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Dear EU Politicians: You Really Don't Have To Wreck The Internet

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Visit DontWreckThe.Net to learn about the EU Copyright Directive »As you'll recall, back in September, the EU Parliament voted to approve a draft of the EU Copyright Directive, despite it including a bunch of very problematic pieces -- mainly Article 13's mandatory filters and Article 11's snippet tax. What the EU Parliament approved was not the same as what the EU Council of member states had approved, nor what the EU Commission had approved, so now those three bodies have been working on a "trilogue" process to sync up the various versions and come up with a master version that will have to be approved again by all three institutions. There has been a lot of activity in the past few weeks -- and Italy's change of government has made things a bit interesting.As the Trilogue discussions have continued, we've teamed up with a bunch of platforms and startup organizations both in the EU and the US to make some suggestions. It would probably be best for the internet to drop both Article 11 and Article 13 altogether, but barring that, we have a pretty detailed list of suggestions over at DontWreckThe.Net. As you hopefully see, just by looking at the long list of fixes we're requesting, there are still huge problems with the proposals. Furthermore, given that many of the platforms we've partnered with in developing this list are the ones who will be hardest hit, we're hopeful that the various officials debating this will take notice. Even more important: this is not just about those platforms, but everyone who uses them. If you use Reddit or Patreon or Vimeo, these rules are going to have a massive impact on how you'll be able to interact with the internet going forward. Also, we're asking other organizations to join this project, so if you run an organization that is worried about the impact of Articles 11 or 13, please reach out to us through the site.And please, EU officials, don't wreck the net.

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posted at: 12:02am on 15-Nov-2018
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UCLA Flails Amid Pro-Palestine Group's Planned Conference, While L.A.'s City Council Goes Full Stupid

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Those of you who geek out over trademark law like me may have seen the recent dust-up between UCLA and a group called National Students for Justice in Palestine this past week. I had intended on writing something up about the whole thing because of how blatantly stupid it was. The pro-Palestinian group has a chapter at UCLA and it is hosting a conference in the future, for which it put out some promotional materials that feature a bear flying a kite with the colors of the Palestinian flag and dared to mention that the conference was being held at UCLA. For this, UCLA lawyers sent a cease and desist to SJP, claiming that the way the promo material displayed the UCLA name and its use of bear imagery created confusion in the public suggesting that the school was affiliated with the conference.

