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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 6 min 10 sec ago

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

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

Ask Makan Delrahim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Should we restart nuclear drills?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IP Kat‘ and Battistelli last month

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

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

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

CA/D 18/15

DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL
of 17 December 2015
amending Articles 2 and 95 of the Service
Regulations for permanent employees of the
European Patent Office

THE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN PATENT ORGANISATION,

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

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

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

HAS DECIDED AS FOLLOWS:

Article 1

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

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

Article 2

Article 95 of the Service Regulations shall read as follows:

“Article 95

Suspension

(1) (unchanged)

(2) (unchanged)

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

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

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

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

(4) (unchanged)

(5) (unchanged)”

Article 3

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

Done at Munich, 17 December 2015

For the Administrative Council
The Chairman

Jesper KONGSTAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Top 5 open source projects for 2018

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

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

  • DataTorrent Glues Open Source Componentry with ‘Apoxi’

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

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

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

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

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

      • Role Models in AI: Kelly Davis

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

      • Celebrate Firefox Internet Champions

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

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

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

      • New AirMozilla Audience Demo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Programming/Development
    • Recent GNU* C library improvements

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

    • What Makes GLIBC 2.27 Exciting To The Clear Linux Folks

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

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

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

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

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

Leftovers
  • How to Archive Open Source Materials

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

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

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

  • KFC chicken shortage blamed on DHL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tesla accused of knowingly selling defective vehicles in new lawsuit

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

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

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

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

    • A protein that self-replicates

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

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

    • Walking crystals may lead to new field of crystal robotics

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

    • NSF to Close Overseas Offices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • ‘This Is a Uniquely American Crisis’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Study finds new superbug typhoid strain behind Pakistan outbreak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Another Potential Performance Optimization For KPTI Meltdown Mitigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Facebook’s Mandatory Malware Scan Is an Intrusive Mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Selective Outrage Undermines Human Rights in Syria

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Black Teens Have Been Fighting for Gun Reform for Years

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

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

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

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

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

    • Building a backup bee

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

    • Cobalt price: Supply scramble heats up with Canadian deal

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

    • The race to invent the artificial leaf

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

  • Finance
    • Disaster Capitalism Hits Higher Education in Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • $21 Trillion Missing from US Federal Budget

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

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

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

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

    • The Radical Dishonesty of David Brooks

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

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

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

    • Solving the productivity puzzle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • President Trump plans to remove key election security official

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

    • US Official Focused on Election Security Being Removed From Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Did Trump Actually Apologize for Retweeting Islamophobic Videos?

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

    • Quirky Corporate Twitter Accounts Are Not Your Friends

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

    • Past episodes of presidential wrongdoing have provoked a reaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

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

    • FOSTA Would Be a Disaster for Online Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Opposition grows among students and youth to Internet censorship

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

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

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

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

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

    • Shriver denounces ‘politically correct censorship’ in literature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • US warns Australia against Huawei 5G involvement: report

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

    • Patent Agent Privilege in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Can Schools Discipline Students for Protesting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Lawsuit: Detained immigrant beaten for role in hunger strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Census Rushes to Respond to Request to Add Citizenship Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • Disney loses in Redbox copyright row

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

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

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

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

      • Facebook signs music licensing deal with European rights company ICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freezing the ‘assets’ of patent trolls and patent sharks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few days ago a site of patent maximlists wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

From the article at hand:

Who has the right to claim violation of a patent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Just EPO: USPTO Too Will See Patent Filings Declining

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

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


Up the quality, down the drain bad patents

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

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

As William New put it 4 days ago:

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

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

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

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

To quote Patent Progress (CCIA):

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

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

This upsets nobody but patent trolls.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berkheimer was covered here before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3]. It did not mean what the patent microcosm wants us to think (we did look at the original decision). Here we have a patent maximalist saying that “Del[aware] Judge holds home audio patent invalid under Alice; Said Berkheimer did not apply: https://dlbjbjzgnk95t.cloudfront.net/1014000/1014596/04313897444.pdf …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Team UPC is as bad as Big Tobacco lobbyists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has happened to IP Kat?

Mind the infiltration of Bristows spin in IP Kat comments:

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

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

To quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fair enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breeding patents back on the agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As one person succinctly put it:

Battistelli

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

The repercussions of his power obsession seem to be endless.

There’s also a comment on quality of patents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Splunk competitor Logz.io open sources two log analytics tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Comment: Many happy returns to open source

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

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

  • Events
    • Authentication and authorization in Samba 4

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

    • Two FOSDEM talks on Samba 4

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

    • A report from the Enigma conference

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

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

    • DIY biology

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

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

    • Notes from FAST18

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

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Removing Support for Unpacked Extensions

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

      • Making a Clap-Sensing Web Thing

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

      • Trying Mozilla’s Things Gateway

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

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

      • Lando Demo

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

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

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

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

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

    • Meltdown fix committed by guenther@

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

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

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

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

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

    • 3 reasons to say ‘no’ in DevOps

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

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

    • 5 rules for having genuine community relationships

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

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

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

    • Rust Typestates

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

    • It’s Time To Do CMake Right

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

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

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

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

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

  • Science
    • Some black holes erase your past

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

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

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

    • Qualcomm Raises Bid for NXP to $44 Billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Google Goes Public with Another Major Windows 10 Bug

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • BitTorrent Client uTorrent Suffers Security Vulnerability (Updated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • My First Day as CIA Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • New rebellion against wind energy stalls or stops projects

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      It is amazing how frequently we hear people asserting that the massive inequality we are now seeing in the United States is the result of an unfettered market. I realize that this is a convenient view for those who are on the upside of things, but it also happens to be nonsense.

