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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 1 hour 5 min ago

Judge Corcoran Turns to His Government for Help and EPO ‘House Ban’ is Finally Lifted

1 hour 47 min ago

Summary: Sources that are very reliable say that Patrick Corcoran is coming back to work, however it’s now clear when and how long for

“I hear house ban is lifted”, a source told us, but “I do not know when how who.”

We wrote nearly 10 articles about it last week (see the chronological EPO index, which now exceeds 2,000 articles).

Will his contract also be renewed or will he be back at the job only until Christmas (i.e. less than a fortnight)?

This is becoming a political battle. Last night (Sunday evening) the Irish Times published this followup article that said:

An Irish judge at the European Patent Organisation (EPO) who was accused by his employers of bringing weapons and Nazi memorabilia to work and defaming the organisation’s president has written to the Irish government urging them to assist in his case.

[...]

On Sunday, Mr Corcoran’s solicitor said he denies the accusations and that they were based on “assumptions and assertions, but not on evidence”.

[...]

He said Mr Battistelli acted with speed to suspend him from work in December 2014 when the allegations first came to light. Mr Corcoran said he hoped he would act with similar speed to implement the judgment reversing this action.

He wrote that he hopes the “lamentable charade and travesty of due process which has been going on inside the EPO in the present case is finally brought to its long overdue end”.

Mr Corcoran’s central complaint before the ILO was that Mr Battistelli played a key role in the decision to suspend him and to later continue the suspension. He argued that Mr Battistelli was not a “neutral and disinterested party” because he was the subject of the alleged defamatory attacks.

We need feedback and information from insiders. Will the Judge be back to work (at Haar) today? Is he already back? Has Dr. Ernst assured renewal of his contract? If not, he should. That is, if Ernst is interesting in ever restoring the EPO’s reputation — however monumental a task it can be…

Raw: Battistelli’s Control/Domination Over the Boards of Appeal

Monday 11th of December 2017 12:58:08 AM

Full document

Summary: An old EPO document internally voicing concerns about the lack of independence at the Boards of Appeal

Raw: Conflicts of Interest of EPO Vice-President

Monday 11th of December 2017 12:46:36 AM

Full document

Also see: EPO Enlarged Board tells Chairman: “disobey President when necessary”

Summary: An old EPO concern regarding structural collisions and mixed loyalties

Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls Are Increasingly Active and Microsoft is Selling ‘Protection’ (Azure Subscriptions)

Sunday 10th of December 2017 10:46:07 PM

“Pay us and they won’t hurt you…”

Summary: There are several indications that Microsoft-connected shells, which produce no products and are threatening a large number of companies, are inadvertently if not intentionally helping Microsoft sell “indemnification” (“Azure IP Advantage,” which echoes the Microsoft/Novell strategy for collecting what they called “patent royalties” one decade ago)

FOLLOWING subjugation and infiltration, as documented here for a number of years, Microsoft has already passed many of Nokia‘s patents to trolls, took many of Novell’s patents, and may be watching Yahoo! patents landing on the laps of trolls.

Here is a pro-trolls site speaking to an RPX person who wants to turn Yahoo’s patents into an extortion racket. This is what IAM wrote some days ago:

Excalibur IP, the entity which owns a large portfolio of former Yahoo! patents, has appointed Paul Reidy as its new president, as its parent company Altaba looks to refocus efforts on monetising the stockpile of almost 4000 assets.

Reidy spent six years at RPX before leaving the defensive aggregator in early 2016 and setting up his own consulting business. Before RPX he worked for a couple of years at Intellectual Ventures and prior to that had stints at Freescale Semiconductor and Motorola. He will report into Altaba general counsel Arthur Chong and will work alongside former Broadcom IP counsel Anthony Dreux, who also recently joined Excalibur as general counsel.

[...]

As this blog recently reported Provenance Asset Group CEO Dan McCurdy suggested at an event in New York last month that the reason why the Yahoo! assets haven’t sold is that not enough companies are scared of them. Reidy conceded there was some truth in what McCurdy had to say: “If there’s no urgency, if there’s no reason for anyone to do anything, people aren’t going to go to their boss and ask them to pay for a licence if they don’t feel like they need it, so it is incumbent on us to show people that they need it.”

Notice that mention of Provenance Asset Group, which is looking to troll (sue/extort) companies using thousands of Nokia’s patents [1, 2]. This can become a marketing tool for Microsoft’s “Azure IP Advantage”, as we explained in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. This patent troll was also mentioned in IAM’s latest issue, in an article that spoke of “[a] record-breaking deal between Nokia and Provenance Asset Group shows just how important multinational patent portfolios now are to the patent buy-side…”

“Notice that mention of Provenance Asset Group, which is looking to troll (sue/extort) companies using thousands of Nokia’s patents. This can become a marketing tool for Microsoft’s “Azure IP Advantage”…”A couple more articles from this issue [1, 2] glorified such strategies and said: “Whisper it softly but the signs first glimpsed in 2016 are becoming stronger – the brokered patent market in the United States may just be in the first stages of a recovery…”

What they mean by “brokered patent market” is more or less akin to trolling. We often find Microsoft in the shadows (former executives and partners) and days ago we saw the serial patent troll that’s connected to Microsoft continuing to attack everyone but Microsoft (they attack almost all of Microsoft’s rivals). That troll is known as Finjan, an Israeli company which does nothing but litigation, and its latest target is Zscaler. Its latest declaration stated: “Finjan filed a Complaint (Case No. 3:17-cv-06946), on December 5, 2017, and alleges that Zscaler’s products and services infringe at least four U.S. Finjan patents.”

“We predict that in the coming years Microsoft will try to make money by causing patent chaos everywhere while offering “indemnification” in exchange for monthly fees (i.e. ‘protection’ money).”Microsoft is meanwhile stockpiling patents on things where they have a minuscule market share and are more likely pursuing ‘protection’ money [1, 2]. We predict that in the coming years Microsoft will try to make money by causing patent chaos everywhere while offering “indemnification” in exchange for monthly fees (i.e. ‘protection’ money). The dissemination of patents to trolls is very much what we should expect for this strategy to work.

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

–Mark Shuttleworth

“Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering.”

–Mark Shuttleworth

Yes, RPost is Definitely a Patent Troll and Its Software Patents Are at Risk Thanks to Alice

Sunday 10th of December 2017 10:00:48 PM

Packet Intelligence is also a patent troll, but Watchtroll has just called it “a patent owning entity”

Summary: The latest whitewashing (or reputation-laundering) pieces from Watchtroll, which tries to justify patent-trolling activities with software patents, typically in the Eastern District of Texas

Watchtroll, a notorious site which watches after the trolls, published this ridiculous piece 5 days ago. “RPost Does Not Meet Any Definition of ‘Patent Troll’,” Bob Zeidman (Zeidman Consulting) wrote. He basically said the very opposite of what everyone keeps saying. We wrote about RPost earlier this year (two weeks ago to be precise) and last year regarding GoDaddy v RPost. Patent Buddy, who habitually boosts Watchtroll, said a few days ago: “Second Petition for Writ of Cert for RPost v GoDaddy, filed by Inventors Group Urges Urges Reconsideration of Alice: https://dlbjbjzgnk95t.cloudfront.net/0991000/991131/20171205132501171_amici%20curiae%20brief%20and%20appendix%20for%20mercado%20et%20al.pdf …”

“Watchtroll, being part of the patent trolls’ lobby, basically uses a “I’m not a crook” defense on behalf of patent trolls, as usual.”The author, Zeidman, basically explains that once upon a time RPost actually did make something. But just because a company used to operate and used to have products does not mean it cannot become a patent troll. Litigation alone means troll. Watchtroll, being part of the patent trolls’ lobby, basically uses a “I’m not a crook” defense on behalf of patent trolls, as usual. In the next post we’ll highlight Microsoft-connected trolls of these kinds.

The following day, Watchtroll being Watchtroll, it wrote about Packet Intelligence taking bunk software patents to the notorious ‘court’ of Eastern Texas. What is Packet Intelligence? Watchtroll dubs it “a patent owning entity,” which obviously means a troll. The ‘company’ has no online presence other than lawsuits and articles about lawsuits. Here is what Watchtroll wrote:

On Thursday, November 9th, a jury verdict entered in a patent infringement case in the Eastern District of Texas held that plaintiff Packet Intelligence, a patent owning entity headquartered in Marshall, TX, did not prove infringement of claims from three patents asserted against Canadian communications service solutions provider Sandvine Corporation (TSE:SVC). The jury verdict comes less than one month after Packet Intelligence won a jury verdict of infringement on the same asserted patents in a different Eastern Texas case filed against Westford, MA-based application and network performance management firm NetScout Systems (NASDAQ:NTCT).

We sadly enough have media (syndicated even by Google News) which is run by, sometimes funded by and works for patent trolls. That’s not just Watchtroll; IAM and other sites do this too.

The Latest Scams in the Patent World

Sunday 10th of December 2017 09:11:46 PM

Summary: Examples of ‘dirty laundry’ of the patent microcosm, which it understandably does not like covering (as it harms confidence in their services/advice)

THE patent microcosm does not like to cover stories which are perceived/considered to be harmful to the patent microcosm. Simply put, the patent microcosm does not do journalism; it’s all marketing and lobbying.

Lots of patent extremists, even front groups of Microsoft (see this complete list), have just decided to weigh in on a patent “scam” (not our term) which is misuse of tribal immunity in the US. But scams in the context of patents aren’t so rare; in fact, we have covered plenty over the years.

“Simply put, the patent microcosm does not do journalism; it’s all marketing and lobbying.”Days ago we saw another example of the patent microcosm’s malpractice, “based upon mishandled patent litigation”. A blogger who habitually covers ethics (David) wrote: “Interesting case for a couple of reasons: (1) if you sue for fees you likely will face a counterclaim for malpractice (it’s not always but it is often); and (2) remember that because of Gunn v. Minton, malpractice cases based upon mishandled patent litigation or prosecution will be decided by state courts. I’ve testified in state courts on patent matters and it is a different world out there.”

Another post from the same blog then alleged that in a NobelBiz case “the patent does seem fairly silly and also fraudulent.”

“These sites/blogs typically dislike it when we pick out of them tidbits/stories which they would rather not emphasise.”David has also just covered Lex Machina. “Someone signed on,” he said, “but is (literally now) having a call with, I think a client, broadcasting this conversation on the training session. Not only that, they had the training call muted, so this person couldn’t hear the poor trainer trying to get his attention to stop broadcasting confidential information. She cancelled the call as a result, perhaps saving this fool from a disciplinary violation.”

The funny thing about all this is that the above comes from Patently-O, which is itself a centerpiece of the patent microcosm. These sites/blogs typically dislike it when we pick out of them tidbits/stories which they would rather not emphasise. They want to disseminate information (selectively) and would rather not have it seen by the perceived opposition. IAM, for example, is promoting patent trolls, but in the process it also reveals to us their mischief. We’ll give some examples in our next post.

Patents Are Becoming a Welfare System for the Rich and Powerful

Sunday 10th of December 2017 08:42:50 PM

Recent: The SEP/Patent Trolls’ Lobby Insults the Victims, Calling Them “Free Riders”

Summary: A culture of litigation and more recently the patenting of broad industry standards may mean that multi-billion dollar corporations are cashing in without lifting a finger

THE gross saturation of patents in the United States used to work in favour of patent law firms, at the expense of firms which actually produce things.

A few days ago we learned about yet another large sum (nearly 0.1 billion dollars) being passed based on a patent dispute/lawsuit that alleges “lost profits” (as if it’s corporate welfare, wherein you declare an entitlement for profits). We wrote about that subject a few weeks ago. “The lawsuit is related to WesternGeco’s patents on marine seismic surveys,” Patently-O wrote. “Adjudged infringer ION manufactures components of the system in the US, for assembly and use “on the high seas.” A jury found liability under 271(f) – exporting components of a patented invention for assembly abroad. The jury also awarded the patentee $12.5 million in reasonable royalties in addition to $93.4 million in lost profits based upon specific competitive contracts lost.”

“Since when have patents become merely a tool of ‘wholesale’ wealth passage?”So that’s even over 0.1 billion dollars (all in all). Based on potential alone, or the mere claim of potential.

Since when have patents become merely a tool of ‘wholesale’ wealth passage? Patents were not originally envisioned as such and this does not contribute to innovation, it just makes already-rich people even richer.

Now let’s look at so-called F/RAND, which ought not exist in the first place. It’s the basic idea that even industry standards are ‘owned’ in the patents sense, and we’re supposed to think that’s “fair”, “reasonable” and “non-discriminatory”. In reality, it is the opposite of all these things. It’s an unjust tax which empowers monopolies.

“It’s the basic idea that even industry standards are ‘owned’ in the patents sense, and we’re supposed to think that’s “fair”, “reasonable” and “non-discriminatory”.”A short while ago (in academic terms) Colleen Chien mentioned her new paper which can be found here. “Patent litigation is down but transactions are up,” she said. “I discuss in my new paper, “Software Patents as Currency, Not Tax on Innovation” @BerkeleyTechLJ”

Here is her abstract: “Software innovation is transforming the U.S. economy. Yet our understanding of how patents and patent transactions support this innovation is limited by a lack of public information about patent licenses and sales. Claims about the patent marketplace, for example, extolling the virtues of intermediaries like non–practicing entities, or characterizing software patent licenses as a tax on innovation tend not to be grounded in empirical evidence. This Article brings much–needed data to the debate by analyzing transactional patent data from multiple sources and reporting several novel findings. First, this study finds that, despite reductions in the enforceability of software parents and levels of patent litigation, the market for software patents has remained remarkably robust, and actually grown in the number of transacted assets. The strength of this demand appears to be driven by the defensive—not only offensive—value of software patents, the importance of software–driven business models, and bargain shopping in the acquisition of patents. Second, this Article explores the extent to which software patent transfers support the transfer of technology as opposed to supporting just the transfer of liability, or freedom from suit, with mixed results. This study finds that the majority of material software licenses reported by public companies to the SEC from 2000–2015 (N=245) support true technology transfer. However, in recent years, large numbers of software patents apparently have also been sold to avoid litigation or to provide general operating freedom, rather than to access specific technologies. Software patents transferred between public companies from 2012 and 2015 were two to three times more likely to go from an older company to a younger company, and from a higher revenue to a lower revenue public company. These findings underscore the enduring importance of software patents in supporting both technology transfer and freedom to operate. Despite the prevalence of NPEs, most patents are not bought for assertion, but to support these critical innovation functions. As such, the data support the characterization of software patents as a currency of—rather than a tax on—innovation.”

It is certainly good news that litigation is decreasing, but software patents ought not be viewed as patent-eligible anymore. A lot of these transactions Chien speaks of are akin to FRAND and it’s a form of loophole, just like the so-called ‘NPEs’ (trolls) she alludes to.

Looking at sites of the patent microcosm rather than academic papers, one finds another new lawsuit. Here is what IAM said:

Sprint, the US’s fourth largest mobile company, has launched a patent infringement lawsuit against Charter alleging that the cable TV giant infringes on 11 patents relating to voice over packet (VoP) technology.

The case was filed in Delaware district court earlier this month and marks the latest attempt by Sprint, which is owned by Japanese tech giant Softbank, to monetise its patent portfolio. As well as the suit against Charter, Sprint also filed a case using the same patents against another cable business, Mediacom Communications.

Unfortunately, VoP is — quite arguably — about software, just like VoIP (Internet Protocol, which deals with packets too). We hope that Charter will fight back and attempt to invalidate these patents (invalidating a dozen won’t be cheap and definitely not fast).

“We hope that Charter will fight back and attempt to invalidate these patents (invalidating a dozen won’t be cheap and definitely not fast).”The patent microcosm shares IAM’s blood-lust. It wants a lot of litigation or taxation as it gets a share of the loor. See this for example. Just about everything that’s bad for society Bristows will love. It is celebrating with patent trolls and maximlaists again (SPCs). It’s also lobbying for software patents, FRAND, SEP, and the UPC, which this guy too is promoting, along with the rest of that toxic bundle. “Isn’t it funny,” he asked, “that the free market loving Anglo-Saxons want judges to determine the #FRAND rate while the Germans (of all people) want the judge to provide boundaries and let the market set the #FRAND #royalty for an #SEP #Patent”

“A lot of that tax pertains mostly if not entirely to software patents.”The term “royalty” is a euphemism for tax. This new article by William New speaks of the 5G tax, which we wrote about earlier this winter.

The bottom line is, patents are becoming merely a tax in many areas. Sure, litigation is on the decline in the US (unlike — say — in China or Germany), but that in itself does not guarantee end of injustices. A lot of that tax pertains mostly if not entirely to software patents.

Unlike the Mobile Domain, When it Comes to Cars Patent Lawsuits Remain Rare

Sunday 10th of December 2017 07:51:14 PM

Yesterday: Phones/Mobility (Trillion-Dollar Market) May Have Become Infested and Encumbered by Aggressive, Dying Companies

Summary: An optimistic note regarding the relatively low-temperature legal landscape surrounding advanced automobiles, even though patents are being amassed on software in that domain

THE overabundance of patents does not discourage stagnation. It certainly does, however, hinder innovation in fast-moving fields such as software (programming/coding). One does not require a factory to write/develop and copy/distribute code. None of this is extraordinary a claim; it’s practically taken for granted by people who actually write code. They have somewhere between little to no interest in patents. They never really asked for patent protection; knowing that their software gets copyrighted is sufficient peace of mind.

It’s no secret that patents discourage passage of simple computer code. There’s a lot of ‘red tape’ associated with code that’s claimed to be patented, e.g. Microsoft’s FAT and exFAT. This, in turn, can discourage interoperability and standardisation. Again, there’s nothing controversial in these claims. It’s obvious and it’s trivial to explain.

“There’s a lot of ‘red tape’ associated with code that’s claimed to be patented, e.g. Microsoft’s FAT and exFAT. This, in turn, can discourage interoperability and standardisation.”3 days ago Bloomberg wrote an article titled “Carmakers Want Silicon Valley’s Tech Without Its Patent Wars”. This article was soon reposted with a different headline by the Financial Post, then by the Standard-Examiner, The Record, and Toronto Star. They just modified the headline and left the body in tact. The thesis of all this is that sharing works better than not sharing. Tesla already did the right thing several years ago.

