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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

Allergan/Mohawk ‘Sovereign Immunity’ Patent Scam (Dodging PTAB) Backfires Spectacularly

Monday 26th of February 2018 04:56:00 AM

What were they thinking anyway?

Summary: After months of scandals and very negative publicity the so-called ‘scam’ that the Mohawk tribe participated in falls over, leaving all parties bruised and their reputation tarnished

THE Allergan/Mohawk scandal is well documented. It has been covered to death all over the Web (even corporate/mainstream media) and we wrote nearly 10 articles about it (here’s one among many posts of ours). The USPTO should, in principle, be able to reassess patents it may have wrongly granted, but (mis)using tribal immunity Allergan is attempting to prevent that from happening. A crooked lawyer hired by the Mohawk tribe (speaking at events of Koch-run think tanks) seems to have taken the tribe ‘for a ride’ and for a few millions in payoff the tribe now suffers a reputation crisis. By extension, this makes tribal immunity seem like a tangent of misuse. What a disaster. What an injustice.

Right now the patent trolls are talking among themselves about the latest in the case, which is basically late Friday news and thus scarcely covered anywhere.

A troll wrote: “BIG NEWS: PTAB rules against sovereign immunity defense in Allergan “Upon consideration of the record, and for the reasons discussed below, we determine the Tribe has not established that the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity should be applied to these proceedings.””

“Very good,” I responded, but the “Mohawk [tribe] stained its name with this patent scam…”

Shortly thereafter his employer, the troll Dominion Harbor, wrote that “Sovereign Immunity dead on arrival at the PTAB: “…proceedings can continue even without the Tribe’s participation in view of Allergan’s retained ownership interests in the challenged patents. The Tribe’s Motion is therefore denied.””

Hours ago the trolls’ apologists/proponents from Bristows wrote about it in their ‘pet’ blog (IP Kat). To quote:

On Friday, the PTAB ruled that the Tribe could not claim sovereign immunity to avoid the IPR. Although there was an interesting discussion on whether tribal immunity applied to IPRs, for the AmeriKat [Bristows] it was the finding that the deal structure meant that Allergan retained ownership interests such that the IPR could continue as Allergan being a “patent owner”. Mylan et al argued that the IPR could continue because Allergan was the “true owner of the challenged patents”.

There’s probably going to be plenty of coverage about it later today (Monday). It’s noteworthy that all coverage of this has thus far come from trolls and their advocates. Can they control the narrative?

PTAB Continues to Enforce Section 101 and New Paper From Christopher Walker and Melissa Wasserman Has Suggestions for Agency Head Review

Monday 26th of February 2018 04:37:49 AM

Summary: Despite endless attempts to undermine PTAB, its work carries on, invalidation of abstract patents continues unabated, and academics who are not patent maximalists (or in bed with the patent ‘industry’) offer constructive advice

The Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) continues to improve patent quality. To say that PTAB has had an impact would an understatement. The EPO is kicking to the curb its equivalent of PTAB, whereas in the US the role of PTAB grows over time (all-time record last year).

“As one might expect, patent maximalists aren’t happy about it, to say the least.”Over the past week we’ve witnessed many new examples where PTAB and patent examiners squashed applications using Section 101 (here are three new examples with links to the corresponding decisions [1, 2, 3]).

As one might expect, patent maximalists aren’t happy about it, to say the least. Recently, when a rejection was affirmed by PTAB citing laws of nature Patently-O decided to make a big deal out of it, writing not one but several posts about it [1, 2]. To quote:

In its original decision, the PTAB affirmed an examiner rejection – finding the claim ineligible as directed toward a natural phenomenon. However, the patentee requested a rehearing – arguing that the PTAB had failed to properly identify the natural phenomenon being claimed. On reharing though, the PTAB reaffirmed the decision of no patentable subject matter.

In its analysis, the Board first noted that the claims are not directed toward any transformation of the isolated DNA, but rather simply detecting its parts. We know from prior cases that isolated DNA remains a product of nature (Myriad) and that detecting DNA sequence is also a phenomenon of nature (Ariosa).


It will be interesting to see whether the patentee pushes this case to a District Court or the Federal Circuit for review. Although those options are fun, the more likely outcome is that the patentee will narrow the claims and try again. Mark Nuell at Roberts Mlotkowski argued the case for the applicant.

Also see this article from 6 days ago, titled “Are These INOMax Therapeutic Method Claims Directed To A Natural Phenomenon?”

Natural phenomenon patents were declared not valid owing to 35 USC § 101. This makes perfect sense. To quote:

In Mallinckrodt Hospital Prods. IP Ltd. v. Praxair Distrib., Inc., Judge Sleet of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware invalidated personalized method of treatment claims under 35 USC § 101 as being directed to a natural phenomenon. If the Federal Circuit affirms the decision, will it leave room to draw a line that spares other methods of treatment?


Conducting step 2 of the Mayo/Alice framework, the district court determined that all steps either were routine and conventional (steps (a), (b) and (d)) or did not transform the claim into patent-eligible subject matter (step (c).


Although the district court referred to the Federal Circuit decision in Cleveland Clinic, the claims invalidated in that case were diagnostic claims, not therapeutic method claims. While I would like to predict that the Federal Circuit would not invalidate a method of treatment claim under § 101, Judge Sleet’s analysis highlights the slippery slope presented by the “natural phenomenon” paradigm. The judge characterized the claimed invention as “a patient populations’ natural physiological response to 20 ppm of inhaled nitric oxide treatment.”—couldn’t the same be said about any therapeutic method of treatment?

Attention is now shifting to attempts to discredit the courts and PTAB. The anti-PTABers want the applicant to appeal (of course!) this decision. The anti-PTABers maintain their sick illusion that PTAB is not bound by law and is some out-of-control entity (simply because it keeps patent quality high). There’s a whole case about it in the Supreme Court (to be decided within months). It’s known as Oil States and blogs like Watchtroll and Patently-O keep trying to meddle in it (it’s obvious in whose favour).

“It’s known as Oil States and blogs like Watchtroll and Patently-O keep trying to meddle in it (it’s obvious in whose favour).”A short while ago, Christopher J. Walker and Melissa F. Wasserman (from Ohio State University and University of Texas at Austin) published this new paper that talks about Oil States. It’s 55 pages long and considering recent papers from Wasserman and a colleague (explaining why examiners over-grant), it might be worth a read. She said that this paper “situates PTAB in the modern agency adjudication landscape and explores one critical difference: the lack of agency head review.”

From the paper’s general tone we conclude that they offer constructive advice rather than ridicule of judges (like Patently-O does). They are “exploring alternative mechanisms to remedy the lack of agency-head review at the PTAB.”

Here is the abstract:

In 1946, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) set forth the basics for “formal” adjudication, with the classic account requiring an administrative law judge to make the initial determination and the agency head to have the final word. Today, however, the vast majority of agency adjudications are not paradigmatic “formal” adjudications as set forth in the APA. That is the lost world. It turns out that there is great diversity in the procedures by which federal agencies adjudicate. This new world involves a variety of less-independent administrative judges, hearing officers, and other agency personnel adjudicating disputes. Like in the lost world, however, the agency head retains final decision-making authority.

In 2011, Congress created yet another novel agency tribunal—the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)—to adjudicate disputes between private parties as to the validity of issued patents. Questions abound concerning the PTAB’s proper place in the modern administrative state, as its features depart from the textbook accounts of APA-governed “formal” adjudication. Many of these questions are working their way through the Federal Circuit and to the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Court will decide this Term whether PTAB adjudication unconstitutionally strips parties of their property rights in issued patents.

This Article situates PTAB adjudication within administrative law’s larger landscape of agency adjudication. By surveying this new world of agency adjudication, it becomes clear that PTAB adjudication is not that unusual. But we also identify one core feature of modern agency adjudication that is absent at the PTAB: the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office lacks final decision-making authority. To be sure, the Director has some power to influence outcomes, in her ability to order rehearing and stack the board with those who share her substantive vision. But these second-best means of agency-head control raise problems of their own, including constitutional questions. This Article concludes by exploring alternative mechanisms to remedy the lack of agency-head review at the PTAB.

We don’t expect the corporate/mainstream media to cover this because such media barely understands or cares to educate the public about patents. Will the Justices read it though?

One Month Later the Patent ‘Industry’ is Still Promoting the Lie That GUIs Are Software and Thus CAFC Elevated Software Patents

Monday 26th of February 2018 03:48:05 AM

Even courts in China reject GUI patents

Summary: Revisiting (with revisionism) Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v LG Electronics, Inc. et al., the patent ‘industry’ is attempting to paint the decision as something that it’s not (GUIs are designs, not code)

THE breadth of USPTO patents isn’t too encouraging and isn’t sufficiently strict. Design patents, for example, have long earned negative publicity for patents [1, 2]. They’re widely seen as too vague and unoriginal; they have attracted a lot of negative press coverage.

“They’re widely seen as too vague and unoriginal; they have attracted a lot of negative press coverage.”On January 30th Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox PLLC published “Design Patents Continue to Show Survival Strength at the PTAB: Institution Rates Remain Lowest Among All Technology Categories and Well Below 50%”. It’s not particularly surprising as many of the patents targeted by PTAB (or the petitioners at PTAB) are software patents. But that still begs for an answer; Why does the US cling onto design patents so hard? Days ago the Docker Navigator said that a “court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment that defendant’s auto body part design patents were invalid and rejected plaintiff’s argument that the aesthetic-functionality test should apply to design patents.”

“They distort outcomes of cases again.”For those who aren’t too familiar with design patents, they’re about layout rather than function. They’re almost like patents on art. GUIs, for example, can be designs.

A week ago, published in several sites (e.g. [1, 2]) was a piece by Andrew R. Cheslock from Foley & Lardner LLP. He is the latest person to spread the lie that GUI patents are software patents (they're not). It’s about Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v LG Electronics, Inc. et al. — a case which we wrote a great deal about earlier this month. “In Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc. et al.,” he wrote, “the Federal Circuit offered rare guidance on the contours of patent eligible subject matter under § 101.”

“The fact that they still latch onto Core Wireless and then try to frame it as a “rebound” is worrying. It’s revisionism at best.”GUIs don’t fall under § 101. It’s not too hard to see why; it’s just the wrong test.

At around the same time we saw Jennifer B. Maisel from Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, PC writing similar things about this case. To quote: “It will be interesting to see how the USPTO (and courts) will assess the eligibility of claims directed to graphical user interfaces (GUI) in view of the Move decision. As is clear from the Court’s analysis, patent practitioners would be well advised to include specific details in the claim and the specification not only as to how a claimed interface is achieved, but why it offers a technical solution to a technical problem in the art.”

Yes, “in the art.” It’s not about code. I received some responses a few days ago alleging GUIs were code, but I responded by saying that GUIs alone — not callback functions — are not code. I wrote many GUIs over the years (using a lot of different toolkits). They’re not code. They’re layout descriptors.

Then there’s the latest nonsense from Fenwick & West (the Bilski Blog people), who would have us believe there’s a software patents rebound because of the above case. There isn’t. They distort outcomes of cases again. The Core Wireless outcome (very recent case) was not about software patents, but the patent extremists will spread that lie anyway. Gregory Hopewell’s article said this:

Do you remember obviousness before KSR v. Teleflex? To invalidate, the rule went, one must find an express rationale for combining references (a teaching, suggestion or motivation). The KSR ruling reminded us that the TSM test was too rigid—the proper analysis should more flexibly evaluate obviousness with the skilled artisan in mind, without rigid requirements for these rationales in the references themselves.

If we knew how to more flexibly identify rationales for obviousness post-KSR, it was not clear how to more flexibly apply patent eligibility without the machine or transformation test after Bilski and Alice. A machine, apparently, was now just a clue. But identifying how to apply the more general principles from Alice and Bilski was not as easy to apply as a flexible obviousness test. The recent Core Wireless decision may show us a more useful theme for applying a more general approach to obviousness.


General principles for finding claims eligible have been elusive. A few weeks ago, the Core Wireless decision (Fed. Cir., Jan. 25, 2018, by J. Moore, affirming eligibility) suggests a broader theme that may help tie these eligible cases together.

In summarizing prior eligible decisions, the court returned, again and again, to how prior eligible decisions addressed claims with features that were “particular” and “unconventional.”

The fact that they still latch onto Core Wireless and then try to frame it as a “rebound” is worrying. It’s revisionism at best.

Then there’s Scott McKeown, who wants us to think that one old case, WiFi One, had a “ripple effect”; it hasn’t and barely anyone mentions it anymore.

Notice who’s in there. The anti-PTAB lobbyists are getting desperate and reach out to Rob Greene-Sterne of Sterne Kessler for PLI (maximalists for support). Yes, PLI! The UPC boosters.

Links 26/2/2018: Chrome OS With Linux Containers/VMs, New Stable Kernels

Monday 26th of February 2018 02:58:43 AM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • gvSIG 2.4: New version of gvSIG open source GIS is now available

    gvSIG Desktop 2.4, the new version of the open source Geographic Information System, is now available. You can access both the gvSIG Desktop 2.4 installable and portable versions from the download section of the project website [1], with distributions available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

  • Web Browsers
    • iOS Gopher Client 17+

      This is is a modern Gopher browser for iOS. Built from the ground up, it lets you access the wealth of data available via Gopher from your favorite devices.

  • SaaS/Back End
  • Programming/Development
  • Smoke bomb forces skunks out and leads to Ferndale house fire

    A Ferndale man who used a smoke bomb to try to rid his crawlspace of skunks succeeded — but also nearly burned down his house.

    “We suggest citizens hire pest control professionals, however if one is an absolute die-hard do-it-yourselfer, please read and understand the directions and warning labels before applying an incendiary (smoke bomb) to your home or garage,” Ferndale Fire Chief Kevin P. Sullivan said.

  • Science
    • How Cells Pack Tangled DNA Into Neat Chromosomes

      A human cell carries in its nucleus two meters of spiraling DNA, split up among the 46 slender, double-helical molecules that are its chromosomes. Most of the time, that DNA looks like a tangled ball of yarn — diffuse, disordered, chaotic. But that messiness poses a problem during mitosis, when the cell has to make a copy of its genetic material and divide in two. In preparation, it tidies up by packing the DNA into dense, sausagelike rods, the chromosomes’ most familiar form. Scientists have watched that process through a microscope for decades: The DNA condenses and organizes into discrete units that gradually shorten and widen. But how the genome gets folded inside that structure — it’s clear that it doesn’t simply contract — has remained a mystery. “It’s really at the heart of genetics,” said Job Dekker, a biochemist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, “a fundamental aspect of heredity that’s always been such a great puzzle.”

  • Health/Nutrition
    • America Should Have Stayed Home This Flu Season

      Influenza isn’t just widespread — the strains in circulation are also severe. As the following chart illustrates, the share of doctor visits for flu and flu-like illnesses has not been this high since the 2009-10 season, when the flu hit early and hard but then quickly declined. (The flu season typically begins around October, peaks somewhere between December and February and peters out by the end of May.)

      Still, there’s some good news out this week. Data released Friday shows that, after a steep and steady rise over the past weeks, doctor visits for flu and flu-like illnesses are finally dropping.

    • Idenix Loses Patent on HCV Treatment that Supported $2.54 Billion Infringement Verdict

      On February 16th, the District of Delaware granted a motion for judgment as a matter of law filed by Foster City, CA-based pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) to invalidate a patent owned by Idenix, a subsidiary of Kenilworth, NJ-based pharma firm Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK). In invalidating the Idenix patent, the Delaware district court effectively overturns what had been the largest award for royalty damages in a U.S. patent infringement case ever handed out. After a two-week trial in December 2016, the jury had awarded Index $2.64 billion in damages, which was based on finding Gilead infringed the Idenix patent – U.S. Patent No. 7,608,597 — by selling the hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments Harvoni and Sovaldi.

    • Swiss Panel Looks At Value-Based Drug Pricing, Link Between R&D And Prices

      Some products are too cheap, generic drug companies do not invest in them because they do not make enough money out of them. Others seem astronomically expensive, and are said to include the costs of all research, successes and failures alike. Panellists at a recent Swiss-organised expert event in Bern concurred that something must done about pricing, and explored some surprising ways to do it.

    • Inside the fight over the sugar conspiracy

      In a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016, researchers suggested that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid scientists to obscure the relationship between sugar and heart disease, derailing the course of nutrition science and policy for years to come. Now, two researchers at Columbia University say that those claims are not backed by the historical evidence, and by promoting the idea of a “sugar conspiracy,” they hinder our understanding of how science is actually done.

  • Security
  • Defence/Aggression
    • The 9/11 Hijackers Were Iraqis, Right?

      I was teaching the day the airplanes hit the World Trade Center. It was the second meeting of “The Communist Manifesto for Seminarians,” a course for my fellow graduate students. By the time I got to class, both towers had collapsed. A few hours later, Building 7 came down as well. We dispensed with a planned discussion about what Marxists mean by “idealism” and “materialism” and talked instead about the meaning of this particular example of the “propaganda of the deed.”

      We already sensed that, with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House, the attacks would mean war. But like the rest of the world, we didn’t yet have the faintest idea how long that war would last. And 16 years on, we still don’t know.

      A few years later, I found myself in front of 40 undergraduates on the first day of the first ethics course I would ever teach. You know how sometimes you have no idea what you’re going to say until the words are out of your mouth? That day, I opened my mouth and this came out: “I was so excited about this class that I couldn’t sleep last night.” Eighty horrified eyes stared back at me. “I guess it wasn’t like that for you,” I added, and felt the blush creep up my face. Most of them had the grace to laugh.

    • Police say more deputies waited outside school during Stoneman Douglas shooting

      The allegations emerged a day after another deputy, assigned to guard the school, resigned under fire, also for failing to enter the building during the shooting.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • The terrifying phenomenon that is pushing species towards extinction

      There was almost something biblical about the scene of devastation that lay before Richard Kock as he stood in the wilderness of the Kazakhstan steppe. Dotted across the grassy plain, as far as the eye could see, were the corpses of thousands upon thousands of saiga antelopes. All appeared to have fallen where they were feeding.

      Some were mothers that had travelled to this remote wilderness for the annual calving season, while others were their offspring, just a few days old. Each had died in just a few hours from blood poisoning. In the 30C heat of a May day, the air around each of the rotting hulks was thick with flies.

    • Coral Reefs at Risk of Dissolving as Oceans Get More Acidic, Finds Study

      Coral reefs could start to dissolve before 2100 as man-made climate change drives acidification of the oceans, scientists said on Thursday.

      Acidification will threaten sediments that are building blocks for reefs. Corals already face risks from ocean temperatures, pollution and overfishing.

      “Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century,” the Australian-led team of scientists wrote in the US journal Science. “Net dissolving” means reefs would lose more material than they gain from the growth of corals.

    • How General Electric gambled on fossil fuel power, and lost

      Last March, executives at General Electric Co’s power-plant business gave Wall Street a surprisingly bullish forecast for the year. Despite flat demand for new natural gas power plants, they said, GE Power’s revenue and profit would rise.

      Showing data from financial firm Lazard and other sources, their presentation said natural gas, coal and even some nuclear power plants were the lowest-cost producers of electricity on the planet, cheaper than wind or solar.

      “Gas is the most economical energy source today,” one slide read. In the days following the conference, GE’s shares rose 2 percent.

  • Finance
    • Dropbox Files for $500 Million IPO a Decade After Launch

      Dropbox on Friday filed for an initial public offering (IPO), seeking to raise an estimated $500 million (roughly Rs. 3,240 crores) for the Silicon Valley cloud computing storage startup. The San Francisco company claimed 500 million users in 180 countries and $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,480 crores) in annual revenues in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Dropbox said its shares will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “DBX.”

    • Dropbox to go public 10 years after launch

      The company’s losing money, but [...]

    • Dropbox files for public stock offering of $500 mln (Update)

      Dropbox filed Friday for an initial public offering, seeking to raise an estimated $500 million for the Silicon Valley cloud computing storage startup.

      The San Francisco company claimed 500 million users in 180 countries and $1 billion in annual revenues in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    • Labour alliance piles pressure on Corbyn over Brexit stance

      Labour’s divisions over Brexit are exposed today as an alliance of more than 80 senior figures from across the party warn Jeremy Corbyn that he will be unable to fund his promised investment in schools, hospitals and social care unless the UK stays in the EU single market.

    • Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

      The Cold War displaced the legacies of the New Deal. Time and Trump are now displacing Cold War legacies. Where capitalism was questioned and challenged in the 1930s and into the 1940s, doing that became taboo after 1948. Yet in the wake of the 2008 crash, critical thought about capitalism resumed. In particular one argument is gaining traction: capitalism is not the means to realize economic equality and democracy, it is rather the great obstacle to their realization.

      The New Deal, forced on the FDR regime from below by a coalition of unionists (CIO) and the political left (two socialist parties and one communist party), reversed the traditional direction (to greater inequality) of income and wealth distributions in the US. They shifted toward greater equality. US history thus illustrates Thomas Piketty’s argument in his 2014 Capital in the 21st Century about long-term deepening of inequality that can be punctuated by interruptions. Indeed, the New Deal reversal was such an interruption and featured just the sorts of taxation of corporations and the rich that Piketty favors now to correct/reverse capitalist inequalities.

    • Rovio loses 50% of share value in one day

      Rovio will publish its full-year results statement on 2 March.

    • Is China ready for what US could unleash in trade war?

      As rumblings of a trade war between Washington and Beijing grow louder, the Trump administration appears to be gearing up for renewed confrontation with China.

      The signs have been clear. Last month, Donald Trump’s move to slap punitive tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, mostly on imports from China, was an opening salvo, while the “renegotiation” of the Nafta and Korea-US (KORUS) free trade agreements has drawn the most attention.

    • Tech companies should stop pretending AI won’t destroy jobs

      I took an Uber to an artificial-­intelligence conference at MIT one recent morning, and the driver asked me how long it would take for autonomous vehicles to take away his job. I told him it would happen in about 15 to 20 years. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, I’ll be retired by then,” he said.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Trump and the weird attention economy of Facebook

      When you try to buy online ads from Facebook’s self-serve ad-auctioning platform, merely being the highest bidder isn’t enough to guarantee that your ads will get through: Facebook multiplies your bid by a software-generated prediction about how responsive the audience will be to it, so the clickbaitier your ad is, the less it costs to place it.

    • How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads

      During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

    • The Mueller Indictments: The Day the Music Died

      Fads and scandals often follow a set trajectory. They grow big, bigger, and then, finally, too big, at which point they topple over and collapse under the weight of their own internal contradictions. This was the fate of the “Me too” campaign, which started out as an exposé of serial abuser Harvey Weinstein but then went too far when published a story about one woman’s bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari. Suddenly, it became clear that different types of behavior were being lumped together in a dangerous way, and a once-explosive movement began to fizzle.

    • First Impressions of Russia’s Upcoming Presidential Election

      In the West, election news from Russia carried by mainstream media has centered on Alexei Navalny. Prior to his disqualification as a candidate by the Central Election Commission in December, he was characterized as posing the only real threat to Vladimir Putin’s hold on power through his popular exposes of official and corporate corruption disseminated virally on social media and YouTube. All others in the race were put down as Kremlin controlled and tolerated only to give sham elections an appearance of authenticity.

    • Manafort Left an Incriminating Paper Trail Because He Couldn’t Figure Out How to Convert PDFs to Word Files

      There are two types of people in this world: those who know how to convert PDFs into Word documents and those who are indicted for money laundering. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the second kind of person.

      Back in October, a grand jury indictment charged Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates with a variety of crimes, including conspiring “to defraud the United States.” On Thursday, special counsel Robert Mueller filed a new indictment against the pair, substantially expanding the charges. As one former federal prosecutor told the Washington Post, Manafort and Gates’ methods appear to have been “extensive and bold and greedy with a capital ‘G,’ but … not all that sophisticated.”

    • What Do Jotted Talking Points Say About Trump’s Empathy?

      For more than an hour on Wednesday, President Trump listened quietly to entreaties for action, personal stories of grief and loss, and expressions of raw anger, clutching a white notecard with talking points written on it.

      “I hear you,” one said. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” said another.

      Mr. Trump’s use of notes, captured by news photographers who covered the extraordinary listening session with parents, students and teachers who lost loved ones in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was not unusual.

      But the nature of Mr. Trump’s written prompts was atypical. Composed beneath a heading that read “The White House,” they seemed to suggest that the president needed to be reminded to show compassion and understanding to traumatized survivors, an impression that Mr. Trump has sometimes fed with public reactions to national tragedies that were criticized as callous.

      On Wednesday, the president never uttered the talking points, but appeared by turns sympathetic, attentive, determined to take action and angry on behalf of his distraught guests. “I just grieve for you,” Mr. Trump told the group. “I feel so — it’s just, to me, there could be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through.”

    • They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted

      My sense of anticipation was hyped. Robert Mueller had just indicted the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, along with several of the trolls who had slaved tirelessly from their cyber-cubicles in St. Petersburg in a plot to despoil American democracy. Having recently survived a hit-and-run collision with a suspected Russian troll, who had recklessly driven the internet highways using a false ID (Alice Donovan), I was eager to see what the former FBI man had uncovered.

      My appetite was further whetted by an NBC News producer who proclaimed the Mueller indictment “one of the most important political documents in US history.” Right up there with the Monroe Doctrine, the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Starr Report, I suppose.

      I greedily downloaded a pdf of the 33-page filing, expecting to finally get answers to questions that had been nagging me for months, such as: How could the Russians have been so sloppy as to get caught with their hands in Trump’s pockets? Did they believe Trump was smart enough to effectively collude with them? Did they really think Hillary needed any help blowing a sure thing? And, most importantly, what was Alice Donovan’s real name?

      I was quickly disappointed. The Mueller indictment doesn’t charge any collusion between Trump and the Russians. In fact, it doesn’t even mention the word. Mueller also doesn’t draw any direct links between the troll farm in St. Petersburg and the Putin government in Moscow. And, most significantly, Mueller doesn’t allege that any of the nefarious trolling had the slightest “Butterfly effect” on the outcome of the 2016 elections. If there’s a conspiracy here, it’s looking more and more likely to be a conspiracy of dunces. Since there are many, many dunces in the White House, it’s still too early to rule out future charges against Team Trump. Thankfully, lack of evidence for collusion isn’t lack of evidence for criminal stupidity.