      The latest nonsense-pusher is Amy Chua, who warns in a New York Times column (2/20/18) about the destructive path the United States is now on, where a disaffected white population takes out its wrath on economic elites and racial minorities. The key part missing from the story is that the disaffected masses really do have a legitimate gripe.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Russian man arrested after speaking about work at ‘[astroturfer] farm’

      A Russian man said Tuesday he was arrested shortly after he spoke to U.S. media outlets about his time working at a “[astroturfer] factory.”

      Marat Mindiyarov told The Moscow Times he was detained by police Sunday night for allegedly making a false phone call about a bomb in a nearby village. He was released after questioning, and denies all charges against him, he told the newspaper.

      Mindiyarov spoke to The Washington Post and The Associated Press after the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for allegedly attempting to interfere in the 2016 election.

    • Former ‘Kremlin [Astroturfer]‘ Arrested After Speaking to Western Journalists

      Before his arrest, Mindiyarov had given several interviews to U.S. outlets about his role as an employee at the Internet Research Agency, a company allegedly financed by Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was named in Mueller’s indictment on Friday.

    • Kushner resisting giving up top access amid scrutiny over security clearances: report
    • How Much Did Russian Interference Affect The 2016 Election?
    • Pennsylvania’s New Map Helps Democrats. But It’s Not A Democratic Gerrymander.

      Earlier this year, FiveThirtyEight presented seven alternatives to the current congressional maps of Pennsylvania and every other state, each using a different set of criteria. (One prioritized creating competitive districts, for example; another tried to maximize the number of majority-minority districts.) In addition to estimating the electoral implications of each map, we used other measurements to compare them. The goal was to show how different priorities in drawing district lines are sometimes in tension, and you can see that in the new Pennsylvania map.

    • Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map

      The state Supreme Court struck down the current lines in January, arguing that they’re an unconstitutional creation of partisan gerrymandering. Under the current map, Democrats hold just five of the 18 congressional seats, even though Democrats regularly perform well in statewide elections.

    • The Geeks Who Put a Stop to Pennsylvania’s Partisan Gerrymandering

      Districts like Pennsylvania’s seventh don’t get drawn that way by accident. They’re designed by dint of the centuries-old practice of gerrymandering, in which the party in power carves up the electoral map to their favor. The playbook is simple: Concentrate as many of your opponents’ votes into a handful of districts as you can, a tactic known as “packing.” Then spread the remainder of those votes thinly across a whole lot of districts, known as “cracking.” If it works as intended, the opposition will win a few districts by a landslide, but never have enough votes in the rest to win the majority of seats. The age of computer-generated data splicing has made this strategy easier than ever.

    • Indonesian President Jokowi puts off signing law protecting Parliament
    • Philippines concerned as US intelligence tags Duterte a threat to democracy
    • A So-Called Expert’s Uneasy Dive Into the Trump-Russia Frenzy

      Whenever the Internet Research Agency is in the news, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was one of the first U.S. journalists to report extensively on the St. Petersburg-based “troll farm,” which was named in the indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, issued last Friday. As a result, I am often portrayed as an expert on the Internet Research Agency and Russian online propaganda. In this, I am not alone. The endless unfurling of the Trump-Russia story has occasioned an explosion in the number of experts in “information warfare,” “online influence operations,” “disinformation,” and the like. One reason for this is that the Russians’ efforts tend to be framed as a kind of giant machine, in which talking points generated by the Kremlin are “amplified” through a network of bots, fake Facebook pages, and sympathetic human influencers. The machine, we are told, is so sophisticated that only an expert, well-versed in terms such as “exposure,” “feedback loops,” and “active measures,” can peer into the black box and explain to the layperson how it works.

      The thing is, I don’t really want to be an expert on the Internet Research Agency and Russian online propaganda. I agree with my colleague Masha Gessen that the whole issue has been blown out of proportion. In the Times Magazine article that supposedly made me an authority, I detailed some of the Agency’s disturbing activities, including its attempts to spread false reports of a terrorist attack in Louisiana and to smear me as a neo-Nazi sympathizer. But, if I could do it all over again, I would have highlighted just how inept and haphazard those attempts were. That the Agency is now widely seen as a savvy, efficient manipulator of American public opinion is, in no small part, the fault of experts. They may derive their authority from perceived neutrality, but in reality they—we—have interests, just like everyone else. And, when it comes to the Trump-Russia story, those interests are often best served by fuelling the fear of Kremlin meddling. Information-security consultants might see a business opportunity in drawing attention to a problem to which they (for a fee) can offer a solution. Think-tank fellows may seek to burnish their credentials by appearing in news articles—articles written by journalists who, we all know, face many different kinds of pressures to promote sensational claims. (How viral is the headline “Russian Internet Propaganda Not That Big a Deal”?) Even academic researchers, to secure funding, must sometimes chase the latest trends.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Man removes feds’ spy cam, they demand it back, he refuses and sues

      Last November, a 74-year-old rancher and attorney was walking around his ranch just south of Encinal, Texas, when he happened upon a small portable camera strapped approximately eight feet high onto a mesquite tree near his son’s home. The camera was encased in green plastic and had a transmitting antenna.

      Not knowing what it was or how it got there, Ricardo Palacios removed it.

      Soon after, Palacios received phone calls from Customs and Border Protection officials and the Texas Rangers. Each agency claimed the camera as its own and demanded that it be returned. Palacios refused, and they threatened him with arrest.

    • A smarter smart city

      An ambitious project by Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs could reshape how we live, work, and play in urban neighborhoods.