UCLA argues that SJP’s “use of the ‘UCLA’ name” and use of “the UCLA mascot of the Bruin Bear in a logo/digital poster” effectively claims, suggests, or implies an “affiliation with” UCLA. The university says the group may state where the conference will be held (“at UCLA”) if the font size for the word “UCLA” is “no larger than the font used for the remainder of the communication.” Failing compliance, UCLA expressly threatens to cancel the event.
Not for the first time, a California university is wielding a pretty clearly unconstitutional law, one designed to give California universities sweeping powers to keep the public from mentioning school names, even if in an entirely accurate manner. No room is made for fair us, while schools have the authority under this state law to put in all kinds of silly restrictions, such as the font size restriction mentioned above.What kept me from writing this up initially is that the school quickly signaled it would reversed course after SJP made minor changes to the promotional material. Oh, and after the ACLU got involved.
Tod M. Tamberg, a spokesman for UCLA told NBC News in an email on Wednesday “it was never about the bear all by itself” and that it appreciated the groups [sic] alteration to remove the UCLA name. The university, which threatened to cancel the conference, also said that the event would go on as scheduled.“As you may have heard, some members of the Jewish community have been sharply critical of upcoming conference, demanding that UCLA move to cancel it,” the school said in statement provided by Tamberg. “As a public university, UCLA is legally bound to comply with the First Amendment, which protects everyone’s right to express their views, even those that are offensive and hateful or that the university opposes.”
Yes, it certainly does. Now, many have levied claims of hate speech against SJP. These claims, however you might agree or disagree with them, tend to be fairly laughable. If the best you can trot out is the following to claim a whole group is a hate group, you're not going to meet any kind of First Amendment bar.
In an Oct. 11 letter to UCLA chancellor Gene Block, [State] Rep. Sherman argued that speech on the National SJP website “may very well constitute anti-Semitism” as defined by the State Department — a definition Sherman says was “recently adopted” by the Department of Education “for enforcement purposes.” Sherman’s letter highlights three particular examples contained in that definition, including “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” applying “double standards” to Israel by “requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” and “[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
None of that is hate speech, no matter what some silly State Department missive might suggest. Words matter, after all, and we can no more accept that the kind of political speech above, even if you disagree with it, is hate speech any more than we can condone the government crying terrorism anytime it's convenient. It also seems obvious to me that if you replaced this pro-Palestinian group with a pro-Israel group, we never would have heard this story at all. Argue with that if you like, but you're wrong.And, yet, the L.A. City Council is now getting involved in the stupidest way possible, passing a resolution that first acknowledges UCLA's need to adhere to free speech rights and then somehow calling for the cancellation of this conference entirely.
Add the City of Los Angeles to the government actors calling on UCLA to cancel the convention. While dubious California statutes and trademark concerns falter, the Los Angeles City Council has issued an internally incoherent resolution recognizing that the university has First Amendment obligations while demanding that the conference be canceled, First Amendment be damned.The resolution, embedded below, was unanimously adopted with the “concurrence” of Mayor Eric Garcetti. The resolution cites UCLA’s “responsibility to allow freedom of speech,” but quickly skips past the pesky nuances of the First Amendment to demand that UCLA “cancel and ban” the conference because it would be “inappropriate” to host the conference “given the atmosphere in the country.” The resolution also concludes that there is “never a good time to have this type of event.”
Follow along with me in a resolution too dumb to make up: UCLA needs to protect free speech on campus, but it should cancel this conference given the current political climate and some tragedies that happened on the other side of the country, and, oh, also there will never, ever be a climate in which this conference should take place. The speed with which the city council and mayor got from "we acknowledge free speech rights" to "we can never allow these people those free speech rights" is breathtaking.And fundamentally stupid, given that these are people in government we're talking about. Frankly, the flailing UCLA administration that once attempted to trademark bully SJP for no good reason comes out looking way better than the City Council for Los Angeles. It's also worth noting that for all the hand-wringing that takes place over the type of political speech allowed on campus by a certain segment of our population, it's been complete crickets when it comes to defending a pro-Palestinian group's rights.One might nearly call that racist, were there not the worry that such a call would be labeled "hate speech."


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posted at: 12:02am on 15-Nov-2018
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The Girl Scouts Sues The Boy Scouts Over Trademark

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As you may recall, the Boy Scouts of America decided late last year to -- finally -- allow girls to join their ranks. It was a widely praised decision that was long overdue, with the organization's mission statement not calling for any kind of gender exclusivity. You may also recall that the BSA has some history of being on the wrong side of intellectual property concerns and even has a special law created just for the BSA to allow it to be trademark bullies. These two seemingly unrelated worlds have now collided, with the BSA being sued by the Girl scouts of America over trademark concerns.