    • The challenge to “winner-take-all” launched

      Beginning today, in four states across the country, lawsuits will be filed to challenge the way presidential electors are selected in America. The plaintiffs in these suits charge that the “winner-take-all” system—the system by which the candidate who wins the popular vote in a state gets all of the electoral college votes in that state—violates both the 14th Amendment’s principle of “one person, one vote,” and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.


      Two of the lawsuits filed today are in traditionally “blue” states —Massachusetts and California. Two are in “red” states—Texas and South Carolina.

    • 5 Key Takeaways From the Democratic Rebuttal Memo

      Three weeks ago, House Republicans publicly released a much-hyped memo written by representative Devin Nunes of California. It alleged, through a series of allusions, tangential facts, and seeming misdirections, that law enforcement officials had abused their power in obtaining a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. Now, in a 10-page memo of their own, House Democrats are attempting to set the record straight.

    • China Moves to Let President Xi Stay in Power, Ending Term Limit

      China’s Communist Party has cleared the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power, perhaps indefinitely, by announcing on Sunday that it wants to abolish the two-term limit on the presidency — a dramatic move that would mark the country’s biggest political change in decades.

      The party leadership “proposed to remove the expression that the president and vice president of the People’s Republic of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s Constitution,” Xinhua, the official news agency, reported.

      With each term set at five years, the Constitution currently limits Mr. Xi, who became president in 2013, to 10 years in office. But the announcement appears to be the strongest signal yet that Mr. Xi, 64, intends to hold onto power longer than any Chinese leader in at least a generation.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Russia VPN Blocking Law Failing? No Provider Told To Block Any Site

      In 2017, Russia introduced tough new legislation that compels VPN providers to restrict access to sites blocked by regular ISPs or get blocked themselves. Now, several months on, not a single VPN provider has had any action taken against them, despite an estimated 25% of local Internet users using such products.

    • Sales at Arco Madrid unscathed by censorship controversy

      Galleries reported that sales at the Arco Madrid fair (21-25 February) proceeded undeterred even after controversy broke out over the removal of a polemical Santiago Sierra work just as the aisles opened to VIPs on Wednesday this week.

    • The Walrus Wants Google to Strangle Lessons in the New McCarthyism

      When David Berlin and Ken Alexander launched The Walrus in September 2003, their ambition was to create a Canadian equivalent to American monthly magazines like The New Yorker or Harper’s, which was then under the legendary editorship of Lewis W. Lapham. Who could have anticipated that not quite fifteen years later, The Walrus would be dipping its tusks into the tepid sludge of McCarthyist witch-hunting? It’s not an orientation Lapham would have recommended when David Berlin consulted with him about possibilities of collaboration a year before the magazine’s launch: as Lapham wrote in Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy (2004),

    • Censorship termed ‘absurd’

      The recent controversies over censorship of films took centre stage on Saturday at a debate on the second day of Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes). Most film-makers strongly opposed it, instead arguing that the industry should practice self-censorship.

      At a panel discussion ‘Censorship in India’, several film-makers, led by M.S. Sathyu, recounted the ordeal they had to face in their creative careers.

    • ‘Super censorship’ of films is worrying: Sathyu

      Bengaluru: Veteran filmmaker and art director MS Sathyu on Saturday said he is concerned about ‘super censorship’ of Indian movies, a practice under which anyone can violently oppose a film even before it’s released. He cited the example of the recent controversy surrounding the Bollywood period drama Padmaavat.

    • Self-regulation must replace film censorship, says M S Sathyu
  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Apple to Start Putting Sensitive Encryption Keys in China

      The keys are complex strings of random characters that can unlock the photos, notes and messages that users store in iCloud. Until now, Apple has stored the codes only in the U.S. for all global users, the company said, in keeping with its emphasis on customer privacy and security.

      While Apple says it will ensure that the keys are protected in China, some privacy experts and former Apple security employees worry that moving the keys to China makes them more vulnerable to seizure by a government with a record of censorship and political suppression.

    • US, Britain in cybersecurity divide over Chinese tech firm Huawei

      Washington is cranking up pressure on Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecommunications-equipment maker that U.S. officials view as a potential tool for state-sponsored spying.

      But across the Atlantic, one of America’s closest allies has taken a different approach. British Prime Minister Theresa May met Huawei Chairwoman Sun Yafang in Beijing earlier this month. Days later, Huawei announced it would invest £3 billion ($4.2 billion) in the U.K. over the next five years.

      Britain’s embrace of Huawei is widening a gulf between the U.S. and several important allies over American allegations the company poses a cybersecurity threat. Some Washington lawmakers have recently expressed worry that Huawei’s inroads in countries with close security ties to the U.S. could make their telecommunications networks more vulnerable to Beijing snooping.

    • How the NSA Can Greatly Reduce Mass School Shootings

      Instead of spying on Americans to crush dissent, consolidate power, or gather sensitive information for blackmail, the NSA could actually do something useful.

      The NSA could reduce the number of mass shootings using existing technology and resources.

      Remember, virtually all school shooters are males in their teens or early twenties.

    • State Insecurity: Why Are Top NSA Personnel Leaving in Droves?

      America’s intelligence bodies haven’t particularly enjoyed their time in the spotlight these last few years. The National Security Agency, or NSA, occupies a particularly complicated and frustrating place in the collective unconscious: It’s an institution we must trust with our wellbeing on a daily basis, but it is also fundamentally unaccountable and untrustworthy. When was the last time you voted for an NSA director?

      Beginning with the Edward Snowden leaks in summer 2013, we’ve watched this formerly hidden bureaucratic appendage grow more and more visible to the public – and what we’ve seen isn’t encouraging. We now know that the NSA regularly colludes with domestic internet service providers and spies indiscriminately on the heads of foreign governments, usually without justification. We also know that low morale within the agency has resulted in the leak of sensitive state secrets. Some of those secrets involve the way the NSA holds basic freedoms like privacy in contempt.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Happy International Blog Remembrance Day

      The general decline of the blog—not the news blog, but the BLOG BLOG—is a bummer. No offense to the many cool and worthwhile bloggers still posting to WordPress, Tumblr, XANGA(?), and good ol’-fashioned websites, but for the most part, the best blogs of our generation are being wasted in tweetstorms, Facebook rants, and reddit comments. I am not just making this up: There are entire conferences dedicated to preserving Web 1.0, back before our computers had become Facebook and Twitter machines.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Venerable Brands Snuffed Out as IPH Group Merges Firms Into Flagship Spruson & Ferguson

      Merger AheadOn 6 February 2018, Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) listed company IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) announced [PDF, 156kB] that two of its smaller group businesses – Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans (FAKC) and Cullens – are to be merged into its original and largest firm, Spruson & Ferguson (S&F). Operation under the single S&F brand is expected to commence in April 2018, with full integration to be completed by July 2018. The merger announcement comes on the heels of IPH’s settlement of its acquisition of New Zealand IP firm AJ Park on 31 October 2017 [PDF, 189kB].

    • Copyrights
      • Copyright Holders Call Out Costa Rica Over

        The MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups want Costa Rica to step up its efforts to combat copyright infringement. They inform the US Government that the South American country is failing to meet its trade agreement obligations, calling out the local domain registry as a “safe haven” for sites like

As Japan Moves Towards Reducing Patent Lawsuits and Curbing SEP Abuse Will the United States Follow Suit?

Sunday 25th of February 2018 07:56:42 AM

Ask Makan Delrahim

Summary: Japan is getting tougher on standards-imposed patent traps (SEP), the US may be getting ready to do the same, and Japan’s KDDI Corporation joins OIN

WE recently wrote about Japan's growing comprehension of the SEP threat, unlike the US with Makan Delrahim (a lobbyist) in charge of antitrust matters. President Trump fills his swamp and it truly shows (just look at his USPTO Director pick, soon to speak at an IAM event). As IAM put it the other day: “Another speech from @TheJusticeDept’s Makan Delrahim suggesting US gov is looking very closely at use of antitrust enforcement in standard setting” (think about Qualcomm for instance).

Watchtroll, in the mean time, is frustrated that on patents “Trump DOJ is on the same page as the Obama DOJ, which is hard to fathom given all the promises made by President Trump during his campaign.”

“The patent maximalists sure hope that chaos will be restored as they profit from that chaos.”Watchtroll now helps the lobby for patent chaos, hoping that republishing a letter will help it have impact. The patent maximalists sure hope that chaos will be restored as they profit from that chaos.

As we recently noted, Japan (and JPO) recognises that patent litigation isn’t desirable (unless you’re a lawyer) and this new report says that “Japan will soon implement a process that will swiftly resolve disputes over patents that are crucial to adhering to certain technical standards…” (that’s SEP)

This is a good thing. Consider the fact that, as IAM put it last week, Hitachi fed patents to “NPE Microconnect in the past several months.”

“…Japan is moving in the same direction as the US. The EPO, by contrast, moves in the same direction as China (SIPO).”“NPE” is a euphemism for patent troll and it’s worrying to think that a Japanese giant will resort to this. This is good for IAM and its paymasters of course, but what about Japan in general? IAM has just published this sponsored ‘article’ for Shobayashi International Patent & Trademark Office (Japan), so it’s clear that IAM is in the pockets of the Japanese patent ‘industry’ (litigation), not actual industry.

A week ago it was announced that KDDI, a communications service provider in Japan, had entered the Linux-centric Open Invention Network (OIN). A press release got disseminated (e.g. [1, 2]) to say:

Open Invention Network (OIN), the largest patent non-aggression community in history, announced today that KDDI Corporation (KDDI) has joined OIN as a community member. As the first key communications service provider in Japan to enroll in the OIN community, KDDI is demonstrating its commitment to open source software and the associated development efforts that benefit the entire communications industry.

“The communications industry is continuing its rapid transformation. Linux-based platforms like ONAP, OPNFV, and OpenDaylight are beginning to enable carriers and enterprises to provision new levels of service functionality across cloud and software defined networks (SDN) at an unprecedented pace,” said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network. “We appreciate KDDI’s participation in joining OIN and demonstrating its commitment to innovation and patent non-aggression in open source.”

OIN is not against software patents. It’s more of an IBM ‘hack’ which, according to Bruce Perens, is about protecting software patents from Linux rather than protecting Linux from software patents (quite an accurate description we might add).

Japan is one of IP5 (JPO is in it), so watching what happens there is definitely worthwhile. Japan has become a lot stricter on software patents and the courts not so plaintiff-friendly. In that regard, Japan is moving in the same direction as the US. The EPO, by contrast, moves in the same direction as China (SIPO).

Arguing With Patent Maximalists is Not Arguing With People Who Care for Facts and Reason

Sunday 25th of February 2018 06:49:46 AM

Patent policy, according to some, is a matter of “national security crisis.”

Should we restart nuclear drills?

Summary: The levels of unprecedented drama, or the attempts to induce panic, have reached laughable levels; just because the United States adopts saner patent policies does not mean doom and gloom, except for people who work for the patent ‘industry’

MARCH is approaching, so it may be way too late for new year’s resolutions. One thing I’m beginning to realise is that it’s pointless and hopeless debating with patent maximalists. They keep thinking (or lying to themselves) that US demise is purely due to patent policy, notably patent reform (we debunked that nonsense several times earlier this month), they think that technology companies are the most evil thing in their country, and many deny the very existence of patent trolls. They may never start using logic. They reject facts. The patent system is being improved, not “killed”, but here they go saying that it “is now a national security crisis.”

No, it’s not a “national security crisis.” Maybe it’s just a crisis to parasitic professions like particular lawyers and patent trolls. When I said this to one of them he responded by repeatedly saying that I am “a shill for Google.” [1, 2]

They say the same thing about others whom they don’t like; they’re seeing “Google” in everything.

“Yesterday we wrote about spin and judge-bashing (Professor Crouch made an offensive and potentially racist mockery of a judge with Mexican heritage, insinuating he does not care about facts).”I’ve never worked for them either directly or indirectly, but that does not seem to matter to these people. “To even suggest I have anything to do with Google is to associate oneself with conspiracy theories,” I told him. “I write lots of negative things about Google.”

Then again, speaking to people who are literally burning things in front of the USPTO (in a group of less than a dozen people, which makes the protest laughable) is probably a waste of time. It was an unauthorised protest and it basically made patent maximalists look like a bunch of radicals (which many of them are). This particular person writes regularly for Watchtroll, so it’s not a mere fringe. Yesterday we wrote about spin and judge-bashing (Professor Crouch made an offensive and potentially racist mockery of a judge with Mexican heritage, insinuating he does not care about facts). Even yesterday we saw that same case being spun by the patent microcosm. Dion Bregman and Karon Fowler (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP) are the latest to spin/distort Aatrix for shameless self-promotion purposes. Here’s what they said: “The decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green Shades Software, Inc. clarified that although Section 101 of the US Patent Act is ultimately a question of law, it may involve subsidiary fact questions that may preclude a Section 101 decision at the pleadings stage. As such, parties to patent proceedings should consider their long-term strategies for Section 101 challenges under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).”

“…when dealing with the patent zealots/maximalists one can assume “alternative facts” and resistance to logic, common sense, objectivity. All they care about is making more sales (services), which necessitate public misunderstandings.”This decision, like the one that’s mentioned in conjunction (a case against HP), was not specifically about Section 101 and it has since then been largely ignored by the same court. We wrote more than half a dozen posts about it, but we don’t expect the patent microcosm to stop obsessing over misinterpretation and hype, calling these decisions “blockbusters”.

Anyway, the bottom line is, when dealing with the patent zealots/maximalists one can assume “alternative facts” and resistance to logic, common sense, objectivity. All they care about is making more sales (services), which necessitate public misunderstandings.

Changes Introduced by the EPO’s Administrative Council Made It Abundantly Clear That Separation of Powers Does Not Exist for Independence of Judges

Sunday 25th of February 2018 06:06:58 AM

Also: IP Kat seems to have become a ‘pet’ blog of Bristows, CIPA and other elements of Team UPC

IP Kat‘ and Battistelli last month

Summary: IP Kat (i.e. Bristows in this case) wants us to think that the EPO keeps the Boards of Appeal alive and healthy, but in reality that’s just an illusion which Team UPC is attempting to prop up, knowing that Battistelli's attack on the Boards of Appeal dooms the UPC

YESTERDAY we wrote about Bristows using IP Kat to post ads for the EPO‘s management, possibly to help bolster the false perception they need in order to weaken the constitutional complaint and then ratify the UPC. “Have they mentioned,” one person asked, that EPO/BoA judges “can be suspended on half-salary for a minimum of two years (extension optional) at the whim of the appointing authority?” (against the EPC, i.e. core rules)

The cited document (warning: link) is worth reposting below in case the EPO removes it in the future (or makes it a lot harder to locate).

CA/D 18/15

of 17 December 2015
amending Articles 2 and 95 of the Service
Regulations for permanent employees of the
European Patent Office


Having regard to the European Patent Convention, and in particular Articles 10(2)(c), 11 and 33(2)(b) thereof,

Having regard to the Service Regulations for permanent employees of the European Patent Office (hereinafter referred to as “the Service Regulations”), and in particular Articles 2 and 95 thereof,

On a proposal from the President of the European Patent Office, submitted after consulting the General Consultative Committee,


Article 1

Article 2(6) of the Service Regulations shall read as follows:

“The President may extend the terms of office of all members of the bodies under paragraph 1(b), (c), (d), (f) and (g) beyond the duration defined in the applicable provisions of these Service Regulations, within the limits of the terms of office of the Staff Committee members.”

Article 2

Article 95 of the Service Regulations shall read as follows:

“Article 95


(1) (unchanged)

(2) (unchanged)

(3) A final decision in the proceedings shall be given within the following period, as from the date of the decision to withhold remuneration:

(a) 4 months for those employees whose appointing authority is the President;

(b) 24 months for those employees whose appointing authority is the Administrative Council. This period may be extended in exceptional cases by decision of the Administrative Council.

If no decision has been given by the end of the period specified under (a) or (b), the employee shall again receive his full remuneration.

(4) (unchanged)

(5) (unchanged)”

Article 3

This decision shall enter into force on 17 December 2015. It shall have immediate effect. This immediate effect shall include suspensions decided under Article 95 of the Service Regulations and which are ongoing on the date of entry into force.

Done at Munich, 17 December 2015

For the Administrative Council
The Chairman


The above is important because it shows that Battistelli was given enormous leverage over judges with help from the Administrative Council led by Kongstad, whom he viewed as a partner rather than supervisor (a gross distortion of the envisioned hierarchy of the Organisation).

IP Kat has meanwhile moved on to speaking about the German patent case about “Trommeleinheit” [Drum Unit], which we mentioned the other day. It’s at the German Federal Court of Justice (FCJ)

Has anyone noticed how rarely IP Kat mentions anything about EPO scandals? Why did it not report on the failure of UPC in the UK earlier this month? Or the successful admission of the constitutional complaint last week? So much for objective reporting on European patent matters… they only say what suits them (their employers). They also badmouth those who warn about patent trolls in Europe. The comments are a lot better than the posts and the appeal boards were alluded to in this comment from yesterday (T 1045/13):

Whilst generally supporting Pfizer’s case, I must say they appear to be misrepresenting the EPO’s position on the need for providing supporting data in the application. A very recent decision of the EPO supports the contrary view: T 1045/13.

We unfortunately suffer from poor decisions due to the inability of the parties to do their jobs sufficiently and provide both sides of the argument. By ‘sufficiently’, i do not mean stand up and present any case. The presented case must be plausible across the scope of the issues at stake.

As things stand at the moment, decisions of the EPO are also of dubious quality due to work pressure and brain drain. This is something we’re constantly being reminded of. But anyway, such a subject would no longer be entertained by IP Kat. It’s run by very different people now…

Patents in the US Are Not Hard to Enforce, Software Patents Are

Sunday 25th of February 2018 05:29:09 AM

Some trolls and businesses have become accustomed to a pipeline of extortions

Summary: Depending too much on abstract software patents is a losing strategy; it does not, however, mean that patents in general are not enforceable

THE number of patents granted by the USPTO kept climbing for many years. This sheer number and this growth is about to end. As we shall show later today, examiners are becoming tougher, owing primarily to PTAB.

Someone has just said that “it’s still almost impossible to enforce a patent in the US. Rare cases of success take 4-7 years and $5M-10M+.”

“…examiners are becoming tougher, owing primarily to PTAB.”This isn’t true unless one assumes that a low-quality patent like a software patent gets used.

Just the other day Michael Loney took a look at Lex Machina’s data and said that “ANDA pharma litigation spikes back up in 2017″ with some record rulings (in terms of damages). To quote:

After a slump in 2016, US pharmaceutical patent litigation triggered by the Hatch-Waxman process rose to 411 cases last year

Last year 411 ANDA cases were filed in the US, up from 318 in 2016, reveals Lex Machina’s recently released Patent Litigation Year in Review report.

“The report features many interesting statistics on case filing (the headline figure is a 10% drop) and the impact of TC Heartland on districts,” Loney wrote in another part (this too behind a paywall). His summary mentions Section 101 invalidation: “A closer look at Lex Machina’s Patent Litigation Year in Review report reveals some interesting nuggets of information on success rates of transfers, the judges with the most cases, design patent litigation, injunctions, Section 101 invalidation and damages…”

“Inherently, the problem isn’t enforcement but enforcement of software patents specifically.”Speaking of Section 101 invalidation, Watchtroll now calls the patent troll “Blackbird Technologies” [sic] an “intellectual property monetization firm” and says it intends to appeal the Section 101 invalidation of its software patent. We wrote about that less than a couple of weeks back. Why do they insist on enforcing software patents, knowing the very slim chances of a victory? Watch these patent trolls scraping the bottom of the barrel for exceptions to the norm and these awful results (face-saving press release) from InterDigital, which sees income going down by about 20%.

Inherently, the problem isn’t enforcement but enforcement of software patents specifically. It’s not hard to see that.

Links 24/2/2018: Npm Bug, Mycroft AI on Plasma

Saturday 24th of February 2018 06:25:07 PM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • Nix 2.0 Package Manager Released With A Ton Of Changes

    Nix 2.0 is now available as the latest major update to this functional package manager most commonly associated with the NixOS Linux distribution.

  • KubeVirt v0.3.0-alpha.3: Kubernetes native networking and storage

    First post for quite some time. A side effect of being busy to get streamline our KubeVirt user experience.

    KubeVirt v0.3.0 was not released at the beginnig of the month.

    That release was intended to be a little bigger, because it included a large architecture change (to the good). The change itself was amazingly friendly and went in without much problems – even if it took some time.

    But, the work which was building upon this patch in the storage and network areas was delayed and didn’t make it in time. Thus we skipped the release in order to let storage and network catch up.

  • Top 5 open source projects for 2018

    In our increasingly collaborative world, open source technology is a top trend that is having a major impact on the development and implementation of cutting edge capabilities. Open source is when source code connected to a program is made freely available, giving users the opportunity to make modifications and to share with other users.

    The common alternative to this is proprietary software, source code that remains under the strict control of an organisation, team or individual, ensuring that the integral code remains private and controlled by its owner.

  • DataTorrent Glues Open Source Componentry with ‘Apoxi’

    Building an enterprise-grade big data application with open source components is not easy. Anybody who has worked with Apache Hadoop ecosystem technology can tell you that. But the folks at DataTorrent say they’ve found a way to accelerate the delivery of secure and scalable big data applications with Apoxi, a new framework they created to stitch together major open source components like Hadoop, Spark, and Kafka, in an extensible and pluggable fashion.

  • Web Browsers
    • Why You Shouldn’t Use Firefox Forks Like Waterfox, Pale Moon, or Basilisk

      Mozilla Firefox is an open source project, so anyone can take its code, modify it, and release a new browser. That’s what Waterfox, Pale Moon, and Basilisk are—alternative browsers based on the Firefox code. But we recommend against using any of them.

    • Mozilla
      • ow We’re Making Code of Conduct Enforcement Real — and Scaling it

        This is the first line of our Community Participation Guidelines — and an nudge to keep empathy at center when designing response processes. Who are you designing for? Who is impacted? What are their needs, expectations, dependencies, potential bias and limitations?

      • Role Models in AI: Kelly Davis

        Meet Kelly Davis, the Manager/Technical Lead of the machine learning group at Mozilla. His work at Mozilla includes developing an open speech recognition system with projects like Common Voice and Deep Speech (which you can help contribute to). Beyond his passion for physics and machine learning, read on to learn about how he envisions the future of AI, and advice he offers to young people looking to enter the field.

      • Celebrate Firefox Internet Champions

        While the world celebrates athletic excellence, we’re taking a moment to share some of the amazing Internet champions that help build, support and share Firefox.

      • Net Neutrality, NSF and Mozilla’s WINS Challenge Winners, openSUSE Updates and More

        The National Science Foundation and Mozilla recently announced the first round of winners from their Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) challenges—$2 million in prizes for “big ideas to connect the unconnected across the US”. According to the press release, the winners “are building mesh networks, solar-powered Wi-Fi, and network infrastructure that fits inside a single backpack” and that the common denominator for all of them is “they’re affordable, scalable, open-source and secure.”

      • New AirMozilla Audience Demo

        The legacy AirMozilla platform will be decommissioned later this year. The reasons for the change are multiple; however, the urgency of the change is driven by deprecated support of both the complex back-end infrastructure by IT and the user interface by Firefox engineering teams in 2016. Additional reasons include a complex user workflow resulting in a poor user experience, no self-service model, poor usability metrics and a lack of integrated, required features.

      • Perplexing Graphs: The Case of the 0KB Virtual Memory Allocations

        Every Monday and Thursday around 3pm I check dev-telemetry-alerts to see if there have been any changes detected in the distribution of any of the 1500-or-so pieces of anonymous usage statistics we record in Firefox using Firefox Telemetry.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice
  • BSD
  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Tackling the most important issue in a DevOps transformation

      You’ve been appointed the DevOps champion in your organisation: congratulations. So, what’s the most important issue that you need to address?

    • PSBJ Innovator of the Year: Hacking cells at the Allen Institute
    • Open Access/Content
      • SUNY math professor makes the case for free and open educational resources

        The open educational resources (OER) movement has been gaining momentum over the past few years, as educators—from kindergarten classes to graduate schools—turn to free and open source educational content to counter the high cost of textbooks.

        Over the past year, the pace has accelerated. In 2017, OERs were a featured topic at the high-profile SXSW EDU Conference and Festival. Also last year, New York State generated a lot of excitement when it made an $8 million investment in developing OERs, with the goal of lowering the costs of college education in the state.

        David Usinski, a math and computer science professor and assistant chair of developmental education at the State University of New York’s Erie Community College, is an advocate of OER content in the classroom. Before he joined SUNY Erie’s staff in 2007, he spent a few years working for the Erie County public school system as a technology staff developer, training teachers how to infuse technology into the classroom.

    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • FATHOM releases Crystallon, an open-source software for lattice-based design

        Lattice structures are integral to 3D printed designs, and Aaron Porterfield, an industrial designer at additive manufacturing service bureau FATHOM, has developed Crystallon, an open source project for shaping them into structures.

      • FATHOM Introduces Open Source Software Project for Generating 3D Lattice Structures

        California-based FATHOM, which expanded its on-site managed services and announced important partnerships with Stratasys and Desktop Metal last year, is introducing a fascinating new open source project called Crystallon, which uses Rhino and Grasshopper3D to create lattice structures. FATHOM industrial designer Aaron Porterfield, also an Instructables member, developed the project as an alternative to designing lattices with commercially available software.

        He joined the company’s design and engineering team three years ago, and is often a featured speaker for its Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) Training Program – and as the project developer, who better to explain the Crystallon project?

  • Programming/Development
    • Recent GNU* C library improvements

      As technology advancements continue, the core technology must be updated with new ideas that break paradigms and enable innovation. Linux* systems are based on two main core technologies: the Linux Kernel project and the GNU C Library (GLIBC) project. The GLIBC project provides the core libraries for the GNU system and GNU/Linux systems, as well as many other systems that use Linux as the kernel. These libraries provide interfaces that allow programs to manipulate and manage files, memory, threads and other operating system objects. The release of GLIBC version 2.27 marks a new step on the Linux technology roadmap, with major new features that will allow Linux developers to create and enhance applications. This blog post describes several key new features and how to use them.