To quote the article:

As automakers turn their vehicles into app-laden computers on wheels, there’s one habit they don’t want to acquire from Silicon Valley: fighting over patents in court.

Manufacturers from BMW AG to Hyundai Motor Co. to Ford Motor Co. are trying to learn from the smartphone wars, which cost technology companies hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees, as they prepare to revolutionize their vehicles.

“No sane automaker wants to repeat these wars, where the lawyers were the only winners,” said William Coughlin, chief executive officer of Ford Global Technologies, Ford’s intellectual property arm.

[...]

Both Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford were among the top 21 recipients of U.S. patents last year, with 1,540 and 1,530, putting them in company with Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to figures compiled by the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

What this article fails to mention is that many of these patents are software patents and thus toothless, more so after Alice. We already wrote a number of articles about such patents, which impact a domain I developed software in half a decade ago.

“Let’s hope that this domain of software, where Free/Open Source software already gains niche, will remain mostly void of patent litigation.”There was another article related to this a few days ago and it said that “Automakers have ramped up their patent applications as they compete to roll out crash avoidance systems, on-board Wi-Fi and cars that can drive themselves.”

There have been very few lawsuits in this area however. Except perhaps Google's as well as some patent licensing deals (not the same as lawsuits and potentially quite amicable too).

Let’s hope that this domain of software, where Free/Open Source software already gains a niche, will remain mostly void of patent litigation.

The Federal Circuit Rules (Again) in Favour of Section 101/Alice, Koch-Funded CPIP Tries to Overturn Alice at the Supreme Court

Sunday 10th of December 2017 03:54:42 PM

When Big Polluters too intervene in patent law at the highest levels (just like Oil States)

Summary: The US Supreme Court’s decision on Alice continues to have a profoundly positive impact (except for trolls) and Koch-funded academics try hard to compel the US Supreme Court to reverse/override Alice (so far to no avail)

THE American patent office is the world’s “foremost” (or leader) when it comes to impact or importance. This is of great advantage to the United States and maintaining credibility/reputation/appeal for that Office is thus crucial. Introspection and reflection are essential.

The other day the corporate media (Washington Post, owned by the world’s richest person) published an article about this year’s “stupidest patents” as judged by the EFF. To quote:

This year’s stupidest patents include several glaringly obvious and unoriginal ideas, including the “invention” of automated out-of-office emails, a way to organize files on a computer, software that helps users count calories, and a disturbing trend of patents being granted on the use of routine and well-known artificial intelligence techniques.

Yet the U.S. Patent Office gave each of these protection that now lasts 20 years. Some of the patents were approved this year; in other cases, 2017 marked the first time a troll tried to enforce them, often against a wide range of users and third-party developers who were almost certainly unaware of the existence of the claimed inventions.

Nazer believes none of these patents should have been granted in the first place, having failed to overcome the basic legal requirements of being both original and non-obvious. A big part of the problem, he says, has to do with how the patent office works. “Patent examiners spend an average of only 18 hours reviewing each application,” he told me, “which is grossly inadequate.”

[...]

That’s the case with EFF’s January winner, a patent granted to CBS Interactive for software that allows users to “interact” with song lyrics by reviewing and entering annotations. Ditto for a patent, recently asserted against Uber and Lyft, that purports to cover all software that “determines if a taxi is free,” and, if so “sends the current location of the taxi to the taxi dispatch server.” And then there’s a patent granted to HP for software that sends calendar reminder messages, which the patent office reviewed for years “without ever considering any real-world products” that already existed.

It would be good for the EPO to have a similar type of scrutiny as it helps highlight and potentially weed out patents that become a liability.

“It would be good for the EPO to have a similar type of scrutiny as it helps highlight and potentially weed out patents that become a liability.”It’s worth noting that much/many if not most/all the above are software patents. Far too many such patents were granted by examiners and after Alice it seems plausible that almost all of them are bunk. We say almost because there are exceptions. The other day, for example, a patent maximalist cherry-picked and wrote that “PTAB Reversed Examiner on 101/Alice Rejection of Printing Claims–Not per se Software: https://storage.googleapis.com/pbf-prod/pdfs/2017-11-30_13584785_175081.pdf …

Usually it’s the opposite. So the above is a case of “man bites dog”. It seldom happens. For a less selective coverage regarding Alice see what the EFF’s Daniel Nazer wrote just before the weekend: “Important Federal Circuit ruling today affirms a district court fee award against a patent troll. Appeals court agreed that patent owner should have known its patent was invalid under Alice v CSL Bank. http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/16-2442.Opinion.12-6-2017.1.PDF … [] This is important because many of the worst patent trolls (e.g., eDekka LLC, Shipping & Transit LLC) have patents that are clearly ineligible under Alice. When faced with fee motions, these trolls try to distract court by arguing 101 jurisprudence in general is too uncertain.”

“These are cowboy hat-donning non-scientists pretending to care about inventors.”Also see this other tweet that said: “Inventor Holding 12/8/17 patent claims invalid under 101, attorney fees from date of Alice decision…”

This is pretty significant.

Make no mistake, however, as this feud certainly isn’t over and the patent trolls’ lobby is still active. CCIA apparently had “lunch @ManagingIP and now we’re on to everyone’s favorite, software patents.”

Yes, software patents are still on the agenda. Rabid, frenzied lobbyists want them back. They constantly fight for that and perpetually mislead. So did Adam Mossoff from the pro-patent trolls (and overtly right wing) think tank. He wants software patents back in the US. “CPIP Scholars” (think tank for the Koch brothers) said that “CPIP Scholars @AdamMossoff & @Patent_Lund File Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Fix Section 101. #Fix101 #PatentsMatter https://cpip.gmu.edu/2017/12/06/cpip-scholars-file-amicus-brief-urging-supreme-court-to-fix-section-101/ …”

“No intellectual argument can defend their position, so ignoring or even blocking people is the best they can do.”They’re aiming directly at Alice. The headline is “CPIP Scholars File Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Fix Section 101″ (by “Fix” they mean subvert, water down) and there’s another misleading new article titled “Protecting intellectual property in America is harder than ever,” composed by a pro-software patents lobby which is just a tiny platform of extremists (they call themselves “US Inventor”). “This op-ed completely misconstrues multiple patent issues,” a writer from TechDirt had said about it before I told him who “US Inventor” actually was. These are cowboy hat-donning non-scientists pretending to care about inventors. They’re closely connected to Watchtroll. “IPWatchdog,” he responded. “where intellectual honesty goes to die…”

Indeed. Watchtroll (IPWatchdog) is so dishonest that when its founder lost an argument to me (over software patents, revealing that he did not know how software even works!) he decided to just block me in Twitter. No intellectual argument can defend their position, so ignoring or even blocking people is the best they can do. The same is true for the Conservative ilk of Adam Mossoff (who apparently reported me to Twitter for not agreeing).

Next Director of the USPTO Parrots Talking Points of Patent Extremists and Their Lobbyists

Sunday 10th of December 2017 02:28:52 PM

Summary: The next USPTO boss (still subject to official confirmation) may be little more than a power grab by the litigation and patenting ‘industry’, which prioritises not science and technology but its own bottom line

TOWARDS the end of the week Patently-O wrote about Iancu’s nomination hearing. Based on recent reports, it seems almost inevitable that he will be the next boss of the USPTO, which basically means that the “swamp” (patent ‘industry’) is taking over the public office which governs it. Priorities, as summarised by Patently-O:

IPR System: The system needs to be balanced and returned to a higher level of predictability; one mechanism is to have the Director involved in decisions by the Board.

Eligibility: Supreme Court jurisprudence is the “current law of the land” but has produced a level of uncertainty.

That “uncertainty” talking point is nonsense which comes from the patent microcosm. There’s also that other word, “predictability,” which wrongly assumes that the process is purely deterministic.

These sorts of talking points often come from platforms such as Watchtroll and IAM, which in its latest issue wrote that “US law firms featuring in the annual Ocean Tomo/IAM rankings, which identify who prosecutes the highest quality patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, have had to rethink many of their approaches in the wake of recent changes to the US patent landscape…”

“That “uncertainty” talking point is nonsense which comes from the patent microcosm.”For one thing, they must learn to accept that software patents are a thing of the past, but they don’t want to cope with such ‘inconvenient’ (to them) reality. In our next post we’ll say more about how the patent microcosm presses on with software patents agenda. It’s disturbing at times, but the important thing is that we’re seeing and responding to that.

“For US lawyers,” said another new headline from IAM, “the patent party is most definitely over,” which is certainly good. They just damaged the industry (the real industry) and finally, as well as belatedly, development can receive greater investment than patenting and litigation. To quote IAM:

Patent litigation in the United States has been transformed over the last decade, but as new data shows the average cost of a case falling precipitously, patent lawyers are facing up to a very different reality

Later today we shall write about patent trolls in the United States. Their party too is gradually ending, sometimes relocating to somewhere like China instead.

Raw: Three Years for ‘Justice’ (to be Disregarded by Benoît Battistelli) at ILO and Over a Decade at the EPO

Saturday 9th of December 2017 08:47:59 PM

Original letter

Summary: The delays associated with ‘justice’ at the EPO (usually neither justice nor compliance with rulings) have become so extraordinary that immunity should long ago have been stripped off and Battistelli et al been held accountable

Raw: Scuttling of the General Advisory Committee and Battistelli Stacking the Deck to Have ‘Yes Men’ as Representatives

Saturday 9th of December 2017 08:21:57 PM

“The members appointed by the President gave a positive opinion on the proposal.”


Original: English | French

Summary: How the EPO broke down resistance to Battistelli’s oppressive policies not only at the Council, disciplinary committees and auditory divisions but also staff representation (symptomatic of Battistelli’s notion of justice)

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board Will Endure Supreme Court Test and Overcome the Tribal Immunity “Scam”

Saturday 9th of December 2017 07:11:35 PM

Summary: The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), based on the latest news, is still winning the argument and justifying its existence/importance

THE TRIAL which has PTAB hanging on the balance is no longer being covered. Almost nobody cares and PTAB foes appear to have accepted, based on oral proceedings, that PTAB will endure.

PTAB, however, may face some other perils/hurdles/obstacles. None of these seems potent, but it’s worth keeping an eye and a log.

The other day, the EFF’s Vera Ranieri wrote about how Native Americans are still being exploited for a patent “scam”, as some people call it (the proper description of it is PTAB dodge, misusing tribal immunity that’s an exception to ordinary law).

Quoting Ranieri:

On September 8, 2017, the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company Allergan announced that it “sold” its patents relating to its eye drops drug “Restasis” to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. But this was not a usual “sale.” The Tribe doesn’t appear to have paid anything in exchange for becoming the legal owner of Allergan’s patents. Instead, Allergan paid the Tribe $13.75 million, and also agreed to pay the Tribe up to $15 million more each year in exclusive licensing fees.

Last week, EFF and Public Knowledge explained to the Patent Office how Allergan and the Tribe’s deal doesn’t mean Allergan’s bad patents can’t be challenged.

The reason that Allergan and the Tribe engaged in this deal is not a secret. Both Allergan and the Tribe [PDF] readily admit the deal was done to try to prevent Allergan’s patents from being revoked through a Patent Office procedure known as “inter partes review.” Inter partes review allows any member of the public to challenge a patent as improperly granted based on the fact that what the patent claims as an invention was known to the public, or was an obvious change from information and innovation already held by the public.

[...]

Shortly after announcing the deal, the Tribe asked the Patent Office to end the proceedings, saying that since the Tribe owns the patents, the Patent Office has no authority to reconsider their legitimacy without the Tribe’s consent. The generic companies have opposed this motion on various grounds, arguing that the proceeding can continue. The Patent Office, perhaps in recognition of the significant controversy generated by the Allergan-Tribe deal, asked the public to weigh in as to whether the proceeding needed to be terminated.

On November 30, 2017, EFF and Public Knowledge submitted a brief arguing that the Patent Office has all the authority it needs to continue the inter partes review proceeding, despite the Tribe’s sovereign immunity. We argued that the proceeding was not one that required the Tribe’s presence at all, meaning sovereign immunity had no application. We also suggested that the Patent Office consider asking its question in a more accessible proceeding, so that more voices could be heard.

According to this blog post from IAM (also a few days ago), “CEO Leonard Schleiffer last week describing the move as “nuts”, because it broke Allergan ‘social contract’…”

Within context:

Fehlner’s comments come at a time when there are acute political controversies surrounding pharmaceuticals patents and market exclusivity in the US. Allergan’s recent attempt to circumvent the inter partes review patent invalidity process by transferring its Restasis rights to a Native American tribe has provoked public criticism, and even attracted censure from within the industry: Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleiffer last week describing the move as “nuts”, because it broke Allergan’s ‘social contract’ and made it look bad to the public.

As we explained before, it seems safe to assume that US Congress will scuttle this loophole, probably before the Supreme Court cements PTAB’s role in the system. Another IAM article (latest issue, behind paywall) says that “[t]he Federal Circuit’s ruling in Aqua Products serves as a short-term win for patent owners in inter partes review proceedings, but numerous long-term questions remain unanswered…”

We wrote a lot about the Aqua Products case and Managing IP revisited it a few days ago when it published a “PTAB round-up”. From the text that is not behind paywall we can see more participation — in the form of amicus briefs — in the tribal immunity controversy:

November PTAB news included the lowest petition filing since January 2016, oral arguments at the Supreme Court, amicus briefing on whether tribal ownership immunises a patent from IPR challenges, guidance on motions to amend, new procedures for remands from the Federal Circuit, and an increase in fees

In November, 112 Patent Trial and Appeal Board petitions were filed. This consisted of 109 inter partes review (IPR), one covered business method (CBM) and two post-grant review (PGR) petitions.

The term “IPRs” is misleading propaganda that should not be used unless it’s about “inter partes reviews” (at PTAB). It’s an unfortunate collision of acronyms (in the same disciplinary occupation) and to quote this one new tweet: “Alexandra Poch of @EU_IPO EU Observatory on Infringements of IPRs…”

They don’t mean inter partes reviews and Europe’s equivalent (the appeal boards) is under an unprecedented attack — a subject we shall revisit later in relation to the EPO.

What else is new in ‘PTAB land’? Well, as usual we have Patently-O with its subtle PTAB bashing. It continues to cherry-pick cases that make PTAB look bad, even though these are rare. The latest is this:

The court here does not decide whether preclusion would also apply if the original obviousness rejection was based upon a PTAB decision that had not been appealed to the Federal Circuit.

Although losing on Claim 25, the Mouttet’s appeal was important because it forced the USPTO to drop its PTAB indefiniteness holding. The PTAB held that his claims 35-40 were indefinite because they merged statutory classes. On appeal, though, the solicitor conceded that the PTAB judgment was incorrect. The court agreed. The formerly problematic claim is written as a “35. A method of … using the processor of claim 1 … [to perform a series of steps].”

Note here that the PTAB had also substantially sided with Mouttet – reversing all of the examiner’s obviousness rejections.

The very fact that patents get modified/edited post-grant rather than altogether invalidated is troubling in its own right. The same thing happens at the EPO however, and it can be seen as incompatible with (if not antithetical to) the core principles of patents.

Phones/Mobility (Trillion-Dollar Market) May Have Become Infested and Encumbered by Aggressive, Dying Companies

Saturday 9th of December 2017 06:37:11 PM

When all that’s left is soon-to-expire patents

Summary: The tough reality that new entrants/entrepreneurs are facing now that a few dying giants look to “monetise” their patents rather than create anything

WE recently wrote about how Qualcomm, BlackBerry and Nokia had devolved into something that's akin to patent trolls. Sure, they still have their names on some products, but it’s Apple and Android OEMs that dominate this market. Ericsson and Microsoft, moreover, mostly ‘participate’ in this market in the sense that they pass their patents to patent trolls (Microsoft even passes Nokia‘s patents to trolls), in order for these trolls to target companies which actually produce something.

A few days ago CCIA‘s Josh Landau said that “Qualcomm’s Anti-Competitive Conduct Could Be Exacerbated By Mergers” and it’s about that highly-publicised rumour and bid from last month. To quote Landau, “Qualcomm’s been busy over the past few months. Defending against accusations of anti-competitive conduct from competition authorities in the US and elsewhere around the world, trying to acquire NXP Semiconductors, fending off an acquisition attempt from Broadcom, and—most recently—filing yet another round of new lawsuits to try to force Apple to pay higher-than-FRAND rates for their patents.

“Patent Progress has covered Qualcomm’s anti-competitive conduct in the past [1][2][3][4][5], but the proposed mergers would increase Qualcomm’s ability to suppress competition and provide them with the ability to do so in new markets. That could be a particular problem in growing markets like the Internet of Things and automotive computing.”

We already wrote quite a lot about Qualcomm earlier this year and Florian Müller regularly covers its fight against Apple, which involves FRAND, SEP, and other such euphemisms. Here is his latest article.

IAM continues calling trolling/predation “monetisation” in relation to BlackBerry. [via]

Is this the future of mobile? A bunch of dead companies scattering patents for trolls to just ‘tax’ everything, artificially inflating the prices of everything?

IAM has also just published this blog post about Ericsson, which is fighting TCL in the US (neither company is American). There’s resistance. This is why Ericsson increasingly operates through patent trolls (proxies), which cannot be sued. It’s quite a racket. To quote IAM:

The case was filed by TCL in 2014 when it alleged that Ericsson was in breach of its FRAND obligations following negotiations between the two sides over a licence to the Swedish telco’s standard essential patents (SEPs) for 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technology. It was part of a worldwide dispute between the two companies which has also seen Ericsson bringing several patent infringement lawsuits against TCL in a number of jurisdictions (many of which are now on hold).

In its original complaint TCL revealed that it was seeking: “A judicial accounting on what constitutes a FRAND royalty rate in all respects consistent with Ericsson’s promises to license its patents identified as (or alleged to be) “essential” to the 2G, 3G and 4G standards.” That is why the case has piqued the interest of many in the patent-owning community – a ruling from the court could provide guidance on the royalty rates for one of the two or three leading SEP portfolios in the mobile world, so giving a much wider benchmark against which all SEP licence deals in the space might be negotiated.

Words/acronyms like SEP and FRAND mislead and warp the debate. What we have here is discriminatory, unfair, and unreasonable. A few dead (or dying) companies can’t stop suing everybody else and it’s slowing down the market.