The Girl Scouts are suing the Boy Scouts, saying the organization’s inclusive rebranding effort has caused all sorts of consumer confusion from mistaken enrollment in the Boy Scouts to misinformation about a merge of the two groups.Tuesday’s trademark infringement lawsuit is an attempt to clear up the uncertainty, said the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.The Manhattan federal case noted the two separate youth organizations have long coexisted. But problems arose when “core gender distinction” was altered by the Boy Scouts of America, which announced in October 2017 it would open its doors to girls beginning in 2019. Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts unveiled new marketing campaign to back the effort. “Scout Me In,” the tagline proclaimed.
What happened here is pretty simple. And, frankly, pretty stupid on the part of the BSA. And we should acknowledge that Techdirt generally, and myself specifically, tend to advocate a more permissive attitude when it comes to trademark concerns. In this case, what BSA did was to rebrand itself without the "Boy", instead recruiting girls into its ranks using the "Scouts BSA" branding and term. To be somewhat critical of the Girl Scouts, having that "BSA" in its name certainly does some work to differentiate it and call back to its original Boy Scouts of America name, but I'm not sure one could argue that "BSA" alleviates any concern. The Girl Scouts, of course, are still a thing. And this appears to have led to very real confusion in the marketplace.
In court papers, the Girl Scouts said the Boy Scouts’ rebranding announcement has created all kinds of brand confusion across the country.For example, some Minnesota families looking to sign up their girls were erroneously told the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts have merged. Meanwhile, in Indiana and South Dakota, some parents mistakenly signed up their daughters to girls’ programs in the Boy Scouts.
Those are pretty clear cut examples. But, for some, this has become a tricky case. Most people view the Boy Scouts being more inclusive and allowing girls in as a good thing. Most people think the term "scout" is fairly generic at this point. Are we really to advocate that the GSA can keep BSA from including girls as scouts?No, of course not. The problem here arose when BSA decided to brand itself by dropping the "Boy" instead of replacing it. If the branding and marketing material had instead replaced "Boy" with something else, particularly with a new name that used a different acronym, there wouldn't be a problem. If BSA had decided to become the Field Scouts of America, for instance, confusion wouldn't have been a thing. That it chose to do otherwise, knowing full well that the Girl Scouts exist, is actually fairly belligerant.

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posted at: 12:02am on 14-Nov-2018
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The US Refusing To Sign 'The Paris Call' Is Not As Big A Deal As Everyone Is Making It Out To Be

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On Monday, a bunch of countries and companies officially announced and signed "The Paris Call," or more officially, "the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace." It's getting a fair bit of press coverage, with a lot of that coverage playing up the decision of the US not to sign the agreement, even as all of the EU countries and most of the major tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Cisco and many many more signed on.But, most of those news stories don't actually explain what's in the agreement, beyond vague hand-waving around "creating international norms" concerning "cyberspace." And the reports have been all over the place. Some talk about preventing election hacking while others talk about fighting both "online censorship and hate speech." Of course, that's fascinating, because most of the ways that countries (especially in the EU) have gone about fighting "hate speech" is through outright censorship. So I'm not quite sure how they propose to fight both of those at the same time...Indeed, if the Paris Call really did require such silly contradictory things it would be good not to sign it. But, the reality is that it's good not to sign it because it appears to be a mostly meaningless document of fluff. You can read the whole thing here, where it seems to just include a bunch of silly platitudes that most people already agree with and mean next to nothing. For example:

We reaffirm our support to an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful cyberspace, which has become an integral component of life in all its social, economic, cultural and political aspects.We also reaffirm that international law, including the United Nations Charter in its entirety, international humanitarian law and customary international law is applicable to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) by States.
I mean, great. But so what? The "measures" the agreement seeks to implement are almost equally as meaningless. Here's the entire list:
  • Prevent and recover from malicious cyber activities that threaten or cause significant, indiscriminate or systemic harm to individuals and critical infrastructure;
  • Prevent activity that intentionally and substantially damages the general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet;
  • Strengthen our capacity to prevent malign interference by foreign actors aimed at undermining electoral processes through malicious cyber activities;
  • Prevent ICT-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sector;
  • Develop ways to prevent the proliferation of malicious ICT tools and practices intended to cause harm;
  • Strengthen the security of digital processes, products and services, throughout their lifecycle and supply chain;
  • Support efforts to strengthen an advanced cyber hygiene for all actors;
  • Take steps to prevent non-State actors, including the private sector, from hacking-back, for their own purposes or those of other non-State actors;
  • Promote the widespread acceptance and implementation of international norms of responsible behavior as well as confidence-building measures in cyberspace.
I mean, sure? Some of that is meaningless. Some of that is silly. Some of it is obvious. But none of it actually matters because it's not binding. Could this lead to something that matters? Perhaps. But it seems silly to condemn the US for failing to sign onto a meaningless document of platitudes and meaningless fluff, rather than anything substantial. There's no problem with those who did choose to sign on, but it's hard to see how this is a meaningful document, rather than just an agreement among signatories to make them all feel like they've done something.

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posted at: 12:02am on 14-Nov-2018
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