    • What Makes GLIBC 2.27 Exciting To The Clear Linux Folks

      Released at the beginning of February was Glibc 2.27 and it’s comprised of a lot of new features and performance improvements. But what’s the best of Glibc 2.27?

      One of the Clear Linux developers at Intel, Victor Rodriguez Bahena, put out a blog post this week outlining some of the most exciting features for this GNU C Library update. While most Linux distributions tend to be conservative in rolling out new GLIBC updates, Clear Linux is already on v2.27 and even had back-ported some of the performance patches prior to the official 2.27 debut.

    • GCC 8 Will Let You -march=native Correctly On ARM/AArch64

      Linux developers and enthusiasts on x86_64 have long enjoyed the ability to use the -march=native option for having the GCC compiler attempt to auto-detect the CPU and set the appropriate microarchitecture flags. That support is finally being offered up for ARM with GCC 8.

      This week -march=native now works on AArch64 as well as for ARM in general too.

  • How to Archive Open Source Materials

    There are two main reasons to archive all of the digital evidence that you use an investigation: to preserve it in case it is removed from its original source, and to prove to your audience that the material (if it has been removed) really existed as you present it. Screenshots can be easily forged, so it is vital that you find a way to retain the materials in a way that shows that you did not have the opportunity to modify the content.

  • Airlines Won’t Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes

    For passengers, the cumbersome boarding process—watching people insist that yes, this bag will fit in the overhead bin, it has before!—means more time spent jammed in a too-small seat. For airlines, it means lost revenue. In an industry with tight profit margins, every moment a plane spends on the tarmac is time it’s not making money.

  • KFC chicken shortage blamed on DHL

    Interestingly, this isn’t DHL’s first clusterfuck rodeo. Six years ago, Burger King experienced similar issues after entrusting their supply chain to the shipping company.

  • Hundreds of KFC shops closed as storage depot awaits registration
  • This job Win-blows! Microsoft made me pull ’75-hour weeks’ in a shopping mall kiosk

    former Microsoft retail manager is suing the software giant for making her work long hours without overtime and breaks.

    Her lawsuit, set to be heard by a US district court in northern California, alleged Redmond violated labor laws by unfairly classifying her, a retail worker, as a professional salaried employee to stiff her on overtime pay and skirt other requirements.

    According to her complaint, filed this month, the alleged violations occurred from 2015 to May of last year when plaintiff Jennifer Sullivan worked for Microsoft as the manager of a sales kiosk in Roseville, California.

  • RIP, Swype: Thanks for all the sor–speec–speedy texting

    One of the best-loved mobile apps of the past decade, Swype, has been given the bullet. Parent company Nuance confirmed it will no longer develop the letter-tracing keyboard, which will disappear from the Apple and Google app stores.

  • iPhones Blamed for More than 1,600 Accidental 911 Calls Since October

    The new Emergency SOS feature released by Apple for the iPhone is the one to blame for no less than 1,600 false calls to 911 since October, according to dispatchers.

    And surprisingly, emergency teams in Elk Grove and Sacramento County in California say they receive at least 20 such 911 calls every day from what appears to be an Apple service center.

    While it’s not exactly clear why the iPhones that are probably brought in for repairs end up dialing 911, dispatchers told CBS that the false calls were first noticed in the fall of the last year. Apple launched new iPhones in September 2017 and they went on sale later the same month and in November, but it’s not clear if these new devices are in any way related to the increasing number of accidental calls to 911.

  • BMW to recall 11,700 cars after installing wrong engine software

    German carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) said on Friday it would recall 11,700 cars to fix their engine management software after it discovered that the wrong programming had been installed on its luxury 5- and 7-Series models.

    “In the course of internal tests, the BMW Group has discovered that a correctly developed software update was mistakenly assigned to certain unsuitable model-versions,” the company said in a statement.

  • Tesla accused of knowingly selling defective vehicles in new lawsuit

    A former Tesla employee claims the company knowingly sold defective cars, often referred to as “lemons,” and that he was demoted and eventually fired after reporting the practice to his superiors. He made these allegations in a lawsuit filed in late January in New Jersey Superior Court under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

    The former employee, Adam Williams, worked for Tesla as a regional manager in New Jersey dating back to late 2011. While there, he says he watched the company fail “to disclose to consumers high-dollar, pre-delivery damage repairs” before delivering its vehicles, according to the complaint. Instead, he says the company sold these cars as “used,” or labeled as “demo/loaner” vehicles.

  • Science
    • Two-way communication is possible with a single quantum particle

      Communication is a two-way street. Thanks to quantum mechanics, that adage applies even if you’ve got only one particle to transmit messages with.

    • A protein that self-replicates

      ETH scientists have been able to prove that a protein structure widespread in nature – the amyloid – is theoretically capable of multiplying itself. This makes it a potential predecessor to molecules that are regarded as the building blocks of life.

      Long regarded as a biological aberration, amyloids are fibrous aggregates of short protein fragments. Amyloids have a bad reputation because they are thought to be the cause of multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

    • Walking crystals may lead to new field of crystal robotics

      Researchers have demonstrated that tiny micrometer-sized crystals—just barely visible to the human eye—can “walk” inchworm-style across the slide of a microscope. Other crystals are capable of different modes of locomotion such as rolling, flipping, bending, twisting, and jumping. In the future, these moving crystals may open the doors to the development of crystal-based robots.

    • NSF to Close Overseas Offices

      The announcement comes the day after Science|Business reported that NSF had recalled the directors of its offices in Brussels and Beijing, citing budget cuts in internal announcements of the change (the third office, in Tokyo, was already without a director). The article notes that the Brussels office’s accomplishments include brokering a science cooperation agreement that makes it easier for US researchers to partner with international colleagues under the Horizon 2020 funding program, and introducing European researchers to US funding opportunities. Altogether, the three offices cost NSF about $1 million per year to run, the article estimates.

    • Quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?

      Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.

    • Loops, loops, and more loops: This is how your DNA gets organised

      Remarkably, living cells are able to package a jumble of DNA over two meters in length into tidy, tiny chromosomes while preparing for cell division. However, scientists have been puzzled for decades about how the process works. Researchers from the Kavli Institute of Delft University and EMBL Heidelberghave now isolated and filmed the process, and witnessed in real time how a single protein complex called condensin reels in DNA to extrude a loop. By extruding many such loops in long strands of DNA, a cell effectively compacts its genome so it can be distributed evenly to its two daughter cells. The scientists published their findings in Science.

    • Do you see what I see? Researchers harness brain waves to reconstruct images of what we perceive

      A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough can, for the first time, reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity gathered by EEG.

      The technique developed by Dan Nemrodov, a postdoctoral fellow in Assistant Professor Adrian Nestor’s lab at U of T Scarborough, is able to digitally reconstruct images seen by test subjects based on electroencephalography (EEG) data.

  • Hardware
  • Health/Nutrition
    • ‘It’s breathtaking’: A Chinese biotech CEO weighs in on policy changes remaking China’s FDA

      With China’s biotech sector on the rise, changes are afoot at the agency tasked with regulating the country’s pipeline of new drugs.

    • ‘This Is a Uniquely American Crisis’

      In 2014, the class of drugs known as “opioids” were involved in more than 28,000 deaths, or 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rate of opioid overdoses has tripled since the year 2000. Recent data show two different but related trends: an increase in so-called “illicit” opioid overdoses, largely due to heroin, and then this 15-year increase in overdose deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers. Those drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, or brand names like OxyContin and Vicodin, account for more than 16,000 fatal overdoses each year. The CDC says they’re comfortable using the term “epidemic” to describe the crisis.

    • Runaway cow in Poland dies ‘from stress’ after recapture

      A runaway cow that avoided captivity for weeks died on Thursday after it was caught and put on a truck to be taken to a farm, a local official said.

      The red Limousin beef cow fled on January 23 as it was to be transported to a slaughterhouse. It gained celebrity status as it defended its life and freedom, tricking searchers, swimming from island to island, and roaming a lake-filled region near Nysa, in southwestern Poland.

    • CARB-X Announces 2018 Round Of Funding For Antibacterial Research

      CARB-X , a global private-public partnership for research on antimicrobial resistance, this week announced its 2018 rounds of funding for research on “antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics, devices and other life-saving products to respond to the threat of drug-resistant bacteria.”

    • Drug pricing white paper allays pharma patent fears, but innovators should remain vigilant

      The white paper – entitled ‘Reforming Biopharmaceuticals Pricing at Home and Abroad’ – was produced by the Council of Economic Advisers, a politically-appointed group which is part of the Executive Office of the President. It fleshes out for the first time the US executive’s approach to lowering the high drug prices paid by US patients – a cause which Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his commitment to.

    • Study finds new superbug typhoid strain behind Pakistan outbreak

      An outbreak of typhoid fever in Pakistan is being caused by an extensively drug resistant “superbug” strain, a sign that treatment options for the bacterial disease are running out, scientists said on Tuesday.

      Researchers from Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute who analyzed the genetics of the typhoid strain found it had mutated and acquired an extra piece of DNA to become resistant to multiple antibiotics.

  • Security
    • Security updates for Friday
    • Tinder vulnerability let hackers [sic] take over accounts with just a phone number

      The attack worked by exploiting two separate vulnerabilities: one in Tinder and another in Facebook’s Account Kit system, which Tinder uses to manage logins. The Account Kit vulnerability exposed users’ access tokens (also called an “aks” token), making them accessible through a simple API request with an associated phone number.

    • PSA: Improperly Secured Linux Servers Targeted with Chaos Backdoor [Ed: Drama queen once again (second time in a week almost) compares compromised GNU/Linux boxes to "back doors"]

      Hackers are using SSH brute-force attacks to take over Linux systems secured with weak passwords and are deploying a backdoor named Chaos.

      Attacks with this malware have been spotted since June, last year. They have been recently documented and broken down in a GoSecure report.

    • Another Potential Performance Optimization For KPTI Meltdown Mitigation

      Now that the dust is beginning to settle around the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation techniques on the major operating systems, in the weeks and months ahead we are likely to see more performance optimizations come to help offset the performance penalties incurred by mitigations like kernel page table isolation (KPTI) and Retpolines. This week a new patch series was published that may help with KPTI performance.

    • 12 bad enterprise security habits to break
    • Hackers are selling legitimate code-signing certificates to evade malware detection
    • 10 Steps to Improve Your Identity Management System

      The identity management system is a central part of any IT department. As long as it is working, few people will take notice of its existence and consequently, it is often not optimized to improve the quality of the system. With 16 years of experience in developing a central identity management (IdM) server solution, Univention identified ten steps on how to improve your IdM, no matter whether you are running your IdM on premises or in the cloud such as UCS on AWS. Let us go through them.

    • Fedora package delivery security
    • It’s HTTPS or bust: How to secure your website
    • One-stop counterfeit certificate shops for all your malware-signing needs

      The Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program almost a decade ago was a watershed piece of malware for a variety of reasons. Chief among them, its use of cryptographic certificates belonging to legitimate companies to falsely vouch for the trustworthiness of the malware. Last year, we learned that fraudulently signed malware was more widespread than previously believed. On Thursday, researchers unveiled one possible reason: underground services that since 2011 have sold counterfeit signing credentials that are unique to each buyer.

    • How did OurMine hackers use DNS poisoning to attack WikiLeaks? [Ed: False. They did not attack Wikileaks; they attacked the DNS servers/framework. The corporate media misreported this at the time.

      The OurMine hacking group recently used DNS poisoning to attack WikiLeaks and take over its web address. Learn how this attack was performed from expert Nick Lewis.

    • Intel didn’t give government advance notice on chip flaws

      Google researchers informed Intel of flaws in its chips in June. The company explained in its own letter to lawmakers that it left up to Intel informing the government of the flaws.

      Intel said that it did not notify the government at the time because it had “no indication of any exploitation by malicious actors,” and wanted to keep knowledge of the breach limited while it and other companies worked to patch the issue.

      The company let some Chinese technology companies know about the vulnerabilities, which government officials fear may mean the information was passed along to the Chinese government, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    • Intel hid CPU bugs info from govt ‘until public disclosure’

      As iTWire reported recently, Intel faces a total of 33 lawsuits over the two flaws. Additionally, the Boston law firm of Block & Leviton is preparing a class action lawsuit against Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich for allegedly selling a vast majority of his Intel stock after the company was notified of the two security flaws and before they became public.

    • Intel did not tell U.S. cyber officials about chip flaws until made public [iophk: "yeah right"]

      Current and former U.S. government officials have raised concerns that the government was not informed of the flaws before they became public because the flaws potentially held national security implications. Intel said it did not think the flaws needed to be shared with U.S. authorities as hackers [sic] had not exploited the vulnerabilities.

    • LA Times serving cryptocurrency mining script [iophk: "JS"]

      The S3 bucket used by the LA Times is apparently world-writable and an ethical hacker [sic] appears to have left a warning in the repository, warning of possible misuse and asking the owner to secure the bucket.

    • Facebook’s Mandatory Malware Scan Is an Intrusive Mess

      When an Oregon science fiction writer named Charity tried to log onto Facebook on February 11, she found herself completely locked out of her account. A message appeared saying she needed to download Facebook’s malware scanner if she wanted to get back in. Charity couldn’t use Facebook until she completed the scan, but the file the company provided was for a Windows device—Charity uses a Mac.

    • Tinder plugs flaw that enabled account takeover using just a phone number

      As Tinder uses Facebook profile pics for its users to lure in a mate or several, the ‘dating’ app is somewhat tied to the social network. When a swipe-hungry Tinder user comes to login to their account they can either do so via Facebook or use their mobile number.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • A Parkland Survivor Directly Asked Marco Rubio About NRA Donations and the [Twitter] Lost It
    • Trump Blames School Shootings On Violent Video Games, Movies; Suggests We Need Some Sort Of Rating System For Them

      When a mass shooting occurs, politicians leap into the void with plenty of ideas of how to fix it. They can’t — or won’t — fix it, but they’re more than willing to sacrifice other Constitutional amendments to keep the Second Amendment intact. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevins was the first to fill the void with garbage following the latest school shooting by blaming violent video games, despite there being no evidence linking violent acts to violent video games.

      Now it’s Donald Trump blaming school shootings on the First Amendment. During a discussion with Florida legislators (video here), Trump suggested doing something we’ve been doing for years.

    • President Trump: “We have to do something” about violent video games, movies

      In a White House meeting held with lawmakers on the theme of school safety, President Donald Trump offered both a direct and vague call to action against violence in media by calling out video games and movies.

      “We have to do something about what [kids are] seeing and how they’re seeing it,” Trump said during the meeting. “And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is shaping more and more people’s thoughts.”

      Trump followed this statement by referencing “movies [that] come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else.” He made a suggestion for keeping children from watching violent films: “Maybe they have to put a rating system for that.” The MPAA’s ratings board began adding specific disclaimers about sexual, drug, and violent content in all rated films in the year 2000, which can be found in small text in every MPAA rating box.

    • Selective Outrage Undermines Human Rights in Syria

      Exclusive: Selective outrage over civilian suffering in Syria – hyping Syrian government abuses while downplaying the effects of U.S.-led Coalition air strikes – undermines the legitimacy of human rights advocacy, argues Jonathan Marshall.


      But the recent situation in Eastern Ghouta is unfortunately not as unique as recent media accounts suggest. Just last month, the respected, independent monitoring group Airwars reminded us that U.S.-led Coalition air strikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa created many more victims with the same destructive tactics of “siege, bomb and evacuate.”

      In just one incident in March 2017, Coalition bombers killed as many as 400 civilians at a school near Raqqa, where hundreds of women and children were taking shelter from the war.

    • What It’s Like to Teach a Class That Doesn’t Remember 9/11

      I was teaching the day the airplanes hit the World Trade Center. It was the second meeting of “The Communist Manifesto for Seminarians,” a course for my fellow graduate students. By the time I got to class, both towers had collapsed. A few hours later, Building 7 came down as well. We dispensed with a planned discussion about what Marxists mean by “idealism” and “materialism” and talked instead about the meaning of this particular example of the “propaganda of the deed.”

    • Florida school shooting: Armed officer ‘did not confront killer’
    • Sheriff: Armed officer at school never entered building during shooting

      The armed officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., resigned Thursday after an internal review found he did not enter the school during last week’s deadly shooting.

      Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced Deputy Scot Peterson chose to resign after Israel suspended him without pay.

    • ‘The United States Is Driving a Wedge Between the Two Koreas’

      Janine Jackson: Many were stirred by the sight of North and South Korean athletes parading together at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. And that’s a big problem, says Vice President Mike Pence, who declared, to some media applause, that he would “seize every opportunity” to stop North Korea from using the games as an opportunity for propaganda.

      There’s something funny about decrying nationalist propaganda at the Olympics, but corporate media coverage of Korea is funny in a lot of ways. When the Washington Post writes gibberish about Pence’s plan to “fight propaganda with some no-nonsense spin of his own,” that’s of a piece with coverage in which North Korea and Kim Jong-un are cartoon demons: the definition of an official enemy. It all makes sense for those who require such an enemy. But what about those of us who don’t sell weapons, or appreciate threats of nuclear war?

      Joining us now to talk about all of this is Christine Hong, associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She joins us now by phone from Santa Cruz. Welcome to CounterSpin, Christine Hong.

    • Fred Rogers, champion of gentle masculinity, has a cure for the gun violence that plagues us

      Like much of Generation X, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was a childhood TV staple. Even as I grew older and came to see the world both inside my home and beyond its front door as considerably harsher, Mister Rogers’ gentle affirmations remained steady and true. Thus I found myself watching the series long after I matured out of its target audience, probably because his central message was ageless. “‘You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you,” he says at the end of every show. “There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”

    • Black Teens Have Been Fighting for Gun Reform for Years

      Teens’ recent fight for gun control is awesome and inspiring, but don’t forget that it’s exactly what young black activists have been doing.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • [Older] Whale and shark species at increasing risk from microplastic pollution – study

      Whales, some sharks and other marine species such as rays are increasingly at risk from microplastics in the oceans, a new study suggests.

      Species such as baleen whales and basking sharks, which feed through filtering seawater for plankton, are ingesting the tiny particles of indigestible plastic which now appear to permeate oceans throughout the world. Some of these species have evolved to swallow hundreds or even thousands of cubic metres of seawater a day, but taking in microplastic can block their ability to absorb nutrients, and may have toxic side-effects.

      The new study, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, advises more research on the megafauna of the oceans, as the effects of microplastics on them is currently not well understood. Scientists have found, for instance through examining the bodies of beached whales, large pieces of plastic in the guts of such creatures, but the effect of microplastics, though less obvious, may be just as harmful.

    • Building a backup bee

      Every February an extraordinary research project resumes in the southwestern corner of California’s Central Valley. It takes place inside a series of huge cages that span 20 acres by a vast pistachio grove. Each cage is shaped like a rectangular warehouse but is made entirely of extremely fine netting, pulled tight and straight along strong, narrow beams to form see-through walls and ceilings. The experiment is run by Gordon Wardell, director of bee biology for the Wonderful Company, the largest almond grower in the world. For the past eight years Wardell has been using these cages to develop an alternative insect to replace the honeybee.

    • Cobalt price: Supply scramble heats up with Canadian deal

      Annual production of the raw material is only around 100,000 tonnes primarily as a byproduct of nickel and copper mining with more than 60% coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where fears about political instability and the challenges of ethical sourcing combine to supercharge supply concerns.

    • The race to invent the artificial leaf

      Lewis, also a principal investigator at the federally funded Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, wants his artificial leaf to outperform nature’s best plants. Plants, for all their success, are actually terrible at converting sunlight into energy. Even if you don’t know anything about how photosynthesis works, you can tell from the leaves’ green color that totally efficient energy conversion might not be a plant’s top priority (black leaves would be much better at absorbing the sun’s rays). The green chloroplasts in leaf cells function well enough for a plant’s needs. They perform complex chemical reactions that, fueled by the sun’s energy, turn carbon dioxide and water into the energy-storing sugars needed for such activities as surviving and reproducing. When all is said and done, the most efficient plants convert barely 1 percent of the incoming sunlight into stored energy.

  • Finance
    • Disaster Capitalism Hits Higher Education in Wisconsin

      The president of the University of Wisconsin System is trying to reconcile a well-funded assault on public institutions with the state’s deep blue sea of support for accessible education.

    • A Wave of Corporate Propaganda Is Boosting Trump’s Tax Cuts

      Three major business groups alone—the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and the Business Roundtable—spent $56 million in the last three months of 2017 lobbying Congress to give them a massive tax cut. According to Public Citizen, 6,243 lobbyists—more than half of the total number of active lobbyists in DC—worked on the bill, which works out to 11 for each and every lawmaker in Congress.

    • In One Tweet, Kylie Jenner Wiped Out $1.3 Billion of Snap’s Market Value

      Kylie Jenner tweets she hasn’t been using the app lately

    • JP Morgan Chase glitch gave some online users access to others’ accounts

      A glitch [sic] in J.P. Morgan’s online banking accounts rerouted customers to other clients’ accounts, revealing personal information.

    • $21 Trillion Missing from US Federal Budget

      A whopping $21 trillion was found to be missing from the US federal budget as of this past year.

    • ICYMI: Canadian Corporation Uses NAFTA To Threaten Proposed Protection For Puget Sound

      This week, Cooke Aquaculture, a Canadian fish farm corporation, explicitly threatened to use the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to sue the U.S. government in a private tribunal if lawmakers in Washington state enact a proposed ban on the farming of Atlantic salmon, an invasive species, in the state’s waters.

      The proposed policy follows the escape of over 200,000 Atlantic salmon from the company’s fish farms in the Puget Sound last August — the latest in a series of such accidents, sparking outcry from Indigenous groups, environmentalists, and fishing communities that depend on the Puget Sound ecosystem. Washington’s proposed ban on Atlantic salmon farming would apply to all companies, domestic and foreign. Cooke Aquaculture has threatened to sue the U.S. for $76 million, plus lost anticipated profits, if the ban is enacted, using NAFTA’s controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. The company’s press release bluntly states: “If the Legislature approves a ban on our operations, Cooke will seek to recover our confiscated investment, plus costs and lost profits, through mandatory arbitration against the State of Washington under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement.”

    • The Radical Dishonesty of David Brooks

      The problem with the Brooks/Pinker story is that we expect the economy/people to get richer through time. After all, technology and education improve. In the ’50s, we didn’t have the Internet, cell phones and all sorts of other goodies. In fact, at the start of the ’50s, we didn’t even have the polio vaccine.

      The question is not whether we are better off today than we were 60 years ago. It would be incredible if we were not better off. The question is by how much.

      In the ’50s, wages and incomes for ordinary families were rising at a rate of close to 2 percent annually. In the last 45 years, they have barely risen at all.

    • Solving the productivity puzzle

      Nine years into recovery from the Great Recession, labor-productivity-growth rates remain near historic lows across many advanced economies. Productivity growth is crucial to increase wages and living standards, and helps raise the purchasing power of consumers to grow demand for goods and services. Therefore, slowing labor productivity growth heightens concerns at a time when aging economies depend on productivity gains to drive economic growth. Yet in an era of digitization, with technologies ranging from online marketplaces to machine learning, the disconnect between disappearing productivity growth and rapid technological change could not be more pronounced.

    • China’s frosty reaction to alternative Belt and Road project

      In an alternative world, it is an intriguing possibility. A series of stripped-down regional infrastructure projects to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the trillion-dollar program of ‘New Silk Road’ superhighways, connecting the country with Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

    • Silicon Valley Billionaire Wants You Off His Stretch of the California Coastline

      When you’re having a picnic, the last thing you want is ants, and when you’re a billionaire venture capitalist, it’s equally irksome to have plebeians accessing the beach next to your 89 acres of land. On Thursday, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla filed a 151-page petition with the Supreme Court in order to fight to keep the public off the shoreline near his property.

    • China’s Geely becomes top shareholder in Mercedes owner Daimler

      China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is now the top shareholder in German automaker Daimler, the parent of Mercedes Benz, with a 9.69% stake, adding another European auto asset to its growing portfolio.

      The shares were purchased on behalf of the Chinese automotive group’s chairman, Li Shufu, according to a filing by Daimler, and are worth around $9 billion at current prices. Li has displaced a Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund as the German automaker’s top shareholder.

    • Xcerra is latest chip company to give up on Chinese acquisition after U.S. resistance
    • China seizes control of Anbang Insurance as chairman prosecuted

      The Chinese government on Friday seized control of Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd and said its chairman had been prosecuted, dramatically illustrating Beijing’s willingness to curtail big-spending conglomerates as it cracks down on financial risk.

      Anbang [ANBANG.UL] had violated laws and regulations which “may seriously endanger the solvency of the company”, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said in a statement announcing the seizure, without giving details.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Twitter updates its developer rules to crack down on bots

      According to the new rules, developers that use Twitter’s API will no longer be able to let users:

      • Simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts.
      • Simultaneously perform actions such as Likes, Retweets, or follows from multiple accounts
      • Use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted
    • Paul Manafort’s inability to save Word files as PDFs provided the evidence necessary to indict him for fraud

      Paul Manafort, one-time Trump campaign manager, has been indicted for cooking his books in order to qualify for a loan; prosecutors secured the evidence of his fraud by searching his email, which contained attachments that clearly showed him doctoring his financial statements and then emailing them to his co-conspirator Richard Gates so Gates could convert them to PDFs, which literally just involves selecting “Save As…” and choosing “PDF.”

    • President Trump plans to remove key election security official

      It’s unclear why Masterson was removed, but the timing is likely to be a significant blow to the ongoing effort to secure voting machines against hacking. Less than nine months remain before the 2018 elections, and several types of voting machines remain vulnerable to remote hacking through remote-access software attacks and other vulnerabilities.

    • US Official Focused on Election Security Being Removed From Job

      Masterson has been a popular figure among state election officials, many of whom have praised his expertise and leadership on cybersecurity issues and expressed displeasure at his pending departure. The agency was created by Congress in 2002 to assist states in complying with federal election standards.