    • Facebook has been sharing our data for months to help study income inequality

      It is not clear exactly what data Facebook has made available to Chetty and his researchers or how personal and private information would be protected. The study has apparently been already underway for at least six months, however.

    • This heated jacket uses AI, Alexa, and other buzzwords to keep you perfectly snug

      If you consider the wintertime need to wear a heavy jacket into a warm subway car a “major wardrobe problem,” Ministry of Supply has a solution for you.

      The Boston-based clothing company, known for experimenting with technology, has just launched a Kickstarter for its newest creation, the Mercury smart thermal jacket. It’s an internet-of-things-enabled, heated jacket that’s controlled by an app, syncs with Alexa, and customizes its temperature using machine learning.

      That’s an awful lot of buzzwords. But underneath it all is a genuinely intriguing product.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Polish justice ministry refuses to show code for assigning judges

      Poland’s Ministry of Justice is refusing to make public the computer algorithms that are used to randomly assign judges to cases. The ePaństwo Foundation, an NGO promoting open government, in December asked the Warswaw Regional Administrative Court to intervene.

    • Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg’s family denied appeal to open his files

      They specifically want to know if Wallenberg was “Prisoner number 7” who according to records was interrogated on July 23rd, 1947 – six days after Wallenberg’s alleged death.

    • How Mediocrity Can Quietly Destroy Us All

      How much money would it take to convince you to become evil? A thousand dollars? Two thousand?

      Surprise! It’s a trick question. In reality, nobody is going to even make you the offer. The evil in the world doesn’t need you to join its side at all — it needs only for you to succumb to a warm, dense fog that will descend upon you at some point in adulthood.

      That fog is called Mediocrity

    • Inspector General For Intelligence Community Buried Report Showing Whistleblower Retaliation

      A report by Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast shows, once again, that those suggesting Ed Snowden should have used the proper channels to voice his concerns about domestic surveillance are either ignorant or deliberately obtuse.

      Just prior to the Snowden leaks, President Obama enacted Presidential Policy Directive 19, which was supposed to prevent retaliation for whistleblowing. It was issued in 2012 and went into force just months before Snowden left the NSA with a trove of documents. However, it did not protect contractors like Snowden. Those protections were added by Congress years later. Not that it really matters. It has been well established those protections are mostly worthless.

      Over the past year, there’s been a concerted effort to oust Dan Meyer — the person Intelligence Community whistleblowers are supposed to take their complaints to. Meyer filed his own whistleblowing complaint against the Defense Department, claiming IC officials retaliated against him for exposing waste and misuse of funds. Those gunning for top-level positions in Trump’s Intelligence Community have histories of retaliatory behavior against whistleblowers, which would further cement the reputation of the “official channels” as a good way to jettison your career.

    • Research Paper Links Police Unions To Increased Officer Misconduct

      Some research [PDF] has emerged indicating handing officers extra rights results in more citizen complaints. This may seem to be of the “water is wet” research variety, but there’s no reason to shrug this off. While most of us can infer that shielding officers from the consequences of their actions would naturally result in increased misconduct, almost all evidence to date has been anecdotal. (h/t Marginal Revolution)

      University of Chicago researchers were given the perfect chance to weigh the addition of a collective bargaining agreement against year-to-year complaint totals. Thanks to a 2003 Florida state supreme court decision, Florida sheriff’s deputies were allowed to unionize, finally joining their police department counterparts. This gave the researchers a dividing line for a before and after comparison. The results were unsurprising.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Mozilla v FCC: Mozilla Re-files Suit Against FCC to Protect Net Neutrality

      This morning, the Federal Communications Commission officially published its order overturning net neutrality rules in the Federal Register. We had originally filed suit early while simultaneously urging the court that the correct date was after this publication. We did this in an abundance of caution because we’re not taking any chances with an issue of this importance. That is why today, immediately after the order was published, Mozilla re-filed our suit challenging the FCC net neutrality order. We won’t waste a minute in our fight to protect net neutrality because it’s our mission to ensure the internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

    • The Death Of Net Neutrality Will Be Official In April (Cue The Lawsuits)

      Of course that’s really just the beginning of an entirely new chapter in the fight to prevent broadband monopolies from abusing a lack of competition in the broadband space (remember: net neutrality violations are just a symptom of a lack of competition, a problem nobody wants to seriously address for fear of upsetting campaign contributors).

      The publication in the Federal Register opens the door to the myriad lawsuits that will be filed against the agency. Those lawsuits range from suits by Mozilla and consumer groups, to the 22 state attorneys general who say they’re also suing the agency for ignoring the public interest. These lawsuits must be filed within the next 60 days. Expect the court battle to quickly begin heating up in March.

    • Ajit Pai’s Plan Will Take Broadband Away From Poor People

      It gets worse. Pai proposes to make the Lifeline subsidy available only to those companies that own their facilities, like the wires, towers, and other infrastructure that make up networks. The problem here? Seventy-five percent of Lifeline customers get their service from businesses that resell the capacity of companies like Sprint and T-Mobile. When the FCC opened the Lifeline subsidy to mobile phones back in 2008, these resellers came roaring into the market, increasing competition and reducing prices so that many subscribers pay little or nothing for service. Eliminating the carriers favored by three-quarters of the market will ensure that Lifeline prices will increase and quality of service will decrease.

      If resellers are forced out of the Lifeline program, some low-income Americans may find themselves unable to use their Lifeline subsidy at all. This result could have dire consequences—some Lifeline customers may find themselves without access to critical services like 911.

