIOT Act should be renewed.Meanwhile, a European Parliament report called for wide-ranging copyright reform that was actually good, a court soundly rejected the attempt by Omega to abuse copyright to stop Costco selling its watches, and Cory Doctorow rejoined the EFF to lead a project to eradicate DRM. Also, James Bond entered the public domain in Canada, which is worth highlighting because we came up with a darn good headline if I do say so myself.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2010, the US was trying to strongarm Costa Rica into adopting draconian IP laws by blocking sugar from the US market, Italian lawmakers were pushing their own draconian provision to require government authorization for all video uploads, Oxford University made the bizarre decision to ban students from using Spotify, and EU trade negotiators were calling Canada's public comment period on copyright law "a tactic to confuse". BPI was insisting that UK ISPs were overstating the cost of a three strikes program, and the IFPI was loudly complaining about piracy in its annual report that conveniently omitted its own study showing file sharers also buy lots. ACTA secrecy was in full swing, with bloggers getting kicked out of consultations in Mexico and the UK government telling MPs they couldn't see the details. And in one better-than-nothing-I-guess development, the judge who oversaw the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case reduced the completely insane damages of $80,000 per song to the less astonishing (but still arbitrary) figure of $2,250 per song.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2005, radio broadcasters were gearing up to be the newest entrants in the already overcrowded world of music download stores, TV broadcasters were trying to come up with ways to compete with DVRs, and Sony's Ken Kutaragi surprisingly admitted that DRM held up the company's innovation. The "war on file sharing" nabbed its first prisoners in the form of two men who plead guilty to "conspiracy to commit felony copyright infringement", while one state senator in California was promoting the idea that developers of file-sharing programs should be jailed.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Jan-2020
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Leaked Document Suggests Possible Facial Recognition Ban In Europe

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Bans of facial recognition tech are popping up across the United States. Facial recognition tech use by law enforcement is currently banned in the state of California and a few cities in Massachusetts have blocked local government agencies from deploying the tech.Given the tech's relative inability to do its job, along with a host of other concerns including built-in biases that make it far more likely minorities will suffer the effects of false positives, lawmakers are finally putting the brakes on approving facial recognition use by government agencies.A white paper leaked to Euractiv appears to indicate the biggest ban so far is under consideration in Europe -- one that would affect most of the continent.

The European Commission is considering measures to impose a temporary ban on facial recognition technologies used by both public and private actors, according to a draft white paper on Artificial Intelligence obtained by EURACTIV.If implemented, the plans could throw current AI projects off course in some EU countries, including Germany’s wish to roll out automatic facial recognition at 134 railway stations and 14 airports. France also has plans to establish a legal framework permitting video surveillance systems to be embedded with facial recognition technologies.
Noting that the GDPR requires certain information disclosures by companies and agencies deploying the tech, the white paper [PDF] suggests going live with facial recognition tech might be unworkable, given that every person passing by an AI-enabled cam would have to consent to data collection. It suggests a moratorium might be the best solution until all the regulatory kinks can be worked out.
Building on these existing provisions, the future regulatory framework could go further and include a time-limited ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces. This would mean that the use of facial recognition technology by private or public actors in public spaces would be prohibited for a definite period (e.g. 3-5 years) during which a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed.
That's just one of the five options being considered by the European Commission. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be one of its favorites. The paper says the most likely approach the Commission will take is a combination of options 3, 4, and 5. The ban is option 2.But the GDPR definitely causes problems for the rollout of facial recognition tech in public places -- something the government agencies itching to deploy it don't appear to have considered seriously. It's pretty much unworkable unless the governments rolling these out are going to claim that being in a public place waives GDPR protections.The desire to subject citizens to biometric collections may result in a rewrite of the GDPR or a blanket exception for collections in public places. This will only make a bad law worse.But overall, the paper makes it clear the tech will be subject to tight regulation and much more oversight than we've seen deployed in the United States. Amendments to safety and liability laws are being considered that would allow tech companies to be held responsible for data breaches or misuse of collected biometric information. There would also be some sort of "trusted vendor" program put in place that would push companies to meet certain standards before they can be considered for government applications.The ban is a long shot but it's still in the running. Given the number of changes that may need to be made to make facial recognition tech comply with existing European privacy laws, a temporary moratorium might be the best call to make. Clearly, the legal atmosphere in Europe isn't exactly welcoming for new data collection tech. But the narrative that more surveillance = safer countries will always have powerful proponents, which may override the privacy concerns of millions of European citizens and subject them to mass surveillance.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Jan-2020
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Reminder: Our Public Domain Game Jam Of 1924 Works Has One More Week

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Here's a quick reminder that we're running a Gaming Like It's 1924 game jam, asking people to come up with both digital and analog games using newly public domain works from 1924. While the US spent decades not allowing any new works into the public domain, that changed last year (finally!), and now we're slowly getting works into the public domain drip by drip. But what good is a public domain if it's not used to inspire new creative works? So, as we did last year, we're running this contest for the month of January. All the rules are at the link above, but there are lots of great tools and templates out there for anyone wanting to try their hand at creating something.As always, Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a great list highlighting some newly public domain works, and there are some concepts and ideas in there that could be turned into really great games -- like E.M. Forster's A Passage to India or Hugh Lofting's Doctor Doolittle's Circus. And, of course, I remain curious if anyone will make a game out of George Gershwin's famed song "Rhapsody in Blue," considering that his family is upset about the whole concept of the public domain, and fought against it for years.Anyway, here's a chance to have fun and be creative. You don't need to be a game designer. You don't have to come up with something super polished. Just experiment a little and see if you come up with something cool.

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posted at: 12:00am on 25-Jan-2020
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Copyright As Censorship: Gun Rights Advocate Gets Video Taken Down With Bogus Copyright Claim

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I still laugh when I remember a copyright maximalist think tanker insisting that copyright could never be used for censorship, because "copyright holders are champions of the First Amendment" and "have no reason to censor anything." Of course, for years, we've documented over and over and over again how copyright is regularly used as a tool for censorship. And now we've got another example. And however you feel about the 2nd amendment or gun advocacy, hopefully you can agree that it's a problem for the 1st amendment when someone -- no matter what their political viewpoints -- abuses false copyright claims to take down videos they dislike.Last week, a Twitter user posted a short 13 second video of Kaitlin Bennett, a sort of social media troll play acting as a gun rights activist/journalist (who has been reasonably criticized for questionable journalism practices), who does outrageous stunts to get more attention. In the video, Bennett first insults a woman's weight, which makes the woman reasonably angry at Bennett. Bennett responds by implying to the woman that she has a gun, and when the woman starts to calm down, Bennett suggests that her carrying a weapon was what "deterred" further escalation.No matter what you think of the video, the user who had posted it (who was critical of Bennett) soon was informed by Twitter that a DMCA takedown notice was filed against the video, which Twitter removed:

While Twitter did eventually re-enable the video, it does show yet another example of how copyright can and is used to try to take down non-infringing works. This is why we keep raising concerns about further expansions of copyright's power to censor. When you provide any tool that enables quick censorship, it will be used for such purposes. Even if Twitter eventually relented and put the video back up, the initial suppression of speech, by use of a legal tool, is still suppression of speech.

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posted at: 12:00am on 24-Jan-2020
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