Links 9/12/2017: Mesa 17.3, Wine 3.0 RC1, New Debian Builds

Saturday 9th of December 2017 05:34:55 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • PR: Bergmannos – New Linux-Based Os for Mining

    Bergmann Team has developed a new Linux-based OS for mining BergmannOS, that enables full control over the rigs and automatization of the cryptocurrency mining. Since December 11, 2017 during the entire period of ICO BergmannOS the participants will have access to a shippable beta version of the software complex for miners.

    Already in the beta version of BergmannOS miners will be able to estimate the benefits of the main functions of the system. Users are guaranteed 24/7 real time control of the devices, auto and manual tuning of the units, autotuning of video cards (after first update), warning messages in the event of failures, reports on unites’ work, marketing quotation of crypto currencies and news from crypto world. User-friendly interface makes the usage of the system easier.

  • Publisher of Linux Journal says November was its last issue

    The magazine has also completed its 2017 archive which it would normally sell but will now be sent to subscribers for free.

    “It has been a great run, folks,” concluded Fairchild. “A big hats-off to everyone who contributed to our birth, our success and our persistence over these many years. We’d run the credits now, but the list would be too long, and the risk of leaving worthy people out would be too high. You know who you are. Our thanks again.”

  • Server
    • Kubernetes Ecosystem Grows as Cloud Native Computing Foundation Expands

      The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) was first launched by the Linux Foundation in July 2015, with a single project at the time: Kubernetes. At the CloudNativeCon/Kubecon North America Event in Austin, Texas, there are now 14 projects and an expanding membership base.

      The pace of growth for the CNCF has not been uniform, though, with much of the growth happening over the course of 2017, as Kubernetes and demand for cloud-native technologies has grown.

    • Kata Containers Project launches to secure container infrastructure

      At KubeCon in Austin, Texas, the OpenStack Foundation announced a new-open source project, Kata Containers. This new container project unites Intel Clear Containers with Hyper’s runV. The aim? To unite the security advantages of virtual machines (VMs) with the speed and manageability of container technologies.

      It does this by provides container isolation and security without the overhead of running them in a Virtual Machine (VM). Usually. Containers are run in VMs for security, but that removes some of the advantages of using containers with their small resources footprint. The purpose of runV was to make VMs run like containers. In Kata, this approach is combined with Intel’s Clear Containers, which uses Intel built-in chip Virtual Technology (VT), to launch containers in lightweight virtual machines (VMs). With Kata, those containers are launched in runV.

    • Deletion and Garbage Collection of Kubernetes Objects

      With the Kubernetes container orchestration engine, concepts and objects build on top of each other. An example we described previously is how deployments build on top of replica sets to ensure availability, and replica sets build on top of Pods to get scheduling for free.

      What exactly happens when we delete a deployment? We would not only expect the deployment itself to be deleted, but also the replica sets and pods that are managed by the deployment.

    • Kubernetes Preview: ‘Apps Workloads’ Enabled by Default, Windows Capabilities Move Forward

      Kubernetes 1.9 will feature a ready-for-prime-time Apps Workloads, Windows functionality moving into beta and forward moves in storage.

    • Salesforce is latest big tech vendor to join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation

      Salesforce announced today that it was joining the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the open-source organization that manages Kubernetes, the popular open-source container orchestration tool.

      It is the latest in a long line of big name companies, joining the likes of AWS, Oracle, Microsoft, VMware and Pivotal, all of whom joined in a flurry of activity earlier this year. Most of these other companies have more of a cloud infrastructure angle. Salesforce is a SaaS vendor, but it too is seeing what so many others are seeing: containerization provides a way to more tightly control the development process. Kubernetes and cloud native computing in general are a big part of that, and Salesforce wants a piece of the action.

    • How the Cloud Native Computing Foundation Is Advancing Cloud Projects

      The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) kicked off its Kubecon CloudNativeCon North America conference on Dec. 6 with a host of announcements about its’ expanding open-source cloud efforts. The CNCF is home to the Kubernetes container orchestration system as well as 13 additional cloud project that enable organizations to build cloud native architectures.

      Among the announcements at the event, which has over 4,000 attendees, are new members as well as multiple project updates, including 1.0 releases from the containerd, Jaeger, CoreDNS and Fluentd projects.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
    • Control Your Cursor With Your Webcam – For The Record

      Control Your cursor With Your Webcam using eViacam. It’s easy and in this episode I’ll show how I can control my mouse cursor with the power of my mind; er, I meant head. Using an application called eViacam, you can make the Linux desktop accessible even if you’re unable to use your arms or hands.

  • Kernel Space
    • Why the Zephyr Project Uses Vendor HALs

      The use of vendor-supplied HALs (Hardware Abstraction Layers) in open source projects has been a source of ongoing discussion. At the October ELC Europe conference in Prague, we took up the topic again.

      In “Using SoC Vendor HALs in the Zephyr Project,” Zephyr Project contributor Maureen Helm, an MCU Software Architect at NXP, discussed the pros and cons of using vendor HALs. Ultimately, she argued that that the benefits far outweigh the tradeoffs. This viewpoint was expanded upon in a recent Zephyr Project blog post by Helm and Frank Ohlhorst.

      The main reason for using vendor-supplied HALs is to reduce coding and testing time. The Zephyr Project maintains and develops the lightweight Zephyr OS for microcontroller units (MCUs), the number and variety of which have soared in recent years.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Running OpenCL On The CPU With POCL 1.0, Xeon & EPYC Testing

        This week marked the release of the long-awaited POCL 1.0 release candidate. For the uninformed POCL, or the Portable Computing Language, is a portable implementation of OpenCL 1.2~2.0 that can run on CPUs with its LLVM code generation and has also seen back-ends for its OpenCL implementation atop AMD HSA and even NVIDIA CUDA. I’ve been trying out POCL 1.0-RC1 on various Intel and AMD CPUs.

      • Intel Stages More Graphics DRM Changes For Linux 4.16

        Last week Intel submitted their first batch of i915 DRM driver changes to DRM-Next that in turn is slated for Linux 4.16. Today they sent in their second round of feature updates.

        This latest batch of material for DRM-Next / Linux 4.16 includes continued work on execlist improvements, better GPU cache invalidation, various code clean-ups, continued stabilization of Cannonlake “Gen 10″ graphics support, display plane improvements, continued GuC and HuC updates, a hardware workaround for Geminilake performance, more robust GPU reset handling, and a variety of other fixes and code clean-ups/improvements.

      • mesa 17.3.0

        The release consists of approximately 2700 commits from over 120 developers.

      • Mesa 17.3 Brings Intel i965, RadeonSI, and Nouveau Drivers Closer to OpenGL 4.6

        Collabora’s Emil Velikov is pleased to announce today the general availability of the final Mesa 17.3 graphics stack release for GNU/Linux distributions.

        Mesa or Mesa 3D Graphics Library is an open-source graphics stack, a collection of open-source graphics drivers to bring support for the latest OpenGL and Vulkan technologies to Intel, AMD Radeon, and Nvidia graphics cards on Linux-based operating systems.

      • Mesa 17.3 Officially Released: Nearly OpenGL 4.6, Better Vulkan Support

        Delays pushed back the Mesa 17.3 release from November, but this quarterly update to the Mesa 3D graphics stack is now available for users.

        Mesa 17.3 is another significant update this year for the open-source graphics drivers. Mesa 17.3 offers nearly complete OpenGL 4.6 support for RadeonSI / Intel / Nouveau NVC0 drivers with the notable exception of the SPIR-V ingestion support yet not being complete. Mesa 17.3 also contains significant improvements to the Radeon RADV and Intel ANV Vulkan drivers with new extension support, performance optimizations, and all important fixes.

      • Mesa 17.3.0 release to further advance open source graphics drivers

        Mesa 17.3.0 is the latest version of the open source graphics drivers and it has officially released today.

        While this is a major new version, as always, new versions can cause a bit of breakage due to so much changing. The Mesa developers recommend waiting for the first point release 17.3.1 if you’re after a stable and reliable experience.

      • X.Org Server Patches Updated For Non-Desktop & Leases To Better VR HMD Support

        Keith Packard has sent out his latest X.Org Server side patches for the improvements he’s been working on the past year for improving the SteamVR / VR HMD support on the Linux desktop.

        Keith sent out the latest patches for adding RandR 1.6 leases support. These have been re-based against the latest X.Org Server Git code and while there was initial DRM leasing in Linux 4.15, Keith says these patches only work against drm-next, which would mean Linux 4.16. These patches do go through and wire up the leasing support with the xf86-video-modesetting DDX driver.

      • ARB_get_program_binary Implementation Lands In Core Mesa, Intel Driver

        The past few weeks Intel developers working on their Mesa open-source graphics driver have been working on the ARB_get_program_binary OpenGL extension so it actually works for applications wanting to use this extension to retrieve a compiled shader/program by the driver.

        ARB_get_program_binary makes it possible to easily get a binary representation of an OpenGL program object. That binary can then be supplied later on back to the OpenGL driver for execution, if the application wants to function as an offline compiler or handle its own caching to avoid recompilation of GLSL source shaders on future runs, etc. ARB_get_program_binary is required by OpenGL 4.1 and Mesa’s support for it up until now was just saying it didn’t support any formats for the binary programs.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Qt 5.10 Released with Qt 3D Studio Graphical Editor, Numerous Improvements

        Coming six months after the long-term supported Qt 5.9 series, Qt 5.10 is a short-lived branch that introduces new stuff and a bunch of improvements. The biggest new feature of the Qt 5.10 release being the introduction of Qt 3D Studio, a graphical editor that lets you create 3D graphical user interfaces (GUIs).

        “Qt 3D Studio consists of both a runtime component that is run in your application and a graphical design tool to design and create the UI. While the tool is a standalone application, the runtime can easily be integrated with the rest of Qt,” said Lars Knoll. “Qt 3D Studio will work with both Qt 5.9 and 5.10.”

      • Qt Creator 4.5 Open-Source IDE Improves Android and CMake Support

        Available for GNU/Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows platforms, the Qt Creator 4.5 release comes three months after the previous version to add a new UI tool that lets you manage Android SDK packages, as well as to offer better information about various issues with the installed Android SDK, including warnings about missing components or the minimum version of requirements.

        “Since Android SDK tools version 25.3.0, there is no UI tool available to manage the Android SDK packages. Because of that, we have added such UI to Qt Creator,” Eike Ziller wrote in the release announcement. “Unfortunately, the command line tool for managing SDKs that is provided with the SDK cannot update packages on Windows, and fails with JDK 9, so this applies to Qt Creator as well.”

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • Best Gnome distro of 2017

        And the winner is …

        Well, I’ve never ever believed I’d say this, but being objective and all, it’s an Arch-based distribution that gets the highest accolade in this test – Antergos 17.9! Do mind, it’s not perfect, but it does offer a reasonably rounded experience with some really interesting (and unique) features. Like most small projects, it does suffer from obvious lack of manpower needed to tackle the usability papercuts, but on the other hand, it brings in innovation that is not apparent in other distributions, and it also provides a solid baseline for day-to-day use, without compromising on stability, and without ever disclosing its geeky DNA.

        My experience with Antergos 17.9 shows a distribution that is relatively sprightly, focuses on usability, offers excellent driver support, and tries to balance beauty with functionality. It still struggles gluing all these together, but there do not seem to be any fundamental flaws. It also manages to showcase Gnome in a very positive light, which cannot be said of pretty much any other candidate that I’ve had a chance to test this year. If anything, the outcome of 2017 is satisfying in its own right, even though I did struggle and suffer a lot while playing and testing these different distributions. But in one sentence, if you do need a Gnome distro, this is the best that I can offer and recommend. And it wouldn’t be a bad recommendation either. All right, that was two sentences.

        Conclusion

        Back in December 2016, I said Gnome is slowly recovering. Scratch that. It was a brief flicker of hope, and it’s gone. It would seem the direction has reversed, and the Gnome desktop is becoming less usable. Its overall design remains stubbornly unchanged while the quality and stability are constantly deteriorating.

        Still, an odd distro or two manage to rise above the mediocrity and provide a relatively reasonable desktop session, Gnome notwithstanding. For 2017, Antergos is Dedoimedo’s Gnome choice. You get an okay mix of everything, solid performance, a stable behavior, and a few glitches just to keep you on your toes. Most impressive is the graphics stack support, very elegant looks, and tons of great software. If you’ve never considered Arch in its many guises and sacrificial forms, then Antergos seems like a good starting point.

        But wait, what if I don’t like Gnome, you asketh? Despair not! In the coming days, we will also look at what Xfce and Plasma have to offer. It shall be most interesting. Stay tuned.

      • OSK update

        There’s been a rumor that I was working on improving gnome-shell on-screen keyboard, what’s been up here? Let me show you!

  • Distributions
    • New Releases
      • Peppermint 8 Respin Released

        Team Peppermint are pleased to announce the latest iteration of our operating system Peppermint 8 Respin which still comes in 32bit and 64bit versions with the 64bit version having full UEFI and Secureboot support. Whilst a respin is generally a minor release intended as an ISO update, the Peppermint 8 Respin does contain some significant changes.

      • “Fast And Light” Peppermint 8 Respin Released — Download This Linux Distro Here
      • Ubuntu-Based Peppermint OS 8 Respin Brings Back Advert Blocker, Adds New Theme

        The developers of the Ubuntu-based Peppermint OS distribution have released today the first respin of the Peppermint OS 8 series.

        Launched earlier this year on May 28, Peppermint OS 8 is based on the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system and brought major new features. Now, the Peppermint 8 Respin is here with a bunch of improvements and the latest software releases, including the Nemo 3.4.7 file manager, OpenVPN 2.4.4 VPN implementation, and Linux kernel 4.10.0-40.

    • Arch Family
      • Manjaro Linux – One Of The Finest Linux Distros

        ​Manjaro is suitable for new users as well as experienced. The fact that Manjaro is based on Arch, being a rolling distro that is quite stable, ships with awesome tools and packs a good selection of software out of the box makes Manjaro a fantastic distro. Let us take a look at this excellent Linux distro.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • GeckoLinux Brings Flexibility and Choice to openSUSE

        If you’re looking for an excuse to venture back into the realm of openSUSE, GeckoLinux might be a good reason. It’s slightly better looking, lighter weight, and with similar performance. It’s not perfect and, chances are, it won’t steal you away from your distribution of choice, but GeckoLinux is a solid entry in the realm of Linux desktops.

    • Slackware Family
      • Rebuilt packages for Plasma5 (ktown)

        The updates in Slackware-current this week (icu4c, poppler, libical) broke many programs in my Plasma5 ‘ktown’ repository, to the extent that the complete Plasma 5 desktop would no longer start.

        That is the fun of using the bleeding edge – if something disruptive happens in slackware-current you’ll have to wait for the 3rd party repositories to catch up. And I am one of those 3rd party packagers.

    • Red Hat Family
    • Debian Family
      • Debian 10 “Buster” Will Ensure Automatic Installation of Security Upgrades

        The Debian Installer Buster Alpha 2 release comes with a few important changes, such as the addition of the unattended-upgrades package by default through the pkgsel component to ensure the automatic installation of security upgrades, as well as the addition of the installation images for the mips64el architecture.

        Another important change in this second alpha release of the Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” Installer is that the Linux 4.13 kernel series is now supported for new installations, though you should know it reached end of life last month, so we believe the third alpha of Debian Installer will support Linux kernel 4.14 LTS.

      • Debian 10-Based Distro DebEX KDE Plasma Now Uses Latest Calamares Installer

        GNU/Linux developer Arne Exton released a new build of his Debian-based DebEX KDE Plasma distribution that updates the graphical installer to latest Calamares universal installer framework release.

        Coming one and a half months after the previous build, DebEX KDE Build 171203 incorporates all the latest package updates from the upstream Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” (Debian Testing) and Debian Sid (Debian Unstable) repositories, and updates the KDE components to KDE Development Platform 4.16.0 LTS and KDE Plasma 5:37 as default desktop environment.

        It also ships with the Linux 4.13.4 kernel compiled by the developer with extra hardware support, but the biggest change, however, is the replacement of the Refracta Installer with the recently released Calamares 3.1.9 universal installer framework for GNU/Linux distributions, which lets users choose their preferred language when the installation starts.

      • Updated Debian 9: 9.3 released

        The Debian project is pleased to announce the third update of its stable distribution Debian 9 (codename “stretch”). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories have already been published separately and are referenced where available.

        Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 9 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old “stretch” media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror.

      • Updated Debian 8: 8.10 released

        The Debian project is pleased to announce the tenth update of its oldstable distribution Debian 8 (codename “jessie”). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories have already been published separately and are referenced where available.

        Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 8 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old “jessie” media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 9.3 “Stretch” and 8.10 “Jessie” Have Been Officially Announced

        The Debian Project announced this morning the general availability of the Debian GNU/Linux 9.3 and Debian GNU/Linux 8.10 point releases of the Stretch and Jessie series.

        While Debian GNU/Linux 9.3 is the third maintenance update to the Stretch series, the latest stable release of the operating system, Debian GNU/Linux 8.10 represents the tenth point release of the Jessie branch, which is the oldstable distribution of Debian since the release of Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch.” Both include the latest security updates published through the official repositories.

      • Derivatives
        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Adapting to tech’s cloud-native shift with Kubernetes, Ubuntu

            The growing trend toward cloud-native programming is fundamentally changing the way applications are developed, integrating and automating pieces previously separated and delayed by disjointed manual processes. Adopting strategies to take advantage of more efficient development opportunities has become mission-critical for competitive businesses, but making the transition rapidly can open organizations to risk — or at the very least disorganized operations and cultural inconsistencies.

          • Canonical Outs New Kernel Security Updates for All Supported Ubuntu Releases

            Canonical released new Linux kernel security updates for all supported Ubuntu operating systems addressing a total of nine vulnerabilities discovered by various researchers.

            The newly patched Linux kernel vulnerabilities affect Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark), Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus), Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr), and Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) ESM (Extended Security Maintenance), as well as all of their official derivatives, including Kubuntu, Lubuntu, etc.

          • Security Team Weekly Summary: December 7, 2017
          • Ubuntu Is Getting Ready To Further Demote Python 2

            There’s a little more than two years left until Python 2 will be officially discontinued by upstream and Ubuntu is preparing accordingly for this end of life.

            With the recent Ubuntu 17.10 release was the first time they were able to ship Ubuntu Linux without Python 2 pre-installed. The next step in Ubuntu phasing out Python 2 support is by demoting it from the “main” archive to the broader “universe” archive. Then a few years out, Python 2 will be dropped completely.

