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This Week In Techdirt History: December 9th - 15th

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2013, we learned about how the NSA and GCHQ infiltrated World Of Warcraft and Second Life, and about how the NSA was to track people. Most big tech companies were calling for major surveillance reform while AT&T was rebuffing criticism from shareholders — but the government's plan for reform seemed mostly cosmetic and ineffectual. Law enforcement was also ramping up its collection of cellphone data and use of Stingray devices, though for the time being the feds were accepting a ruling saying they need a warrant to put GPS devices on cars. But the feds definitely didn't want to share their FISC legal filings with companies suing them over surveillance, and Keith Alexander was insisting he couldn't think of any way to keep Americans safe without bulk metadata collection.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2008, Warner Music was pushing for a music tax and we were explaining why that's a bad idea. Universal was continuing to wage war on Redbox, online video sites were harming themselves with geographical restrictions, and a hairdresser in New Zealand got billed for playing the radio in her shop. In the DRM world, Nokia's flopped "Comes With Music" scheme for devices had its DRM cracked, while Ubisoft finally decided to drop DRM on Prince of Persia in a highly passive-aggressive way.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2003, the deluge of online music offerings got even sillier with Coca Cola launching its own download store, even while across the industry customers were starting to question the standard pricing (and it was becoming clear that the real money was in selling hardware). Meanwhile, the RIAA hired ATF chief Bradley Buckles to head up its anti-piracy efforts, while a court was telling MPAA head Jack Valenti that he doesn't get to decide whether studios can send out DVD screeners. But Hollywood was winning on other fronts, trying to push its anti-camcorder laws to the national level, and doing well in its fight for a broadcast flag because consumer electronics companies weren't united in their opposition.

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posted at: 12:13am on 16-Dec-2018
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Kansas Supreme Court Says Cops Can Search A House Without A Warrant As Long As They Claim They Smelled Marijuana

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The Kansas Supreme Court has just given cops a pass to treat residents' homes like cars on public roads. Being in a car greatly diminishes your Fourth Amendment protections and many a warrantless search has been salvaged by an officer (or a dog) testifying they "smelled marijuana" before tearing the car apart.

Unlike a car on a public road, a person's home has traditionally been given the utmost in Fourth Amendment protections. The bar to search a home is higher than the bar to search a vehicle. Cops aren't supposed to be walking up to windows to peek inside. Nor at they supposed to hang out by the door, hoping to catch a whiff of something illegal.

But that's exactly what they'll be able to do now. If they can find a reason to approach someone's home, all they need to do is declare they smelled marijuana to get past the front door without a warrant. This completely subjective form of "evidence" can be used as probable cause to effect a warrantless search.

The stupefying opinion [PDF] opens with an equally-stupefying bit of exposition:

While on routine surveillance at a local convenience store, Lawrence Police Officer Kimberly Nicholson checked a vehicle's license plate. That records check indicated the car had been stopped several weeks earlier with Irone Revely driving. It was noted there was an active arrest warrant for Revely's brother, Chayln Revely. Nicholson confirmed Irone was the driver, and she believed the passenger matched Chayln's description.

Nicholson followed the vehicle, looking for a traffic violation that would permit a vehicle stop and might allow the officer to confirm the passenger's identity. No violation occurred, so Nicholson followed the vehicle to an apartment complex. The passenger got out and ran into an apartment. Irone trailed behind. Nicholson approached and asked Irone if the person who ran into the apartment was his brother. Irone did not answer and continued walking toward the apartment with Nicholson following.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the phrase "routine surveillance at a local convenience store" that's just casually dropped into the opening of the opinion as if that collection of words made any sort of sense. Is this how we're spending our law enforcement dollars? Hanging out by local businesses and running plates? It seems, at best, incredibly inefficient.

That being said, the 7-11 stakeout (or whatever) led Officer Nicholson to the door of Lawrence Hubbard's apartment. That's when the law enforcement magic happened:

Nicholson later testified she was about 2 feet from the front door when Hubbard exited. She further testified she "smelled a strong odor of raw marijuana emanating from the apartment." The officer questioned Irone and Hubbard about the smell. Hubbard denied smelling anything and said his lawyer told him humans cannot detect a marijuana odor.

(That last sentence is equally stupefying. Marijuana does have an odor. That being said, that odor is not always present when an officer claims it is. See also: every search predicated on the smell of marijuana that fails to turn up any marijuana.)

More officers had arrived by that time and decided they might need a warrant. The officers told everyone present to leave until the apartment could be searched. Three officers, including Nicholson, performed a "security sweep" to make sure everyone had left. During this sweep, officers saw drug paraphernalia, a gun, and a locked safe. The warrant arrived and the safe was pried open, resulting in the discovery of 25 grams of marijuana.