    • The FCC’s net neutrality rules will officially expire in late April

      The FCC voted to repeal the rules on December 14, but the repeal takes effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register publication is scheduled to happen on Thursday this week.

      That means the repeal will take place on or about April 23. But the lawsuits to overturn the repeal can get started this month or in early March.

    • FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday

      The official publication of the measure, which was first reported by Reuters, in the Federal Register will start the clock on the 60-day window that Congress has to pass a resolution reversing the FCC’s order to get rid of net neutrality rules.

  • DRM
    • Since 1998, using your own property has required regulatory permission and the ability to make your own jailbreaking tools from scratch

      In Did Congress Really Expect Us to Whittle Our Own Personal Jailbreaking Tools? — a new post on EFF’s Deeplinks blog — I describe the bizarre, unfair and increasingly salient US Copyright Office DMCA exemptions process, which is underway right now.

      This process takes place every 3 years, and it allows Americans to beg the Librarian of Congress for permission to disable the DRM on their own property in order to do legal things (like install apps of their own choosing, effect their own repairs, or just use third-party ink in their printers). After a long and tortured process, the Librarian may grant you permission — but not permission to buy or collaborate on the tools necessary to make that use.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Copyrights
      • Disney’s Stupid Lawsuit Against Redbox Results In Judge Saying Disney Is Engaged In Copyright Misuse

        Well, well. For the past few months I’ve been meaning to write about Disney’s silly lawsuit against Redbox, but other stuff kept coming up, and now a judge has ruled against Disney and said that Disney appears to be engaged in copyright misuse. This is in a case that Disney brought — and it appears to be backfiring badly. Redbox, as you probably know, has kiosks where you can rent DVDs relatively cheaply. It’s managed to stay alive despite the traditional DVD rental business disappearing most everywhere else. About a decade ago, Hollywood fought vigorously against Redbox, but the company survived (though being taken over by a private equity firm in 2016), relying heavily on first sale rights, enabling it to legally purchase DVDs and then rent them out.

        Back in December, however, Disney sued Redbox over taking its business to the next level and including download codes that could be purchased at a Redbox kiosk. Though it took them basically forever, Hollywood studios have finally realized that offering online access with the purchase of movies is a good idea, but they only want the end consumer who is buying a DVD to get access to them. So, Redbox would buy the Disney “Combo Packs” that offered the DVD and a download code, and the would offer the paper codes in kiosks to let renters watch the movie online. They weren’t just copying the code and letting anyone use it — it was still a one-to-one limitation with the purchase in that they would buy the DVD with a paper code on it, and then stuff that paper code into their kiosk delivery pods. Disney argued that this was contributory copyright infringement, even though the code pointed to a legitimate/authorized version of the movie and was legitimately purchased.

        Redbox hit back by arguing that the First Sale doctrine protected it (as it did with the physical rentals) and that it is free to use the codes in this manner as the legal purchaser. Disney’s response to that was that First Sale does not apply to the download code because it’s not the copyright-covered work.

      • The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 8: The Ineffectiveness of Website Blocking

        The Bell website blocking coalition unsurprisingly argues that blocking “regimes have been widely adopted internationally because they have been proven to work.” The submission cites data from several countries including the UK, Portugal, and South Korea. As demonstrated last week, the Bell coalition proposal has not been widely adopted internationally. In fact, the overwhelming majority of countries have rejected approaches that do not include court orders. Moreover, a closer look at the data reveals that website blocking is far less effective than its proponents claim.

      • Court Realizes It Totally Screwed Up An Injunction Against Zazzle For Copyright Infringement

        Last year we wrote about a bizarre and troubling DMCA case involving the print-on-demand company Zazzle, in which the judge in the district court bizarrely and wrongly claimed that Zazzle lost its DMCA safe harbors because the allegedly infringing works were printed on a t-shirt, rather than remaining digitally (even though it was the end user using the infringing work, and Zazzle’s system just processed it automatically). To add insult to injury, in November, the judge then issued a permanent injunction against Zazzle for this infringement.

      • EU Publishers Acknowledge Snippet Tax Concerns, But Say: ‘It’s OK, You Can Trust Us’

        Techdirt has been following the ridiculous proposal to extend EU copyright even further to include tiny snippets from articles for years now. The idea has already been tried twice in the European Union, and failed dismally on both occasions. In Spain, a study showed the move there caused serious economic damage, especially to smaller companies; German publishers tacitly admitted the law was pointless when they granted Google a free license to use snippets from their titles. More recently, the European Commission’s own research confirmed that far from harming publishers, news aggregators have a positive impact on the industry’s advertising revenue.

      • Australian Pirate Site Blocks Actually Block Pirate Sites

        New research, promoted by copyright holders, concludes that Australia’s pirate site-blocking efforts are paying off. The court-ordered blockades have effectively limited the number of direct visits to blocked sites. Whether the effect is as pronounced as claimed is unclear though, in part because VPN usage is not accounted for.

      • Sci-Hub Loses Domains and Access to Some Web Services

        Although some users have reported issues with Sci-Hub’s currently available domains on social media, a number of them are still active and accessible. “Sci-Hubs’ popularity has been steadily growing. And this is not only despite these lawsuits but also because of them,” Tzovaras writes. “I think if the publishers want to fight back against Sci-Hub they will have to do so outside the courtroom.”

      • Copyright Trolls Target Up to 22,000 Norwegians for Movie Piracy

        The Oslo District Court has effectively given a Danish law firm the go-ahead to target up to 21,804 potential pirates with cash settlement demands. Njord Law ran into trouble at the Supreme Court last year when it was found that its evidence against alleged pirates failed to show serious levels of infringement. This time around it has clearly learned from its earlier experiences.