          • This Week in Mir (8th Dec, 2017) – Mir 0.29.0 release candidate

            Last week, to celebrate getting mirscreencast working, I posted a video of Mir running on Fedora and promised a release once the fixes had landed. The fixes have landed and we have started the 0.29.0 release process (more details below).

          • Mir 0.29 Being Prepped For Release As Canonical Pushes On With Mir-Wayland

            While a few months ago we could have written off Mir as a dead project following the Unity 8 abandonment, Canonical is continuing to push it along in its new route of Wayland support.

            Since one week ago when landing Mir in Fedora, Canonical developers have remained busy in advancing Mir. One of their latest achievements is getting MirScreencast support working. With this screen-casting functionality in place, they are preparing to tag their next release: v0.29.

          • Ubuntu Podcast S10E40 – Clammy Eminent Spot
          • Flavours and Variants
            • Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia Download Links, Mirrors, and Torrents

              Linux Mint 18.3 has been released at Wednesday, 27 November 2017 with codename “Sylvia”. Version 18.3 is an LTS release based on Ubuntu 16.04, and, a continuation towards the versions 18, 18.1, and 18.2. This article mentions the download links, mirrors, and torrents for Mint 18.3 Cinnamon and MATE editions, for both 32bit and 64bit types.

            • Bodhi Linux 4.4 Released with Linux Kernel 4.13, Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

              Bodhi Linux 4.4 comes three months after the Bodhi Linux 4.3 release to add all the latest software updates and security patches from the repositories of the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system. It’s an incremental update that doesn’t require you to reinstall your system.

              “This is a normal update release and it comes three months after the release of Bodhi 4.3.1. Existing Bodhi 4.x.y users do not need to reinstall as the primary goal of this update release is to simply keep the current ISO image up to date,” writes Jeff Hoogland in today’s announcement.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • ReactOS Now Natively Supports More Filesystems Than all Windows OSes Combined

    First introduced in the ReactOS 0.4.5 release, the support for styles created for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system received further enhancements in ReactOS 0.4.7 to reduce visual glitches for several apps, as well as to better handle transparency and messaging.

    ReactOS 0.4.7 also implements support for Shell extension and allows users to enable the Quick Launch shell extension manually if they want an early taste of this feature. Furthermore, the devs managed to bring the ReactOS painting process closer to the one of the Microsoft Windows OS.

  • Ionic, one of Madison’s top startups, prepares to launch its first commercial product

    They decided early on to open up their code to other developers, in the spirit of the open-source model. Lynch said they looked to other startups, like the document-storage tool MongoDB, as models for creating open-source software as a startup. The idea was that by making it free and open, Ionic Framework would be able to grow its user base more quickly. Lynch added that most other companies making developer toolkits at the time were offering commercial products, so it made sense to offer something free.

  • Practical Ways to Improve Your Open Source Development Impact

    Open source programs are sparking innovation at organizations of all types, and if your program is up and running, you may have arrived at the point where maximizing the impact of your development is essential to continued success. Many open source program managers are now required to demonstrate the ROI of their technology development, and example open source report cards from Facebook and Google track development milestones.

  • Intel Supports open source software for HPC

    OpenHPC is a collaborative, community effort that initiated from a desire to aggregate a number of common ingredients required to deploy and manage High Performance Computing Linux clusters including provisioning tools, resource management, I/O clients, development tools, and a variety of scientific libraries. Packages provided by OpenHPC have been pre-built with HPC integration in mind with a goal to provide re-usable building blocks for the HPC community. Over time, the community also plans to identify and develop abstraction interfaces between key components to further enhance modularity and interchangeability. The community includes representation from a variety of sources including software vendors, equipment manufacturers, research institutions, supercomputing sites, and others. This community works to integrate a multitude of components that are commonly used in HPC systems, and are freely available for open source distribution. We are grateful for the efforts undertaken by the developers and maintainers of these upstream communities that provide key components used in HPC around the world today, and for which this OpenHPC community works to integrate and validate as a cohesive software stack.

  • Overcoming challenges when building great global communities

    Today’s open source communities include people from all around the world. What challenges can you expect when establishing an online community, and how can you help overcome them?

    People contributing to an open source community share a commitment to the software they’re helping to develop. In the past, people communicated by meeting in person at a set place and time, or through letters or phone calls. Today, technology has fostered growth of online communities—people can simply pop into a chat room or messaging channel and start working together. You might work with someone in Morocco in the morning, for example, and with someone in Hawaii that evening.

  • Google’s DeepVariant Deep-Learning Technology Goes Open-Source
  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Mozilla Awards Research Grants to Fund Top Research Projects

        We are happy to announce the results of the Mozilla Research Grant program for the second half of 2017. This was a competitive process, with over 70 applicants. After three rounds of judging, we selected a total of fourteen proposals, ranging from building tools to support open web platform projects like Rust and WebAssembly to designing digital assistants for low- and middle- income families and exploring decentralized web projects in the Orkney Islands. All these projects support Mozilla’s mission to make the Internet safer, more empowering, and more accessible.

  • Databases
  • CMS
    • WordPress hit with keylogger, 5,400 sites infected
    • WORDPRESS 4.9.1

      After a much longer than expected break due to moving and the resulting lack of Internet, plus WordPress releasing a package with a non-free file, the Debian package for WordPress 4.9.1 has been uploaded!

      WordPress 4.9 has a number of improvements, especially around the customiser components so that looked pretty slick. The editor for the customiser now has a series of linters what will warn if you write something bad, which is a very good thing! Unfortunately the Javascript linter is jshint which uses a non-free license which that team is attempting to fix. I have also reported the problem to WordPress upstream to have a look at.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • BSD
    • Initial C17 Language Support Lands In LLVM Clang 6.0 SVN

      Back in October is when GCC began prepping C17 support patches for their compiler as a minor update to the C programming language. LLVM’s Clang compiler has now landed its initial support for C17.

      C17 is a minor “bug fix version” over the C11 standard. The C17 specification is still being firmed up and following the initial support appearing in GCC, it’s now in Clang.

    • LLVM 6.0 Release Planning, Stable Debut Slated For March

      Hans Wennborg as the continuing LLVM release manager has begun drafting plans for the LLVM 6.0 release process.

      Continuing with their usual half-year release cadence, their goal is to ship LLVM 6.0.0 by early March.

    • Your Impact on FreeBSD
    • pledge() work in progress

      I wanted to give an update that a two pledge-related changes are being worked on. The semantics and integration are complicated so it is taking some time.

    • arm64 platform now officially supported [and has syspatch(8)]
    • LLVM 5.0.1 Expected For Release Next Week

      While the LLVM 5.0.1 bug-fix release was originally expected last month, after going through three release candidates the stable version is now expected to arrive next week.

      Tom Stellard of Red Hat announced on Thursday that 5.0.1-rc3 has been tagged. He expects this to be the final release candidate and to then officially declare v5.0.1 next week.

    • DTrace & ZFS Being Updated On NetBSD, Moving Away From Old OpenSolaris Code

      The NetBSD operating system has been working on updating their DTrace and ZFS implementations.

      Chuck Silvers with the NetBSD project has been working on updating their DTrace and ZFS code. Up to now NetBSD has been relying upon outdated ZFS/DTrace code that originated from the OpenSolaris code-base. As many of you know, OpenSolaris hasn’t been a thing now for many years since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • Free Software Foundation Fun For Xmas

      If you’re looking for festive presents for programmers, the Free Software Foundation has some options that combine open software street cred with supporting open source and the GNU philosophy.

      The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a not for profit organization founded in the mid 80s to support the free software movement. Its founder was Richard Stallman, who also launched the GNU Project in the 80s to create an operating system like UNIX but entirely free. The FSF initially used its funds to pay developers to write free software for the GNU project, and once that was achieved, funds have been used to support the free software movement legally and structurally.

      Most of the choices in the FSF shop do come down to items with the word GNU on them – I was hoping for some furry GNU hats or slippers, but sadly (or perhaps fortunately) this wasn’t a choice.

    • Intel Continues Tuning Glibc’s Performance: More FMA’ing

      Intel continues contributing performance optimizations to the GNU C Library (glibc) for allowing various functions to make use of modern processor instruction set extensions.

      Glibc this year has seen FMA optimizations, its per-thread cache enabled, AVX optimizations, and other performance work contributed in large part by Intel engineers. Glibc isn’t gaining weight this holiday season but is continuing to be optimized for speed.

  • Public Services/Government
    • Army Tapping Open-Source, Cloud as Big Data Platform

      The Army is forging ahead with deployment of its Big Data Platform (BDP), a move that underscores the Department of Defense’s (DoD) plans for using open-source software, commercial technologies, and cloud services to get a grip on the data it collects from a wide range of sources.

      The Army recently announced its intention to award Enlighten IT Consulting a sole-source contract to implement the BDP, which officially became a program of record a year ago. Enlighten, which already had worked on the platform, is also working on the Defense Information System Agency’s (DISA) overarching Big Data Platform, most recently under a $40 million contract to continue development.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Facebook, Google, Red Hat, IBM revisit open source licencing

      Four of the largest players in the open source arena – Facebook, Google, Red Hat and IBM – have joined forces to promote predictability in open source licensing, by committing to extend additional rights to rectify open source licence compliance errors.

      Michael Cunningham, Red Hat’s executive vice president and general counsel, said this was in line with the four organisations’ belief in promoting greater fairness and predictability in licence enforcement and the growth of participation in the open source community.

      According to Cunningham, Red Hat believes that enforcement of open source software licences should be judged by whether the activity fosters or discourages adoption of the software and collaboration and participation in open source development.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open-source design can democratise healthcare, says Sabine Wildevuur

      “Normally, you make something, you close it down, and you sell it. Open design, on the other hand, is all about sharing your knowledge of design with others,” she says.

    • Mozilla’s new voice recognition model, fixing the GPL, and more news

      In this week’s edition of our open source news roundup, we look at Mozilla’s new speech recognition model, how big players in open source are moving to help the GPL, and more.

    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • Open Source Biolab Uses 3D Bioprinting Platform to Fabricate Complex Earlobe Vasculature

        3D printing technology has made a big impact in the medical field, in more ways than one, including bioprinting and biofabrication. The Institute for Development of Advanced Applied Systems, or Institute IRNAS, located in Slovenia, operates Symbiolab, an open source-based biolab that focuses on the development of future-proof 3D biofabrication. The lab works on innovative biomaterials research, and also develops biomedical research applications and hardware solutions, including its Vitaprint 3D bioprinting platform. The open source Vitaprint was developed in-house at Symbiolab, and the platform includes demo files, protocols, and hardware.

      • Open source suicide: This 3D-printable ‘death pod’ provides painless euthanasia

        Dr. Philip Nitschke is concerned about a different aspect, though. He is one of the most outspoken proponents of euthanasia, referring to deliberate intervention taken by a person to end his or her life to relieve suffering. And as the founder and director of the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, he is using tech to help his cause. Working alongside Netherlands engineer Alexander Bannick, Nitschke developed a 3D-printed euthanasia machine called Sarco which, he claims, could serve a valuable social purpose.

        [...]

        There will no doubt be plenty of controversy about the creation of Sarco, just as there is around the wider topic of euthanasia. But it’s definitely an example of open-source 3D-printing models we’ve not considered before.

  • Programming/Development
    • PHP version 7.0.27RC1 and 7.1.13RC1
    • The junior programmer’s guide to asking for help

      Asking for help is a skill, and a skill you can learn. Once you’ve mastered this skill you will be able ask questions at the right time, and in the right way.

    • Cliff Lynch’s Stewardship in the “Age of Algorithms”

      I agree that society is facing a crisis in its ability to remember the past. Cliff has provided a must-read overview of the context in which the crisis has developed, and some pointers to pragmatic if unsatisfactory ways to address it. What I would like to see is a even broader view, describing this crisis as one among many caused by the way increasing returns to scale are squeezing out the redundancy essential to a resilient civilization.

    • Stewardship in the “Age of Algorithms”

      This paper explores pragmatic approaches that might be employed to document the behavior of large, complex socio-technical systems (often today shorthanded as “algorithms”) that centrally involve some mixture of personalization, opaque rules, and machine learning components. Thinking rooted in traditional archival methodology — focusing on the preservation of physical and digital objects, and perhaps the accompanying preservation of their environments to permit subsequent interpretation or performance of the objects — has been a total failure for many reasons, and we must address this problem. The approaches presented here are clearly imperfect, unproven, labor-intensive, and sensitive to the often hidden factors that the target systems use for decision-making (including personalization of results, where relevant); but they are a place to begin, and their limitations are at least outlined. Numerous research questions must be explored before we can fully understand the strengths and limitations of what is proposed here. But it represents a way forward. This is essentially the first paper I am aware of which tries to effectively make progress on the stewardship challenges facing our society in the so-called “Age of Algorithms;” the paper concludes with some discussion of the failure to address these challenges to date, and the implications for the roles of archivists as opposed to other players in the broader enterprise of stewardship — that is, the capture of a record of the present and the transmission of this record, and the records bequeathed by the past, into the future. It may well be that we see the emergence of a new group of creators of documentation, perhaps predominantly social scientists and humanists, taking the front lines in dealing with the “Age of Algorithms,” with their materials then destined for our memory organizations to be cared for into the future.

    • Testing OpenStack using tempest: all is packaged, try it yourself

      tl;dr: this post explains how the new openstack-tempest-ci-live-booter package configures a machine to PXE boot a Debian Live system running on KVM in order to run functional testing of OpenStack. It may be of interest to you if you want to learn how to PXE boot a KVM virtual machine running Debian Live, even if you aren’t interested in OpenStack.

  • Standards/Consortia
    • New Antitrust Division Chief Prioritizes Regulation of Standard Setting Organizations

      As we discussed in our May 2017 article, the current head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, brings considerable intellectual property experience to the division. Delrahim started his legal career at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as deputy director for intellectual property rights. He later served on the Intellectual Property Task Force while serving a stint at the DOJ in the early 2000s. Then-acting Antitrust Division Chief R. Hewitt Pate referred to Delrahim as a “patent lawyer.” Therefore, it is not surprising that, in a Nov. 10 maiden speech at the University of California’s Transactional Law and Business Conference, Delrahim chose to discuss antitrust violations in IP licensing, specifically urging federal and state antitrust enforcement agencies to prioritize review of standard setting organizations (SSOs).

Leftovers
  • Silicon Valley Is Sneaking Models Into This Year’s Holiday Parties

    The company, which she wouldn’t name, has handpicked the models based on photos, made them sign nondisclosure agreements, and given them names of employees to pretend they’re friends with, in case anyone asks why he’s never seen them around the foosball table.

  • Dear Tech Guys: HBO’s Silicon Valley Is NOT An Instruction Manual

    I’ve been living in Silicon Valley for just about twenty years at this point, and lived through the original dot com bubble (got the t-shirt, etc.). And there are a few small signs that remind me quite a bit of the “bad stuff” that started to show up in the 1999/2000 time frame, just before everything collapsed. One of the biggest issues: the carpetbaggers. Basically, as things get frothier and frothier, a “different” kind of entrepreneur starts to show up. In the original dot com bubble, these were frequently described as “MBA’s” — but as someone with an MBA degree, I find that to be a bit misleading too. There were plenty of good, smart, tech-savvy MBAs who added value to the innovation community. The real problem was the people who came to (a) get rich and (b) party (not always in that order). Getting rich and having a good time aren’t necessarily bad things, but if they’re what you’re focused on, then bad things tend to result.

    [...]

    People out here, for the most part, still love the show, because they recognize elements of reality within those characters and events — but it misses out on the nitty-gritty of how stuff gets done and the fact that some people are legitimately doing good stuff without being horrible people. But if everyone now coming into Silicon Valley is coming in with HBO’s Silicon Valley as their model — too many are looking at the show as an instruction manual, rather than a giant warning sign of what not to do. In some ways, it reminds me of the classic 90′s indie film Swingers with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. When it came out, I remember lots of guys trying to “take lessons” from the movie in how to pick up women, even though the entire point of the movie was to make fun of those people with their tricks and rules and games.

    Assuming that story of hiring models for parties really is true, it feels like yet another brick in this problematic wall of “techbro” culture taking over from what has always been the true core of Silicon Valley, involving non-assholes who really are changing the world. It would be great if we could get more of that, and less of the HBO version, no matter how entertaining it might be.

  • Did A Non-Existent Eatery In A Shed Become TripAdvisor’s Top-Rated Restaurant In London?

    A key feature of e-commerce sites is the reviews from people who have used them previously. Such recommendations or warnings are even more important online than in the physical world, because it is much easier to set up a virtual shop than a real one, which makes scams a far greater risk online. However, the enhanced importance of site reviews also increases the incentive to create false ones. A cautionary tale about just how misleading reviews can be is provided by an entertaining post on Vice. In it, the journalist Oobah Butler describes how he turned a non-existent eatery into TripAdvisor’s top-rated London restaurant. Or at least that’s what he claimed. We should admit, up front, that since this story is about faking stuff on the internet, we should at least be open to the idea that the story of this faked restaurant review might also be… fake.

  • New York City Hotels Say Obnoxious $25 ‘Destination Fee’ ‘Improves The Customer Experience’

    Taking a page from the telecom and banking sector playbooks, New York City hotels have decided to add a $25 “destination fee” just for the honor of being able to sleep somewhere near the audio visual cacophony that is Times Square. Major hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott and Starwood are all adding the new destination fees, which aren’t part of the advertised rate — and are only added to the final tally at checkout. Said fees mirror other “resort fees” used to jack up advertised rates in other destination locations like Hawaii, the Florida coast, or Las Vegas.

  • Science
    • Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm

      The game of chess is the most widely-studied domain in the history of artificial intelligence. The strongest programs are based on a combination of sophisticated search techniques, domain-specific adaptations, and handcrafted evaluation functions that have been refined by human experts over several decades. In contrast, the AlphaGo Zero program recently achieved superhuman performance in the game of Go, by tabula rasa reinforcement learning from games of self-play. In this paper, we generalise this approach into a single AlphaZero algorithm that can achieve, tabula rasa, superhuman performance in many challenging domains. Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case.