Now, let's look at Officer Nicholson's claim:

Nicholson said she "smelled a strong odor of raw marijuana emanating from the apartment."

Here's what was found:

[O]fficers pried open the safe and found 25.07 grams of raw marijuana inside a Tupperware container…

So, from two feet outside the doorway, Officer Nicholson smelled raw marijuana located in Tupperware container inside a locked safe inside a bedroom inside the "back bedroom" closet. That's the story she stuck with, which seems facially unbelievable given the facts of the case.

Whatever, says the Kansas Supreme Court. Officer Nicholson was declared credible, given her past nasal expertise. The same with the other officer, who also smelled raw marijuana through the Matryoshka-esque layers shielding the contraband from random apartment visitors.

Among its factual findings, the court concluded: (1) Nicholson had "detected the smell of raw marijuana 200 to 500 times and burnt marijuana 100 to 300 times" in her law enforcement training and professional experience; (2) when Hubbard came out of his apartment, closing the door behind him, both Nicholson and Ivener could smell what they identified as the odor of raw marijuana coming from the apartment; (3) Ivener testified the smell was "potent" and "overwhelming…"

LOL at "overwhelming." One burnt cig and 25 grams in a locked safe inside a sealed Tupperware container. Officer Ivener is more bloodhound than human and is obviously credible as fuck. This third attempt to suppress the evidence fails because the state Supreme Court says assertions that cannot be proven are all that's needed to waive probable cause search requirements. If an officer claims to smell marijuana, the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement kicks in. After all, preventing someone from flushing weed down the toilet is more important than ensuring the rights of the policed.

[W]e agree with the panel that the probable cause plus exigent circumstances exception permitted the warrantless sweep. Therefore, to the extent the paraphernalia evidence and the search warrant were fruits of a warrantless search, the sweep was not illegal and the challenged evidence is not subject to exclusion.

The sound you hear accompanying this sentence is the Constitution being run through the shredder like Banksy artwork:

We hold that the totality of the circumstances surrounding a law enforcement officer's detection of the smell of raw marijuana emanating from a residence can supply probable cause to believe the residence contains contraband or evidence of a crime.

There's all officers need to obtain a warrant. And since you can't have anyone destroying the evidence you claim you smell while you're waiting for a warrant, you get a free warrantless peek.

The panel focused on the second, fourth, and fifth Dugan factors. Under the second, the court highlighted Ivener's testimony that he did not know how many people had been in the apartment originally and whether they all left, so the officers could not know whether everyone was out. This weighs in the State's favor. Under the fourth factor, the panel noted there was evidence the occupants were aware of the officers' presence, so this also weighs in the State's favor because it demonstrates anyone staying behind would be alerted to the likelihood of an impending search.

The dissent says the lower court did not do enough to vet the officers' claims about their ability to identify the odor of raw marijuana a few dozen feet away from where it resided inside a sealed container inside a locked safe. It points out that if officers want to be considered experts on the odor of marijuana, they should be treated as expert witnesses when testifying. Instead, the lower court accepted their claims of expertise (the hundreds of past marijuana odor sniffs) but then decided they should only be held to the same standard as a lay person giving non-expert testimony. From the dissent:

The officers in this case were not testifying as mere lay persons. On the contrary, they specifically stated that the origin of their ability to smell and identify the source of their olfactory perception as raw marijuana stemmed from their brief exposure to the identified odor during their study at one or more police academies, followed by their experience with numerous cases in which they had successfully detected the substance. This uncontroverted dependency between the officers' training and experience on the one hand and the opinions they expressed on the other hand qualified their testimony about detecting the strong, potent, or overwhelming odor of raw marijuana as expert opinion testimony.


As urged by the defense, the science, if any, behind the officers' apparently sincere belief in their professed ability to detect an odor of raw marijuana should have been subjected to vetting under the rule of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993), which is now codified in subsection (b). The officers' expert opinion testimony should have been admitted on the critical issue of the existence of probable cause at the time of the sweep of the apartment only if "(1) [t]he testimony [was] based on sufficient facts or data; (2) the testimony [was] the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness[es] ha[d] reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case." K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 60-456(b). The district judge erred by failing to exercise her gatekeeping function under subsection (b).

This would have given the defendant a chance to raise a Daubert challenge during trial, which could have resulted in the lower court finding in his favor on the unconstitutional search argument. Rather than officers simply saying "Oh, I've smelled weed a lot and also this time," they'd actually have to provide some evidence of their claims. Is there anything "scientifically valid" about claiming to have experienced the "overwhelming" odor of raw marijuana safely ensconced in a goddamn safe? Probably not. But we'll never know because Kansas courts won't apply that standard. And the state's courts will never have to apply the standard because the top court has stated it's now OK for cops to rescue a warrantless search simply by saying they smelled something illegal.