        [...]

        Reports emerged of letters being sent out to local Internet users by Danish law firm Njord Law, each demanding a cash payment of 2,700 NOK (around US$345). Failure to comply, the company claimed, could result in a court case and damages of around $12,000.

As Expected, Bristows and Others Already Lying About UPC Status in Germany, But Doing This Anonymously (to Dodge Accountability for Lies)

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 11:49:36 AM

Expect more of that in weeks/months to come

Summary: In their characteristic fashion, firms that created the UPC for their self-enrichment purposes, along with publishers/writers who deem it their role to promote the UPC and set up lobbying events for the UPC, look for ways to downplay if not intentionally distort what happened in Germany yesterday

THIS was predictable. Judging by how much lying we have seen so far — coming from Team UPC and EPO management — it would be shocking if they didn’t lie about it. So okay, bring it on. Let’s compare fiction to reality before the next wave of spin gets crafted.

As we noted yesterday morning, this whole ‘gamble’ on UPC may be costing a lot of jobs. UPC would not only threaten many productive jobs (e.g. cost of fighting trolls in courts or paying them ‘protection’ money, draining SME budgets); it actually threatens the jobs of examiners. This too was predictable and even though the UPC will never materialise (it’s very unlikely), it does a lot of damage to examiners. Regardless. What a blunder. Another casualty is patent quality, as we shall explain in a moment (judges are wrongly assumed to be substitutes for examiners).

“Be ready for lots of spin from Bristows and other Team UPC members,” I wrote last night. “They hate reality and they hate facts.”

It didn’t take long for the spin to come. Minutes maybe!

“Kluwer Patent blogger” (i.e. Bristows) is already spinning this latest news from Germany; it’s possible that this account gets shuffled among UPC proponents, but based on the style, context and wording one can make a pretty safe guess. It’s almost certainly Bristows. The firm does not want to be held accountable for lying, having written very briefly about this development in its private blog shortly after the news came out (we mentioned their short blog post on Wednesday night).

Here they are downplaying what happened, for example:

According to a spokesman of the FCC, cases on the list haven’t necessarily been admitted for decision. An exact date of decision cannot be derived from the list either. Actually, the complaints concerning the EPO were on last year’s list as well.

So they’re denying the facts. They did this after the complaint had been submitted and, as usual, were soon proven wrong. Is it like a job requirement at Bristows? To be a liar? Maybe anonymously?

They never ever apologise for lying, let along for being wrong. Is that too a job requirement?

Managing IP, another UPC pusher, did not cover the actual news but instead (re)used Team UPC’s spin right there in the headline: “German Constitutional Court plans to decide UPC case in 2018″

But the body does not even agree with the headline as it says right there in the summary that “it is not certain a decision will come in 2018 and, even if it does, the timing will be vital in determining whether the UPC is in effect before Brexit…”

It can take several years. Like we said yesterday, there’s no hard deadline.

For actually mature and responsible coverage see this morning’s article from Kieren McCarthy (writing about the German Constitutional Court from somewhere in San Francisco). To quote:

The German Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a case about the legitimacy of the European Unified Patent Court (UPC), raising doubts over the future of a single patent court for Europe.

Among the 36 cases that the Bundesverfassungsgericht has said it will decide on this year is a constitutional complaint – BvR 739/17 – against the UPC that argues it breaks German law.

The actual complaint remains unpublished but it has been possible to piece together the main arguments leveled against the UPC: that the vote to approve it in the German Parliament was not proper; that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (Brexit) breaks the agreement; and that recent reforms at the European Patent Office (EPO) have undermined its independence and hence the legitimacy of the UPC.

It wasn’t clear if the court would hear the complaint, and based on filings from organizations asked to provide their expert view it remains highly possible that the case will still fail. But the decision to hear it will push the creation of the UPC far past its planned launch this year (which was delayed from last December) and possibly into 2019 or even 2020.

That may complicate matters even further as the UK is still on track to leave the European Union in March 2019. The UK, Germany and France all have to ratify the UPC for it to come into force. So far only France has done so; it’s unclear whether the UK can or will ratify the agreement while Brexit hangs in the balance; and the German Constitutional Court has the authority to effectively tear the agreement up.

[...]

But the fact that it has even reached this point should serve as a wake-up call to the lawmakers and the patent industry that something has to change if confidence in Europe’s patent system is to be retained.

Check out the first few comments. One person said:

it is not clear whether the German Constitutional Court is in a position to rule against either the EPO or the UPC.
Sure it is. The primary argument revolves around the article of the German Constitution which states that only a German court’s decisions have validity over German subjects. This has been interpreted as “court with German representation”. ECJ, ECHR, etc are OK as they all have German representation.
UPC fails that tests – its panels can be convened in a way where a country has no representation. That is pretty much end of story – the convention in its current form is a classic case of some IPR lobbies thinking that they are above all law and can invalidate criminal, civil legal code and even constitutions with impunity.
The “Professional Jobsworth” product of Ecole d’Administration is just an icing on the cake.
By the way, I suspect Germany is not the only country in Europe with a constitution clause like this. I am pretty sure that some digging will turn up at least one or more countries to raise a similar court case.

The next (second) comment spoke about patent quality: “That would require that there was some minimal quality requirements in the past. As the EPO receives over 400 patent applications per day, the considerable backlog can be dealt with by replacing all the patent examiners with a monkey with two rubber stamps. This should have no impact on patent quality while at the same time releasing a large number of highly qualified professionals to do something constructive instead.”