    • Thoughts on AlphaZero

      The chess world woke up to something of an earthquake two days ago, when DeepMind (a Google subsidiary) announced that they had adapted their AlphaGo engine to play chess with only minimal domain knowledge—and it was already beating Stockfish. (It also plays shogi, but who cares about shogi. ) Granted, the shock wasn’t as huge as what the Go community must have felt when the original AlphaGo came in from nowhere and swept with it the undisputed Go throne and a lot of egos in the Go community over the course of a few short months—computers have been better at chess than humans for a long time—but it’s still a huge event.

      I see people are trying to make sense of what this means for the chess world. I’m not a strong chess player, an AI expert or a top chess programmer, but I do play chess, I’ve worked in AI (in Google, briefly in the same division as the DeepMind team) and I run what’s the strongest chess analysis website online whenever Magnus Carlsen is playing (next game 17:00 UTC tomorrow!), so I thought I should share some musings.

    • DeepMind AI needs mere 4 hours of self-training to become a chess overlord

      We last heard from DeepMind’s dominant gaming AI in October. As opposed to earlier sessions of AlphaGo besting the world’s best Go players after the DeepMind team trained it on observations of said humans, the company’s Go-playing AI (version AlphaGo Zero) started beating pros after three days of playing against itself with no prior knowledge of the game.

    • Meet the man behind the most important tool in data science

      Wes McKinney hates the idea of researchers wasting their time. “Scientists unnecessarily dealing with the drudgery of simple data manipulation tasks makes me feel terrible,” he says.

      Perhaps more than any other person, McKinney has helped fix that problem. McKinney is the developer of “Pandas”, one of the main tools used by data analysts working in the popular programming language Python.

      Millions of people around the world use Pandas. In October 2017 alone, Stack Overflow, a website for programmers, recorded 5 million visits to questions about Pandas from more than 1 million unique visitors. Data scientists at Google, Facebook, JP Morgan, and virtually other major company that analyze data uses Pandas. Most people haven’t heard of it, but for many people who do heavy data analysis—a rapidly growing group these days—life wouldn’t be the same without it. (Pandas is open source, so it’s free to use.)

  • Health/Nutrition
    • The Trump Administration Is Scuttling a Rule That Would Save People From Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

      After Hurricane Irma hit three months ago in Orlando, Florida, the local police got a desperate 911 call from a 12-year-old boy reporting that his mother and siblings were unconscious. Fumes overcame the first deputy who rushed to the scene. After the police arrived at the property, they found Jan Lebron Diaz, age 13, Jan’s older sister Kiara, 16, and their mother Desiree, 34, lying dead, poisoned from carbon monoxide emitted by their portable generator. Four others in the house went to the hospital. If 12-year-old Louis hadn’t made that call, they might have died, too.

      Portable generators release more carbon monoxide — which is particularly dangerous because it is odorless and invisible — than most cars. As a result, the devices can kill efficiently and quickly, though accidentally. The Diaz family usually placed the generator properly, outside the house, a neighbor told local reporters. But for some reason, they had brought it into their garage. From there, the generator’s murderous byproduct spread silently through the house.

    • Black Women Disproportionately Suffer Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Let’s Talk About It.

      About 700 to 900 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. And for every death, dozens of women suffer life-threatening complications. But there is a stark racial disparity in these numbers. Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die than white mothers. Nevertheless, black women’s voices are often missing from public discussions about what’s behind the maternal health crisis and how to address the problems.

      It is estimated that up to 60 percent of maternal complications are preventable. One way to prevent them is to talk to and learn from women who have nearly died from these complications. So, we reached out to nearly 200 black mothers or families that shared stories of severe complications as part of our maternal health investigation Lost Mothers.

  • Security
  • Defence/Aggression
    • War in 140 characters: how social media is reshaping conflict in the 21st century
    • Chronicler of Islamic State ‘killing machine’ goes public

      On Nov. 15, 2017, Mosul Eye made his decision.

      “I can’t be anonymous anymore. This is to say that I defeated ISIS. You can see me now, and you can know me now.”

    • What Kind of Nuclear Attack Would be Legal?

      Four days earlier, retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously held Gen. Hyten’s top job at Strategic Command, testified likewise to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying that nuclear war commanders could “ignore any unlawful order by the president to launch a nuclear strike.”

      Generals Hyten and Kehler both said in their unprecedented public comments that the legal principles of “military necessity,” “discriminate destruction,” and “proportionality” all apply to decisions about nuclear attacks. Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, asked Gen. Kehler if he meant that Strategic Command could disobey a president’s ordering a nuclear attack. “Yes,” Kehler said.

    • Private War: Erik Prince Has His Eye On Afghanistan’s Rare Metals

      Controversial private security tycoon Erik Prince has famously pitched an audacious plan to the Trump administration: Hire him to privatize the war in Afghanistan using squads of “security contractors.” Now, for the first time, Buzzfeed News is publishing that pitch, a presentation that lays out how Prince wanted to take over the war from the US military — and how he envisioned mining some of the most war-torn provinces in Afghanistan to help fund security operations and obtain strategic mineral resources for the US.

      Prince, who founded the Blackwater security firm and testified last week to the House Intelligence Committee for its Russia investigation, has deep connections into the current White House: He’s friends with former presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, and he’s the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.

    • Dubious claim of week: Air Force’s “EMP missile” could disable N. Korean ICBMs

      On Monday, NBC Nightly News broadcast a report claiming that White House officials had discussed using an experimental weapon to disrupt or disable a North Korean missile launch. The weapon in question, the product of the US Air Force’s Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), uses bursts of microwave energy to disable electronic devices such as computers, communications and air defense radar systems.

      Officials from Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) suggested CHAMP could be fully weaponized in a matter of weeks. But almost as a footnote, the NBC report noted that the weapon would have to pass very close to an ICBM before launch to affect it—which, despite CHAMP’s classification as a non-lethal weapon, might be considered an act of war.

    • After Trump’s Jerusalem Move, Media Worry About ‘Violence’–Not Violation of International Law

      President Donald Trump declared that the US saw Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced the US would move its Israeli embassy there—reversing decades of policy and removing any pretense of US neutrality in negotiating “peace” between Palestinians and Israelis.

      Though both Congress and past presidents of both parties have supported the move in principle for decades, much of the US media establishment is now fretting about the Jerusalem announcement, continuing to push the illusion that a nebulous “peace deal” is still right around the next watchtower.

      The American “recognition” of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital further entrenches and condones Israel’s occupation, ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestinian land. But outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and CBS, in editorials and straight reporting, downplayed and skirted matters of substance, reserving critical attention for questions of optics or process.

    • When Washington Cheered the Jihadists

      Official Washington helped unleash hell on Syria and across the Mideast behind the naïve belief that jihadist proxies could be used to transform the region for the better, explains Daniel Lazare.

    • The Churchillian Myths of 1940

      As for Joe Wright, he told the Guardian that his portrait of Churchill is a rebuke to Donald Trump. Why? Because “He kicked and he screamed and got a lot of things wrong in his career, and in his personal life, but one thing he got right was he resisted the tide of fascism, bigotry and hate. And that seems to speaking to America now, and Britain, too.” Naturally, Wright made a film that emphasized Churchill’s ostensibly heroic and lonely battle to take the war to Hitler, resisting the cowardice of his fellow Tories Nevil Chamberlain and Lord Halifax who serve as his foils in the same way that Francis Preston Blair served as Lincoln’s foil in Spielberg’s biopic. Like Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, Blair was soft on the enemy, hoping to engage the Confederate government in peace negotiations just as the other two sought a peace treaty with Hitler that would allow him to control Europe as long as Britain remained independent. It is apparent that Wright had little insights into the overarching motivation of all three Tory politicians: to destroy Bolshevism and preserve the British Empire.

    • 120 Jewish Studies Scholars Condemn Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration

      As protests and violence intensified in the Middle East on Friday in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to flout international law and recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel earlier this week, more than 120 Jewish studies scholars from universities across the United States condemned the move and urged the Trump administration to take responsibility for the fallout.

      “A declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence,” wrote the scholars in their petition.

      At least one Palestinian protester has been killed in the demonstrations that followed Wednesday’s announcement. The Israeli military launched air strikes on Gaza as Palestinians took part in a “day of rage,” called for by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. At least 25 people were injured in the air strikes, including six children.

      The Jewish studies scholars called on the U.S. government “to take immediate steps to deescalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.”

    • “Settlers in the White House”: Palestinians Denounce Trump Jerusalem Order & Protest in Day of Rage

      As Palestinians protest President Trump’s announcement that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we go to East Jerusalem to speak with Budour Hassan, a Palestinian writer and project coordinator for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, and speak with Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. We are also joined in Ramallah by Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian politician and scholar.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Julian Assange bets $100K that CBS report on Donald Trump Jr., Wikileaks is false

      Julian Assange is challenging a report by CBS News that details an email reportedly received by Donald Trump Jr. that offered access to hacked information provided through Wikileaks during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

      According to CBS and CNN, the email was received by Trump Jr. along with others in the Trump campaign (including a rarely used email for Donald Trump himself) and contained a website url and a decryption key on Sept. 14, 2016. (The email was first reported to have been sent on Sept. 4 but both news organizations corrected the date.)

    • CNN corrects report about Trump campaign and Wikileaks tip

      CNN had to correct a story on Friday that suggested the Trump campaign had been tipped off early about Wikileaks documents damaging to Hillary Clinton when it later learned the alert was about material already publicly available.

      The new information, CNN noted, “indicates that the communication is less significant than CNN initially reported.”

      It’s the second mistake in a week by a major news organization on a story that initially had been damaging to the president but didn’t live up to scrutiny, sure to give Trump ammunition for his campaign against “fake news.” This time it was by one of Trump’s favorite targets.

    • The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened

      FRIDAY WAS ONE of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

      The spectacle began on Friday morning at 11:00 am EST, when the Most Trusted Name in News™ spent 12 straight minutes on air flamboyantly hyping an exclusive bombshell report that seemed to prove that WikiLeaks, last September, had secretly offered the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself, special access to the DNC emails before they were published on the internet. As CNN sees the world, this would prove collusion between the Trump family and WikiLeaks and, more importantly, between Trump and Russia, since the U.S. intelligence community regards WikiLeaks as an “arm of Russian intelligence,” and therefore, so does the U.S. media.

      This entire revelation was based on an email which CNN strongly implied it had exclusively obtained and had in its possession. The email was sent by someone named “Michael J. Erickson” – someone nobody had heard of previously and whom CNN could not identify – to Donald Trump, Jr., offering a decryption key and access to DNC emails that WikiLeaks had “uploaded.” The email was a smoking gun, in CNN’s extremely excited mind, because it was dated September 4 – ten days before WikiLeaks began publishing those emails online – and thus proved that the Trump family was being offered special, unique access to the DNC archive: likely by WikiLeaks and the Kremlin.

      It’s impossible to convey with words what a spectacularly devastating scoop CNN believed it had, so it’s necessary to watch it for yourself to see the tone of excitement, breathlessness and gravity the network conveyed as they clearly believed they were delivering a near-fatal blow to the Trump/Russia collusion story:

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Volkswagen Official Gets 7-Year Term in Diesel-Emissions Cheating
    • Most Dire Climate Change Predictions, Warns New Study, Are Also the Most Accurate
    • Trump Orders Largest National Monument Reduction In U.S. History

      On a visit to Utah on Monday, President Trump announced his proclamations dramatically shrinking the size of the state’s two massive national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Taken together, Trump’s orders mark the largest reversal of national monument protections in U.S. history.

      The change has already been challenged in court by conservation groups.

      The Bears Ears National Monument will go from roughly 1.3 million acres to roughly 228,000 — only about 15 percent of its original size. And Grand Staircase will be diminished by roughly half, from its nearly 1.9 million acres to about 1 million. The specific numbers were provided to reporters by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke prior to Trump’s announcement in Salt Lake City.

      “No one values the splendor of Utah more than you do,” Trump told an enthusiastic crowd Monday, “and no one knows better how to use it.”

    • The Burning Earth Bears Witness in California

      Watching the first ten minutes of the “Public” (Petroleum and/or Pentagon?) Broadcasting System (“P”BS)’s NewsHour two nights ago, I was overcome by a sense of the surreal. The first news item was the Insane Clown President’s (ICP) idiotic (if base-pleasing) announcement that the U.S. embassy in Israel will at some point be moved from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. NewsHour host and Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member Judy Woodruff announced a special segment on this story later in the broadcast.

      The next story was the coming likely resignation of the centrist corporate-Democratic Party pain-in-the-ass Al Franken from the U.S. Senate in response to cascading allegations of sexual harassment and weirdness. That too was to receive a special segment, the CFR’s Woodruff assured viewers.

      Then came a brief yet hair-raising report showing homes burning and enflamed mountains looming over motorists in southern California, just outside Los Angeles. The wildfire footage was breathtakingly dystopian.

    • Bad news: Warmest climate models might also be most accurate

      Some people who reject the conclusions of climate science claim that the existence of any remaining uncertainty means few or no actions need be taken to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, though, uncertainty is ever-present in science, and it’s not necessarily our friend. A new study from Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science highlights the fact that uncertainty means climate change could just as easily be worse than our best current estimates predict.

      The study sought to narrow the range of projected global warming presented in places like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. For each of several scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions, these reports have simply taken simulations from every climate model available and combined the results—showing the average temperature trajectory and the range they span. For the highest-emissions scenario, for example, the last IPCC report projected about 4.3 degrees Celsius (7.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming by the late 21st century. But the range of model results stretched from about 3.2 degrees Celsius to 5.4 degrees Celsius.

    • Standing Rock Protest Groups Sued by Dakota Access Pipeline Company

      f you want to experience 2017 in a nutshell, check out the billion-dollar lawsuit filed by an oil and gas company against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for their roles in the Standing Rock protests.

      In a 231-page complaint filed by Donald Trump’s old law firm, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, claims that Greenpeace and its partners are engaged in a criminal network of fraud and misinformation. The paranoiac complaint, which includes references to “wolfpacks of corrupt” environmental nongovernmental organizations and describes Greenpeace as a “putative Dutch not-for-profit foundation,” would be amusing if it weren’t so dangerous.

  • Finance
    • Jack Ma Says China Open to Western Companies That Follow Rules
    • Russophobia Goes Comic

      The current government of Ghana took over in January and inherited a huge fiscal deficit due to – and there is no other way of saying it – wholesale looting by the last government on a scale which Ghana had never witnessed before. To give an example from our own sector, we install power plant using Siemens equipment at about 1.2 million dollars per MW for a turnkey plant including fuel supply and power evacuation infrastructure. The last government of Ghana were contracting large projects at three times the unit cost or more, using inferior equipment. For $150 million per project to be added corruptly was not unusual.

      On top of this, despite having imposed some of the world’s highest electricity tariffs – higher than British tariffs, for example – the revenue collected was mysteriously vanishing. As a result, our $52 million owed was part of a US$2.5 billion energy sector debt the current government inherited.

    • Japan, EU finalize trade deal, aim at implementation in early 2019

      Japan and the European Union finalized negotiations on a free trade deal on Friday, Japanese government and ruling government sources said, with the two sides aiming to implement it in early 2019.

      Later in the day, the Japanese and EU leaders are set to confirm the final accord, which was reached during their respective chief negotiators’ meeting in Brussels, by telephone, the sources said.

    • Congress Is Pushing Vouchers in the Tax Bill. That Won’t Help Students With Disabilities

      As the Senate worked through the night last Friday on massive legislation that would overhaul the U.S. tax code, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas added an amendment that would effectively transform a college savings account into a school voucher for K-12 education. If the amendment survives, it would advance a type of policy that hurtsthe public school system and, as new evidence illustrates, hurts students with disabilities.

    • Suyapa Portillo on Honduras Electoral Chaos, Rebecca Cokley on GOP ‘Tax on Disability’

      This week on CounterSpin: US media reporting on the electoral chaos in Honduras—where a president has not been declared nearly two weeks after voting—can choose to tell an “exotic” story about failings of democracy in Central American countries. Or they could more usefully connect the dots between a bipartisan US foreign policy that supports leaders deemed friendly to US “interests,” and the hardship and violence and voicelessness that pushes many to flee the countries run by those “friends.” We’ll talk about Honduras with Suyapa Portillo, assistant professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o Transnational Studies at Pitzer College, recently returned from the country, where she was an election observer.

    • Capitalism’s Failure of the Flesh

      A bitter irony of modernity is that the age-old dream of freeing people from work’s tedium has been answered by the rise of robots, but capitalism has turned that “freedom” into a barren life with little left to lose, writes poet Phil Rockstroh.

      [...]

      Capitalism is, by its very nature, dehumanizing. From the advent of the industrial/capitalist epoch, the system has inflicted mass alienation, societal atomization, and anomie. Moreover, the vast wealth inequity inherent to the system allows the capitalist elite to own the political class — a mindless clutch of flunkies who might as well be robots programmed by the capitalist order to serve their agendas.

    • I Spent Years Reporting on Chicago’s Property Tax System. Here’s What Got Me Out of the Weeds.

      For about 2 1/2 years now, I’ve been reporting on the Cook County property tax assessment system, uncovering inequities and explaining them to readers. At times, the work has been mind-numbing, with long stretches when I was lost in the weeds. But one thing was certain: Behind all the technical terms and the statistics was a story about the simple concept of fairness.

    • The Reagan ‘Boom’ Echoed Glory Days of Ford/Carter

      A Morning Edition segment on the Republican tax cut plan made comparisons to the Reagan tax cuts, referring to the “boom” that occurred following those cuts. While the economy did grow rapidly in the years from 1983 to 1986, the main reason was the severity of the 1981–82 recession. Economies tend to bounce back quickly following a severe recession.

      We saw the same story in the 1970s. The economy grew at a 5.7 percent annual rate in the 13 quarters from the fourth quarter of 1982 to first quarter of 1986. This is not hugely different than the 5.3 percent annual growth rate from the first quarter of 1975 to the third quarter of 1977. The key to the more rapid growth in the Reagan recovery was the somewhat greater severity of the 1981–82 recession, which pushed unemployment to almost 11 percent.

    • Is Bitcoin a bubble? Here’s what two bubble experts told us
    • Bitcoin is The New Brexit

      Restoring trust in financial infrastructure requires a new recipe, one not fueled by secrecy, centralization and externality. Bitcoin from day one has been ruthlessly designed to eliminate the need for a trusted third party.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.
    • Covering the Midterms With Election DataBot

      The midterm elections are less than a year away, and with the balance of power of both houses of Congress at stake, they seem likely to be closely fought. To help local journalists use election data to keep a close eye on candidates and races, we’re today announcing an update to our Election DataBot app.