    • America’s voting machinery is hackable, falling apart and privatized — and the GOP doesn’t care [iophk: "neither D nor R give a shit"]

      These kinds of delays and communication snafus show a system that operates at a snail’s pace relative to the speed of cyber probes and attacks. To make matters worse, in many states — and in Congress, as seen in the just-passed federal budget — there’s no willingness to spend the funds needed to modernize voting in the United States.

    • Ex-CIA director: US meddles in foreign elections for a ‘very good cause’

      Following a federal indictment of Russians accused of meddling in the U.S election, a former CIA director on Friday said the U.S. “probably” meddles in other countries’ elections, as well.

    • YouTube Boosted a Conspiracy Theory Video About a Florida Shooting Survivor Because It Contained a Real News Clip

      Conspiracy theories about the teen survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have begun making the inevitable rounds, and on Wednesday, one of them landed the coveted spot of YouTube’s top trending video.

      The video in question suggested that 17-year-old David Hogg, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who has appeared on TV news programs over the last few days advocating for stricter gun laws, is an actor. (He is not.) By the time the video was removed later on Wednesday, Motherboard reported it had amassed more than 200,000 views. And that was just one of the videos hawking false theories that aimed to defame the mass-shooting survivor and budding gun-reform activist.

    • Rick Gates: ex-Trump adviser to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller

      A former adviser to Donald Trump plans to enter a deal Friday afternoon to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a federal court filing.

    • Did Trump Actually Apologize for Retweeting Islamophobic Videos?

      During the interview, Trump’s first explanation for having shared the anti-Muslim videos was that they were a depiction of “radical Islamic terror.” He went on to explain that, even though he had effectively promoted the propaganda campaign of Britain First, a far-right and ultra-nationalist political group, this was hardly worth mentioning and was “not a big story” in the US. Finally, Trump explained, he should not be held responsible for these hateful tweets because he had not known that they had been posted by racists. Morgan asked Trump for an apology so that the British could get to know “the real you.” As Mackey reported, Trump “stammered out something less than contrition,” saying, “If you’re telling me that’s a horror p – people, horrible racist people, horror – I would certainly apologize, if you’d like me to do that.” But, Mackey wrote, “instead of going on to actually offer an apology, Trump returned to excusing himself, adding, ‘I know nothing about them.’”

    • Quirky Corporate Twitter Accounts Are Not Your Friends

      Remember that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that suggested you could solve police brutality with a cold refreshing soft drink? How about the recent Super Bowl commercial wherein Ram Trucks uncovered the hidden secret that a famous Martin Luther King Jr. speech was actually about buying a Ram? Both were widely mocked, which makes it seem like we don’t fall for manipulative advertising anymore. But brands have realized this, and are taking advantage of a huge blind spot to hide their sketchy practices.

    • Past episodes of presidential wrongdoing have provoked a reaction

      PEOPLE who worry about Donald Trump’s presidency worry especially about how he might respond to a national-security crisis. Now they know. American intelligence chiefs have long viewed Russia’s campaign to discredit and influence America’s elections as a security threat. And the 16 indictments unveiled by Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the case, imply that the threat is more long-standing, sophisticated and effective than was commonly understood. Such clear evidence of foreign interference would normally constitute a moment for the commander-in-chief to reassure an anxious nation that the attack—in an election year, no less—would be repulsed. But that was not Mr Trump’s response.

      The president made no formal comment on the indictments, yet his Twitter feed suggested they stirred in him a range of powerful emotions. He at first rejoiced that Mr Mueller had not accused him of complicity in the Russian sabotage: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong—no collusion!” Then he fretted that it was getting so much attention as to cast doubt on his legitimacy. In subsequent tweets the president lambasted the FBI for spending too much time investigating the attack. It could otherwise have prevented a recent massacre of schoolchildren in Florida, he wrote. He then attacked his national-security adviser, H.R. McMaster, for failing to defend him more robustly and Barack Obama for failing to stop the Russians sooner. He claimed never to have dismissed the Russian campaign as a hoax, though he has done so many times. At no point did Mr Trump express any concern for the safety of American democracy.

    • Oops! Telegraph ‘forgets’ to mention spy boss criticising Corbyn was responsible for dodgy Iraq War dossier heavily criticised by Corbyn

      The latest silly attempt by right-wing media barons to discredit Jeremy Corbyn as a Cold War spy, comes from the ever more ridiculous Telegraph’s Gordon Rayner.

      Rayner has persuaded former MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove (no, I assure you that’s NOT a made-up name taken from a 1970s James Bond film) as the latest establishment figure to try to persuade the country that electing Corbyn as PM would be tantamount to electing Blofeld to Number 10:

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • MEPs continue to pile on pressure for anti-SLAPP legislation

      A cross-party initiative by MEPs that are committed to working to protect media freedom have called on Commission Vice-President to propose Anti-SLAPP legislation.

    • New UN report cites violations of rights to freedom of opinion and expression in South Sudan

      The report identifies 60 verified incidents – including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, closure, suspension or censorship of newspapers, and blocking of websites – in the period from July 2016 to December 2017.

      It also found that Government security forces, including the National Security Service, Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and the South Sudan National Police Service, were responsible for two-thirds of the verified cases of human rights violations.

    • UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

      In at least 60 incidents over the last year and a half journalists in South Sudan were killed, beaten, detained, denied entry or fired for doing their jobs, a UN report said Thursday.

    • FOSTA Would Be a Disaster for Online Communities

      The House of Representatives is about to vote on a bill that would force online platforms to censor their users. The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865) might sound noble, but it would do nothing to stop sex traffickers. What it would do is force online platforms to police their users’ speech more forcefully than ever before, silencing legitimate voices in the process.

      Back in December, we said that while FOSTA was a very dangerous bill, its impact on online spaces would not be as broad as the Senate bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). That’s about to change.

    • German FCJ: doctors can have their profile deleted from rating site – but can they?

      Germans like to rate things online. We have rating sites for hotels, restaurants, playgrounds and of course – doctors. Jameda is one (of about 10) such websites that focusses on user-generated, anonymous reviews of doctors.

      It has been around for over 10 years, lists around 250.000 German doctors and attracts more than 10m visitors each month. These numbers show how important it is for doctors who appear on the website to be described in a positive light by their patients in order to remain competitive.

    • Loss In 9th Circuit Appeals Court Isn’t Slowing 1-800-LAWFIRM’s Lawsuit Crusade Against Social Media Companies

      1-800-LAWFIRM’s oblique assault on Section 230 continues. This firm, along with Excolo Law, have been behind several Plantiff v. Social Media lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. responsible for acts of terrorism. The legal theories are as terrible as they are long-winded. In an effort to route around Section 230 immunity, these firms have tried to portray the mere existence of terrorist groups on social media platforms as active material support for terrorism by tech companies. But Section 230 itself is also targeted, just in case the plaintiffs happen to luck into a federal judge willing to punch holes in immunity.

      So far, none of these efforts have been successful. The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court recently rang up another loss for 1-800-LAWFIRM, finding none of its arguments credible. Unfortunately, it did not go so far as to reaffirm Section 230 immunity, limiting itself to 1-800-LAWFIRM’s novel legal theories about the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). But, as Cathy Gellis noted in her coverage of the decision, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By focusing on the ATA, Section 230 remains undamaged, and doesn’t draw the attention of enterprising politicians who might try to “do something” (terrible) to keep terrorists from using social media platforms.

    • Opposition grows among students and youth to Internet censorship

      There is growing outrage among students and workers throughout the United States to the efforts of social media companies and the US government to censor the Internet under the guise of combatting “fake news” and promoting “authoritative content.”

      The International Youth and Student for Social Equality (IYSSE) spoke with students on campuses from coast to coast who denounced censorship and talked about the power of the Internet to organize opposition and disseminate information outside the control of the corporate and state media.

    • BIFFes: Filmmakers call censorship ‘absurd’ and ‘fascist’

      The recent controversies over censorship of films took centre stage on Saturday at a debate on the second day of Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes). Most filmmakers strongly opposed it, instead arguing that the industry should practice self-censorship.

      At a panel discussion ‘Censorship in India’, several filmmakers, led by M.S. Sathyu, recounted the ordeal they had to face in their creative careers.

    • Shriver denounces ‘politically correct censorship’ in literature

      Lionel Shriver has criticised the “politically correct censorship” in fiction and urged writers to take a stance against it.

      The We Need To Talk About Kevin author revealed her thoughts on cultural appropriation and the possible impact on literature of the #MeToo controversy, in Prospect magazine on Wednesday (21st February), and revealed how she has been criticised for featuring black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) characters in her books.

      “I’ve plenty of recent experience of using non-white characters in my novels, only to have them singled out and scrutinised for thought crime,” she writes in the article titled ‘Writers blocked: how the new call-out culture is killing fiction’.

    • Game Studio Threatens Employees’ Jobs If They Don’t Write Positive Reviews Of Own Game, Then Steam Pulls Game Entirely

      It’s no secret that Valve’s Steam platform is the dominant marketplace for PC video games. Much comes along with that status, including the strategies and metrics studios must employ to get their games noticed on Steam. One of the important metrics for recognition is Steam reviews. And it’s not just the review scores themselves that are important, but actually getting reviews — any reviews — to begin with is a big deal.

      So it’s no surprise that game studios strategize on how to get their games in enough customer hands to generate reviews. Still, one studio’s strategy has massively backfired. Insel Games out of Malta recently released Wild Buster, it’s latest title. Sadly, in the all important initial release window, the game was not generating enough reviews to result in a general review score on the game page. Those scores are often used by consumers to quickly decide whether a title deserves their attention at all and a lack of a score can indicate that the game isn’t good enough to even warrant a look. Insel’s CEO, Patrick Steppel, decided to address this with a strongly-worded email to his own staff insisting that they all buy the game and review it, despite having had a hand in making the game. If employees refused to do this, Steppel warned that it could mean that they would no longer have a job at the studio.

    • [INFOGRAPHIC] Online Censorship, how does your country rate?

      The proliferation of the internet and the seemingly unlimited access many of us have to it often leads to the feeling that the world is all online, all interconnected, and all free. In reality, this freedom is largely a perceived truth, rather than a factual one. In fact, according to Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom on the Net report, less than one-fourth of the world’s internet users reside in countries where the internet is technically designated “free.”

      Freedom House’s study ranked 65 countries worldwide on their level of censorship based on 21 questions and nearly 100 subquestions, which were divided into three categories: obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. The study found that not only are many of the world’s internet users censored online, disinformation and online manipulation tactics have actually increased, leading to an overall decline of internet freedom around the world for the seventh consecutive year. Of the 65 countries studied, 32—almost half—have seen an overall decline in internet freedom.

    • ‘Free Speech’ Suit Aims to End Twitter’s Political Censorship
    • SAG-AFTRA’s Gabrielle Carteris Blasts Ruling on Actor-Age Censorship Law

      SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris has blasted a federal judge’s recent ruling barring California’s legislation requiring that subscription entertainment database sites remove an actor’s age, if requested by the actor.

      U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued the ruling on Feb. 20, backing IMDb’s 2016 lawsuit attempting to invalidate AB 1687. IMDb — a subsidiary of Amazon — had contended in its suit that the law, which applies only to subscription sites such as IMDb Pro, was unconstitutional.

      The defendants in the suit are Secretary of State Xavier Becerra and SAG-AFTRA, which joined the suit as a defendant after campaigning vigorously for the law in 2016. The union has already declared it will appeal Chhabria’s ruling.

    • Federal Court Shuts Down IMDb-Targeting ‘Anti-Ageism’ Law Permanently

      In the annals of stupid legislation, California’s attempt to fight ageism at Hollywood studios by targeting third-party websites and using the First Amendment as a doormat will secure a prominent place in infamy. Rising from the ashes of a failed lawsuit brought by an actress who claimed IMDb cost her untold amounts of wealth by publishing her age, the law basically said IMDb couldn’t publish facts on its website. Those pushing the legislation included the Screen Actors Guild, which apparently doesn’t have the spine to stand up to studios and target them for discriminating against actors and actresses.

      Last year, IMDb secured a temporary injunction against the state of California, forbidding it from enforcing the law while the courts sorted out its constitutionality. That day has arrived. A federal court has declared the law unconstitutional and permanently blocked California from going after IMDb because Hollywood producers participate in discriminatory hiring. (h/t Jacob Gershman)

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • NSA Warns Australia Not To Use Huawei 5G Equipment: Report [Ed Just put everywhere the equipment with back doors of the US in it (enabling the Pentagon's all-seeing eyes)]

      United States intelligence chiefs from the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security warned Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to enlist Huawei’s help in its efforts to deploy the fifth generation of mobile networks, AFR reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. The officials are said to have personally briefed Mr. Turnbull on the matter earlier this month, urging the head of the state to reconsider Canberra’s collaboration with Huawei due to the tech giant’s close ties to Beijing that raise various security concerns, insiders claim. The chiefs reportedly identified “Beijing’s cyber espionage” as one of the top risks on their joint cybersecurity agenda.

    • US warns Australia against Huawei 5G involvement: report

      The Australian Financial Review reported that Turnbull, who is on a visit to the US, was told of Washnigton’s concerns about Huawei when he met the head of the NSA, Mike Rogers, and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, on Friday.

    • Patent Agent Privilege in Texas

      In the case, the trial court had concluded that a party’s communications with a patent agent were only privileged to the extent that the patent agent was acting under an attorney’s direction. The court here reverses that judgment — no supervision is necessary. The court does offer a major caveat — that communications outside of the patent agent’s authorized practice area might not be protected…

    • Ulbricht v. U.S.: Privacy Interest in your Home Router Traffic

      Ulbricht is known as the Dread Pirate Roberts, Frosty, Altoid, and creator of the Silk Road dark web marketplace. Here, Ulbricht challenges his conviction and sentencing for drug trafficking, money laundering, and hacking — arguing that the evidence used to convict was illegally obtained in violation of his constitutional rights.

    • Arm To Merge SIM Cards With Processors For A Cheap Compact Future [Ed: It’s going to get a lot harder to escape mobile surveillance. First they make batteries impossible to remove. Now this...]
    • China’s Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious

      It would be remarkably easy to achieve. It’s just a matter of making explicit the determinations that already go into credit scores—of binding together the data brokerages that even now siphon up public records, social-media profiles, web searches, and similar digital traces of life here in the West, and making our rights and privileges as city dwellers and citizens contingent on what they infer from our behavior. Unless this tendency is contested and defeated now, what has unfolded in China since 2014 might become an early preview of the way order is achieved and maintained in the cities of the 21st century.

    • It could happen here: How China’s social credit system demonstrates the future of social control in smart cities

      Greenfield writes about China’s “Citizen Scores”, a rapidly growing system of social control that marries your credit report, internet usage, location data, snitching by your peers, and other factors (like your perceived “sincerity”) to determine whether you can borrow money, use high-speed transport, get a job, or rent an apartment.


      The Chinese-Western feedback loop involves each worsening the other’s worst ideas, lather-rinse-repeating in the most dystopian of fashion. China’s social control is just neoliberal capitalism’s social control, plus ten years.

    • Report On Device Encryption Suggests A Few Ways Forward For Law Enforcement

      Another paper has been released, adding to the current encryption discussion. The FBI and DOJ want access to the contents of locked devices. They call encryption that can be bypassed by law enforcement “responsible encryption.” It isn’t. A recent paper by cryptograpghy expert Riana Pfefferkorn explained in detail how irresponsible these suggestions for broken or weakened encryption are.

      This new paper [PDF] was put together by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (h/t Lawfare) It covers a lot of ground others have and rehashes the history of encryption, along with many of the pro/con arguments. That said, it’s still worth reading. It raises some good questions and spends a great deal of time discussing the multitude of options law enforcement has available, but which are ignored by FBI officials when discussing the backdoors/key escrow/weakened encryption they’d rather have.

    • Hacker [sic] Strikes ‘Stalkerware’ Companies, Stealing Alleged Texts and GPS Locations of Customers

      This story is part of When Spies Come Home, a Motherboard series about powerful surveillance software ordinary people use to spy on their loved ones.

    • Tor director Shari Steele will step down at the end of the year

      Responsible for the development and maintenance of the Tor anonymity network, the Tor Project has long been a central institution in the internet freedom community. For many, Steele’s directorship, which started in December 2015, signaled a sea change within the organization and shifted Tor towards being more inclusive and community focused. The following May, developer Jacob Appelbaum left the Tor Project amid widespread accusations of sexual assault, triggering a broader crisis within the organization. (Appelbaum denies the allegations.) The following month, Tor replaced its board of directors.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Five young women in porn have died within a few months – it’s time for a change

      Given the narratives that surround the industry, it would be easy to fall into the trap of suggesting that these women suffered as a result of the cruel and degrading conditions working in porn involves, as suggested by some commentators, such as Julie Bindel. But to do so is to ignore the realities of the industry as told by the workers themselves and to talk about porn in a manner removed from wider discussions on workplace rights, gender and culture. This tendency also prevents us from engaging in a wider conversation about mental health, sex work and stigma. And this is key to understanding the circumstances surrounding each death.

    • Ezra Zaid’s firm raided over ‘confusing’ book content, Shariah court told

      When asked by Selangor Sharie prosecutor Sofian Ahmad if she had referred to any other materials before making the complaint, Sulastri replied: “I did not base it on anything, I just read from the book censorship report.

      Today was the first day of trial and Sulastri was the first prosecution witness.

      Ezra is facing a charge under Section 16(1)(a) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 as the director and main shareholder of ZI Publications for allegedly publishing a book written by Irshad Manji and titled Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta with contents purportedly contrary to Islamic law in terms of faith.

    • Can Schools Discipline Students for Protesting?

      Students have turned last week’s school shooting into an exemplary push for change. Here’s a quick primer on their rights.

      Students around the country are turning last week’s heartbreaking school shooting in Parkland, Florida, into an inspiring and exemplary push for legislative change. In the last few days, many people have a written by Irshad Manjisked whether schools can discipline students for speaking out. The short answer? It depends on when, where, and how the students decide to express themselves.

    • Everyone In the Cook County Criminal Court System Too Busy Pointing Fingers To Fix Its Antiquated Records System

      When you write regularly about lawsuits, you learn very quickly that not all court systems are equal when it comes to allowing modern access to public filings and records. The country is a veritable panoply of an access spectrum, with some districts offering modern e-filing systems and websites to review documents, while other districts are far more antiquated and restrictive. That said, it’s hard to imagine a county court system more backwards than that of Chicago’s Cook County.

    • Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student

      ProPublica obtained the chat logs of Atomwaffen, a notorious white supremacist group. When Samuel Woodward was charged with killing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein last month in California, other Atomwaffen members cheered the death, concerned only that the group’s cover might have been blown.

    • There’s No Such Thing as ‘Consensual Sex’ When a Person Is in Police Custody

      In New York and 34 other states, police officers accused of raping people in their custody can offer a consent defense.

      On the night of Sept. 15, 2017, Edward Martins and Richard Hall, narcotics detectives with the New York Police Department, pulled over an 18-year-old woman and her two male friends for being in a park after dark. After finding marijuana in the car’s cup holder, they handcuffed the woman and told her friends to leave. The woman says that the detectives then put her in their unmarked police van with tinted windows and raped her as she cried and repeatedly told them “no.” Semen collected in a forensic evidence kit matched the DNA of both men.

      In November, Martins and Hall resigned from the NYPD and currently face rape and kidnapping charges. Both pleaded not guilty. Their defense against these allegations is almost as disturbing as the crimes they are accused of. They claim that they had consensual sex with the woman while she was in their custody.

    • Lee Drutman on Gun Control Politics, Pat Elder on School Militarization

      This week on CounterSpin: “A ‘gun-free’ school is a magnet for bad people” is a real statement from the actual president, in response to a horrific event in which a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida. Which suggests that waiting for Trump to act to prevent gun violence should be no part of an effort to prevent gun violence.

      If Americans really want to stop being “the only country where this happens,” which keeps officially claiming there’s “no way to prevent” it, it will require not just deep examination of the multiple roots of mass violence of this sort, but also an approach to political processes that keeps its eye on the prize of real change. We’ll talk about possibilities of movement on the issue of gun control and about some of the other cultural aspects of this violence, whose examination has to be part of getting beyond this cycle of mass shootings and ‘thoughts and prayers’ and more mass shootings.

    • Feds have spent 13 years failing to verify whether passport data is legit

      An e-passport is essentially a passport that includes machine-readable RFID chips containing a traveler’s personal information. These more digitally secure passports, which began to be required by the United States for visitors form visa waiver countries beginning in 2007, are scanned at the border by a CBP agent’s computer. However, without a digital signature, it is impossible to validate that the data contained on the passport is actually authentic.

    • US Border Officials Have Never Verified Chipped Passports, Despite Demanding Their Usage

      Ron Wyden is at it again. Sending pesky letters to government officials who appear to be completely falling down on the job. The latest is asking Customs and Border Patrol why it’s still not verifying the e-passport chips that have been in all US passports — and in all countries on the visa waiver list — since 2007 (hat tip to Zach Whittaker). The letter points out that the US government pushed hard for these chips… and then never bothered to check to make sure no one has tampered with them.

    • US Border Patrol Hasn’t Validated E-Passport Data For Years

      This means that since as far back as 2006, a skilled hacker [sic] could alter the data on an e-Passport chip—like the name, photo, or expiration date—without fear that signature verification would alert a border agent to the changes. That could theoretically be enough to slip into countries that allow all-electronic border checks, or even to get past a border patrol agent into the US.

    • Lawsuit: Detained immigrant beaten for role in hunger strike

      A guard at a privately run immigration jail beat a detainee because the man joined a hunger strike protesting conditions at the facility, the Washington state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit Friday.

      The organization sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the GEO Group, which operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

      According to the lawsuit, Jesus Chavez Flores is one of more than 120 immigrant detainees at the facility who began a hunger strike Feb. 7 to protest the conditions of their confinement, including the quality of the food they are served and that the prisoners are paid just $1 per day to perform janitorial, kitchen, laundry or other work there.

    • New Data Reveals Milwaukee Police Stops Are About Race and Ethnicity

      Milwaukee residents have long thought they were targeted for their race. New data reveals they were right all along.

      For years, Black and Latino residents of Milwaukee have protested the fact that they and their neighborhoods have been consistently and unfairly targeted for overzealous police stops. They were right to do so. New expert evidence unmasks the city’s stop-and-frisk program for what it is: a program that encourages routine stops of individuals that are without a sufficient legal basis and that are often based on the individual’s race or ethnicity.

      With this new evidence, Milwaukee joins a host of cities nationwide whose stop-and-frisk practices — as reflected in their own data — run afoul of the law.

    • Public-Sector Union Fees Don’t Violate the First Amendment

      Can state employees who decline to join a union in their workplace be required to pay fees to support the union’s work? On February 26, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case pitting the First Amendment claims of dissenting employees against the interests of public-sector unions. Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who opposes the union, argues that a state law allowing public-sector unions to charge nonmembers fees for collective-bargaining activities violates his First Amendment rights. Were the Court to accept this argument, it would severely undermine such unions, by requiring them to provide services free of charge to any worker who says he objects to the union. Regardless of what you think about unions, such a ruling would turn First Amendment law on its head.

    • Census Rushes to Respond to Request to Add Citizenship Question

      The Census Bureau is scrambling to respond to a last-minute request by the Justice Department to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 census, according to hundreds of pages of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

      The emails show that the DOJ’s December request set off a flurry of activity in the bureau as career Census officials hurried to research the history of how citizenship has been handled in past surveys, raced to come up with alternatives to the DOJ request and vented their frustration over public outrage on the issue.

      As ProPublica first reported, the DOJ asked for the question to be added in a December letter, saying it needed more data to better enforce voting rights laws.

    • Good Faith Beats Bad Warrant In Another Win For FBI’s World-Traversing NIT Malware

      Another challenge of the NIT (Network Investigative Technique) warrant used by the FBI during its investigation of a dark web child porn website has hit the appellate level. A handful of district courts have found the warrant used invalid, given the fact that its reach (worldwide) exceeded its jurisdictional grasp (the state of Virginia, where it was obtained). That hasn’t had much of an effect on appeals court rulings, which have all found the warrant questionable to varying degrees, but have granted the FBI “good faith” for violating the jurisdictional limits the DOJ was attempting to have rewritten (Rule 41 — which governs warrant jurisdictional limits, among other things) to allow it to do the things it was already doing.

      Even though the FBI had to have known searches performed all over the world using one Virginia-based warrant violated Rule 41 limits, appellate judges have declared the FBI agent requesting the warrant wasn’t enough of a legal expert to know this wasn’t allowed. Two appeals courts have stated suppressing the evidence is pointless because the law changed after the jurisdiction limit violation took place. The appellate decisions have been troubling to say the least, providing further evidence that the good faith exception is the rule, rather than the outlier.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • NRA gives Ajit Pai “courage award” and gun for “saving the Internet”

      Schneider did not explain how eliminating net neutrality rules preserved anyone’s “free speech rights.”

    • We still don’t know when net neutrality rules will come off the books [Updated]

      The repeal is contingent on US Office of Management and Budget [OMB] approval of modified information collection requirements, the FCC said. Later, the FCC will publish another document in the Federal Register “announcing the effective date(s) of the delayed amendatory instructions,” the FCC said. “The Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order will also be effective upon the date announced in that same document.” The FCC voted to repeal its net neutrality rules on December 14,

      “OMB approval needs to happen before any of the substantive rules take effect, and the date they come into effect will be in a future Federal Register publication,” Senior Counsel John Bergmayer of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge told Ars.

    • Why states might win the net neutrality war against the FCC

      The major obstacle for states is that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has claimed the authority to preempt states and municipalities from imposing laws similar to the net neutrality rules his FCC is getting rid of. ISPs that sue states to block net neutrality laws will surely seize on the FCC’s repeal and preemption order.

    • FCC’s net neutrality repeal published, opening door to opposition efforts

      The final draft of the rules sets April 23 as the day the repeal goes into effect, but portions of the order are still pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which could delay its implementation.

    • The FCC’s ‘New’ Broadband Availability Map Hallucinates Broadband Competition

      A few years back the FCC (under Obama’s first FCC boss Julius Genachowski) spent around $300 million on a broadband availability map that did a crap job actually measuring broadband availability. As we noted at the time, the map tended to hallucinate both available competitors and the speeds they could deliver to any address, providing a completely bogus sense of the nation’s competitive options. It also failed utterly to include pricing data at ISP behest, lest somebody actually look at the data and realize that a lack of competition drives high prices and abysmal customer service from coast to coast.