Bingo!

What is the point of patent examination if it’s not done properly? Companies that are counting too much on EPs being valid see their shares collapse (example from 3 weeks ago). How about the bubble of CRISPR patents? Here’s a press release from yesterday:

As mentioned above, Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals is having an overwhelmingly strong start in the pre-market hours this morning, and for good reason. The company announced that it has been granted a new patent. In a press release issued early this morning, the company announced that it has received notice from the European Patent Office, or EPO.

But what would happen if the patent was later deemed invalid? That happens. Of course the shares would collapse in a major way.

How about all those software patents that are granted by the EPO in defiance of the rules?

Even attorneys who promote software patents in Europe admit limitations. Yesterday one of them wrote a blog post about it to say:

Software patent news from the EPO: Programming language constructs cannot be patented – not the commands, not their syntax and not their operational semantics, according to this recent examination appeal decision.

The patent application related to MATLAB‘s SPMD command. In case you don’t know, according to Wikipedia SPMD (single program, multiple data) is a technique employed to achieve parallelism, where tasks are split up and run simultaneously on multiple processors with different input in order to obtain results faster. SPMD is the most common style of parallel programming.

So they lost the patent. On appeal. Spotting the trend yet? Imagine how much it would cost if it went to court (such as UPC). Patents are risky in litigation (both plaintiff and defendant pay a lot of money), which Battistelli and UPC are facilitating along with other nations (making it easier to sue Europeans from abroad, even distant continents). The terrible assumption is that judges and courts can make up for low-quality patent examination.

Fasken’s Armand M. Benitah and Mark Vanderveken have just published this article about “Patent Prosecution” (“Domestic and Global Trends”; it’s about how companies can press ahead/push forward with patent applications and lawsuits far away, speeding up the examination process with PPH. To quote:

The PPH program continues to expand at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”). The PPH allows an applicant to fast-track the examination of an application by submitting a request to have positive work product from a PPH partner considered during examination, at no cost. CIPO entered PPH agreements with Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, and Poland in 2017, and with the Visegrad Patent Institute on January 6, 2018 under global or bilateral pilot agreements. This brings the total number of Canada’s PPH partnerships to 28. In addition, CIPO and the European Patent Office have recently decided to extend their pilot PPH agreement for an additional three years. Notably, the most recent additions to the PPH program point to expansions in South America and eastern Europe, whereas key industrialized countries were originally emphasized.

There are quite a few famous patent trolls in Canada. We wrote about them many times. When CIPO and the European Patent Office get together to work on PPH and UPC what they are basically setting up is a cross-Atlantic ‘fast lane’ for trolls that want to prey on European firms, most likely SMEs that lack budget for legal defense (and would thus rather settle without any challenge). That would be blackmail.

Nobody who actually understands what the UPC is (and let’s face it, almost no politician who signs in favour even brothers reading any of it!) would support it; unless of course one stands to profit from the litigious calamity UPC would cause…

Further Attacks on EPO Staff and the Appeal Boards; Former EPO Boards of Appeal Member Speaks About EPO Scandals

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 10:41:09 AM

It’s easy for her to speak out about these scandals now that she’s retired (just like Siegfried Broß)


Image credit: Sheikh it Sheikh it‏

Summary: In the process of devaluing EPO workers and perhaps preparing them for a large round of layoffs information is also revealed about further repressions against the independence of the Boards of Appeal

THE EPO is rumoured to be heading towards layoffs (700-1000 in number, i.e. 10-15% of staff), as we noted yesterday morning and CA/3/18 seems to be stripped apart by Battistelli, as we noted last night. “New Art. 53(1)(f) must be suppressed in the proposal CA/3/18,” another source told us overnight. “That was decided in the Board 28 meeting on Wednesday. So, the status of “permanent staff” is maintained. But the other foreseen changes probably stay in CA/3/18 (still to be confirmed).”

“We certainly hope that the German Constitutional Court is paying attention to this.”We are hearing these things (about layoffs and “permanent staff” status) from multiple independent sources, so it’s likely to be true. As time goes by rumours become concrete and eventually the press too reports these as facts (albeit belatedly, sometimes as much as a month late).

Here’s another new comment related to this (not many people will have noticed it):

Another curious detail is that in order to designate his deputy the President of the Boards of Appeal needs to have the approval of the President of the Office (CA/D 4/17).

https://www.epo.org/modules/epoweb/acdocument/epoweb2/257/en/CA-D_4-17_en.pdf

The background to this arrangement can be found in CA/53/17.

https://www.epo.org/modules/epoweb/acdocument/epoweb2/258/en/CA-53-17_en.pdf

We certainly hope that the German Constitutional Court is paying attention to this. Our next post will be about the German Constitutional Court.

In the meantime, however, mind the following new comment from Catarina Holtz, [1, 2], who describes herself as “former legally qualified member of the EPO Boards of Appeal, former Appellate Court Judge Stockholm” when she says: (probably in a rush due to a few trivial typos)

I am very impressed, Herr Bausch, with your astute observations. But, there is a problem for every international organisation, which tells us why we cannot succeed going national with our complaints. Why? Because all of them work in a deficient legal environment. There is no other constitution than the convention under which it works, there is no Parliament or Government, with their respective functions, governed by the people who voted them into office. one to adopt laws, the other to excute them. And above all, there is no access to any court to deal with complaints, be they staff grudges against treatment of them, or parties to cases who feel discriminated. ILO is the single way out and as some have already observed, the EPO might just disregard them. And mark this, this is the situation for each and every international organisation from the UN down (remember the Kompass case?). Study the case law of the ECHR on cases where staff of such isntitutions have tried to be heard, eg. Waite and Kennedy v. Germany or Heinz v. the conctracting states to the EPO. These are examples of why there is no access to the ECtHR, the states and the organisation are immune. So the effort of the EU to become a member of the ECHR is commendable, that would give staff and others a venue to be heard. The rest is not silence, but a continuous effort is required to make the powers of the EPO to see reason. What is happening there is disgraceful.