      A partnership with the Google News Lab, Election DataBot helps reporters, researchers and citizens keep track of campaign activity. The update adds a host of new information from ProPublica’s political data collection that will help users understand races in even more detail, and provide an even broader picture to their readers. DataBot users can sign up for email alerts for a particular candidate, committee or race, using a Google account.

    • The Left is dead, carpe DiEM!

      In the aftermath of another round of elections across Europe, we are left to wonder whether reports of the death of the Left might have been not at all exaggerated. As professor Sheri Berman observes in an op-ed contribution for The New York Times, the historic defeat of the German Social-democratic Party (SPD) in the last federal elections could have marked the end of the political framework that has shaped European societies since the end of World War II.

      Such a framework has rested on two pillars, i.e. a social-democratic and a conservative pole, which have been able to compete for government, by articulating clearly distinct sets of policies, while agreeing on the basic tenets of liberal, capitalist democracy. However, the first pillar is now crumbling, which is paving the way for the rise of national-populist parties. Those parties have indeed succeeded in appealing to social and demographic groups that had historically supported not only the Social Democrats, but the Left in general, such as “blue collar” workers, students, public employees and young voters.

    • Report: Flynn Told Associate Sanctions on Russia Would Be “Ripped Off” After Trump’s Election

      President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., testified to the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday, where he refused to answer lawmakers’ questions about his conversation with his father about released emails detailing Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer and other Trump associates in June 2016. Instead of answering, Trump Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege, even though neither he nor his father are lawyers. Meanwhile, a whistleblower has told congressional investigators that Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business partner in the middle of Trump’s inauguration, saying that U.S. sanctions on Russia would soon be “ripped off,” allowing them to move forward with a private project to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East.

    • Roy Moore’s Story Is Unraveling

      A month ago, when Roy Moore was accused of having pursued teenage girls while in his 30s, he equivocated. “Do you remember dating girls that young?” Sean Hannity asked him. Moore hedged: “Not generally, no. If I did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that.” Hannity asked Moore about Debbie Gibson, who said she had dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34. “I don’t remember going out on dates,” said Moore. “I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates, then we did.”

    • What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon?

      Until it became crushing. Since being elected in May 2016, Duterte has turned Facebook into a weapon. The same Facebook personalities who fought dirty to see Duterte win were brought inside the Malacañang Palace. From there they are methodically taking down opponents, including a prominent senator and human-rights activist who became the target of vicious online attacks and was ultimately jailed on a drug charge.

      And then, as Ressa began probing the government’s use of social media and writing stories critical of the new president, the force of Facebook was turned against her.

    • Moore Is Less: Alabama, the Senate and the Nation Will Suffer

      Amid all the news surrounding Roy Moore’s race for the US Senate and the seeming willingness of Alabama’s likely voters to send a man of such dubious merit and morality to Capitol Hill (where, admittedly, the bar already is pretty damned low), I keep thinking of a line from the Randy Newman song “Rednecks.”

      It’s the lead piece on his classic ’70s album Good Old Boys, and begins with a Southern man lamenting how the north-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line media types make fun of former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, the arch-segregationist notorious for using an ax handle to threaten those who tried to integrate his fried chicken restaurant.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Here’s How to Find Out If Your Elected Officials Are Blocking Constituents on Facebook and Twitter

      Facebook and Twitter have become central parts of our political and civic lives. It’s not just President Donald Trump on Twitter and political ads on Facebook. Politicians and agencies across the country use social media to communicate policy, share information and hear from constituents. Those politicians and agencies also have the ability to block those who comment on their posts.

      We were curious about that. So, in August, we filed public-records request with every governor and 22 federal agencies for lists of people blocked on their official Facebook and Twitter accounts. We found that nearly 1,300 accounts were blocked — more than half by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. Bevin’s a Republican, but both Democrat and Republican governors block people.

    • Governors and Federal Agencies Are Blocking Nearly 1,300 Accounts on Facebook and Twitter

      Amanda Farber still doesn’t know why Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan blocked her from his Facebook group. A resident of Bethesda and full-time parent and volunteer, Farber identifies as a Democrat but voted for the Republican Hogan in 2014. Farber says she doesn’t post on her representatives’ pages often. But earlier this year, she said she wrote on the governor’s Facebook page, asking him to oppose the Trump administration’s travel ban and health care proposal.

      She never received a response. When she later returned to the page, she noticed her comment had been deleted. She also noticed she had been blocked from commenting. (She is still allowed to share the governor’s posts and messages.)

    • Adult Content Policies: A Textbook Case of Private Censorship

      Of the many reasons why social media platforms should resist pressure to “voluntarily” censor their users, one stands out: history shows that they will do it badly, taking down valuable and lawful content in the name of enforcing community standards. The result: practical speech discrimination.

      Facebook’s adult content policy is a textbook example. Since its early days, the platform has banned nearly all forms of nudity. But from day one, it has created reporting processes that conflate mere nudity with sexuality, and sexuality with pornography, and has applied different standards to feminine bodies than to masculine ones.

      And the same double standards seem to apply to advertisements. First, the conflation: Facebook’s advertising policy explicitly bans “nudity, depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.” Thanks to this policy, an ad from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy promoting regular health checkups, was rejected for violating Facebook’s advertising guidelines “for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback”—the language in question? “You’re so sexy when you’re well.” Now, the double standard: all of the images used as examples of “inappropriate ads” are of women.

    • European lawmakers concerned about Hong Kong Basic Law interpretations and media self-censorship

      A delegation from the European Parliament has said it is concerned about Beijing’s interpretations of Hong Kong’s de facto constitution and media self-censorship.

      MEPs Jo Leinen of Germany and Frank Engel of Luxembourg were in Hong Kong this week and met political figures including the president of the Legislative Council and lawmakers from both the pro-Beijing camp and pro-democracy camp.

      Leinen, chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, said they want to see Hong Kong thrive and flourish: “We are concerned to hear about media self-censorship and about interpretations of the Basic Law prior to court rulings,” he said.

    • European Parliament delegation raises concerns over Basic Law interpretation, media censorship

      A delegation from the European Parliament concluded its three-day visit to Hong Kong on Thursday on a jarring note, saying it was concerned about Beijing’s interpretations of the city’s mini-constitution and self-censorship.

      “We are concerned to hear about media self-censorship and about interpretations of the Basic Law prior to court rulings,” said Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China. “The rule of law is a keystone of Hong Kong’s unique way of life. It is vital for the city’s international reputation, and integral to the success of ‘one country, two systems’, which we strongly support.”

    • Censorship: an unruly zone emerges in ancient trade route revival

      In the city of Dunhuang in western China, the Mingsha Shan Mountain is picturesque, with golden sand dunes, camels and a clear blue sky. At first glance, it’s the biggest tourist attraction. But the quiet, unassuming city’s history began as one of the most important transit points along the ancient Silk Road.

      The Belt and Road is the modern day reincarnation of the Silk Road. That road was a trade route that linked the cultures and economies of the countries it connected, from east China to Kathmandu in Nepal, Aleppo in Syria and Venice in Italy.

    • Reddit’s /r/btc Reaches 100,000+ Subscribers in a Victory for Censorship Resistance

      Decentralization is a tool to attain censorship resistance. The more avenues for debate, the better. Bitcoiners around the world depend on forums such as the popular Reddit.com bulletin board for candid, behind the headlines examination. In a year of striking all-time-highs, the subreddit /r/btc reached 100,000 subscribers this week. The ecosystem should celebrate the scrappy communication channel’s achievement, especially in the wake of campaigns to effectively shut it down.

    • Commentary: There is no other word for this than censorship

      Student leaders at Concordia College in Moorhead has censored prominent conservative speaker Ben Shapiro.

      Specifically, they have voted to rescind funding for Shapiro’s speech which had previously been approved back in November as my colleagues Kim Hyatt and Patrick Springer report in the Fargo Forum.

      To put that decision in context, the College paid left wing activist Shaun King to speak on campus in January.

      It is absolutely true to say that Shapiro is a provocative and even polarizing speaker. But then, so is King.

    • NRB Internet Freedom Watch shines light on censorship

      National Religious Broadcasters is drawing attention to online censorship of Christian and conservative speech by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple by launching a new initiative — Internet Freedom Watch.

    • ACLU Files Second Lawsuit Challenging Laws Suppressing Boycotts of Israel

      An Arizona lawyer is challenging a law requiring him to promise not to boycott Israel if he wants to keep his state contract.

      The ACLU on Thursday filed a challenge to an Arizona law that requires contractors doing business with the state to promise they won’t boycott Israel. This is the second such lawsuit the ACLU has filed in response to a wave of laws across the country designed to suppress constitutionally protected boycotts of Israel.

    • Internet Censorship Bills Won’t Help Catch Sex Traffickers

      In the most illuminating part of last week’s House subcommittee hearing on the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agent Russ Winkler explained how he uses online platforms—particularly Backpage—to fight online sex trafficking. Winkler painted a fascinating picture of agents on his team posing as johns, gaining trust with traffickers, and apprehending them. His testimony demonstrated how, with proper training and resources, law enforcement officers can navigate the online platforms where sex work takes place to find and stop traffickers, especially those trafficking children.

      It was a rare moment of clarity in the debate over FOSTA and its sibling bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). Since these bills were introduced, there’s been little discussion of how law enforcement officers use the online platforms that the bills would threaten and how SESTA and FOSTA would make it more difficult for law enforcement to do its work. Winkler made it crystal clear how heavily his work relies on online platforms: “We’ve conducted operations and investigations involving numerous perpetrators and victims. The one constant we encounter in our investigations is use of online platforms like Backpage.com by buyers and sellers of underage sex.”

    • Online sex-trafficking bill prompts Craigslist to hire its first lobbyists

      Recently filed disclosure forms show that Craigslist has tapped five lobbyists from the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, including former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).

    • Public outcry causes Google to rethink banning powerful “accessibility” apps
    • Russia Says Disconnecting From The Rest Of The Net ‘Out Of The Question’, But Wants Alternative DNS Servers For BRICS Nations

      That offers a pragmatic recognition that disconnection from the global Internet is no longer an option for a modern state, even if Iran begs to differ. It’s true that local DNS servers provide resilience, but they also make it much easier for a government to limit access to foreign sites by ordering their IP addresses to be blocked — surely another reason for the move.

      This latest proposal is part of a long-running campaign by Russia to wrest control of key aspects of the Internet — such as the DNS system — from international bodies, for example during the ITU’s World Conference on International Communications (WCIT) in 2012. Russia already had the support of other BRICS governments back then, which suggests they will back the new approach.

    • Tech Companies’ Transparency Efforts May Be Inadvertently Causing More Censorship

      In 2002, two Chinese men were detained for their dissident activities online. The first, Wang Xiaoning, had used email and Yahoo forums to spread pro-democracy messages, a crime for which he served ten years. The second, a journalist called Shi Tao, was convicted of providing state secrets to overseas entities and served eight years. The two men are connected by an invisible thread: In both cases, the convictions couldn’t have happened without the complicity of an American company.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Top EU Data Protection Body Asks US To Fix Problems Of ‘Privacy Shield’ Or Expect A Referral To Region’s Highest Court

      As regards the Executive Order 12333, WP29 wants the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) “to finish and issue its awaited report on EO 12333 to provide information on the concrete operation of this Executive Order and on its necessity and proportionality with regard to interferences brought to data protection in this context.” That’s likely to be a bit tricky, because the PCLOB is understaffed due to unfilled vacancies, and possibly moribund. In conclusion, the WP29 “acknowledges the progress of the Privacy Shield in comparison with the invalidated Safe Harbor Decision”, but underlines that the EU group has “identified a number of significant concerns that need to be addressed by both the [European] Commission and the U.S. authorities.” I

    • Trump Officials Say Warrantless Surveillance Program Will Continue Whether Congress Approves It This Year or Not

      Having come to the realization there may be little hope for renewing the warrantless surveillance program known as Section 702 by the end of the month, Trump administration attorneys now contend there’s a legal basis for continuing the program through next April, despite the widely held assumption it would expire come New Year’s Day.

      Debate over potential reforms to the program, enacted under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, continue in Congress, but have been largely overshadowed by Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code.

    • White House Allows Warrantless Surveillance of NSA Continue Until April

      Section 702 of The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes the warrantless data gathering of the NSA, is scheduled to expire on New Year’s Eve. Lawyers for the executive branch have concluded that FISA Section 702 surveillance can continue legally until the 26th of April 2018. The rationale boils down to a technicality. As the FISA Amendments Act states that orders issued under 702 can last for a year, and NSA’s last year-long certification was issued on the 26 of April 2017.

      If the argument persists, it will please officials that are concerned that surveillance will either have to be dismissed or continue on questionable legal grounds. That is entirely possible when Congress is presently focused on pushing through its tax plan, and it might not significantly proceed with the House or Senate bills renewing Section 702 until the new year. An extension could provide them months to prepare for the probabiliy that the program might wind down, which would force them to conduct more targeted espionage.

    • Google’s true origin partly lies in CIA and NSA research grants for mass surveillance

      Two decades ago, the US intelligence community worked closely with Silicon Valley in an effort to track citizens in cyberspace. And Google is at the heart of that origin story. Some of the research that led to Google’s ambitious creation was funded and coordinated by a research group established by the intelligence community to find ways to track individuals and groups online.

      The intelligence community hoped that the nation’s leading computer scientists could take non-classified information and user data, combine it with what would become known as the internet, and begin to create for-profit, commercial enterprises to suit the needs of both the intelligence community and the public. They hoped to direct the supercomputing revolution from the start in order to make sense of what millions of human beings did inside this digital information network. That collaboration has made a comprehensive public-private mass surveillance state possible today.

    • UK Court Says Company Is Innocent In Massive Data Breach Caused By Vindictive Employee, But Must Nonetheless Pay Compensation

      It’s well known that the EU has laws offering relatively strong protection for personal data — some companies say too strong. Possible support for that viewpoint comes from a new data protection case in the UK, which follows EU law, where the judge has come to a rather surprising conclusion. Details of the case can be found in a short post on the Panopticon blog, or in the court’s 59-page judgment (pdf), but the basic facts are as follows.

      In 2014, a file containing personal details of 99,998 employees of the UK supermarket chain Morrisons was posted on a file-sharing Web site. The file included names, addresses, gender, dates of birth, phone numbers (home or mobile), bank account numbers and salary information. Public links to the file were placed elsewhere, and copies of the data sent on a CD to three local newspapers, supposedly by someone who had found it on the Internet. In fact, all the copies originated from Andrew Skelton, a Senior IT Auditor in Morrisons, as later investigations discovered. According to the court, Skelton had a grudge against the company because of a disciplinary process that took place in 2013. As a result of the massive data breach in 2014, Skelton was sentenced to eight years in prison.

    • Open Rights Group and the3million tell Government immigration exemption must be removed

      The Government’s proposals found in the Data Protection Bill would remove the right of individuals subject to an immigration procedure to discover what personal data companies and public authorities hold on them. The House of Lords will vote on the Bill next week on 11 or 13 December to decide whether to remove the proposed exemption.

      The sweeping exemption would prevent people from being able to challenge Home Office errors, which are common in immigration cases – the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reports mistakes in 1 in 10 cases.

      The exemption is much broader than just data held by the Home Office, covering any organisation processing information that is used in relation to immigration controls. The current immigration regime extends the responsibility to control immigration to schools, GPs, hospitals, landlords, employers, and even the DVLA. The exemption would create a two-tier system in how these institutions handle people’s data based on their immigration status.

    • Immigration Exemptions: Government Position – Open Rights Group Response

      This briefing is a breakdown of the Government’s response in Committee to the debate on Schedule 2 Paragraph 4 which would create an exemption from GDPR provisions to personal data processed for the purposes of “the maintenance of effective immigration control”, or “the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control”.

    • Joint Briefing: Immigration Exemptions in the Data Protection Bill Need To Be Removed

      Open Rights Group are a digital rights campaigning organisation. Campaigning for a world where we each control the data our digital lives create, deciding who can use it and how, and where the public’s rights are acknowledged and upheld.

      the3million is the largest grassroots organisation of EU citizens in the UK, and campaigns for all EU citizens living here to be able to continue life as usual after Brexit.

    • (Virtually) No one should ever own an Echo or any other “voice assistant” product
    • Don’t Buy Anyone an Echo

      This is all to say that there are risks involved with owning a smart speaker. It’s not as risky as, say, running a meth lab out of your basement. But keeping an internet-connected microphone in your kitchen is certainly more trouble than owning a simple Bluetooth speaker that just plays music. You might be comfortable taking that risk for yourself. Think long and hard about buying an Amazon Echo or a Google Home for your friends and family. They might not like it. In my opinion, they shouldn’t.

    • QBE leverages AI and open source data

      QBE Insurance Group (QBE) has announced that QBE Ventures has closed an investment into Cytora, a three-year-old London-based start-up that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and open source data to help commercial insurers lower loss ratios, grow premiums and improve expense ratios.

    • Jeremy Hunt is right. Please, Facebook, leave our kids alone

      Children will always want to play at being grownups, but the point is surely to encourage them to copy us at our best, not our worst.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Copenhagen Police confirm new extension of stop-and-search zone

      The extension is the ninth of its kind as police have continued efforts to crack down on armed violence in the Nørrebro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. A similar zone was also set up in the Amager district.

    • My Son Dontre’s Killing by Police Was a Human Rights Violation

      Few things define me as completely as being a mother. I gave birth to three sons: Nate, Dameion and Dontre. My world changed forever on April 30, 2014, when my son Dontre was killed by Milwaukee police.

      Today I testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to say that Dontre’s death as a Black man in America at the hands of law enforcement should be seen as more than a son’s death, more than a mother’s tragedy. Dontre’s death at the hands of police was a human rights violation.

      My story is his story.

      It was a Wednesday. It was late and I was on my way home to prepare for work the following morning. My phone rang and an unidentified detective said he want to come talk with me. I said, “WNormalizing Ethnic Supremacy in Israel/Palestinehat do you want to talk about at 12:15am?” I told him I would come down after I got off work the next day. He said no, he would come to see me. I felt a mother’s fear. I hung up and tried to reach all three of my sons.