    • As Protection Ends, Here’s One Way to Test for Net Neutrality

      None of the five governors’ offices responded to our questions about how they plan to monitor broadband providers for net neutrality violations. Falcon says states will need hard data, and engineers to review that data, to identify throttling, discrimination, or prioritization. That’s part of the motivation behind Northeastern University’s Wehe project, which helps users check to see how neutral their connections are.

    • Now that Trump’s FCC has killed Net Neutrality, we all need to participate in instrumenting the net to document violations

      Ajit Pai’s Net Neutrality-killing order is scheduled to go into effect on April 23, and when that happens, it’ll be open season on the free, fair and open internet.

    • The FCC’s Net Neutrality Order Was Just Published, Now the Fight Really Begins

      Today, the FCC’s so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” which repealed the net neutrality protections the FCC had previously created with the 2015 Open Internet Order, has been officially published. That means the clock has started ticking on all the ways we can fight back.

      While the rule is published today, it doesn’t take effect quite yet. ISPs can’t start blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization for a little while. So while we still have the protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order and we finally have a published version of the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” it’s time to act.

      First, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can reverse a change in regulation with a simple majority vote. That would bring the 2015 Open Internet Order back into effect. Congress has 60 working days—starting from when the rule is published in the official record—to do this. So those 60 days start now.

      The Senate bill has 50 supporters, only one away from the majority it needs to pass. The House of Representatives is a bit further away. By our count, 114 representatives have made public commitments in support of voting for a CRA action. Now that time is ticking down for the vote, tell Congress to save the existing net neutrality rules.

    • San Francisco: Building Community Broadband to Protect Net Neutrality and Online Privacy

      Like many cities around the country, San Francisco is considering an investment in community broadband infrastructure: high-speed fiber that would make Internet access cheaper and better for city residents. Community broadband can help alleviate a number of issues with Internet access that we see all over America today. Many Americans have no choice of provider for high-speed Internet, Congress eliminated user privacy protections in 2017, and the FCC decided to roll back net neutrality protections in December.

      This week, San Francisco published the recommendations of a group of experts, including EFF’s Kit Walsh, regarding how to protect the privacy and speech of those using community broadband.

      This week, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Municipal Fiber released its third report, which tackles competition, security, privacy, net neutrality, and more. It recommends San Francisco’s community broadband require net neutrality and privacy protections. Any ISP looking to use the city’s infrastructure would have to adhere to certain standards. The model of community broadband that EFF favors is sometimes called “dark fiber” or “open access.” In this model, the government invests in fiber infrastructure, then opens it up for private companies to compete as your ISP. This means the big incumbent ISPs can no longer block new competitors from offering you Internet service. San Francisco is pursuing the “open access” option, and is quite far along in its process.

  • DRM
    • Game Studio Found To Install Malware DRM On Customers’ Machines, Defends Itself, Then Apologizes

      The thin line that exists between entertainment industry DRM software and plain malware has been pointed out both recently and in the past. There are many layers to this onion, ranging from Sony’s rootkit fiasco, to performance hits on machines thanks to DRM installed by video games, up to and including the insane idea that copyright holders ought to be able to use malware payloads to “hack back” against accused infringers.

      What is different in more recent times is the public awareness regarding DRM, computer security, and an overall fear of malware. This is a natural kind of progression, as the public becomes more connected and reliant on computer systems and the internet, they likewise become more concerned about those systems. That may likely explain the swift public backlash to a small game-modding studio seemingly installing something akin to malware in every installation of its software, whether from a legitimate purchase or piracy.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Copyrights
      • RELX 2017 profit jumps; to shift to single company

        The Anglo-Dutch professional-information and events company also said it intends to buy back further shares worth 700 million pounds ($974.4 million) this year, of which GBP100 million have already been repurchased. This adds to the GBP700 million buyback the company conducted last year.

      • Dutch Continue to Curb Illegal Downloading But What About Streaming?

        After previously being legal for personal use, in 2014 the Netherlands banned downloading of copyrighted content. In 2013, 41% of people engaged in the practice but according to a new study, just 24% admitted to having downloaded pirate media within the previous 12 months. While that sounds like good news, unauthorized streaming is absent from the stats.

      • It You Can’t Beat Purveyors Of Unauthorized Copies, Join Them — With Style

        One of the perennial questions around here is what companies should do about unauthorized copies of physical products. As readers will know, on Techdirt we don’t think automatically filing lawsuits is the way to go. This little vignette from the New York Times reveals an alternative approach that is smarter and more remunerative:

      • Judge Turns Back Software Maker’s Copyright Claims Over Film Special Effects

        U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California on Wednesday dismissed without prejudice software company Rearden’s copyright claims against major picture studios, including The Walt Disney Co., Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount.

      • Judge finds that Disney “misused copyright” when it tried to stop Redbox from renting download codes

        A 9th Circuit judge found in Redbox’s favor, holding that the DVDs’ license agreement were not a binding contract, and slamming Disney for “copyright misuse” in trying to impose conditions on people who buy its products by sneaking in some legal fine-print that tries to convert the sale into a license.

      • Disney loses in Redbox copyright row

        He also sided with Redbox’s argument that Disney was misusing its copyrights by trying to restrict the reselling of copies of its movies after they had already been sold.

      • Court Destroys Future Public Art Installations By Holding Building Owner Liable For Destroying This One

        Last week was a big week for dramatically bad copyright rulings from the New York federal courts: the one finding people liable for infringement if they embed others’ content in their own webpages, and this one about 5Pointz, where a court has found a building owner liable for substantial monetary damages for having painted his own building. While many have hailed this decision, including those who have mistakenly viewed it as a win for artists, this post explains why it is actually bad for everyone.

        The facts in this case are basically this: the owner of a run-down, formerly industrial building in a run-down neighborhood aspired to do something to redevelop his property, but it would be a few years before the time would be right. So in the meantime he let some graffiti artists use the building for their aerosol paintings. The building became known as 5Pointz, and the artwork on it soon began to attract attention. The neighborhood also began to change, and with the improvement the prospects for redeveloping the property into residences became more promising. From the outset everyone knew that redevelopment would happen eventually, and that it would put an end to the arrangement since the redevelopment would likely necessitate tearing down the building, and with it the art on the walls. As the date of demolition grew closer, the artists considered buying the building from the owner in order to prevent it from being torn down and thus preserve the art. However the owner had received a variance that suddenly made the value of the property skyrocket from $40 million to $200 million, which made the buyout impossible. So the artists instead sued to halt the destruction of their art and asked for a preliminary injunction, which would ensure that nothing happened to the art while the case was litigated. But in late 2013 the court denied the preliminary injunction, and so a few days later the building owner went ahead and painted over the walls. The painting-over didn’t end the litigation, which then became focused on whether this painting-over broke the law. In 2017 the court issued a ruling allowing the case to proceed to trial on this question. Then last week came the results of that trial, with the court finding this painting-over a “willfully” “infringing” act and assessing a $6.7 million damages award against the owner for it.

      • Facebook signs music licensing deal with European rights company ICE

        ICE’s deal with Facebook covers 290,000 rights-holders across 160 territories, and as part of the deal, ICE will be working with Facebook to help develop its rights reporting system for more accurate royalties data. ICE currently has over 40 online music licenses in place with various streaming platforms and has distributed over 300 million euros to rights-holders since 2016. Specifics of ICE’s payout structure with Facebook have not been disclosed.

      • Facebook inks music licensing deal with ICE covering 160 territories, 290K rightsholders on FB, Insta, Oculus and Messenger

        Facebook today took its latest step towards making good on paying out royalties to music rightsholders around tracks that are used across its multiple platforms and networks. The company has signed a deal with ICE Services — a licensing group and copyright database of some 31 million works that represents PRS in the UK, STIM in Sweden and GEMA in Germany — to provide music licensing and royalty collection for works and artists represented by the group, when their music is used on Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and Messenger.

      • Digital Rights Groups Cry Foul Over Canada’s ‘FairPlay’ Coalition and Pirate Site Blacklist

        Recently, FairPlay Canada — a coalition of more than 25 telecom companies, broadcasters, and other organizations — unveiled a proposal that asks the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to order internet service providers (ISPs) to block their customers from accessing websites that host what regulators deem to be pirated content. Michael Geist, a University of Ottowa law professor, notes that such a pirate site blacklist would inevitably be expanded, maybe to include VPN

      • Finnish researchers examine Spotify’s artist payment scheme, suggest alternative

        Mikko von Hertzen, who sings and plays guitar in the popular rock band the Von Hertzen Brothers, says he thinks the way Spotify and other streaming services pay artists for their compositions and performances is murky. Few artists seem to know, he says, how money is being shared.

Unified Patents, With Help From PTAB, Succeeds at Disarming Patent Trolls; InterDigital and RPX See a Massive Decline in Income

Saturday 24th of February 2018 01:01:37 PM

Freezing the ‘assets’ of patent trolls and patent sharks

Summary: Positive news about the rapid demise of small patent trolls, large (even publicly-traded) trolls, and entities like RPX which profit from troll activity

THE EPO‘s recklessness has caused an insurgence of patent trolls in Europe, whereas USPTO reforms have pushed back this ugly phenomenon, whose net effect is predation at the expense of productive industries.

Today and tomorrow we’ll write about Section 101, Alice and PTAB. The latest developments continue to be positive.

Over the past few days, on Thursday and on Friday, Unified Patents wrote about its battles against patent trolls such as Uniloc. Unified Patents relies on PTAB and yesterday it said:

On February 23, 2018, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) instituted trial on all challenged claims in an IPR filed by Unified against U.S. Patent 8,838,976 owned and asserted by Uniloc Luxembourg S.A., a well-known NPE. The ’976 patent, directed to an online service user authentication system, belongs to the Etchegoyen portfolio that Uniloc has asserted against Apple. The ’976 was removed from the litigation following Unified’s IPR petition, although the litigation continues.

A day beforehand Unified Patents wrote about Leigh Rothschild’s troll, which we wrote about several times before. This too was announced on the same date it had happened:

On February 22, 2018, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) instituted trial on all challenged claims in an IPR filed by Unified against U.S. Patent 7,860,648 owned and asserted by Location Based Services, LLC, a Leigh Rothschild entity and NPE. The ’648 patent, directed to a mapping display system and method, was originally obtained by Intellectual Ventures (Invention Science Fund I LLC) and then transferred to Rothschild. It belongs to a broader patent family that has been asserted against several carriers including Verizon, as well as Rand McNally, Garmin, Niantic, and Trimble.

Very good. It ought to scare the trolls, who spent years if not decades terrorising businesses. They now taste their own medicine.

A few days ago a site of patent maximlists wrote:

Only a few factual allegations are required to survive a Motion to Dismiss a complaint alleging patent infringement, held the Southern District of Florida in Raptor, LLC. and Concrete Services, LLC. v. Odebrecht Construction, Inc. and Barreiro Construction Corp., NO. 17-21509-CIV-ALTONAGA (S.D. Fla. Feb. 13, 2018).

If “[o]nly a few factual allegations are required to survive a Motion to Dismiss a complaint alleging patent infringement,” then there’s room for improvement. It’s widely known that trolls like to send threatening letters en masse, asking for ‘protection’ money and secrecy. This is where Unified Patents’ PTAB action comes handy. It can also collectively represent or front for many targets/victims.

Things now change for the worse for trolls and we can see their stress, which they make visible. One of them wrote about a new report titled “‘A system that’s turned into the Wild West’: Massachusetts considers crackdown on ‘patent trolls’”. The troll says that Eric Lesser, an unusually young politician, is “way late on this…still quoting ’13 study – it is 2018 already. No problem – open, free market corrected any (perceived) misgivings…”

Watch this response to that: “Shocking – another clueless politician. The US patent system is the sinking Titanic and this guy is still aiming at icebergs…”

No, patent trolls are a real issue, but so are the patents they rely on, notably software patents that are unambiguously abstract.

From the article at hand:

Who has the right to claim violation of a patent?

Massachusetts lawmakers are working on a bill that would crack down on so-called patent trolls.

Patent trolls, officially known as non-practicing entities or patent assertion entities, send off large numbers of letters to companies alleging that the company is infringing on a patent and demanding money to avoid a lawsuit.

While the practice is not illegal, technology companies say it is costly and prevents innovation, particularly among small businesses who often cannot afford to pay a settlement or litigate.

Massachusetts might contribute further to eradication of such nuisance litigation — something to which TC heartland already contributed last summer.

There are further signs that patent trolls are on the decline/demise, as even some publicly-traded trolls see their income declining by about 20% in just one year. Don’t pay too much attention to IAM’s headline. Richard Lloyd, who is the worst of that bunch, wrote about InterDigital and even though the results are negative, the headline says “InterDigital sees revenue boosted” (the very opposite of what happened, but then again IAM is a lobbying site). Here are the actual numbers that InterDigital reported:

InterDigital announced its 2017 financials yesterday and while they didn’t match last year’s blockbuster performance, the company still saw total income of a little over $530 million.

It was $665.9 million in 2016, so ignore the spin from IAM. They try to make negatives look like positives.

In another new pick from IAM, there’s this about RPX. “Not happy viewing for RPX investors,” IAM wrote. To say the least. The attached chart shows just how big a tumble they took. Days earlier IAM spoke of “strategic alternatives” (there are rumours about a troll buying them). To quote:

Yesterday, defensive patent aggregator RPX announced its fourth quarter and full financial year 2017 results, and revealed what readers of this blog have known for several weeks: a “for sale” sign has been erected by the firm – or, as the company put it in a press release: “The Board of Directors is conducting a process to explore and evaluate strategic alternatives to maximise shareholder value.”


Roberts didn’t touch on client losses; although as we reported last month Microsoft has declined to renew its membership, becoming the highest profile business to pull out. It’s not clear yet if other large tech players, which form the bedrock of RPX’s membership, will follow but if the defensive aggregator’s guidance is any indication then the company is steeling itself for further losses or at least for a reduction in the dues from existing members.

IAM speaks of a “sharp decline in business”, but RPX can have no “decline in business” because it’s not a business, it’s a trolls feeder. Will it soon feed a major troll as recent rumours have been suggesting?

Chinese Firms Dominate the Chinese Mobile Market Where Patents Are Used for Nationalist Protectionism

Saturday 24th of February 2018 11:51:39 AM

China now uses patents like it uses speech restrictions/censorship (as a trade barrier)

Summary: China’s patent offensive, which is far from a charm offensive, may mean that foreign companies won’t survive in the Chinese market, which is itself dominated by companies that are closely connected to the Chinese Communist Party, also known as the Communist Party of China (CPC)

THE patent bubble in China is a fascinating thing. As we noted in our previous post, patent numbers are on the decline in the West (unless one counts only Chinese applications at USPTO, EPO etc.), whereas in China’s SIPO patent filings now go through the roof while patent litigation continues to soar. There’s not so much press coverage about it, at least not in English. As Chinese patents are written in Mandarin there’s also little chance of finding any Western press coverage about these. The consensus is that these are low-quality patents and it’s likely that only the ‘good ones’ reach the USPTO, EPO etc. In other words, those which Westerners can actually read are the better ones.

“The consensus is that these are low-quality patents and it’s likely that only the ‘good ones’ reach the USPTO, EPO etc.”China appears to have found a ‘hack’. It just floods the market with patents as means of trade war/sanctions strategy. The US appears to have been slow to react, citing mostly “security” — not patents — as a pretext (they used to just call Chinese products “knockoff” and/or “piracy’). Both the US and China can now happily pretend to themselves that they don’t engage in a trade war and instead hide behind the mask of back doors, patents, and human rights. The US government discourages carriers from stocking ZTE and Huawei phones while publicly asking people not to buy these (outside contracts with carriers). This is all public information — the type of stuff we habitually cover in our daily links.

To people who are accustomed to thinking of “Asia” (or east Asia) as one big country it may be confusing to learn about tensions (military, trade etc.) between Japan, Korea and China. Sure, a lot of the production is outsourced to mainland China (the US isn’t the only country doing so, even Taiwan does). China itself has a very ‘conservative’ government and it’s actively trying to promote homegrown Chinese brands, not Korean and Japanese ones. So it’s hardly surprising that China’s government-connected firms try to elbow not just small (not government-connected) firms aside/out of the market but also foreign firms.

“…it’s hardly surprising that China’s government-connected firms try to elbow not just small (not government-connected) firms aside/out of the market but also foreign firms.”China now uses patents — however shallow — to push out foreign companies (LG already left). That’s just our humble assessment. How long before Samsung too decides that the cost of legal battles isn’t worth its gradually-shrinking share of the Chinese market? Here’s a new article with market share figures for China. Chinese firms already dominate, not even Taiwanese firms (big brands like ASUS/Acer/HTC). Apple’s (US) market share is at a meager 11%.

IAM said that “Samsung and Huawei have fared in 42 Chinese patent cases against each other so far,” having written about “the 42 patent cases Huawei and Samsung have so far fought against each other in China”.

The patent and FRAND dispute between Huawei and Samsung is taking place in both the United States and China. But the speed of the judicial machinery in the latter has made Huawei’s home turf more immediately relevant. That has the Korean company worried – as this blog reported earlier in the month, Samsung has asked a judge in California’s Northern District to prevent Huawei from enforcing an injunction it earned in January from the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court. While the Chinese court order has not come into effect, it could do so “within months” if and when avenues for appeal run out.

More than half a decade ago we wrote about Samsung commanding the chart for number of patents in Europe. Now it’s China though. There’s this new article about Samsung’s patent on a “display right before your eyes” or “display that can fly and be controlled by your eyes”; it doesn’t matter how much technical leadership Samsung may have, being Korean is going to mean tough competition in China. Samsung’s opportunities are likely to be found in the US where, in spite of Apple enjoying high share (it’s a US company), Chinese brands are suppressed by a China-hostile government, whereas South Korea is a strong ally (for historical reasons).

Not Just EPO: USPTO Too Will See Patent Filings Declining

Saturday 24th of February 2018 11:07:07 AM

EPO already lowered the fees (we assume in order to artificially inflate the numbers again)

Up the quality, down the drain bad patents

Summary: The retreat from patent maximalism, as well as the lowered perceived value of patents, may mean that fewer people/companies now pursue patents or bother with litigation (they work on technology instead)

THE EPO saw a decline in the number of patent applications in spite of — or because of — ‘dilution’ of patents and harm to the reputation of European Patents (EPs). The USPTO too is said to be expecting this in spite of — or because of — decline in the perceived value of US patents. Far too many had been granted over the past decade or two, including a lot of software patents which now turn out to be worthless.

As William New put it 4 days ago:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is predicting a slight decline in some patent filings for 2018 and 2019, including through the international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Trademarks, meanwhile, will likely see slowing growth.

WIPO still claims some sort of all-time record, hailing China with its low-quality, government-supported patent gold rush.

Does that mean that the US is losing it? Not at all. It just means that the litigation ‘industry’ is losing it. It’s less capable of harassing productive companies with frivolous litigation (at both ends).

4 days ago and again yesterday the CCIA wrote about the patent ‘industry’ claims that tougher patent regulations/rules ruin the economy; facts are not on their side.

To quote Patent Progress (CCIA):

After examining the evidence for U.S. innovation as shown by startups and venture capital, and by R&D spending, I want to look at patenting activity—new patent applications and new patent grants. Particularly given accusations that the U.S. patent system has fallen behind other systems worldwide—accusations based on extremely questionable analysis—it’s worth looking at what patent activity can tell us about innovation.

Overall, patent activity is an inaccurate indicator of innovation and of future innovation—after all, an environment in which billions of incremental patents issued would quickly cease to show any innovation as patent hold-up ground inventive activities to a halt. With that in mind, changes in new patent applications and grants likely do have some level of correlation to changes in the amount of innovative activity.

This upsets nobody but patent trolls.

The latter article is titled “A New § 101 Trio Shows That We Don’t Need § 101 Legislation” and it’s about a couple of (or three, albeit most name just two) cases we recently wrote about. To quote:

The Bilski, Alice, Mayo, and Myriad cases are sometimes referred to as a § 101 quartet because they set forth the Supreme Court’s test for patentable subject matter under § 101. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a new trio of § 101 cases emerge from Federal Circuit panels—Berkheimer, Aatrix, and Automated Tracking.

Like we said in our last post, these decisions hardly changed anything, but they certainly get hyped up by those looking to undermine Section 101.

Automated Tracking Solutions, Aatrix and Berkheimer Don’t Change Anything; They’re Exploited by Patent Extremists to Pressure/Mislead/Insult Judges

Saturday 24th of February 2018 10:38:54 AM

Berkheimer and Aatrix are ‘old’ and the US patent microcosm has become a lot like the Trump administration, habitually insulting judges (even racially, however subtle that may seem)

Loss of civility (the Internet never ‘forgets’). The patent microcosm also insults judges (the above has been removed since), perpetuating the long-running insult/innuendo that judges who invalidate patents don’t care about facts or are "impotent" (in the case above, there’s also a racial slant). At the same time, judges that are actually caught engaging in serious misconduct (and call other judges “death squads”) are defended by them because of their pro-trolls, pro-software patents stance. At the patent microcosm’s spheres, bias is revealing. They want more and more patents and they vehemently hate quality control for patents. They even call rejections and invalidations “kills” and call judges that they don’t like a “cabal that rubberstamps these rejections” (are examiners a "cabal that rubberstamps low-quality applications"?); Only yesterday one of them called judges the “death squad” CRAWFORD, MOHANTY, BAYAT,” in effect comparing patent judges to executioners, which is not fair and far from respectful.

Summary: The intentional lies, in addition to insults directed at judges who push back against patent maximalism, represent a new low for the US patent ‘industry’; like a pack of wild hyenas they just gang up against those who do the rational thing and what makes economic sense for their country

THE US patent system is no longer open to software patents. No matter how many of them the USPTO will allow to slip through, PTAB and district/federal courts will almost always say “no”. In our next post we’ll talk about the consequences of this.

We are very disturbed to see patent law firms succumbing to the tactics of Team UPC. Truth no longer matters to them, so they just lie whenever that suits their financial agenda. They hope that by misleading potential/prospective clients they can make a quick buck. US patent law firms try to ‘sell’ services around software patents (applications, urging clients to sue with weak patents and so on), whereas Team UPC offers consultation around/about a system which will never exist.

If those who are reading this at the moment are patent lawyers/attorneys, we suggest you watch out because you unwittingly cause a legitimacy crisis for your whole profession. By going overboard, as many of you do, you inevitably cause clients to distrust if not shun you. Be honest. Be helpful. Don’t be so greedy and self-serving. Truth should be paramount, not short-term profits.

This legitimacy crisis would be further exacerbated by a pattern of judge-bashing. It makes sense for friends of the judge-bashing Watchtroll to not only bash judges for their rulings but also for their heritage. Just like ‘their’ President Donald Trump who called/labeled a US-born judge “Mexican” after he had ruled against him. A few days ago Dennis Crouch apologised for saying something potentially racist about judge Reyna. It’s no secret that judge Reyna received some publicity recently because of a major case — one whose outcome isn’t quite as major.

Joseph Robinson and Robert Schaffer wrote about this at Watchtoll and so did many others (we responded to them in our posts about Aatrix [1, 2]).

Long story short, patent law firms want us to believe that everything has just changed. Here’s Watchtoll writing about it (4 days ago) and IAM cross-posting its nonsense about Aatrix a few days after Richard Lloyd had delivered his usual propaganda. Sites like Patently-O, Watchtroll and IAM are the most notorious cornerstones of the patent extremists’ echo chamber. They seem incapable/unable to objectively report on cases as objective reporting might upset/alienate subscribers/regulars.

Here we have Patently-O‘s Dennis Crouch repeating the myth that Alice is now “in a somewhat confused state.” It’s a lie. Cherry-picking and distortion is all that boils down to. To quote: “Following the Federal Circuit’s decisions in Berkheimer, AATRIX, and ATS, the role of evidence and factual conclusions in the eligibility analysis is in a somewhat confused state. That setup makes Cleveland Clinic’s recent petition for writ of certiorari quite timely.”

Actually, it’s not confused at all. Aatrix was also boosted by Charles Bieneman, whose less-than-a-year-old blog said the following (also about Berkheimer, not just Aatrix):

In vacating a motion to dismiss because it disagreed with a district court’s finding that patent claims were “invalid as directed to ineligible subject matter under 35 USC § 101,” a Federal Circuit panel has made explicit a debate about whether patent-eligibility is a question of law or requires factual determinations. Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green Shades Software, Inc., No. 2017-1452 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 14, 2018) (precedential). Judge Moore, joined by Judge Taranto, wrote the majority opinion. Judge Reyna concurred in part and dissented in part. As noted in the PatentlyO blog, the outcome of this debate, raised in Judge Moore’s recent opinion in Berkheimer v. HP, Inc., has important ramifications for litigants seeking to resolve patent disputes at the pleading stage. But more than that, what if patent examiners were required to make explicit factual findings in order for a patent-eligibility rejection to be sustained?

Berkheimer was covered here before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3]. It did not mean what the patent microcosm wants us to think (we did look at the original decision). Here we have a patent maximalist saying that “Del[aware] Judge holds home audio patent invalid under Alice; Said Berkheimer did not apply: …”

Yes, because it barely matters at all. But law firms will carry on mentioning it for weeks if not months.

Dechert LLP’s Robert D. Rhoad said (on Aatrix Software, Inc. v Green Shades Software, Inc. and Berkheimer v HP Inc.) that it’s a “blockbuster”. It’s not. The patent industry likes (quite frankly as usual) to turn something minor into what they call a “blockbuster”; a reminder that lawyers are more like liars much of the time?

This was not a “blockbuster” and it wasn’t even a Supreme Court decision. This characterisation is therefore patently false. This is typical spin from the echo chamber. We wrote half a dozen rebuttals already, but that won’t matter. Rhoad paid to push his nonsense into several sites [1, 2] that are being read primarily by lawyers.