A lot of this can (and probably should) result in sanctions against Battistelli and the UPC. In a society which is based on law and order such behaviour cannot be tolerated. We don’t expect ILO to intervene in any way because it’s part of the problem and labour complaints/appeals arising from ILO end up in its very own Administrative Tribunal, as ridiculous as that ultimately sounds (no independence). If the EPO Boards of Appeal is controlled (indirectly) by Battistelli, who sort of appeal (against the Office) mechanism is it really? Imagine a UPC headed by Battistelli…

End of the UPC Lobby and Withdrawal of UPCA May Seem Imminent

Thursday 22nd of February 2018 12:31:13 AM

Retired Judge Siegfried Broß has long spoken out against the Unified Patent Court (UPC); and for good reasons


Image courtesy: campact.de

Summary: The Unitary Patent fantasy (of mass litigation firms) is coming to an end; in fact, the German government and courts (Bundesverfassungsgericht to be specific) now deem the complaint to be admissible and thus likely legitimate in spite of many attempts to shoot it down

The European Patent Office (EPO) barely says anything about the UPC. It used to. A lot. But it rarely mentions it anymore. The closest thing to a mention was today’s tweet that said: “Read more about the impact of #patent protection on trade & FDI in innovative industries in this study…”

It’s like a ‘template’ tweet that they cyclically shuffle/revolve in order for the propaganda to broaden its reach. Propaganda? Yes, propaganda. What they don’t say is that they funded it. In the process, the EPO entered controversial territories; it really corrupted academia (we explained this before). This is a serious matter. The EPO not only corrupts the media but also academia; and guess who’s paying for all this…

“The EPO not only corrupts the media but also academia; and guess who’s paying for all this…”EPO staff is said to be prepared for ‘chopping’ while the management corrupts the press and universities. It’s not cheap. It also pays something like 5 million euros for events that last just one afternoon (that alone is a year’s salary of about 50 examiners). As the EPO implicitly acknowledges (by mention of two Twitter accounts), it paid money to LSE (UK) and the University of Colorado Boulder (US) for UPC propaganda. Sadly for them, however, the Unitary Patent is dead regardless. How dead? Check out what happened today (it’s in German by the way). The ‘unitary’ patent regime is over. It is dead. Team UPC will not admit this, obviously.

We have spent a lot of energy and almost 10 years to help end it, so this is a relief. We expect press coverage in German and then in English quite soon. Will the press be heavily influenced by the spin of Team UPC, as usual?

“We expect press coverage in German and then in English quite soon.”“UPCtracker” (a UPC booster, as even his username serves to suggest) wrote: “BREAKING: The complaint against the German UPC ratification law made it on the list of cases to be decided by the BVerfG. No details available yet (see linked list, Justice Prof Huber, # 11).”

Richard Pinckney from Bristows stopped short of sober analysis of it. No analysis at all. Here’s what he wrote: “The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) has today published here a list of cases which it intends to decide in 2018. The complaint against the legislation enabling Germany to ratify the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC), case reference 2 BvR 739/17, is included in cases to be decided by the Second Senate, with Justice Huber as rapporteur.”

Fair enough. Not much spin there for a change.

“Previously JUVE said it would likely take years, not even a single year, to decide on. There’s no deadline.”Christopher Weber (Team UPC) said that the “German Constitutional Court plans to decide within 2018 on #UPC and EPC complaints…”

IAM responded: “But when in 2018? If it is relatively early in the year and the complaint is rejected, there is an outside chance of German and UK UPC ratification before Brexit. Later on in the year and whatever the decision the UPC is dead in the water.”

Weber said: “Your guess is as good as mine. It’s No. 11 on a list of 26 for the 2nd Senate and No. 7 of 9 for reporting Judge Prof. Dr. Huber.”

“The very fact that IAM is pessimistic says a lot because IAM was actually paid to promote the UPC.”Previously JUVE said it would likely take years, not even a single year, to decide on. There’s no deadline.

I told IAM that UPC “has been dead in the water since a year ago, except for those who were asleep…”

The very fact that IAM is pessimistic says a lot because IAM was actually paid to promote the UPC. It’s like a lobbying group disguised as a publisher. Earlier today IAM published a self-promotional piece (that’s their business model) for Carpmaels & Ransford LLP in which the firm spoke of “Patent Box”. This sponsored ‘article’ actually trotted out an instrument of corporate tax evasion. To quote: “A wider awareness of the benefits of the Patent Box (a reduction in corporation tax available on the profits from patented inventions in the UK) may help to boost the number of patent applications filed.”

UPC is a scam. Patent Box is a scam. Earlier today we received new material about the EPO and INPI; that scam too will soon be covered here.

EPO’s Board 28 Spikes Article 53 in CA/3/18, Apparently After Battistelli Withdrew It

Wednesday 21st of February 2018 11:26:21 PM

“The draft “reform” proposal CA/3/18 will, if it is allowed to enter into force, put an end to permanent employment at the EPO.” –EPO insiders


Reference: Most of the world’s workers have insecure jobs, ILO report reveals

Summary: The latest plot twist, as odd as that may seem, is that the attack on the rights of thousands of workers (many of whom are rumoured to be on their way out) is curtailed somewhat, at least for the time being

The European Patent Office’s (EPO) demise is worrying. It’s inevitable, but it’s still worrying (layoffs are probably coming very soon, based on insiders). CA/3/18 was covered here yesterday, based on the words of insiders.