    • Colin Kaepernick Accepts Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship

      And football player Colin Kaepernick accepted the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship Tuesday night, for having sparked a movement against racism and police brutality across the NFL after refusing to stand for the national anthem before NFL games.

    • Former Officer’s Guilty Verdict for Killing Walter Scott Is the Exception, Not the Rule

      Police officer Michael Slager shot and killed an unarmed Black man, Walter Scott, in 2015, and it was all caught on video. Today he was sentenced by a federal judge to 20 years behind bars for violating Scott’s civil rights. While this instance of accountability in a police killing is heartening, the fact that it is a surprising result tells you what you really need to know about police reform. The accountability of police to the communities they serve is still elusive in many places, and nonexistent in some.

      Officer Slager was shown shooting Scott in the back while Scott ran away. Yet even with that video evidence, his first trial in state court resulted in a hung jury. Slager’s pleading guilty to federal charges and now being sentenced for the murder of a Black man is the exception to the rule. Usually there are no charges. Or there is no conviction. There are myriad cases, from Alton Sterling in Louisiana to Philando Castile in Minnesota, where video evidence was not enough.

    • State Board That Fined Man For Criticizing The Government Without A License Admits It Was Wrong

      Earlier this year, government entities in Beaverton, Oregon got fed up with a resident’s refusal to stop pestering them about problems with their traffic light timing. Mats Jarlstrom, a red light camera ticket recipient and consequential thorn in the side of local pols, tried repeatedly to get state traffic engineers to take a look at his research on yellow light timing. They refused. And they refused in a way only powerful bureaucracies can.

      The Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying told Jarlstrom to shut up by issuing him a $500 fine for practicing engineering without a license. It was, of course, bullshit. Jarlstrom couldn’t alter traffic light timing and certainly wasn’t sending in bids for government work while presenting himself as an engineer. He just wanted to talk about his research. But the state board wasn’t interested in his work or his refusal to stop talking. Despite holding a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Jarlstrom was told he wasn’t enough of an engineer to talk about subjects he’d thoroughly researched.

    • ‘Do Everything They Ask So They Don’t Shoot Me’

      One college professor’s run-in with the surveillance state demonstrates its power to destroy innocent people’s lives.

      On a May morning in 2015, Xiaoxing Xi, a physics professor at Temple University, woke up to violent banging on the door of his home in a quiet suburb of Philadelphia.

      He raced downstairs. When he opened the door, he was greeted by a group of armed federal agents. Within minutes, he was handcuffed and under arrest, and his wife and daughters, in their pajamas, were held at gunpoint with their hands up. In the subsequent hours, he was strip-searched, interrogated, and charged before being released on bail. “From the very beginning, I was telling myself,” he said, “do everything they ask me to do so that they don’t shoot me.”

    • Normalizing Ethnic Supremacy in Israel/Palestine

      The Times could easily have written that, but it would have been wrong. It would be wrong as a prediction, of course: Under international pressure, South Africa did accede to one person, one vote, and today is a functioning multiracial democracy. But it also would have been wrong in the ethical sense for the Times to implicitly accept as normal politics a refusal to allow democracy to undermine ethnic supremacy.

      It may be true, as the actual Times article states, that Israel is determined not to allow Palestinians equal rights. It certainly bolsters that determination when the United States’ most powerful paper suggests it’s a normal thing for a “Jewish state” to rule over a population that is roughly 50 percent non-Jewish.

    • Hundreds Rally Outside Brooklyn Courthouse to Demand ICE Stop Arresting People at Court

      In New York City, hundreds of people rallied outside the Brooklyn courthouse Thursday to demand courtrooms prohibit undercover immigration agents from arresting people at or in the vicinity of courthouses.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • The FCC Still Doesn’t Know How the Internet Works

      The biggest misunderstanding the FCC still has is the incorrect belief that when your broadband provider sells you Internet access, they’re not selling you a service by which you can transmit data to and from whatever points on the Internet you want. Citing a past order, the FCC demonstrates this misunderstanding by claiming that “[e]nd users do not expect to receive (or pay for) two distinct services—both Internet access service and a distinct transmission service, for example.”

    • Net Neutrality – Unleaded Hangouts

      Net Neutrality is a hot button issue. Today, I thought it might be interesting to explore this issue. Since Net Neutrality never actually had the opportunity to take effect, I also wanted to talk about this and how a lack of Net Neutrality might affect all of us since it may never see the light of day.

    • The man who could doom net neutrality: Ajit Pai ignores outcry from all sides

      “In some rural areas, 40% of people have zero or one choice of ISP. After Chairman Pai’s plan, that’s 40% of people who have no choice the day Comcast starts throttling and they can’t go to another provider. They are stuck. That’s really concerning.”

    • Why I Changed My Mind On Net Neutrality

      So, what changed, leading me to eventually move to supporting the Open Internet Order of 2015? Well, as Felten predicted (he’s good at that sort of thing…), the market continued to develop, legal precedent got set, and we got a lot more information on what was happening. On top of that, we got decent (though not perfect) rules from the Wheeler FCC, which were non-burdensome, and did quite a lot of good.

      I wanted to explore in greater detail what it was that made me change my opinion on this — and I’ll do it while also countering someone else’s arguments. A bunch of people have been pointing me to what Ben Thompson from Stratechery has been saying about net neutrality over the past couple weeks. Ben is very smart and extraordinarily insightful on issues related to innovation and policy, and I probably agree with him about 85% of the time. Thus I do find it interesting to explore where we disagree — and net neutrality is one of those places. But what’s most interesting to me is that after going through Ben’s thoughts on this multiple times, I think that he’s really in the place I found myself a decade ago — supporting net neutrality, but being weary of the FCC’s implementation. So, as part of my reasoning for why I changed my mind, I’ll also try to explain why Ben should change his mind as well. If you haven’t followed Ben’s statements here’s his original blog post, which was initially called “Why Ajit Pai is Right,” but was later changed to “Pro-Neutrality, Anti-Title II.”

    • ISP disclosures about data caps and fees eliminated by net neutrality repeal

      Hidden fees that show up on broadband bills after customers sign up for service have long been a source of frustration for Internet users.

      Because advertised prices often don’t reflect the full cost of service, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. The new requirements were part of the net neutrality rules—and are therefore going to be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week.

      While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to keep some of the commission’s existing disclosure rules and to impose some new disclosure requirements, ISPs won’t have to tell consumers exactly what everything will cost when they sign up for service.

    • ‘Parks and Recreation’ actor hits FCC chair over net neutrality repeal
    • FCC rejects NY AG’s probe into net neutrality comments

      Thomas Johnson, the FCC’s general counsel, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) on Thursday saying that the commission would not be handing over logs Schneiderman requested in order to investigate fake comments.

    • Ajit Pai says an informed public (not Net Neutrality) will discipline ISPs (BTW, he’s also killing the rules forcing ISPs to inform the public)

      However, Chariman Pai, a former Verizon executive, is also getting rid of the Obama-era rules that require ISPs to tell you about all the hidden fees and caps in your service, because they’re “too onerous.”

    • Photos from inside the Protect Net Neutrality protests
    • Shocker: Study Finds Cord Cutting Very Real, TV Execs Still Failing To Adapt

      You’ll perhaps recall that broadcast and cable executives spent years denying that TV cord cutting was even happening. Ultimately that head-in-the-ground thinking “evolved” to the point where sector executives admitted that sure, cord cutters are real, but they’re little more than 40-year-old nobodies living in mom’s basement — and not something to actually take seriously. As the data began to indicate that cord cutting was a very real phenomenon that thinking has finally started to subside, though the industry by and large has responded by doubling down on the bad ideas that brought us to this point in the first place.

      There’s still a sect of broadcast and cable executives and analysts that truly believe this shift from bloated, pricey channel bundles to cheaper, more flexible streaming alternatives is just a fad kooky kids are going through. And there’s more than a few sector executives who believe this will all magically end as younger generations procreate and buy new homes. Of course that’s not really supported by the facts, with most Millennials and younger generations being “cord nevers” — who fail to see the point of subscribing to expensive bloated channel bundles in the era of YouTube and Twitch.

    • “Face reality! We need net neutrality!” Crowds chant across the country

      Protestors across the nation rallied in support for network neutrality on Thursday, a week before the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to take a historic vote rolling back network neutrality regulations. Protestors say those regulations, which were enacted by the Obama FCC in 2015, are crucial for protecting an open Internet.

      Organizers chose to hold most of the protests outside of Verizon cell phone stores. Ajit Pai, the FCC Chairman who is leading the agency’s charge to repeal network neutrality, is a former Verizon lawyer, and Verizon has been a critic of the Obama network neutrality rules.

      Ars visited protests in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco.

    • India Embraces Full Net Neutrality As The U.S. Turns Its Back On The Concept

      While the United States is busy giving the world a crash course on what telecom regulatory capture looks like, India is taking a decidedly different tack with net neutrality. Last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) began laying the groundwork for some real, tough net neutrality rules aimed at protecting their internet markets and consumers from anti-competitive ISP behavior. Here in the States, our soon-to-be-discarded rules left some fairly gaping loopholes governing “zero rating,” which allows ISPs to impose often arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps, then exempt their own content while hindering competitors.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Protect Your Right to Repair and Control the Devices in Your Life

      Have you encountered difficulties repairing or tinkering with your devices because of technology that stops you from figuring out how it works? EFF wants your stories so that we can defend your right to get around those roadblocks.

      We want to hear about your experiences with anything that has a software component, from the Internet of Things, to vehicles, to Smart TVs, to appliances… anything you can think of. We think you should have the right to repair, inspect, and reprogram the devices you rely on. We’re taking an especially close look at new devices that can listen to what goes on in your home, like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the Apple HomePod.

    • Trademarks
      • SLCC Rankles Judge With Social Media Posts As A Jury Prepares To Rule

        We’ve been following the trademark dispute between the Salt Lake Comic Con and the San Diego Comic-Con for some time now, including all of its strange ups and downs. Despite this whole dispute starting something like three years ago, the trial itself has kept a brisk pace, with SLCC already resting its defense and jury deliberations beginning this week as well. While we’ll have to wait for the jury’s decision, the trial has gone pretty much as we expected. SDCC rolled out its trademark registration that it appears to have forgotten it ever had until recently from an enforcement perspective, along with some commissioned surveys suggesting that the public views the word “comic-con” as a brand and not a generic term. SLCC has pointed out that there are a ton of other comic cons out there, few of which have any licensing agreement with SDCC, and SLCC had expert witnesses poke some glaring holes in the SDCC’s survey.

      • Opening Statements in Salt Lake Comic Con vs San Diego Comic-Con, as Rose City Comic-Con Does a Deal

        Callie Bjurstrom, attorney for San Diego Comic-Con told jurors that Salt Lake Comic Con hijacked the Comic-Con trademark. That it “remained a small, intimate comic convention for decades” and that it wasn’t until the early 2000s that “the secret was out: Comics were cool and Comic-Con was the place to be to catch what was hot and what was next”. And as hundreds of similar conventions sprang up in cities across the country, Salt Lake Comic Con tried to “hijack” the trademark, to “steal the Comic-Con brand” saying “You don’t need to use ‘Comic-Con’ in your name to identify your comic and popular-arts convention… Convention is a generic term. Comic-Con is a brand” and that Salt Lake Comic Con is duping consumers into believing their events are associated, especially when they parked an Audi convertible near the San Diego Convention Center during the 2014 show, wrapped with promotions for the Salt Lake event.

      • Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas

        Our regular readers will know that we’ve been covering the years-long trademark lawsuit between the famous San Diego Comic-Con and the Salt Lake ComicCon since the very beginning. The whole thing has been something of a saga, with the SDCC issuing various threats and filing a lawsuit, while the SLCC has managed to fumble its way through court, getting slapped around for attempting various counter-logical defenses and even getting a gag order on it temporarily, unconstitutionally barring it from talking about the case publicly.

    • Copyrights
      • Tell the Copyright Office: Keep Safe Harbors Safe

        The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbors are a vital protection for websites and Internet services of all sizes. But thanks to a new Copyright Office rule, website owners could lose safe harbor protections if they don’t register online by December 31. And that’s not all: Hollywood lobbyists are pushing the Copyright Office to create even more hoops for website owners to jump through in order to keep their safe harbor.

        Under current law, the owners of websites and online services are protected from monetary liability when their users are accused of infringing copyright. Owners must meet many requirements in order to be eligible for that protection, including participating in the notorious notice-and-takedown procedure for allegedly infringing content. They also must register an agent with the Copyright Office, someone who can respond to takedown requests.

      • Canadian ISPs And Hollywood Agree On Plan To Make Themselves Judge, Jury and Website Executioner

        If you take a quick look through the long history of posts we’ve done on the subject of site-blocking as a method for combating piracy, you’ll notice that we’ve been fairly critical of the courts in various countries, which are issuing the blocking orders commonly. Here in America, the story is essentially the same, with only minor differences in the laws or lack of laws between each country causing barely different legal justifications for the censorship of sites that one entertainment group or another says is infringing. Too often, the courts appear to take plaintiff claims of infringement as gospel, where in some countries there is even a governmental framework that seems perfectly designed to abuse this process and have compliant courts exert as much collateral damage as possible. Our point all along is that there needs to be a refining of this process to keep the censorship out of the results and ensure that no speech that ought to be protected is caught up in the mix.

      • Copyright Skirmishes From The European Snippet War

        A new European Union ancillary copyright provision for news publishers will help them against news aggregators and platform providers, promised proponents and two panellists favouring the addition of the EU Copyright Reform at a workshop of the Justice Committee (JURI) of the European Parliament in Brussels today (7 December). But it’s a promise that cannot be kept according to a study commissioned by the Parliament and also presented during a feisty discussion at the workshop.

      • How some are spreading confusion about scientific evidence to push through an extra copyright for news sites in the EU

        Scientific facts are not enough to break through. Only one thing can now stop these plans: Public pressure applied by the people of Europe on their politicians.

Like the EPO, Taiwan/China (SIPO) Harm SMEs With a Policy of Patent Maximalism Which Fosters Litigation, Not Innovation

Saturday 9th of December 2017 12:29:20 PM

Related and recent: “Legal and Administrative Rules at the EPO Are Similar to Those at SIPO” (China)

Summary: A culture of patent maximalism breeds plenty of lawsuits in China (good for the legal ‘industry’), but small companies that are innovative lose focus and resources, just like in Europe where SMEs are discriminated against

THE LAW of China is widely regarded as oppressive. Patent law too is increasingly being viewed as oppressive because companies that are innocent of infringement can get in a lot of trouble and even go under.

Managing IP, a site by (and for) the patent microcosm, published this interview a few days ago. “We have witnessed that Chinese courts are more willing to grant higher damages in civil IP lawsuits, thereby increasing the cost of counterfeiters in their illegal business,” says the ‘article’ (more like self-promotion).

This may be good for Adidas (which is advertised in this interview), but what about much smaller companies? Adidas can afford plenty of lawyers, others cannot.

“This may be good for Adidas (which is advertised in this interview), but what about much smaller companies? Adidas can afford plenty of lawyers, others cannot.”A few days ago Foxconn’s patents person was given a platform by IAM, another site by (and for) the patent microcosm. Foxconn is a truly massive corporation, unlike the vast majority of companies in Taiwan/China. Should we not be hearing the voices of those on the receiving end of endless litigation and fear?

Inadvertently, the patent trolls’ lobby (IAM) recognises that China grants too many rubbish quality patents. It’s too much to keep abreast of, especially for small companies which lack a legal department. Here is what IAM wrote:

China is a particular challenge, especially when it comes to what is publically [sic] available in official information. For example, as things stand, it is often a lot more difficult to find user-friendly platforms on a par with what’s available to follow things like patent assignments in the US. This is no doubt an area that will improve as the country’s IP industry matures; while in fields like the use of big data, there are indications that China is ahead of other jurisdictions, something Jou himself has discussed with IAM.

Well, Foxconn has the human and financial resources to wade through and find patents of relevance to its products. What about companies with 5 orders of magnitude fewer employees? China seems to have taken nepotism, especially for large corporations, to unprecedented levels. As we noted last month, China proudly protects state-connected giants, even with embargoes of the competition.

Unfortunately, the EPO is trying to mimic China and UPC (with broad injunctions) is a symptom of that. A few days ago it wrote: “You can still join the “Patent information from the BRICS countries: China” webinar. It starts in one hour…”

The EPO’s management wants to believe [1, 2] that receiving more patent applications from China might save the EPO. It also relies on giving preferential treatment to massive multinational monopolies while only attempting to maintain the illusion of catering for SMEs. #IPforSMEs is a hashtag that the EPO repeats every day this month.

“The EPO’s management wants to believe that receiving more patent applications from China might save the EPO.”“Litigation is a last but important resort when it comes to fighting wilful infringement,” it said some days ago, adding the obligatory #IPforSMEs hashtag. The first two tweets of Thursday [1, 2] had the hashtag and said: “Developing an IP strategy might have much more benefits than you’d expect.”

No connection whatsoever to SMEs. The first two tweets and also the last of the day just keep talking about “SMEs”, but very much like in China, the EPO tries hard to distract from its harm to SMEs (the UPC, for example, would be a huge blow to SMEs; it be of no benefit to them as they often operate locally, not EU-wide). The first tweet of Friday was also accompanied by the #IPforSMEs hashtag.

Get the pattern?

“A long time ago we warned that China’s (or Xi’s) approach to patents would come to haunt and harm China. We were right.”Remember that China’s patents are rubbish in terms of quality. Totally garbage. This isn’t a secret and it’s not an insult. The country is just trying to game the numbers at SIPO and WIPO. And guess what… it’s working. As IP Watch put it 3 days ago: “Innovators around the world filed 3.1 million patent applications in 2016, up 8.3 percent in a seventh straight yearly increase, WIPO’s annual World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report shows. The report, WIPO’s annual report, released at the United Nations in Geneva today, showed China topping patent, trademark and design filings in 2016.”

Well, it’s all about China, but the above yardstick is totally oblivious to quality or uniqueness of patents. They muddy the water.