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posted at: 12:12am on 15-Dec-2018
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Sony Released Its Playstation Classic Console In A Way That Makes It Eminently Hackable

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Gamers of a certain age will be very familiar with the insanity from roughly 2010 that was Sony's reaction to having its Playstation 3 console hacked to return functionality that Sony initially advertised and then rescinded via a firmware update. While PS3 owners cheered on the hack, as many of them loved the function that Sony took away, Sony instead began a full on legal war with the Geohot, the hobbyist who gave users what they wanted. The whole thing was a complete mess that made Sony look awful and ultimately resulted in the Playstation 4 of course not having the function that users wanted, and the console being much, much more locked down at release.I'm going to take a moment again to remind you that this all occurred only roughly 8 years ago. Why? Well, because Sony recently released its Playstation Classic retro console... and apparently made it very, very easy to hack.

The PlayStation Classic was a great idea that was disappointingly executed. Not surprisingly, hackers have been hard at work trying to crack the novelty console as they’ve done already with Nintendo’s NES Classicand SNES Classic.The job’s been made easier, the hackers claim, thanks to Sony reportedly housing the key to decoding the PlayStation Classic’s firmware on the device itself, rather than utilizing a private key held by Sony. The underlying code that runs on game console is encrypted to prevent people from tampering with it, but in this case the tools to unlock and start changing how the console operates were available to anyone who dug through the code by copying it onto a PC. As first reported by Ars Technica, console hacker yifanlu pointed it out on Twitter late last week in-between streaming his attempts to break open the console’s digital architecture on Twitch. So far they’ve been able to play unincluded PS1 games like Spyro using a thumb drive and are currently working on getting other emulators working on it as well.
Here again we see hackers enabling what gamers wanted out of their Playstation Classic devices, but which Sony failed to provide. The biggest disappointment in the Playstation Classic has been the short game library. By screwing around with the console, tinkerers can enable playing many, many more games. And, given that this is Sony we're talking about that just went through all of this with the PS3, you have to wonder just how much of this was done on purpose, and how much is Sony not having things buttoned up on their end.
“There really isn’t any security on the device at all,” yifanlu told Kotaku in an email. “Sony managed to accidentally include their firmware update private keys on every console.”
If that's true, you have to wonder if another round of stupid of the kind we saw with the PS3 is about to happen. Sony is notoriously protective of its hardware, often leading it down a litigious path. But if the company were to once again attack tinkerers and deprive users of useful features for its product, and did so after so willfully ignoring securing its consoles from this type of thing, that would nearly smack of a honeypot rather than Sony having any true gripe.

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posted at: 12:12am on 15-Dec-2018
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EU General Court Refuses To Allow St. Andrews Links To Trademark 'St. Andrews' For All The Things

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For those of us who have fallen in love with the world's most personally infuriating sport, golf, the name The St. Andrews Links Golf Course is of course quite notable. The famed "Cathedral of Golf" also happens to be located in a town of the same name, St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews is a fairly common term in the naming of locations and famous landmarks. Despite this, The Saint Andrews Links went to the EU's Intellectual Property Office to request it be granted a trademark for "St. Andrews" in roughly every category, including broadly in apparel and sports goods. When that request was denied in 2016 on grounds that location names have high bars to clear to get trademarks and are therefore relatively rarely granted, St. Andrews Links took its case to Luxembourg on appeal.There, the EU General Court dismissed the appeal, arguing again that "St. Andrews" is primarily a reference to the town of St. Andrews, not to any provider of the type of goods that St. Andrews Links wanted to hold trademarks for.

But having had its application to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) turned down in 2016, an appeal against the decision has now been dismissed by the EU General Court in Luxembourg.  According to official documents, the appeal board argued “the expression ‘St Andrews’ referred above all to a town known for its golf courses though not particularly for the manufacturing or marketing of clothing, footwear, headgear, games and playthings.”The court said EU and UK law generally excludes the registration of geographical names as trade marks “where they designate specified geographical locations which are already famous, or are known for the category of goods or services concerned.”
In other words, the town itself is also well known and, because the mark applied for consisted of the name of that famous town, St. Andrews Links can't lock up "St. Andrews" for itself in a bunch of categories not directly related to its business. Readers here will likely be nodding along, understanding that this all makes perfect sense. The reason I'm highlighting all of this is because of how frustratingly rare it is for an intellectual property office and appeals court to get this so, so right. Too often, corporate wishes are simply granted, especially when dealing with an entity like St. Andrews Links, which is itself rather famous and is a point of pride for the region.It sure would be nice if other IPOs applied the intent of the law this strictly.

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posted at: 12:12am on 14-Dec-2018
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