So did Michael Dorfman from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, who perpetuates a myth in the National Law Review. His final words are: “Taken together, these decisions indicate that the Federal Circuit is now more inclined to take a closer look at Section 101 decisions that are based on less than a full trial record.”

But that has not really happened since. As even gross patent maximalists put it, “PTAB continues to thumb nose at CAFC regarding requirement for fact finding in 101 rejections…”

Not only PTAB but also CAFC itself. As noted a short time ago by Patently-O, Judges Moore and Stoll already pour cold water on these patent maximalists who were Berkheimer and Aatrix fantasists, thinking software patents would somehow be spared. To quote Patently-O (whose bias is in favour of the maximalists):

The recent non-precedential opinion of Automated Tracking Solutions v. Coca Cola provides something of a backstop to AATRIX and Berkheimer. The ATS panel includes Judges Moore and Stoll – the two leading judges pushing for more formality in considering factual conclusions underlying an eligibility decision. In ATS, however, the panel affirmed a district court judgment on the pleadings that the asserted patent lacks eligibility. The panel restated its prior conclusions that “patent eligibility under § 101 is a question of law that may contain underlying issues of fact.” However, in this case the court found no material facts in dispute.

Bottom line is, whenever someone brings up Berkheimer and Aatrix (which will certainly happen for quite some time to come) be sure to bring up the broader picture. We already live in this post-climatic period, wherein Berkheimer and Aatrix are old news and barely worth entertaining as references in a court case.

Another important point is, don’t let patent radicals get away with racism (even if subtle and thus deniable). If they found some serious misconduct, such as the judge being married to a client of the plaintiff/defendant, then fine, point it out. But insulting the intelligence of judges (or their race) because you do not agree with them is a new low; we gave some examples of that in recent years (insinuating judges had dementia, in essence passing medical judgment on people whom you never examined, let alone met in person).

The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is Dead, But Spin From Team UPC is Now Abundant

Saturday 24th of February 2018 04:49:24 AM

Bristows seems to be promoting the EPO’s management again (even at IP Kat, which makes one wonder who controls this blog after the silence on EPO scandals)

Team UPC is as bad as Big Tobacco lobbyists

Summary: As we predicted, Team UPC is now denying the very facts about a German court agreeing to hear a major UPC complaint, exploiting blogs with a larger audience to spread falsehoods

THE UPC has been a zombie for quite a while and a few days ago it was the final nail on its coffin. EPO management has said not even a single word about it; silence in this case is deafening. As for Team UPC? That’s another story…

“UP & UPC Conference”, a relatively obscure account with almost no followers, carries on as though nothing happened. The UPC is effectively dead, but people/accounts whose whole/sole purpose is UPC promotion do not let facts get in the way. “Liz Coleman, Divisional Director of @The_IPO,” [UK-IPO] it says, “will speak at the upcoming UP&UPC conference on 3 July, @EPOorg in Munich.”

That’s 3 days after Campinos takes over and by that stage, more or less for sure, it will have been too late for the UK (of UK-IPO) to do anything about UP&UPC. Brexit timeline suggests so. So what is even the point of this event? They might as well just call it off to save people the trouble.

We are rather worried to see what goes on at IP Kat, which until recently had among its writers a Battistelli friend from CIPA. Bristows wrote no less than 4 articles in IP Kat yesterday (that’s just one day). Makes one wonder who controls the blog nowadays… the most prolific writer is from Bristows, which lies a lot for the UPC. Bristows is like a leech that uses other people’s blogs (Kluwer Patent Blog and IP Kat for the most part) to disseminate its lies because almost nobody reads Bristows’ own blog. It’s almost defunct. Yesterday, like 3 days ago, Bristows published a “test” page (long UPC ramble/marketing) and forgot to remove it. Why does that keep happening?

Anyway, going back to IP Kat, yesterday it published an EPO ad and it was posted by Bristows’ Annsley Merelle Ward; pure job advert. Also on Friday there was this EPO tweet which said: “More information on how to comment on proposed changes to our appeal boards’ rules of procedure here…”

They are trying to prop up the illusion of caring about the Boards of Appeal, knowing that the constitutional complaint against the UPC has a lot to do with it. It’s worth noting that Bristows’ ad for the EPO is followed by provocative comments (trying to accuse people who work for the EPO of greed). There’s a correction to that and another person points out: “Something of a misrepresentation to label the job “permanent”, I would have thought, since the period is only for five years.”

And Battistelli can just fire the person using false accusations. So much for job security…

“The ‘non-compete’ clause is unfair,” the next comment added. “Restricting people so they can only work for a non-competing European Patent Organisation is unduly limiting!”

And it’s only getting worse, as we noted in our previous post.

What has happened to IP Kat?

Mind the infiltration of Bristows spin in IP Kat comments:

I’m sure The Register will be publishing a correction shortly.
The Register: “The German Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a case about the legitimacy of the European Unified Patent Court (UPC)”
Kluwer Patent Blog: “According to a spokesman of the FCC [Federal Constitutional Court], cases on the list haven’t necessarily been admitted for decision.”

This is denial of facts by Bristows. We wrote about this before the weekend. Also see Bristows’ nonsense being mentioned in IP Kat‘s latest “Around the IP Blogs!”

To quote:

Kluwer Patent Blog reports that the final piece of legislation in the process of ratification of the UPCA in the UK (i.e. The Unified Patent Court (Immunities and Privileges) Order) by the Privy Council) has been formally passed, and it is available here. As a next step, the UK Intellectual Property Office will need to collect together the relevant evidence that all legislative steps have been taken to enable ratification, and provide this to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which will then check the evidence, prepare the formal instrument, have it signed by the Minister (Boris Johnson MP) and finally lodge it in Brussels. If given priority, this process would normally take a few weeks.

When they say “Kluwer Patent Blog reports” they should really say “Bristows claims” (anonymously because it knows it’s lying).

Kluwer Patent Blog and IP Kat have essentially become sewers where facts come to die. This is troubling.

Meanwhile, according to this account whose whole purpose is UPC promotion, we can simply ignore what happened a few days ago. Why? Statistics. Bristows kept using statistics to say that the complaint would be considered inadmissible and it was wrong. Now they use the same spin: “Since average pendency of constitutional complaints w BVerfG has been mentioned, this is the stats spanning 2008-16: 64% terminated in 1 yr, 22,6% in 2 yrs, 5,7% in 3 yrs. Importantly, this includes the huge number (among the 6000 filed annually)”

“UPC and EPC problems [are] complicated enough and still ongoing,” I told him, “it’s not like you can treat all cases as equal.”

The lengths to which these people will go are incredible. They live in a fantasy land and no matter how many times they’re wrong, they’ll just carry on lying.

There’s press coverage regarding the latest news, some of which in English (British media). Here’s WIPR with “German court agrees to hear UPC complaint” — an article that says this:

The German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) has agreed to hear a constitutional complaint disputing the legitimacy of the Unified Patent Court (UPC).

In June last year, the court announced it was delaying Germany’s ratification of the UPC Agreement because of the complaint, which was believed to have been filed by Düsseldorf-based attorney Ingve Stjerna.

Stjerna questioned the democratic accountability of the regulatory powers overseeing the UPC’s operation and the independence of the judiciary. He also argued that the UPC breaches existing EU law.

The complaint prompted the BVerfG to ask Germany’s Office of the President not to sign the law on ratification while the case was being dealt with, a request which the presidential office has agreed to.

Fair enough.

And back we go to Team UPC (“UPCtracker”) which says: “German constitutional complaint, further background/stats: the two Senates of the German Constitutional Courts had no more than 7 oral hearings in 2017.

So what? Does that mean to say that nothing will happen?

A British site for lawyers went with the headline “Unified Patent Court project at risk, warns Munich lawyer” just before the weekend.

Understatement. The UPC is dead, but this Munich lawyer refuses to admit this. Must be shellshocked. To quote:

Peter Koch of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that despite some positive news on the UK’s ratification process in recent times, an ongoing legal challenge in Germany is threatening to derail the whole project – even if the challenge is unsuccessful.

Germany’s Constitutional Court is to consider whether legislation approved by Germany’s parliament to ratify the UPC Agreement is constitutional after a complaint was filed last year.

Here’s a response to it from former ‘Kat’ David Pearce‏: “As I keep saying, the #UPC is dead. The UK would be idiotic to ratify before Germany decides on constitutionality. Best to keep it as a (rather small) negotiating card for now, but chances are it will not get a chance to be played.”

Even Team UPC took note of the above article, quoting: “Koch said that it is likely that, even if the legal challenge fails, Germany’s ratification of the UPC Agreement might not come prior to the UK leaving the EU. This would have implications for the whole project, he said.“

We expect the likes of Bristows to carry on lying for weeks if not months. Letting them lie unchallenged is not an option because they attempt to influence the outcome with these lies. They already increase censorship of comments in an effort to muzzle people who say the truth about the UPC.

EPO Roundup: Low Profile, Employment Changes, Patent Trolls, Refusal to Obey Courts, and Animal Breeding Patents

Saturday 24th of February 2018 03:52:41 AM

Breeding patents back on the agenda

Summary: A few recent developments and observations regarding the European Patent Office (EPO), which is in a volatile state and is making no public statement about the future of staff (‘canteen talk’ now revolves around alleged deep cuts to staffing)

THE EPO has made no announcements for quite a while. Low profile seem to have generally been kept so far this year. We’ve hypothesised about the reasons for this, but these are merely hypotheses. We can recall days (or months) when the EPO made plenty of controversial statements, but nowadays both the site and the accounts (of the EPO) say nothing of great importance. Yesterday the EPO spoke about “intellectual property & patents,” which is an odd way to frame things. “It’s misleading to say” that, I told them, “because the former is a propaganda term, the latter a law which is typically put under this umbrella that’s a propaganda term. It’s not a property.”

Unlike the USPTO, the EPO does not deal with anything but patents (the “T” in USPTO stands for trademarks). It’s important to separate all these things and not refer to them collectively using terms like “IP”, which perpetuates old falsehoods. Speaking of which, there’s that old canard about “innovation” in yesterday’s news from the US. Real “invention” isn’t to be measured in terms of patents, but the article “Washington state stakes its claim as a bastion for invention” would have us believe otherwise. To quote:

Washington was home to 2,220 inventors in 2017 (29.98 per capita), behind New York’s 2,290, Texas’ 3,007 and California’s 10,009, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data.

This has a lot to do with where large corporations are based, not with inherent spark for inventorship. We’ll revisit this topic later in the weekend. We intend to write a lot about the US.

It has meanwhile been reported in news sites that, just as we noted the day before, a Battistelli proposal had been watered down. To quote:

A proposal to scrap permanent employment contracts at the European Patent Office (EPO) has been halted and a controversial article within it withdrawn, a source close to the Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) has confirmed.

The original proposals were aimed at the “modernisation of the employment framework of the EPO” and would ensure its “long-term sustainability” and allow for a more “flexible management of the EPO’s workforce”.


According to the CSC, it would apply to all staff, including current permanent employees of the EPO, and gives the office the power to terminate the service of staff without any safeguards.

The source said that the CSC’s letter was a driving force in the withdrawal of article 53(f).

Additionally, there’s this new article about the ascent of patent trolls in Europe — based on a study that the patent trolls' lobby immediately attacked (within hours of publication). To quote:

Furthermore, according to the study, patents being asserted or owned by NPEs in Europe are more often successfully invalidated than those patents being asserted or owned by non NPEs. The study also shows that Germany is oftentimes the battleground for such litigation. Here, a defendant in a patent infringement case cannot bring a counterclaim for invalidity but has to attack the validity of the asserted patent in a different forum. This usually means either starting an opposition procedure, most often before the European Patent Office, or filing a nullity action with the German Federal Patent Court. In the latter case, the infringement case will usually have already been decided on – and the decision potentially been enforced – before the validity case is ruled on.

Last but not least, another law firm (Moeller IP Advisors) wrote about Battesteli’s latest INPI (Argentina) visit — a subject we wrote about earlier this month. To quote:

On February 5, 2018, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the National Institute of Industrial Property of Argentina (INPI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the introduction of the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) by INPI. The MoU was signed during a meeting held between EPO President Benoît Battistelli and Argentina’s Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun in Buenos Aires to discuss recent developments in patents and innovation and the cooperation between the two regions in this field. According to the MoU, INPI will start classifying its publications with the CPC by January 2019.

The CPC, which was launched by the EPO and the USPTO in January 2013, is now considered the new global standard for refined patent classification. It is already in use, or will soon be used, by 26 patent offices around the world. Argentina has joined other Latin American countries, including Mexico, Brazil and Chile, in the adoption of the CPC.

These nations barely have any European patents (compared to Germany for instance), so it seems like another cheap publicity stunt for Battistelli, who is leaving the Office in 4 months.

Battistelli’s legacy has been a very ruinous one not just for the EPO but for international bodies in general. Look no further than the latest comments at The Register. Here are some key ones (posted in the past day or so):

Given that Battistelli ignores all court judgements against him, seemingly with impunity, what will it matter how the court rules? He’s taking advantage of the requirement for unanimous agreement by the EO’s controlling bodies to ignore them, until he can change the rules to make himself an untouchable dictator for life.

This one he cannot ignore. If it goes against him it de-ratifies the convention which is the basis of him being in office.
Additionally, if memory serves me right, one of the other cases is his (so far) successful claim that he is above German law including labour law. This once again goes against German constitution which states that the ultimate law of the land is the German law and no other law can claim supremacy.
Even if the first case somehow (I do not see how) fails, the second will pretty much get him fired outright under German labour code. There and then.

I think at a certain stage, courts say “we disagree, and you’ve now got a prison sentance for contempt of court”.
And if he doesn’t turn up for that, then a warrant for his arrest is issued, and he ends up with famously humourless german police arresting him and unceremouniously tossing him in the clink.

The European Patent Organisation is recognised in German law as an international organisation with immunity (like diplomatic immunity).
So German labour law doesn’t apply to their workers. Diplomatic immunities do not conflict with the German constitution.

Surely diplomatic immunity only works if the hosting country accept it. At any time Germany could expel him, deport him to his home country and end the diplomatic immunity formally.
As an EU citizen he is probably free to re-enter the country, but with his immunity formally ended if he walked into the office and started acting as king again, there shouldn’t be anything stopping the humourless police doing their thing.

If the EPO is not subject to national laws, does that mean that employees are similarly not constrained by the law in their work?
This surely means that it’s legal for an EPO employee to provide lethal feedback to the management team?
Maybe someone should ask Battistelli if he’s sure he wants his organisation to have immunity from national laws.

Not implementing the ILO decision?
I was just wondering if anyone knows whats the come back against Battesteli and the EPO for not implementing the IPO’s [sic. ILO] decision?
As far as I was aware when it came to labour disputes, the ILO is the be all and end all. So its not like the EPO are waiting to appeal the decision. So what is the punishment from the ILO? There has to be some stick involved otherwise firms/organisations finding themselves on the losing side of a case would just ignore the result.

Yes, ILO’s reputation too is in peril now.

As one person succinctly put it:


The person who achieved something I would have thought impossible – giving megalomaniacs a bad name.

The repercussions of his power obsession seem to be endless.

There’s also a comment on quality of patents:

*retain* confidence Europe’s patent system? Get real …

…that would imply there was such a feeling in the past …
The European patent system is broken. There are absolutely no guards left against patenting the most obvious bullshit. Patents on as-per-the-rules unpatentable things (like DNA or code) are granted without hesitation.
Number of patents granted has replaced quality of examination as the number 1 requirement for examiners at the EPA.
That way the EPA is effectively laying out a mine-field in the way of future innovation.
Patent examiners critical of that development are pushed out of their jobs.
Regaining control over the EPA is the necessary first step.
Re-examining the patents granted in the last years and invalidating 90% of these would be a good second step.

It certainly seems like patents on nature are back at the EPO (even after the seeds/plant monopolies being voided along with CRISPR oppositions). From yesterday’s news: “KeyGene Crop, Animal Breeding Patent Upheld in Europe”

It’s mostly behind a paywall, but the publicly-available part says “KeyGene announced today the European Patent Office (EPO) has upheld one of its patents related to the improvement of phenotypic traits of plants or animals.”

This kind of patent has already caused protests in Germany. Farmers aren’t happy; it’s akin to those Monsanto (now Bayer in Germany) patents that accomplish nothing but cementing the market for few giant corporations.

Links 22/2/2018: Qt Roadmap for 2018, Calculate Linux 17.12.2

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 09:19:56 PM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • Why open source could be IBM’s key to future success in the cloud

    Do those same developers need IBM? Developers certainly benefit from IBM’s investments in open source, but it’s not as clear that those same developers have much to gain from IBM’s cloud. Google, for example, has done a stellar job open sourcing code like TensorFlow and Kubernetes that feeds naturally into running related workloads on Google Cloud Platform. Aside from touting its Java bonafides, however, IBM has yet to demonstrate that developers get significant benefits for modern workloads on its cloud.

    That’s IBM’s big challenge: Translating its open source expertise into real, differentiated value for developers on its cloud.

  • We sent a vulture to IBM’s new developer conference to find an answer to the burning question: Why Big Blue?

    At the first IBM Index developer conference in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, I spent the morning at a Kubernetes workshop learning that when apps on the IBM Cloud Container Service fail to deploy, the reason may not be obvious.

    The presenter, IBM cloud program manager Chris Rosen, framed the event as an opportunity to attempt to answer another question that isn’t evident to everyone: Why IBM?

  • Splunk competitor open sources two log analytics tools

    Splunk startup competitor has been rolling out new tools and new projects on the back of its seemingly healthy venture funding injections, which came in last year.

  • Launches Two Open Source Projects, Empowering Businesses to Build Scalable Infrastructure
  • Why Pay For Something When It’s Free?
  • Elon Musk leaves Open AI’s board due to potential conflict with Tesla’s own AI effort
  • Musk stepping down from OpenAI board to avoid conflict
  • Elon Musk Steps Down From Open Source AI Group

    Elon Musk will be stepping down from his role as chair of the board for OpenAI, a nonprofit organization he co-founded with Y-Combinator CEO Sam Altman in late 2015.

    Musk’s departure was announced late Monday evening in an OpenAI blog post about new donors for the organization.

  • Elon Musk, who has sounded the alarm on AI, leaves the organization he co-founded to make it safer

    Researchers affiliated with the organization regularly publish AI research papers and release source code for other people to use. Unlike Tesla — and companies like Facebook and Google that conduct extensive AI research — OpenAI doesn’t sell any products.

  • Comment: Many happy returns to open source

    Twenty years ago the phrase “open source” was first used and the development of software – and hardware – was changed forever.

    Very few designers today will not use some element of open source software in their development projects.

  • Events
    • Authentication and authorization in Samba 4

      Volker Lendecke is one of the first contributors to Samba, having submitted his first patches in 1994. In addition to developing other important file-sharing tools, he’s heavily involved in development of the winbind service, which is implemented in winbindd. Although the core Active Directory (AD) domain controller (DC) code was written by his colleague Stefan Metzmacher, winbind is a crucial component of Samba’s AD functionality. In his information-packed talk at FOSDEM 2018, Lendecke said he aimed to give a high-level overview of what AD and Samba authentication is, and in particular the communication pathways and trust relationships between the parts of Samba that authenticate a Samba user in an AD environment.

    • Two FOSDEM talks on Samba 4

      Much as some of us would love never to have to deal with Windows, it exists. It wants to authenticate its users and share resources like files and printers over the network. Although many enterprises use Microsoft tools to do this, there is a free alternative, in the form of Samba. While Samba 3 has been happily providing authentication along with file and print sharing to Windows clients for many years, the Microsoft world has been slowly moving toward Active Directory (AD). Meanwhile, Samba 4, which adds a free reimplementation of AD on Linux, has been increasingly ready for deployment. Three short talks at FOSDEM 2018 provided three different views of Samba 4, also known as Samba-AD, and left behind a pretty clear picture that Samba 4 is truly ready for use. I will cover the first two talks in this article, and the third in a later one.

    • A report from the Enigma conference

      The 2018 USENIX Enigma conference was held for the third time in January. Among many interesting talks, three presentations dealing with human security behaviors stood out. This article covers the key messages of these talks, namely the finding that humans are social in their security behaviors: their decision to adopt a good security practice is hardly ever an isolated decision.

      Security conferences tend to be dominated by security researchers demonstrating their latest exploits. The talks are attack-oriented, they keep a narrow focus, and usually they close with a dark outlook. The security industry has been doing security conferences like this for twenty years and seems to prefer this format. Yet, if you are tired of this style, the annual USENIX Enigma conference is a welcome change of pace. Most of the talks are defense-oriented, they have a horizon going far beyond technology alone, and they are generally focused on successful solutions.

    • DIY biology

      A scientist with a rather unusual name, Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow, gave a talk at 2018 about the current trends in “do it yourself” (DIY) biology or “biohacking”. He is perhaps most famous for being prosecuted for implanting an Opal card RFID chip into his hand; the Opal card is used for public transportation fares in Sydney. He gave more details about his implant as well as describing some other biohacking projects in an engaging presentation.

      Meow-Meow is a politician with the Australian Science Party, he said by way of introduction; he has run in the last two elections. He founded BioFoundry, which is “Australia’s first open-access molecular biology lab”; there are now two such labs in the country. He is also speaks frequently as “an emerging technology evangelist” for biology as well as other topics.

    • Notes from FAST18

      I attended the technical sessions of Usenix’s File And Storage Technology conference this week. Below the fold, notes on the papers that caught my attention.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Removing Support for Unpacked Extensions

        With the release of Firefox 62 (currently scheduled for August 21, 2018) Mozilla will discontinue support for unpacked sideloaded extensions. You will no longer be able to load an extension via the Windows registry by creating an entry with an extension’s directory (i.e. unpacked) after Firefox 61. Starting with Firefox 62, extensions sideloaded via the Windows registry must be complete XPI files (i.e. packed).

      • Making a Clap-Sensing Web Thing

        The Project Things Gateway exists as a platform to bring all of your IoT devices together under a unified umbrella, using a standardized HTTP-based API. We recently announced the Things Gateway and we’ve started a series of hands-on project posts for people who want to set up a Gateway and start playing around with the Web of Things. Earlier this month we began with a high-level overview of how to build a Gateway add-on.

      • Trying Mozilla’s Things Gateway

        I have an old Raspberry Pi 1 Model B with a RaZberry Z-Wave Daughterboard which I had soldered a larger external antenna on to last year. I used to run OpenHAB on it to control some z-wave devices before I moved last year and since then it’s just been in a box. Let’s fire it up!

        This original Raspberry Pi is a single core 700mhz CPU, so I’m planning on running it headless and doing everything remotely over SSH to save on GUI resources.

      • Lando Demo

        Lando is so close now that I can practically smell the tibanna. Israel put together a quick demo of Phabricator/BMO/Lando/hg running on his local system, which is only a few patches away from being a deployed reality.

  • SaaS/Back End
    • Worth seeing in Barcelona: Open source for white box vRAN solutions

      News this week from cloud and carrier infrastructure platform company Kontron builds on our earlier coverage of the emerging virtual radio access network (vRAN); a promising technology that could help the evolution to 5G by maximising available bandwidth while lowering costs. The market for open vRAN solutions is gaining wider acceptance as operators seek more cost-effective approaches to network architectures and deployment. According to analyst firm Research and Markets, the growth of the vRAN market is expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 125 per cent during the next three years.

  • Databases
  • BSD
    • OpenBSD Gets Mitigated For Meltdown CPU Vulnerability

      A few days back FreeBSD 11 stable was mitigated for Meltdown (and Spectre vulnerabilities), which came more than one month after these nasty CPU vulnerabilities were disclosed while DragonFlyBSD was quickly mitigated and the first of the BSDs to do so. While OpenBSD is known for its security features and focus, only today did it land its initial Meltdown mitigation.

    • Meltdown fix committed by guenther@

      Meltdown mitigation is coming to OpenBSD. Philip Guenther (guenther@) has just committed a diff that implements a new mitigation technique to OpenBSD: Separation of page tables for kernel and userland. This fixes the Meltdown problems that affect most CPUs from Intel. Both Philip and Mike Larkin (mlarkin@) spent a lot of time implementing this solution, talking to various people from other projects on best approaches.

      In the commit message, Philip briefly describes the implementation [...]

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Earlham Institute releases open source software to help identify gene families

      Researchers at Earlham Institute (EI) have released ‘GeneSeqToFamily’, an open-source Galaxy workflow that helps scientists to find gene families based on the ‘EnsemblCompara GeneTrees’ pipeline.

      Published in Gigascience, the open source Galaxy workflow aims to make researchers job of finding find gene families much easier.

    • 3 reasons to say ‘no’ in DevOps

      DevOps, it has often been pointed out, is a culture that emphasizes mutual respect, cooperation, continual improvement, and aligning responsibility with authority.

      Instead of saying no, it may be helpful to take a hint from improv comedy and say, “Yes, and…” or “Yes, but…”. This opens the request from the binary nature of “yes” and “no” toward having a nuanced discussion around priority, capacity, and responsibility.

    • 5 rules for having genuine community relationships

      As I wrote in the first article of this three-part series on the power and importance of communities, building a community of passionate and committed members is difficult. When we launched the NethServer community, we realized early that to play the open source game, we needed to follow the open source rules. No shortcuts. We realized we had to convert the company in an open organization and start to work out in the open.

  • Programming/Development
    • Snips Uses Rust to Build an Embedded Voice Assistant

      The team at Paris-based Snips has created a voice assistant that can be embedded in a single device or used in a home network to control lights, thermostat, music, and more. You can build a home hub on a Raspberry Pi and ask it for a weather report, to play your favorite song, or to brew up a double espresso. Manufacturers like Keecker are adding Snips’ technology to products like multimedia home robots. And Snips works closely with leaders across the value chain, like NVIDIA, EBV, and Analog Devices, in order to voice-enable an increasingly wider range of device types, from speakers to home automation systems to cars.

    • Rust Typestates

      A long time ago, the Rust language was a language with typestate. Officially, typestates were dropped long before Rust 1.0. In this entry, I’ll get you in on the worst kept secret of the Rust community: Rust still has typestates.