A long time ago we warned that China’s (or Xi’s) approach to patents would come to haunt and harm China. We were right. China has become ‘home’ to a parasite no other country in the world actually wants; it’s now full of patent trolls and sharks; locals are complaining. Here is how IAM put it:

The introduction of specialised IP courts has ushered in a new era in Chinese patent litigation. Recent statistics from the Beijing IP Court lift the veil on an enticing jurisdiction for patent owners

The term “patent owners” is a euphemism; these are firms which have nothing but patents. They’re empty shells. As we noted earlier this year, Microsoft will quite likely unleash patent trolls in China and hope that everyone pays ‘protection’ money in the form of Azure tax. Here is what IAM wrote about it in its latest issue: (magazine, hence paywall)

Today, we are announcing that Microsoft Azure IP Advantage will be available in China beginning October 1, 2017, ensuring that Azure customers in China can enjoy the same great IP protection benefits as customers in the rest of the world. Microsoft chief IP counsel Erich Andersen, writing on the Microsoft Azure blog….

We already wrote many articles about Microsoft Azure IP Advantage, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. It’s a shrewdly-disguised patent extortion scheme.

Over in Taiwan, according to two other blog posts from IAM [1, 2], things are becoming as bad as in (mainland) China. Basically, patent aggression in China begets more aggression. It’s a bubble of low-quality patents and litigation, so HTC caves in. To quote IAM:

A report in Chinese media states that an HTC-owned invention patent with a relatively recent grant date recently emerged from an invalidation proceeding before China’s SIPO Patent Re-examination Board (PRB) largely unscathed. The challenger was Chinese smartphone maker Gionee – a relatively small player in the domestic market that also sells devices in India and Southeast Asia. The patent, a grant covering “Mobile device and antenna structure” issued by SIPO in December 2016, also has US family members.

The other blog post speaks of “Taiwan IP Court hand[ing] record $50 million victory to a crucial smartphone supplier in trade secret case”. It’s not about patents, but “[t]he ruling is one of the most visible IP wins to date for a company that has kept a low profile and eschewed collaboration, leaning heavily on trade secrets to protect its technological edge.”

“Over-regulation in the form of over-patenting tends to suppress and depress innovation/production.”China has traditionally been stigmatised as a “pirate”, “thief” or “imitator” with “knockoffs” and “counterfeits”. China seems eager to change that perception, but at what cost? What actually gave China plenty of competitive edge was the lack of bureaucratic red tape. Over-regulation in the form of over-patenting tends to suppress and depress innovation/production.

Bristows Continues to Lie About Unitary Patent (UPC) in Britain Only to Get Rebutted in Comments, As Usual (Criticism Not Deleted Yet)

Saturday 9th of December 2017 10:52:23 AM

They’re taking turns, Alan Johnson is the latest

Summary: The latest wave of posts (typically from Bristows) which herald an arrival of UPC in Britain are not just delusional but also constitute terrible legal advice

TEAM UPC is trying to manipulate politicians into ridiculous statements like these. British politicians have no clue what’s going on because they’re being lied to. We’ve seen lots of that lately (we wrote about half a dozen responses so far this month). It almost always comes from Bristows. Comments don't tolerate Bristows' spin.

In the meantime, EPO management keeps touting a ‘study’ which it paid for. That too is rather disturbing, partly because it reveals the EPO’s corruption of academia.

“It almost always comes from Bristows.”Yesterday, the CCIA‘s Josh Landau (typically more focused on the US) wrote, “is there a surrender of fundamental rights to the UPC from DE? (Shades of Oil States here…) [] Much of the challenge seems to relate to arguing that DE parliament didn’t know what they were agreeing to, which seems a difficult argument. [] Now for coffee ground reading (his phrase, not mine): unless the court simply denies the complaint entirely as unfounded (possible!) we won’t know until late 2018, pushing UPC ratification and operations back to 2019 or 2020. [] Another panelist thinks that the German constitutional court is taking it seriously and is expecting a longer wait to know the outcome. [] Some discussion on what happens if the UK ultimately doesn’t join the UPC: makes the UPC less attractive. Not necessarily no interest, but definitely reduced. [] Obvious next question: what if no Germany? Is that a showstopper? What about no UK no Germany? [] No UK, no Germany? No UPC.”

Obviously. Neither will be in the UPC, hence the UPC is a zombie.

Late on Friday night Alan Johnson (Bristows, but not disclosing it and we assume he and his colleagues were writing there anonymously lately) spouted out yet more UPC spin/lies. This firm lost — completely and entirely — the ability to sense any shame and no matter how much resistance/rebuttal comes its way, it carries on repeating the same lies. It has already deleted hostile comments about the UPC in this blog (we covered examples earlier this year) and here are a couple of portions from the latest:

So whilst it maybe does not really affect all of this, the way I would put it is that the agreement today to accept the CJEU jurisdiction for a post-Brexit period gives increased comfort that the UK will continue its acceptance of the CJEU’s limited role in the UPC and be very happy to be a part of the UPC post-Brexit.

[...]

So whilst some may regard Brexit as a problem for the UPC, ever since November last year I have seen it as just a complication, and we now have greater certainty than before that the UK will be in the system at the outset and post-Brexit too.

It’s late on Friday, so maybe he’s drunk and writing this from the pub. Just see the first comment. Says it all really… the post, as a whole, is totally detached from reality.

This is Bristows. They’d even make up stuff up if such stuff suits their agenda.

“This is Bristows. They’d even make up stuff up if such stuff suits their agenda.”As a timely reminder of the dangers of UPC, watch yesterday’s article about a European Patent (granted by EPO) in the UK. There’s a legitimate concern about large foreign companies and patent trolls using bogus European Patents (EPs) for injunctions that are ruinous and truly far-reaching. Considering who Bristows has as clients (we’ll say more about that later this weekend), it’s not hard to see why it pushes so hard for a UPC-style regime.

“The EPO’s Opposition Division held that the patent is invalid,” the article says. “The decision is now under appeal.”

Imagine how much is being paid in legal bills over what’s most likely a bogus patents that should never have been granted and will eventually be invalidated.

From the article:

The invention described in EP 822 is based on the “discovery of a new cytokine which the patent calls IL17A/F”.

Eli Lilly sells Taltz (ixekizumba), a monoclonal antibody which has a centralised European marketing authorisation to treat a form of the disease psoriasis. Taltz is described by Eli Lilly as an anti-IL17 antibody.

A number of other companies challenged the patent before the European Patent Office (EPO), but Eli Lilly is not a party to those proceedings.

The EPO’s Opposition Division held that the patent is invalid, because the main request and three auxiliary requests involve added matter contrary to article 123(2) of the European Patent Convention. The decision is now under appeal.

Eli Lilly stated that Taltz does not infringe the patent, so it brought proceedings in the UK.

Imagine thousands of cases like these in London, brought forth by a bunch of patent trolls from another country and decided on inside courts outside the UK. This is envisioned by Team UPC, which is salivating over the profit (legal bills) opportunities.

The European Union Now Repeats Paid Propaganda From the EPO (Regarding the Unitary Patent)

Friday 8th of December 2017 10:55:35 PM

Summary: The EPO’s push for UPC, which has already involved payments to media and academia, is spreading to the EU, which unfortunately fails to uphold the Rule of Law and the spirit of the EPC

THE EPO, having recently corrupted academia for some UPC propaganda, managed to convince the European Union (Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to be specific) to promote the lies, dubbing these “[a] new study [sic] concerning the Unitary Patent…”

The EPO has also just repeated the lie it told earlier this week. “These findings confirm that the fragmentation of the current European #patent system is a persistent gap in the completion of the European Single Market for #technology,” it said. The EPO is wrong again. It did not bother asking actual technology companies. Sovereignty or assumption of innocence is not “fragmentation”, it’s due process. And either way, technology companies do not want the UPC. Many have signed a petition against it. There’s a legitimate fear that UPC would usher in software patents, among other patents that are not acceptable in pertinent nations based on their national patent law. The UPC can be viewed as a Trojan horse that overrides — not just bypasses — rational patent scope.

“Patent maximaklism at the EPO has become a disease that insiders — notably examiners — routinely complain about.”What about patents on life? Hazel Ford from Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP has just published this article (actually, self-promotional marketing piece) that speaks of “Natural Products” (product of a process) being patented. Sure, go ahead and compare nature to “products” (industrial term) in order to sell/promote patents on just about everything.

She points out that the USPTO is rightly restrictive on this matter and then addresses ‘perils’ (to lawyers) associated with the EPC, which the EPO ignores anyway. To quote:

There is currently a significant divergence in practice between Europe and the United States when considering the patentability of naturally-occurring products. Since the Myriad decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the USPTO has started to reject claims directed to naturally-occurring products under 35 USC §101. In the European Patent Office (EPO), such objections do not generally arise.

The EPO’s position is that that merely finding a previously unrecognised substance occurring in nature is an unpatentable discovery. However, if that substance can be shown to produce a technical effect, then the naturally-occurring substance may be patentable (EPO Guidelines for Examination G-II, 3.1).

This ability to patent natural products derives from the rules of the European Patent Convention (EPC), which explicitly state that biological material which is isolated from its natural environment or produced by means of a technical process can be patented, even if it has previously occurred in nature (Rule 27(a) EPC). Similarly, although the human body itself cannot be patented at the EPO, elements isolated from the human body, including gene sequences, can form patentable inventions, even if they are structurally identical to a natural element (Rule 29(1) and (2) EPC).

In order to obtain a patent at the EPO to a product that occurs in nature, the claim must specify that the product is isolated from its natural environment, or it must make it clear that the product as claimed was produced by a non-natural process.

Patent maximaklism at the EPO has become a disease that insiders — notably examiners — routinely complain about. UPC is a danger because it extends enforcement — not just patent-granting — to nations that would otherwise reject these patents based on national, rational law (evidence-based). The UPC needs to be stopped before any real damage is done to Europe’s productive industries; thankfully, the UPC is stuck, probably for good.

European Media Covers the Latest EPO Scandal and the EPO’s Refusal to Obey Orders of a Court

Friday 8th of December 2017 10:22:35 PM

Presidential trends of 2017…

Summary: European media is starting to catch up with the latest from ILO and the great importance not only of the rulings but also the EPO’s response to these

THE latest EPO scandal is an unfinished story. Expect strikes next week (at least one in Munich) and plenty of discussion in the European press. The case is extraordinary because the EPO basically rejects a court’s ruling. It reinforces the stigma associated with the EPO. We wrote 5 articles about this yesterday:

  1. ILO is ‘Forcing’ Team Battistelli to Compensate the Banned Judge and Give Him Back His Job
  2. Meanwhile in Eponia, Tyrant Battistelli Must be Seeking Advice on How to Refuse to Obey Court’s Orders (Again)
  3. ILO Said Give the Judge His Job Back, But Christoph Ernst’s Administrative Council Will Likely Let Him Go (Unemployed)
  4. Less Than 24 Hours Later the EPO Already Refuses to Obey Court Orders From ILO (Updated)
  5. Battistelli’s EPO is Once Again Caught in Very Gross Violation of the European Patent Convention (EPC)

Plus 3 so far today:

  1. EPO Scandal Spills Over to Irish Media, So It’s Time for the Backstory
  2. SUEPO Announces Protest, EPO Distracts From the Scandal, and Readers Spill the Beans
  3. Antonius Tangena From the European Patent Institute (EPI) ‘Aids’ Željko Topić’s Appointment at the European Patent Office (EPO)

Expect much more on this subject. Over the weekend we’ll also release some more documents.

Mathieu Klos of JUVE has meanwhile published this article, which he summarised in English as follows: “Lawyer of suspended EPO-judge demands reinstatment – immedeatly [sic] our report…”

So German media now covers the latest scandal in Munich. Expect French/Dutch media to join in. Earlier today the British media revisited the subject (second time this week) and wrote about the refusal to obey the court’s orders, then some words from the Central Staff Committee:

Despite the ruling however, which explicitly stated he should be handed back his user ID and be allowed to access EPO buildings effective immediately, when Corcoran turned up at the EPO’s Isar Building in Munich after lunch on Thursday – reportedly to have a cup of tea with colleagues – he was turned away by the head of the EPO’s security who reportedly informed him that she was under instructions to ignore the court order.

[...]

In the meantime, the EPO’s staff union Central Staff Committee has written a letter to EPO management and the Administrative Council arguing that the ILO rulings demonstrate that Battistelli cannot be allowed to enact any further reforms before his term ends next year.

The letter highlights the (many) criticisms of Battistelli within the ILO’s rulings. “We cannot help but interpret the judgments both as a massive motion of no confidence in the President of the Office and a warning letter to the AC,” the letter states and argues that the council was “misled about essential points” in the Corcoran case by Battistelli.

“We have repeatedly warned against the content and pace of major reforms which have been pushed through without genuine consultation,” the staff representatives note, while pointing out that even if the EPO does follow the ILO’s judgments (which, so far, it has not), that they still do not address the underlying governance problems at the EPO.

“The ball is now with the AC,” the letter concludes, “which urgently has to answer the following question: should these reforms be left to a President and team having such a record of performance?”

The Register has already attracted many comments about ILO and what some people within the comments suspect to be AstroTurfing from the EPO (or a PR firm).

One person asked: “What are the sanctions going to be? If the ILO have no power to impose sanctions then they are pissing in the wind.”

A lot of the comments are abusive or distracting. A few comments in Kluwer Patent Blog are the same. Well, the author of the article then responded to some “aggressive” (ad hominem) comments as follows:

Thanks for your aggressive queries.
I had three separate sources confirming what happened earlier today.
I don’t know whether you’ve been following events at the EPO, but for several years its management has been aggressively investigating and disciplining staff that criticize its president or his reform plans. As a result, people aren’t all that keen on having their names published.
As for the ILO decisions, the organisation put out a news alert and a special announcement that it would be revealing the results of 8 cases a month earlier and in pubic. It said 5 of those 8 were about the EPO. It also live streamed the meeting on YouTube.
I found out about both these events because I am a journalist and that is what I do for a living.
Hope this helps.

One person responded to this article by asking: “Will Member States and EU put the final nail on the coffin of fundamental justice for EPO workers? Let them do that soon then.”

Over at Kluwer Patent Blog, “Concerned observer” expressed his/her belief that the EPO will simply disregard a court’s decision again (in spite of political pressure and staff protests). To quote:

This could be where we enter interesting territory. Article 19(2) of the PPI of the EPO reads as follows:
“The President of the European Patent Office has the duty to waive immunity where he considers that such immunity prevents the normal course of justice and that it is possible to dispense with such immunity without prejudicing the interests of the Organisation. The Administrative Council may waive immunity of the President for the same reasons”.

From the long and tortured history of the case of the “judge” that was the subject of the ILO’s judgements, there are several points where it is clear that the national courts could have a role. I shall give two examples.

The first is the alleged “defamation” of the President. Whilst immunity has not stopped senior EPO management from trying to sue in the national courts, it is a far from ideal state of affairs. That is, it creates an inequality of arms: the management can sue (and make allegedly “defamatory” comments in the course of doing so), but are immune from counter-suits. This is a powerful reason to strip the President of his immunity in connection with the case of the “judge”: if Mr Battistelli TRULY believes that he has been defamed, then the best way to sort it out will be in the national courts … but the price for pursuing this course of action will be loss of immunity from counter-suit. A fair compromise, no?

A second point on which the national courts may have a role is the manner in which the “evidence” against the judge was gathered. I for one would be keen to ensure that the EPO is not able to “snoop” on me (and my confidential communications) if and when I ever enter the EPO’s premises. I very much doubt that I am alone here, meaning that there is a strong public interest in ensuring – through investigations by national authorities and, if necessary, by prosecutions in national courts – that the management of the EPO is rendered incapable of authorising monitoring activities that break EU laws.

On both of these points, it is perfectly possible to conclude that “immunity prevents the normal course of justice”. Thus, the only question that remains is whether “it is possible to dispense with such immunity without prejudicing the interests of the Organisation”. That one is easy to answer too: the Organisation has an overriding interest in maintaining a good reputation. It will be impossible for the Organisation to do that without taking positive action to expunge the stains that have been left from the case of the “judge” that was subject to a house ban.

In the light of all of this, I suppose that the only relevant question to ask will be: which “excuse” will the AC come up with this time for not taking any action?

My bets are on no “excuse” at all. That is, I predict that they will simply ignore the judgement (like they did with the judgement of the Enlarged Board of Appeal which concluded that the President’s actions compromised their judicial independence). There is a grave danger for the AC if it chooses this path, though. This is because this issue will simply not go away, meaning that inaction on the part of the AC will only prompt further questions. These may well include questions relating to whether the AC is performing its function, and if not why not.

Of course there is nothing whatsoever for the AC to fear if there is nothing to see here – that is, no (financial) impropriety of any sort, nor any “conspiracy” to cover up misdeeds. But what are the chances of that?

We warmly welcome any more information on this subject. There’s more that we already know and intend to publish soon. It’s somewhat liberating to know that a lot of “dirty laundry” can come out now.

Antonius Tangena From the European Patent Institute (EPI) ‘Aids’ Željko Topić’s Appointment at the European Patent Office (EPO)

Friday 8th of December 2017 09:09:14 PM

Published a month ago: “EPI Makes No Protest When the AC Connives With Battistelli to Trash the Rule of Law”

Summary: An E-mail from Antonius (Tony) Tangena reveals a degree of coordination between the EPI and the EPO — a potentially inappropriate action that can be seen as a cover-up attempt

More information about the situation inside the EPO during 2013 is revealed in the above E-mail exchange between the Vice-President of DG5 (Raimund Lutz) and the President of the epi at the time, who as far as can be determined was Antonius Tangena. The epi is the European Patent Institute, a.k.a. the institute of professional representatives before the European Patent Office, and it is the main representative association of European Patent attorneys.

The E-mail exchange starts with a copy of a press release dated 9 December 2013 which was sent to the President of the epi. The press release which is from the Croatian NGO “Juris Protecta” voices criticism of Željko Topić’s appointment as EPO Vice-President and provides a series of links to documentation about Topić from Croatian sources.

The President of the epi forwarded this to Lutz. In an internal EPO E-mail, Lutz forwarded the epi communication to some other EPO staff.

Although the names have been redacted from the attached E-mail copy, it seems that one of the internal recipients was Florian Andres (“F… A…”) who was the founder of the infamous Investigative Unit and its first director.

In his E-mail Lutz states that he is forwarding the communication for information and indicates that he will write back to Tangena.

These E-mails suggest that Tangena and Lutz may have been in cahoots trying to stop the circulation of material critical of Topić’s appointment as EPO Vice-President. This raises the question as to what role the epi might have played in the cover-up of the Topić affair at the EPO.

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