    • It’s Time To Do CMake Right

      Not so long ago I got the task of rethinking our build system. The idea was to evaluate existing components, dependencies, but most importantly, to establish a superior design by making use of modern CMake features and paradigms. Most people I know would have avoided such enterprise at all costs, but there is something about writing find modules that makes my brain release endorphins. I thought I was up for an amusing ride. Boy was I wrong.

  • Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again

    Self-driving cars need painfully detailed data on every inch of street. Can automakers solve the problem without the reigning superpower of maps?

  • How hard can typing æ, ø and å be?

    Last week, I was trying to type an email, on a tablet, in Dutch. The tablet was running something close to Android and I was using a Bluetooth keyboard, which seemed to be configured correctly for my location in England.

  • Science
    • Some black holes erase your past

      In the real world, your past uniquely determines your future. If a physicist knows how the universe starts out, she can calculate its future for all time and all space.

      But a UC Berkeley mathematician has found some types of black holes in which this law breaks down. If someone were to venture into one of these relatively benign black holes, they could survive, but their past would be obliterated and they could have an infinite number of possible futures.

    • Genetic study suggests humans may be evolving in a way that prevents alcoholism

      A pair of researchers with the University of Pennsylvania has found evidence suggesting humans may be evolving in a way that will prevent alcoholism in the future. In their paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, Kelsey Elizabeth Johnson and Benjamin Voight describe their study which involved analyzing data from the 1000 Genomes Project looking for emerging gene variants and what they found.

  • Hardware
    • Hitachi chip unit embarks on first patent battle as buyout firm prepares to take the reins

      On 1st December last year, Hitachi Kokusai initiated its first patent litigation going back at least to 2009, when it became a subsidiary of the Hitachi Group. Hitachi Kokusai accused Dutch competitor ASM International of infringing seven US patents related to semiconductor manufacturing. On the same day, ASM’s IP holding subsidiary asserted three of its own patents against the Japanese company. Both cases were filed in the Northern District of California, and while it is unclear which party played the role of aggressor, the fact that the suits were filed one after another suggests the two parties were well prepared for conflict.


      It is worth noting that other businesses have become more active in IP transactions and assertions after leaving the Hitachi stable. Maxell is the prime example. Formerly known as ‘Hitachi Maxell’, the company is asserting patents against seven major corporate defendants in the US, and has dealt patents to Fujifilm and NPE Microconnect in the past several months.

    • Qualcomm Raises Bid for NXP to $44 Billion

      Qualcomm Inc. pumped new life into its bid for NXP Semiconductors NV, raising its offer to $44 billion and locking up support from key stakeholders—a move Broadcom Ltd. had warned could prompt it to end its $121 billion pursuit of Qualcomm.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Plundering the Planet: Coca-Cola And Nestlé To Privatize The Largest Reserve Of Water In South America

      Private companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé are allegedly in the process of privatizing the largest reserve of water, known as the Guarani Aquifer, in South America. The aquifer is located beneath the surface of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay and is the second largest-known aquifer system in the world.

      Reported by Correiodo Brasil the major transnational conglomerates are “striding forward” with their negotiations to privatize the aquifer system. Meetings have already been reserved with authorities of the current government, such as Michel Temer, to outline procedures required for private companies to exploit the water sources. The concession contracts will last more than 100 years.

    • A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies

      In Great Britain, midwives deliver half of all babies, including Kate Middleton’s first two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. In Sweden, Norway and France, midwives oversee most expectant and new mothers, enabling obstetricians to concentrate on high-risk births. In Canada and New Zealand, midwives are so highly valued that they’re brought in to manage complex cases that need special attention.

      All of those countries have much lower rates of maternal and infant mortality than the U.S. Here, severe maternal complications have more than doubled in the past 20 years. Shortages of maternity care have reached critical levels: Nearly half of U.S. counties don’t have a single practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, and in rural areas, the number of hospitals offering obstetric services has fallen more than 16 percent since 2004. Nevertheless, thanks in part to opposition from doctors and hospitals, midwives are far less prevalent in the U.S. than in other affluent countries, attending around 10 percent of births, and the extent to which they can legally participate in patient care varies widely from one state to the next.

    • “We Count On The US To Maintain Its Commitment” – Global Fund On US Budget Cut

      The Trump administration proposal would dramatically reduce funding to these programs, some by more than 20 percent, while boosting areas like military spending, while pushing other governments to step up their funding commitments. The proposed reduction for Gavi from last year’s request is from $290 million to $250 million.

  • Security
    • Google drops new Edge zero-day as Microsoft misses 90-day deadline

      Google originally shared details of the flaw with Microsoft on 17 November 2017, but Microsoft wasn’t able to come up with a patch within Google’s non-negotiable “you have 90 days to do this” period.

    • Google Goes Public with Another Major Windows 10 Bug

      After revealing an Edge browser vulnerability that Microsoft failed to fix, Google is now back with another disclosure, this time aimed at Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (version 1709), but potentially affecting other Windows versions as well.

      James Forshaw, a security researcher that’s part of Google’s Project Zero program, says the elevation of privilege vulnerability can be exploited because of the way the operating system handles calls to Advanced Local Procedure Call (ALPC).

      This means a standard user could obtain administrator privileges on a Windows 10 computer, which in the case of an attack, could eventually lead to full control over the impacted system.

      But as Neowin noted, this is the second bug discovered in the same function, and both of them, labeled as 1427 and 1428, were reported to Microsoft on November 10, 2017. Microsoft said it fixed them with the release of the February 2018 Patch Tuesday updates, yet as it turns out, only issue 1427 was addressed.

    • uTorrent bugs let websites control your computer and steal your downloads

      The vulnerabilities, according to Project Zero, make it possible for any website a user visits to control key functions in both the uTorrent desktop app for Windows and in uTorrent Web, an alternative to desktop BitTorrent apps that uses a web interface and is controlled by a browser. The biggest threat is posed by malicious sites that could exploit the flaw to download malicious code into the Windows startup folder, where it will be automatically run the next time the computer boots up. Any site a user visits can also access downloaded files and browse download histories.

    • BitTorrent Client uTorrent Suffers Security Vulnerability (Updated)

      BitTorrent client uTorrent is suffering from an as yet undisclosed vulnerability. The security flaw was discovered by Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy, who previously said he would reveal a series of “remote code execution flaws” in torrent clients. BitTorrent Inc. has rolled out a ‘patch’ in the latest Beta release and hopes to fix the stable uTorrent client later this week.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Hackers now exploiting Word documents to display ‘innocent’ videos that secretly mine cryptocurrency

      Hackers have been found exploiting Microsoft Word documents to deliver cryptojacking scripts to hijack victims’ computers and secretly mine cryptocurrency. Security researchers at Israel-based Votiro said the attack abuses Microsoft Word’s Online Video feature that allows users to insert remote videos directly into documents without having to embed them or provide a link to a third-party service.

      Due to insufficient sanitisation, threat actors have been using this new feature to insert cryptojacking scripts that silently exhaust a victim’s CPU and mine Monero coins in the background while the video plays.

    • Lawsuits threaten infosec research — just when we need it most
    • Security and Vulnerability Scanning of Container Images
    • The TLS apocalypse reaches Power Macs and TenFourFox FPR6b1 available (plus: let’s block nuisance JavaScript)
    • France Proposes Software Security Liability For Manufacturers, Open Source As Support Ends

      It sometimes seems as though barely a week can go by without yet another major software-related hardware vulnerability story. As manufacturers grapple with the demands of no longer building simple appliances but instead supplying them containing software that may expose itself to the world over the Internet, we see devices shipped with insecure firmware and little care for its support or updating after the sale.

      The French government have a proposal to address this problem that may be of interest to our community, to make manufacturers liable for the security of a product while it is on the market, and with the possibility of requiring its software to be made open-source at end-of-life. In the first instance it can only be a good thing for device security to be put at the top of a manufacturer’s agenda, and in the second the ready availability of source code would present reverse engineers with a bonanza.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • ‘Abhorrent’ Hoax Facebook Posts Are Claiming the Florida School Shooting Survivors Are ‘Crisis Actors’

      Facebook said Wednesday that it will remove posts circulating on the social network wrongly claiming that survivors of last week’s deadly Florida school shooting are “crisis actors” working on behalf of a liberal agenda.

      “Hoax images that attack the victims of last week’s tragedy in Florida are abhorrent,” Tessa Lyons, a product manager at Facebook, said in a statement reported by CNET. “We are removing this content from Facebook.

    • Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

      Officially, the U.S. military objective in Afghanistan is to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, but just last month President Trump said that talks with the Taliban are off the table, indicating an incoherent policy, as Jonathan Marshall notes.

    • Next on NPR: Some Think You Should Put Out Fire With Gasoline

      If a measles epidemic were sweeping the nation, with a mounting death toll of children, it’s unlikely that NPR News would respond by bringing on Jenny McCarthy to explain why vaccination wouldn’t save lives. And if they did feature her or other anti-vaccination voices, you can be fairly sure that NPR would follow up with experts expressing the scientific consensus that vaccines do in fact limit the spread of infectious diseases.

      But when it came to reporting on the epidemic of mass shootings, All Things Considered (2/19/18) gave a platform to the gun debate’s equivalents of anti-vaxxers, in a segment that gave no scrutiny to their claim that more guns are the solution to gun violence.

      NPR quoted Rush Limbaugh on Fox News Sunday (2/18/18): “The solution, to me and I know this is going to cause all kinds of angst, the solution is we need concealed carry in these schools.” And Fox‘s Tucker Carlson (2/15/18): “Tragedies like this happen for a reason, and it probably doesn’t have a lot to do with guns.”

    • Painting an Israeli Attack on Syria as Israeli ‘Retaliation’

      Israel claimed that it intercepted an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace on Saturday, February 10; Iran denied that it had a drone there. Israel then bombed a Syrian airbase, saying it was the command-and-control center from which Iran had launched the drone. The Syrian government shot down an Israeli jet that had bombed the base, and Israel subsequently launched more airstrikes against Syria.

      Reuters (2/13/18) described the latter airstrikes as Israel having “retaliated” for the downing of its aircraft. Vice (2/13/18) too characterized them as “retaliatory”; the Los Angeles Times (2/11/18) did the same three times. These word choices wrongly imply that Israel was acting defensively, when it was Israel who fired the first shots in the weekend’s exchanges: These outlets were saying that Israel was “retaliating” against Syria for defending itself against an ongoing Israeli attack.

    • Video games, not guns, to blame for school shooting, says Kentucky gov.

      In the wake of a shooting that left at least 17 dead on Wednesday in a high school outside Boca Raton, Florida, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) focused on violent video games as part of a “culture of death that is being celebrated” and leading to these kinds of incidents.

      “There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there’s nothing to prevent the child from playing them,” Bevin said in an interview on WHAS’ Leland Conway show Thursday morning. “They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who’s lying there begging for their life.”

    • Right On Time: Kentucky Governor Lays The Blame For Florida School Shooting At The Feet Of Video Games

      In the wake of the school shooting tragedy in Florida that saw 17 people slain and more injured, the following days have played out in a depressingly familiar fashion. It’s somewhat stunning to see such bloodshed result in the predictable retreat by most people to the defensive or offensive ground of their cause du jour. What should be immediately obvious to anyone seriously examining something like the mass murder of school children and teachers is that the reality that surrounds such an event is messy, complicated, and influenced by detail. Yet, as is our wont, entirely too many people decide that the solution to the mass shooting puzzle is made up of one or two pieces, rather than hundreds and thousands. It’s guns. It’s specific types of guns. It’s mental health. It’s rap music, or the waltz, or comic books. It’s one of these things that deserve our ire, or maybe two if we’re feeling generous.

    • My First Day as CIA Director

      Binney and other highly experienced NSA alumni, as well as other members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), drawing on their intimate familiarity with how the technical systems and hacking work, have been saying for a year and a half that this CIA/FBI/NSA conclusion is a red herring, so to speak. Last summer, the results of forensic investigation enabled VIPS to apply the principles of physics and the known capacity of the internet to confirm that conclusion.

      Oddly, the FBI chose not to do forensics on the so-called “Russian hack” of the Democratic National Committee computers and, by all appearances, neither did the drafters of the ICA.

      Again, Binney says that the main conclusions he and his VIPS colleagues reached are based largely on principles of physics – simple ones like fluid dynamics. I want to hear what that’s all about, how that applies to the “Russian hack,” and hear what my own CIA analysts have to say about that.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Debt for dolphins: Seychelles creates huge marine parks in world-first finance scheme

      The tropical island nation of Seychelles is to create two huge new marine parks in return for a large amount of its national debt being written off, in the first scheme of its kind in the world.

      The novel financial engineering, effectively swapping debt for dolphins and other marine life, aims to throw a lifeline to corals, tuna and turtles being caught in a storm of overfishing and climate change. If it works, it will also secure the economic future of the nation, which depends entirely on tourism and fishing. With other ocean states lining up to follow, the approach could transform large swaths of the planet’s troubled seas.

      The challenge for the Seychelles is clear on the coral reef fringing Curieuse Island, once a leper colony and now a national park. The mass bleaching caused by warming waters in 2016 has left the white limbs of branching corals lying like bones in a ploughed graveyard, with rare flashes of the cobalt-blue coral survivors.

      “The biggest changes are climate change,” says David Rowat, a marine scientist and diving school owner for 30 years, who says storms and bleaching events are becoming more frequent. Some clownfish have never returned since the major bleaching in 1998, he says: “The ‘nemos’ all went.” As the reef recovered, the 2016 bleaching was a “kick in the teeth”, Rowat says.

    • New rebellion against wind energy stalls or stops projects

      Much of the opposition is centered in the Midwest, which has the nation’s greatest concentration of turbines. Opponents have banded together to block wind projects in at least half a dozen states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana and Michigan. Disputes are still being waged in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Maryland. Intense opposition also exists in parts of the Northeast, including Maine, New York and Vermont.

      For many critics, their opposition starts with a simple disdain for the metal towers that support blades half the length of a football field. They want the views from their kitchen window or deck to be of farmland or hills, not giant wind-harnessing machinery.


      Some wind supporters believe that fossil-fuel industries help fund organizations that oppose wind developments. Studies and claims by those groups then can motivate grassroots groups, said David Anderson, a policy manager with the New Hampshire-based Energy and Policy Institute, which supports renewable energy options.

  • Finance
    • Special Investigation: The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett’s Billions

      Buffett makes no secret of his fondness for monopoly. He repeatedly highlights the key to his personal fortune: finding businesses surrounded by a monopoly moat, keeping competitors at bay. “[W]e think in terms of that moat and the ability to keep its width and its impossibility of being crossed,” Buffett told the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting in 2000. “We tell our managers we want the moat widened every year.”

    • CBA avoids talk of customers leaving bank due to Apple Pay

      The Commonwealth Bank appears to be unwilling to in any way talk about the possibility that the lack of Apple Pay on its platforms may lead to customers deserting the bank in favour of one that does offer the payment option.

    • Yale student who secretly lived in ventilation shaft
    • Stormzy to Theresa May: Where’s the money for Grenfell?

      A British artist has taken Prime Minister Theresa May to task, rapping about the government’s failure to provide support to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

      After Stormzy’s 40-second verse on stage at the 2018 Brit music awards on Wednesday evening won him praise, Number 10 defended its record over the deadly London blaze in June, 2017, in which at least 71 people died.

      In his lyric, Stormzy said: “Yo, Theresa May where’s the money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages? You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages. You should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.”

    • Bitcoins for free? Japanese cryptocurrency exchange lands in hot water again

      A blunder at a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange let investors briefly buy bitcoins for free – though none were able to profit from the mistake.

      Zaif, a government-registered exchange run by Osaka-based Tech Bureau Corp, said on Tuesday that a system glitch had let seven customers buy bitcoin with no yen value during a 20-minute window last week.

    • Policy Choices, Not ‘the Market,’ Produce a ‘Small Number of Very Wealthy People’

      It is amazing how frequently we hear people asserting that the massive inequality we are now seeing in the United States is the result of an unfettered market. I realize that this is a convenient view for those who are on the upside of things, but it also happens to be nonsense.

      The latest nonsense-pusher is Amy Chua, who warns in a New York Times column (2/20/18) about the destructive path the United States is now on, where a disaffected white population takes out its wrath on economic elites and racial minorities. The key part missing from the story is that the disaffected masses really do have a legitimate gripe.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Russian man arrested after speaking about work at ‘[astroturfer] farm’

      A Russian man said Tuesday he was arrested shortly after he spoke to U.S. media outlets about his time working at a “[astroturfer] factory.”

      Marat Mindiyarov told The Moscow Times he was detained by police Sunday night for allegedly making a false phone call about a bomb in a nearby village. He was released after questioning, and denies all charges against him, he told the newspaper.

      Mindiyarov spoke to The Washington Post and The Associated Press after the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for allegedly attempting to interfere in the 2016 election.

    • Former ‘Kremlin [Astroturfer]‘ Arrested After Speaking to Western Journalists

      Before his arrest, Mindiyarov had given several interviews to U.S. outlets about his role as an employee at the Internet Research Agency, a company allegedly financed by Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was named in Mueller’s indictment on Friday.

    • Kushner resisting giving up top access amid scrutiny over security clearances: report
    • How Much Did Russian Interference Affect The 2016 Election?
    • Pennsylvania’s New Map Helps Democrats. But It’s Not A Democratic Gerrymander.

      Earlier this year, FiveThirtyEight presented seven alternatives to the current congressional maps of Pennsylvania and every other state, each using a different set of criteria. (One prioritized creating competitive districts, for example; another tried to maximize the number of majority-minority districts.) In addition to estimating the electoral implications of each map, we used other measurements to compare them. The goal was to show how different priorities in drawing district lines are sometimes in tension, and you can see that in the new Pennsylvania map.

    • Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map

      The state Supreme Court struck down the current lines in January, arguing that they’re an unconstitutional creation of partisan gerrymandering. Under the current map, Democrats hold just five of the 18 congressional seats, even though Democrats regularly perform well in statewide elections.

    • The Geeks Who Put a Stop to Pennsylvania’s Partisan Gerrymandering

      Districts like Pennsylvania’s seventh don’t get drawn that way by accident. They’re designed by dint of the centuries-old practice of gerrymandering, in which the party in power carves up the electoral map to their favor. The playbook is simple: Concentrate as many of your opponents’ votes into a handful of districts as you can, a tactic known as “packing.” Then spread the remainder of those votes thinly across a whole lot of districts, known as “cracking.” If it works as intended, the opposition will win a few districts by a landslide, but never have enough votes in the rest to win the majority of seats. The age of computer-generated data splicing has made this strategy easier than ever.

    • Indonesian President Jokowi puts off signing law protecting Parliament
    • Philippines concerned as US intelligence tags Duterte a threat to democracy
    • A So-Called Expert’s Uneasy Dive Into the Trump-Russia Frenzy

      Whenever the Internet Research Agency is in the news, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was one of the first U.S. journalists to report extensively on the St. Petersburg-based “troll farm,” which was named in the indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, issued last Friday. As a result, I am often portrayed as an expert on the Internet Research Agency and Russian online propaganda. In this, I am not alone. The endless unfurling of the Trump-Russia story has occasioned an explosion in the number of experts in “information warfare,” “online influence operations,” “disinformation,” and the like. One reason for this is that the Russians’ efforts tend to be framed as a kind of giant machine, in which talking points generated by the Kremlin are “amplified” through a network of bots, fake Facebook pages, and sympathetic human influencers. The machine, we are told, is so sophisticated that only an expert, well-versed in terms such as “exposure,” “feedback loops,” and “active measures,” can peer into the black box and explain to the layperson how it works.

      The thing is, I don’t really want to be an expert on the Internet Research Agency and Russian online propaganda. I agree with my colleague Masha Gessen that the whole issue has been blown out of proportion. In the Times Magazine article that supposedly made me an authority, I detailed some of the Agency’s disturbing activities, including its attempts to spread false reports of a terrorist attack in Louisiana and to smear me as a neo-Nazi sympathizer. But, if I could do it all over again, I would have highlighted just how inept and haphazard those attempts were. That the Agency is now widely seen as a savvy, efficient manipulator of American public opinion is, in no small part, the fault of experts. They may derive their authority from perceived neutrality, but in reality they—we—have interests, just like everyone else. And, when it comes to the Trump-Russia story, those interests are often best served by fuelling the fear of Kremlin meddling. Information-security consultants might see a business opportunity in drawing attention to a problem to which they (for a fee) can offer a solution. Think-tank fellows may seek to burnish their credentials by appearing in news articles—articles written by journalists who, we all know, face many different kinds of pressures to promote sensational claims. (How viral is the headline “Russian Internet Propaganda Not That Big a Deal”?) Even academic researchers, to secure funding, must sometimes chase the latest trends.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Man removes feds’ spy cam, they demand it back, he refuses and sues

      Last November, a 74-year-old rancher and attorney was walking around his ranch just south of Encinal, Texas, when he happened upon a small portable camera strapped approximately eight feet high onto a mesquite tree near his son’s home. The camera was encased in green plastic and had a transmitting antenna.

      Not knowing what it was or how it got there, Ricardo Palacios removed it.

      Soon after, Palacios received phone calls from Customs and Border Protection officials and the Texas Rangers. Each agency claimed the camera as its own and demanded that it be returned. Palacios refused, and they threatened him with arrest.

    • A smarter smart city

      An ambitious project by Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs could reshape how we live, work, and play in urban neighborhoods.

    • Facebook has been sharing our data for months to help study income inequality

      It is not clear exactly what data Facebook has made available to Chetty and his researchers or how personal and private information would be protected. The study has apparently been already underway for at least six months, however.

    • This heated jacket uses AI, Alexa, and other buzzwords to keep you perfectly snug

      If you consider the wintertime need to wear a heavy jacket into a warm subway car a “major wardrobe problem,” Ministry of Supply has a solution for you.

      The Boston-based clothing company, known for experimenting with technology, has just launched a Kickstarter for its newest creation, the Mercury smart thermal jacket. It’s an internet-of-things-enabled, heated jacket that’s controlled by an app, syncs with Alexa, and customizes its temperature using machine learning.

      That’s an awful lot of buzzwords. But underneath it all is a genuinely intriguing product.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Polish justice ministry refuses to show code for assigning judges

      Poland’s Ministry of Justice is refusing to make public the computer algorithms that are used to randomly assign judges to cases. The ePaństwo Foundation, an NGO promoting open government, in December asked the Warswaw Regional Administrative Court to intervene.

    • Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg’s family denied appeal to open his files

      They specifically want to know if Wallenberg was “Prisoner number 7” who according to records was interrogated on July 23rd, 1947 – six days after Wallenberg’s alleged death.

    • How Mediocrity Can Quietly Destroy Us All

      How much money would it take to convince you to become evil? A thousand dollars? Two thousand?

      Surprise! It’s a trick question. In reality, nobody is going to even make you the offer. The evil in the world doesn’t need you to join its side at all — it needs only for you to succumb to a warm, dense fog that will descend upon you at some point in adulthood.

      That fog is called Mediocrity

    • Inspector General For Intelligence Community Buried Report Showing Whistleblower Retaliation

      A report by Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast shows, once again, that those suggesting Ed Snowden should have used the proper channels to voice his concerns about domestic surveillance are either ignorant or deliberately obtuse.

      Just prior to the Snowden leaks, President Obama enacted Presidential Policy Directive 19, which was supposed to prevent retaliation for whistleblowing. It was issued in 2012 and went into force just months before Snowden left the NSA with a trove of documents. However, it did not protect contractors like Snowden. Those protections were added by Congress years later. Not that it really matters. It has been well established those protections are mostly worthless.

      Over the past year, there’s been a concerted effort to oust Dan Meyer — the person Intelligence Community whistleblowers are supposed to take their complaints to. Meyer filed his own whistleblowing complaint against the Defense Department, claiming IC officials retaliated against him for exposing waste and misuse of funds. Those gunning for top-level positions in Trump’s Intelligence Community have histories of retaliatory behavior against whistleblowers, which would further cement the reputation of the “official channels” as a good way to jettison your career.

    • Research Paper Links Police Unions To Increased Officer Misconduct

      Some research [PDF] has emerged indicating handing officers extra rights results in more citizen complaints. This may seem to be of the “water is wet” research variety, but there’s no reason to shrug this off. While most of us can infer that shielding officers from the consequences of their actions would naturally result in increased misconduct, almost all evidence to date has been anecdotal. (h/t Marginal Revolution)

      University of Chicago researchers were given the perfect chance to weigh the addition of a collective bargaining agreement against year-to-year complaint totals. Thanks to a 2003 Florida state supreme court decision, Florida sheriff’s deputies were allowed to unionize, finally joining their police department counterparts. This gave the researchers a dividing line for a before and after comparison. The results were unsurprising.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Mozilla v FCC: Mozilla Re-files Suit Against FCC to Protect Net Neutrality

      This morning, the Federal Communications Commission officially published its order overturning net neutrality rules in the Federal Register. We had originally filed suit early while simultaneously urging the court that the correct date was after this publication. We did this in an abundance of caution because we’re not taking any chances with an issue of this importance. That is why today, immediately after the order was published, Mozilla re-filed our suit challenging the FCC net neutrality order. We won’t waste a minute in our fight to protect net neutrality because it’s our mission to ensure the internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

    • The Death Of Net Neutrality Will Be Official In April (Cue The Lawsuits)

      Of course that’s really just the beginning of an entirely new chapter in the fight to prevent broadband monopolies from abusing a lack of competition in the broadband space (remember: net neutrality violations are just a symptom of a lack of competition, a problem nobody wants to seriously address for fear of upsetting campaign contributors).

      The publication in the Federal Register opens the door to the myriad lawsuits that will be filed against the agency. Those lawsuits range from suits by Mozilla and consumer groups, to the 22 state attorneys general who say they’re also suing the agency for ignoring the public interest. These lawsuits must be filed within the next 60 days. Expect the court battle to quickly begin heating up in March.

    • Ajit Pai’s Plan Will Take Broadband Away From Poor People

      It gets worse. Pai proposes to make the Lifeline subsidy available only to those companies that own their facilities, like the wires, towers, and other infrastructure that make up networks. The problem here? Seventy-five percent of Lifeline customers get their service from businesses that resell the capacity of companies like Sprint and T-Mobile. When the FCC opened the Lifeline subsidy to mobile phones back in 2008, these resellers came roaring into the market, increasing competition and reducing prices so that many subscribers pay little or nothing for service. Eliminating the carriers favored by three-quarters of the market will ensure that Lifeline prices will increase and quality of service will decrease.

      If resellers are forced out of the Lifeline program, some low-income Americans may find themselves unable to use their Lifeline subsidy at all. This result could have dire consequences—some Lifeline customers may find themselves without access to critical services like 911.

    • The FCC’s net neutrality rules will officially expire in late April

      The FCC voted to repeal the rules on December 14, but the repeal takes effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register publication is scheduled to happen on Thursday this week.

      That means the repeal will take place on or about April 23. But the lawsuits to overturn the repeal can get started this month or in early March.

    • FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday

      The official publication of the measure, which was first reported by Reuters, in the Federal Register will start the clock on the 60-day window that Congress has to pass a resolution reversing the FCC’s order to get rid of net neutrality rules.

  • DRM
    • Since 1998, using your own property has required regulatory permission and the ability to make your own jailbreaking tools from scratch

      In Did Congress Really Expect Us to Whittle Our Own Personal Jailbreaking Tools? — a new post on EFF’s Deeplinks blog — I describe the bizarre, unfair and increasingly salient US Copyright Office DMCA exemptions process, which is underway right now.

      This process takes place every 3 years, and it allows Americans to beg the Librarian of Congress for permission to disable the DRM on their own property in order to do legal things (like install apps of their own choosing, effect their own repairs, or just use third-party ink in their printers). After a long and tortured process, the Librarian may grant you permission — but not permission to buy or collaborate on the tools necessary to make that use.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Copyrights
      • Disney’s Stupid Lawsuit Against Redbox Results In Judge Saying Disney Is Engaged In Copyright Misuse

        Well, well. For the past few months I’ve been meaning to write about Disney’s silly lawsuit against Redbox, but other stuff kept coming up, and now a judge has ruled against Disney and said that Disney appears to be engaged in copyright misuse. This is in a case that Disney brought — and it appears to be backfiring badly. Redbox, as you probably know, has kiosks where you can rent DVDs relatively cheaply. It’s managed to stay alive despite the traditional DVD rental business disappearing most everywhere else. About a decade ago, Hollywood fought vigorously against Redbox, but the company survived (though being taken over by a private equity firm in 2016), relying heavily on first sale rights, enabling it to legally purchase DVDs and then rent them out.

        Back in December, however, Disney sued Redbox over taking its business to the next level and including download codes that could be purchased at a Redbox kiosk. Though it took them basically forever, Hollywood studios have finally realized that offering online access with the purchase of movies is a good idea, but they only want the end consumer who is buying a DVD to get access to them. So, Redbox would buy the Disney “Combo Packs” that offered the DVD and a download code, and the would offer the paper codes in kiosks to let renters watch the movie online. They weren’t just copying the code and letting anyone use it — it was still a one-to-one limitation with the purchase in that they would buy the DVD with a paper code on it, and then stuff that paper code into their kiosk delivery pods. Disney argued that this was contributory copyright infringement, even though the code pointed to a legitimate/authorized version of the movie and was legitimately purchased.

        Redbox hit back by arguing that the First Sale doctrine protected it (as it did with the physical rentals) and that it is free to use the codes in this manner as the legal purchaser. Disney’s response to that was that First Sale does not apply to the download code because it’s not the copyright-covered work.

      • The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 8: The Ineffectiveness of Website Blocking

        The Bell website blocking coalition unsurprisingly argues that blocking “regimes have been widely adopted internationally because they have been proven to work.” The submission cites data from several countries including the UK, Portugal, and South Korea. As demonstrated last week, the Bell coalition proposal has not been widely adopted internationally. In fact, the overwhelming majority of countries have rejected approaches that do not include court orders. Moreover, a closer look at the data reveals that website blocking is far less effective than its proponents claim.

      • Court Realizes It Totally Screwed Up An Injunction Against Zazzle For Copyright Infringement

        Last year we wrote about a bizarre and troubling DMCA case involving the print-on-demand company Zazzle, in which the judge in the district court bizarrely and wrongly claimed that Zazzle lost its DMCA safe harbors because the allegedly infringing works were printed on a t-shirt, rather than remaining digitally (even though it was the end user using the infringing work, and Zazzle’s system just processed it automatically). To add insult to injury, in November, the judge then issued a permanent injunction against Zazzle for this infringement.

      • EU Publishers Acknowledge Snippet Tax Concerns, But Say: ‘It’s OK, You Can Trust Us’

        Techdirt has been following the ridiculous proposal to extend EU copyright even further to include tiny snippets from articles for years now. The idea has already been tried twice in the European Union, and failed dismally on both occasions. In Spain, a study showed the move there caused serious economic damage, especially to smaller companies; German publishers tacitly admitted the law was pointless when they granted Google a free license to use snippets from their titles. More recently, the European Commission’s own research confirmed that far from harming publishers, news aggregators have a positive impact on the industry’s advertising revenue.

      • Australian Pirate Site Blocks Actually Block Pirate Sites

        New research, promoted by copyright holders, concludes that Australia’s pirate site-blocking efforts are paying off. The court-ordered blockades have effectively limited the number of direct visits to blocked sites. Whether the effect is as pronounced as claimed is unclear though, in part because VPN usage is not accounted for.

      • Sci-Hub Loses Domains and Access to Some Web Services

        Although some users have reported issues with Sci-Hub’s currently available domains on social media, a number of them are still active and accessible. “Sci-Hubs’ popularity has been steadily growing. And this is not only despite these lawsuits but also because of them,” Tzovaras writes. “I think if the publishers want to fight back against Sci-Hub they will have to do so outside the courtroom.”

      • Copyright Trolls Target Up to 22,000 Norwegians for Movie Piracy

        The Oslo District Court has effectively given a Danish law firm the go-ahead to target up to 21,804 potential pirates with cash settlement demands. Njord Law ran into trouble at the Supreme Court last year when it was found that its evidence against alleged pirates failed to show serious levels of infringement. This time around it has clearly learned from its earlier experiences.


        Reports emerged of letters being sent out to local Internet users by Danish law firm Njord Law, each demanding a cash payment of 2,700 NOK (around US$345). Failure to comply, the company claimed, could result in a court case and damages of around $12,000.

As Expected, Bristows and Others Already Lying About UPC Status in Germany, But Doing This Anonymously (to Dodge Accountability for Lies)

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 11:49:36 AM

Expect more of that in weeks/months to come

Summary: In their characteristic fashion, firms that created the UPC for their self-enrichment purposes, along with publishers/writers who deem it their role to promote the UPC and set up lobbying events for the UPC, look for ways to downplay if not intentionally distort what happened in Germany yesterday

THIS was predictable. Judging by how much lying we have seen so far — coming from Team UPC and EPO management — it would be shocking if they didn’t lie about it. So okay, bring it on. Let’s compare fiction to reality before the next wave of spin gets crafted.

As we noted yesterday morning, this whole ‘gamble’ on UPC may be costing a lot of jobs. UPC would not only threaten many productive jobs (e.g. cost of fighting trolls in courts or paying them ‘protection’ money, draining SME budgets); it actually threatens the jobs of examiners. This too was predictable and even though the UPC will never materialise (it’s very unlikely), it does a lot of damage to examiners. Regardless. What a blunder. Another casualty is patent quality, as we shall explain in a moment (judges are wrongly assumed to be substitutes for examiners).

“Be ready for lots of spin from Bristows and other Team UPC members,” I wrote last night. “They hate reality and they hate facts.”

It didn’t take long for the spin to come. Minutes maybe!

“Kluwer Patent blogger” (i.e. Bristows) is already spinning this latest news from Germany; it’s possible that this account gets shuffled among UPC proponents, but based on the style, context and wording one can make a pretty safe guess. It’s almost certainly Bristows. The firm does not want to be held accountable for lying, having written very briefly about this development in its private blog shortly after the news came out (we mentioned their short blog post on Wednesday night).

Here they are downplaying what happened, for example:

According to a spokesman of the FCC, cases on the list haven’t necessarily been admitted for decision. An exact date of decision cannot be derived from the list either. Actually, the complaints concerning the EPO were on last year’s list as well.

So they’re denying the facts. They did this after the complaint had been submitted and, as usual, were soon proven wrong. Is it like a job requirement at Bristows? To be a liar? Maybe anonymously?

They never ever apologise for lying, let along for being wrong. Is that too a job requirement?

Managing IP, another UPC pusher, did not cover the actual news but instead (re)used Team UPC’s spin right there in the headline: “German Constitutional Court plans to decide UPC case in 2018″

But the body does not even agree with the headline as it says right there in the summary that “it is not certain a decision will come in 2018 and, even if it does, the timing will be vital in determining whether the UPC is in effect before Brexit…”

It can take several years. Like we said yesterday, there’s no hard deadline.

For actually mature and responsible coverage see this morning’s article from Kieren McCarthy (writing about the German Constitutional Court from somewhere in San Francisco). To quote:

The German Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a case about the legitimacy of the European Unified Patent Court (UPC), raising doubts over the future of a single patent court for Europe.

Among the 36 cases that the Bundesverfassungsgericht has said it will decide on this year is a constitutional complaint – BvR 739/17 – against the UPC that argues it breaks German law.

The actual complaint remains unpublished but it has been possible to piece together the main arguments leveled against the UPC: that the vote to approve it in the German Parliament was not proper; that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (Brexit) breaks the agreement; and that recent reforms at the European Patent Office (EPO) have undermined its independence and hence the legitimacy of the UPC.

It wasn’t clear if the court would hear the complaint, and based on filings from organizations asked to provide their expert view it remains highly possible that the case will still fail. But the decision to hear it will push the creation of the UPC far past its planned launch this year (which was delayed from last December) and possibly into 2019 or even 2020.

That may complicate matters even further as the UK is still on track to leave the European Union in March 2019. The UK, Germany and France all have to ratify the UPC for it to come into force. So far only France has done so; it’s unclear whether the UK can or will ratify the agreement while Brexit hangs in the balance; and the German Constitutional Court has the authority to effectively tear the agreement up.


But the fact that it has even reached this point should serve as a wake-up call to the lawmakers and the patent industry that something has to change if confidence in Europe’s patent system is to be retained.

Check out the first few comments. One person said:

it is not clear whether the German Constitutional Court is in a position to rule against either the EPO or the UPC.
Sure it is. The primary argument revolves around the article of the German Constitution which states that only a German court’s decisions have validity over German subjects. This has been interpreted as “court with German representation”. ECJ, ECHR, etc are OK as they all have German representation.
UPC fails that tests – its panels can be convened in a way where a country has no representation. That is pretty much end of story – the convention in its current form is a classic case of some IPR lobbies thinking that they are above all law and can invalidate criminal, civil legal code and even constitutions with impunity.
The “Professional Jobsworth” product of Ecole d’Administration is just an icing on the cake.
By the way, I suspect Germany is not the only country in Europe with a constitution clause like this. I am pretty sure that some digging will turn up at least one or more countries to raise a similar court case.

The next (second) comment spoke about patent quality: “That would require that there was some minimal quality requirements in the past. As the EPO receives over 400 patent applications per day, the considerable backlog can be dealt with by replacing all the patent examiners with a monkey with two rubber stamps. This should have no impact on patent quality while at the same time releasing a large number of highly qualified professionals to do something constructive instead.”


What is the point of patent examination if it’s not done properly? Companies that are counting too much on EPs being valid see their shares collapse (example from 3 weeks ago). How about the bubble of CRISPR patents? Here’s a press release from yesterday:

As mentioned above, Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals is having an overwhelmingly strong start in the pre-market hours this morning, and for good reason. The company announced that it has been granted a new patent. In a press release issued early this morning, the company announced that it has received notice from the European Patent Office, or EPO.

But what would happen if the patent was later deemed invalid? That happens. Of course the shares would collapse in a major way.

How about all those software patents that are granted by the EPO in defiance of the rules?

Even attorneys who promote software patents in Europe admit limitations. Yesterday one of them wrote a blog post about it to say:

Software patent news from the EPO: Programming language constructs cannot be patented – not the commands, not their syntax and not their operational semantics, according to this recent examination appeal decision.

The patent application related to MATLAB‘s SPMD command. In case you don’t know, according to Wikipedia SPMD (single program, multiple data) is a technique employed to achieve parallelism, where tasks are split up and run simultaneously on multiple processors with different input in order to obtain results faster. SPMD is the most common style of parallel programming.

So they lost the patent. On appeal. Spotting the trend yet? Imagine how much it would cost if it went to court (such as UPC). Patents are risky in litigation (both plaintiff and defendant pay a lot of money), which Battistelli and UPC are facilitating along with other nations (making it easier to sue Europeans from abroad, even distant continents). The terrible assumption is that judges and courts can make up for low-quality patent examination.

Fasken’s Armand M. Benitah and Mark Vanderveken have just published this article about “Patent Prosecution” (“Domestic and Global Trends”; it’s about how companies can press ahead/push forward with patent applications and lawsuits far away, speeding up the examination process with PPH. To quote:

The PPH program continues to expand at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”). The PPH allows an applicant to fast-track the examination of an application by submitting a request to have positive work product from a PPH partner considered during examination, at no cost. CIPO entered PPH agreements with Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, and Poland in 2017, and with the Visegrad Patent Institute on January 6, 2018 under global or bilateral pilot agreements. This brings the total number of Canada’s PPH partnerships to 28. In addition, CIPO and the European Patent Office have recently decided to extend their pilot PPH agreement for an additional three years. Notably, the most recent additions to the PPH program point to expansions in South America and eastern Europe, whereas key industrialized countries were originally emphasized.

There are quite a few famous patent trolls in Canada. We wrote about them many times. When CIPO and the European Patent Office get together to work on PPH and UPC what they are basically setting up is a cross-Atlantic ‘fast lane’ for trolls that want to prey on European firms, most likely SMEs that lack budget for legal defense (and would thus rather settle without any challenge). That would be blackmail.

Nobody who actually understands what the UPC is (and let’s face it, almost no politician who signs in favour even brothers reading any of it!) would support it; unless of course one stands to profit from the litigious calamity UPC would cause…

Further Attacks on EPO Staff and the Appeal Boards; Former EPO Boards of Appeal Member Speaks About EPO Scandals

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 10:41:09 AM

It’s easy for her to speak out about these scandals now that she’s retired (just like Siegfried Broß)

Image credit: Sheikh it Sheikh it‏

Summary: In the process of devaluing EPO workers and perhaps preparing them for a large round of layoffs information is also revealed about further repressions against the independence of the Boards of Appeal

THE EPO is rumoured to be heading towards layoffs (700-1000 in number, i.e. 10-15% of staff), as we noted yesterday morning and CA/3/18 seems to be stripped apart by Battistelli, as we noted last night. “New Art. 53(1)(f) must be suppressed in the proposal CA/3/18,” another source told us overnight. “That was decided in the Board 28 meeting on Wednesday. So, the status of “permanent staff” is maintained. But the other foreseen changes probably stay in CA/3/18 (still to be confirmed).”

“We certainly hope that the German Constitutional Court is paying attention to this.”We are hearing these things (about layoffs and “permanent staff” status) from multiple independent sources, so it’s likely to be true. As time goes by rumours become concrete and eventually the press too reports these as facts (albeit belatedly, sometimes as much as a month late).

Here’s another new comment related to this (not many people will have noticed it):

Another curious detail is that in order to designate his deputy the President of the Boards of Appeal needs to have the approval of the President of the Office (CA/D 4/17).

The background to this arrangement can be found in CA/53/17.

We certainly hope that the German Constitutional Court is paying attention to this. Our next post will be about the German Constitutional Court.

In the meantime, however, mind the following new comment from Catarina Holtz, [1, 2], who describes herself as “former legally qualified member of the EPO Boards of Appeal, former Appellate Court Judge Stockholm” when she says: (probably in a rush due to a few trivial typos)

I am very impressed, Herr Bausch, with your astute observations. But, there is a problem for every international organisation, which tells us why we cannot succeed going national with our complaints. Why? Because all of them work in a deficient legal environment. There is no other constitution than the convention under which it works, there is no Parliament or Government, with their respective functions, governed by the people who voted them into office. one to adopt laws, the other to excute them. And above all, there is no access to any court to deal with complaints, be they staff grudges against treatment of them, or parties to cases who feel discriminated. ILO is the single way out and as some have already observed, the EPO might just disregard them. And mark this, this is the situation for each and every international organisation from the UN down (remember the Kompass case?). Study the case law of the ECHR on cases where staff of such isntitutions have tried to be heard, eg. Waite and Kennedy v. Germany or Heinz v. the conctracting states to the EPO. These are examples of why there is no access to the ECtHR, the states and the organisation are immune. So the effort of the EU to become a member of the ECHR is commendable, that would give staff and others a venue to be heard. The rest is not silence, but a continuous effort is required to make the powers of the EPO to see reason. What is happening there is disgraceful.

A lot of this can (and probably should) result in sanctions against Battistelli and the UPC. In a society which is based on law and order such behaviour cannot be tolerated. We don’t expect ILO to intervene in any way because it’s part of the problem and labour complaints/appeals arising from ILO end up in its very own Administrative Tribunal, as ridiculous as that ultimately sounds (no independence). If the EPO Boards of Appeal is controlled (indirectly) by Battistelli, who sort of appeal (against the Office) mechanism is it really? Imagine a UPC headed by Battistelli…

End of the UPC Lobby and Withdrawal of UPCA May Seem Imminent

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 12:31:13 AM

Retired Judge Siegfried Broß has long spoken out against the Unified Patent Court (UPC); and for good reasons

Image courtesy:

Summary: The Unitary Patent fantasy (of mass litigation firms) is coming to an end; in fact, the German government and courts (Bundesverfassungsgericht to be specific) now deem the complaint to be admissible and thus likely legitimate in spite of many attempts to shoot it down

The European Patent Office (EPO) barely says anything about the UPC. It used to. A lot. But it rarely mentions it anymore. The closest thing to a mention was today’s tweet that said: “Read more about the impact of #patent protection on trade & FDI in innovative industries in this study…”

It’s like a ‘template’ tweet that they cyclically shuffle/revolve in order for the propaganda to broaden its reach. Propaganda? Yes, propaganda. What they don’t say is that they funded it. In the process, the EPO entered controversial territories; it really corrupted academia (we explained this before). This is a serious matter. The EPO not only corrupts the media but also academia; and guess who’s paying for all this…

“The EPO not only corrupts the media but also academia; and guess who’s paying for all this…”EPO staff is said to be prepared for ‘chopping’ while the management corrupts the press and universities. It’s not cheap. It also pays something like 5 million euros for events that last just one afternoon (that alone is a year’s salary of about 50 examiners). As the EPO implicitly acknowledges (by mention of two Twitter accounts), it paid money to LSE (UK) and the University of Colorado Boulder (US) for UPC propaganda. Sadly for them, however, the Unitary Patent is dead regardless. How dead? Check out what happened today (it’s in German by the way). The ‘unitary’ patent regime is over. It is dead. Team UPC will not admit this, obviously.

We have spent a lot of energy and almost 10 years to help end it, so this is a relief. We expect press coverage in German and then in English quite soon. Will the press be heavily influenced by the spin of Team UPC, as usual?

“We expect press coverage in German and then in English quite soon.”“UPCtracker” (a UPC booster, as even his username serves to suggest) wrote: “BREAKING: The complaint against the German UPC ratification law made it on the list of cases to be decided by the BVerfG. No details available yet (see linked list, Justice Prof Huber, # 11).”

Richard Pinckney from Bristows stopped short of sober analysis of it. No analysis at all. Here’s what he wrote: “The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) has today published here a list of cases which it intends to decide in 2018. The complaint against the legislation enabling Germany to ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC), case reference 2 BvR 739/17, is included in cases to be decided by the Second Senate, with Justice Huber as rapporteur.”

Fair enough. Not much spin there for a change.

“Previously JUVE said it would likely take years, not even a single year, to decide on. There’s no deadline.”Christopher Weber (Team UPC) said that the “German Constitutional Court plans to decide within 2018 on #UPC and EPC complaints…”

IAM responded: “But when in 2018? If it is relatively early in the year and the complaint is rejected, there is an outside chance of German and UK UPC ratification before Brexit. Later on in the year and whatever the decision the UPC is dead in the water.”

Weber said: “Your guess is as good as mine. It’s No. 11 on a list of 26 for the 2nd Senate and No. 7 of 9 for reporting Judge Prof. Dr. Huber.”

“The very fact that IAM is pessimistic says a lot because IAM was actually paid to promote the UPC.”Previously JUVE said it would likely take years, not even a single year, to decide on. There’s no deadline.

I told IAM that UPC “has been dead in the water since a year ago, except for those who were asleep…”

The very fact that IAM is pessimistic says a lot because IAM was actually paid to promote the UPC. It’s like a lobbying group disguised as a publisher. Earlier today IAM published a self-promotional piece (that’s their business model) for Carpmaels & Ransford LLP in which the firm spoke of “Patent Box”. This sponsored ‘article’ actually trotted out an instrument of corporate tax evasion. To quote: “A wider awareness of the benefits of the Patent Box (a reduction in corporation tax available on the profits from patented inventions in the UK) may help to boost the number of patent applications filed.”

UPC is a scam. Patent Box is a scam. Earlier today we received new material about the EPO and INPI; that scam too will soon be covered here.

EPO’s Board 28 Spikes Article 53 in CA/3/18, Apparently After Battistelli Withdrew It

Wednesday 21st of February 2018 11:26:21 PM

“The draft “reform” proposal CA/3/18 will, if it is allowed to enter into force, put an end to permanent employment at the EPO.” –EPO insiders

Reference: Most of the world’s workers have insecure jobs, ILO report reveals

Summary: The latest plot twist, as odd as that may seem, is that the attack on the rights of thousands of workers (many of whom are rumoured to be on their way out) is curtailed somewhat, at least for the time being

The European Patent Office’s (EPO) demise is worrying. It’s inevitable, but it’s still worrying (layoffs are probably coming very soon, based on insiders). CA/3/18 was covered here yesterday, based on the words of insiders.

World Intellectual Property Review has just written about this: [via SUEPO]

The European Patent Office’s (EPO) supervisory body, the Administrative Council (AC), will deliberate an employment proposal put forward by EPO president Benoît Battistelli to recruit staff on renewable contracts of five years in March.

Battistelli and Elodie Bergot, principal director of human resources, added the motion to discuss permanent employment at the EPO during a budget and finance committee meeting in October last year.

At the time, a spokesperson for the EPO said that the office is in a “unique situation” with 97% of its staff hired on a permanent basis.

A first discussion of the proposal, which is called the “Modernisation of the employment framework of the EPO”, took place during the AC’s meeting in December.

The proposal has since been amended.

The latest on this suggests further amendments. An EPO insider wrote:

Breaking news: during Board 28 today the proposed Article 53 in CA/3/18 is dropped (withdrawn) – a revised version of CA/3/18 (without Article 53) will be published at the latest tomorrow. Rumor has it that the King himself withdraw the document. Yes, you read that correctly!

What is going on? Are rumours and panic influencing the plan? Will the management potentially rethink its utterly destructive actions?

“I was reading an article about the corruption ranking by Transparency International when I came across this short video,” one reader told us. “This reminds me of something, a kind of deja vu at the EPO…”

Transparency International’s connections to the EPO scandals [1, 2] are noteworthy. It’s like there’s nobody left to properly investigate and then press for actual enforcement against the EPO. Certainly not ILO (UN), the EU/EC, the German authorities, or even the Dutch government.

More in Tux Machines

today's howtos

Games Chronicon, BROKE PROTOCOL, Internet Archive

  • 2D action RPG 'Chronicon' to arrive on Linux with the next big update
    The colourful action RPG Chronicon [Steam, Official Site] should arrive on Linux with the next big update, the developer has said.
  • BROKE PROTOCOL is like a low-poly GTA Online and it's coming to Linux
    BROKE PROTOCOL [Steam], a low-poly open-world action game that's a little like GTA Online and it's coming to Linux.
  • The Internet Archive Just Uploaded a Bunch of Playable, Classic Handheld Games
    The non-profit Internet Archive is perhaps best known for its Wayback Machine that takes snap shots of web sites so you can see what they looked like in the past. However, it also has a robust side project where it emulates and uploads old, outdated games that aren’t being maintained anymore. Recently, the organization added a slew of a unique kind of game that’s passed into memory: handheld LCD electronic games. The games–like Mortal Kombat, depicted above–used special LCD screens with preset patterns. They could only display the exact images in the exact place that they were specified for. This meant the graphics were incredibly limited and each unit could only play the one game it was designed to play. A Game Boy, this was not.
  • Internet Archive emulator brings dozens of handheld games back from obscurity
    Over the weekend, the Internet Archive announced it was offering a new series of emulators. This time, they’re designed to mimic one of gaming’s most obscure artifacts — handheld games. When I say a “handheld game,” I don’t mean the Game Boy or the PSP — those are handheld consoles. These are single-game handheld or tabletop devices that look and feel more like toys. The collection includes the very old, mostly-forgotten games sold in mini-handhelds from the 80s onward.

Linux Foundation Videos and Projects

LibrePlanet free software conference celebrates 10th anniversary, this weekend at MIT, March 24-25

This weekend, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) present the tenth annual LibrePlanet free software conference in Cambridge, March 24-25, 2018, at MIT. LibrePlanet is an annual conference for people who care about their digital freedoms, bringing together software developers, policy experts, activists, and computer users to learn skills, share accomplishments, and tackle challenges facing the free software movement. LibrePlanet 2018 will feature sessions for all ages and experience levels. LibrePlanet's tenth anniversary theme is "Freedom Embedded." Embedded systems are everywhere, in cars, digital watches, traffic lights, and even within our bodies. We've come to expect that proprietary software's sinister aspects are embedded in software, digital devices, and our lives, too: we expect that our phones monitor our activity and share that data with big companies, that governments enforce digital restrictions management (DRM), and that even our activity on social Web sites is out of our control. This year's talks and workshops will explore how to defend user freedom in a society reliant on embedded systems. Read more Also: FSF Blogs: Friday Free Software Directory IRC meetup time: March 23rd starting at 12:00 p.m. EDT/16:00 UTC