World Intellectual Property Review has just written about this: [via SUEPO]

The European Patent Office’s (EPO) supervisory body, the Administrative Council (AC), will deliberate an employment proposal put forward by EPO president Benoît Battistelli to recruit staff on renewable contracts of five years in March.

Battistelli and Elodie Bergot, principal director of human resources, added the motion to discuss permanent employment at the EPO during a budget and finance committee meeting in October last year.

At the time, a spokesperson for the EPO said that the office is in a “unique situation” with 97% of its staff hired on a permanent basis.

A first discussion of the proposal, which is called the “Modernisation of the employment framework of the EPO”, took place during the AC’s meeting in December.

The proposal has since been amended.

The latest on this suggests further amendments. An EPO insider wrote:

Breaking news: during Board 28 today the proposed Article 53 in CA/3/18 is dropped (withdrawn) – a revised version of CA/3/18 (without Article 53) will be published at the latest tomorrow. Rumor has it that the King himself withdraw the document. Yes, you read that correctly!

What is going on? Are rumours and panic influencing the plan? Will the management potentially rethink its utterly destructive actions?

“I was reading an article about the corruption ranking by Transparency International when I came across this short video,” one reader told us. “This reminds me of something, a kind of deja vu at the EPO…”

Transparency International’s connections to the EPO scandals [1, 2] are noteworthy. It’s like there’s nobody left to properly investigate and then press for actual enforcement against the EPO. Certainly not ILO (UN), the EU/EC, the German authorities, or even the Dutch government.

Links 21/2/2018: Apper 1.0, New Fedora ISOs

Wednesday 21st of February 2018 10:30:58 PM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • What Happens when you Contribute, revisited

    I sat down to write a post about my students’ experiences this term contributing to open source, and apparently I’ve written this before (and almost exactly a year ago to the day!) The thing about teaching is that it’s cyclic, so you’ll have to forgive me as I give a similar lecture here today.

    I’m teaching two classes on open source development right now, two sections in an introductory course, and another two in a follow-up intermediate course. The students are just starting to get some releases submitted, and I’ve been going through their blogs, pull requests, videos (apparently this generation likes making videos, which is something new for me), tweets, and the like. I learn a lot from my students, and I wanted to share some of what I’m seeing.

  • Events
    • OpenStack Summit Vancouver ’18: Vote for Speakers

      The next OpenStack Summit takes place again in Vancouver (BC, Canada), May 21-25, 2018. The “Vote for Presentations” period started. All proposals are up for community votes. The deadline for your vote is will end February 25 at 11:59pm PST (February 26th at 8:59am CET)

    • IBM Index: A Community Event for Open Source Developers

      The first-ever INDEX community event, happening now in San Francisco, is an open developer conference featuring sessions on topics including artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics, cloud native, containers, APIs, languages, and more.

    • Eclipse CheConf 2018 – Join the live stream February 21st at 10 am EST

      2017 was a fantastic year for the Che project, with more contributors, more commits, and more usage – this solidified Che’s position as the leading developer workspace server and browser IDE. Eclipse Che users logged over 7 million hours of public Che usage (plus more in private installs). We’ll discuss the growing cloud development market, Che’s position in it, and the exciting changes we’re planning for 2018.

  • Web Browsers
    • Chrome
    • Mozilla
      • Best Web Browser

        When the Firefox team released Quantum in November 2017, they boasted it was “over twice as fast as Firefox from 6 months ago”, and Linux Journal readers generally agreed, going as far as to name it their favorite web browser. A direct response to Google Chrome, Firefox Quantum also boasts decreased RAM usage and a more streamlined user interface.

      • Share Exactly What You See On-Screen With Firefox Screenshots

        A “screenshot” is created when you capture what’s on your computer screen, so you can save it as a reference, put it in a document, or send it as an image file for others to see exactly what you see.

      • QMO: Firefox 59 Beta 10 Testday Results

        As you may already know, last Friday – February 16nd – we held a new Testday event, for Firefox 59 Beta 10.

        Thank you Mohammed Adam, Abhishek Haridass, Fahima Zulfath A. and Surentharan.R.A. from India QA Community team for helping us make Mozilla a better place.

      • Bugzilla Triage Helper

        There are an awful lot of bugs filed against Firefox and all it’s components in the course of a release. Keeping on top of that is hard and some teams have adopted some policies to help with that (for example see: design-decision-needed).

        Having a consistent approach to bugs across the organisation makes it a little easier for everyone to get a feel for what’s going.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice
    • LibreOffice 6.1 Arrives in August with Revamped Online Experience, New Features

      Last week, we talked with The Document Foundation’s marketing assistant Mike Saunders about the 1 million downloads milestone reached by the major LibreOffice 6.0 release in only two weeks after its launch, who told us that the team is already working on the next version, LibreOffice 6.1, due for release in August.

      LibreOffice 6.1 will be the first major update to the 6.x series of the office suite and will add yet another layer of new features and improvements to the open-source and cross-platform office suite used by millions of computer users worldwide, and we’d like you to be the first to know about them.

  • CMS
  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • Public Services/Government
    • EOH and LSD Information Technology partner to lead open source in Africa

      By identifying global trends and local needs, EOH is able to proactively source and secure capabilities that will assist with the adoption of the digital revolution. LSD’s offerings across Linux, automation, devops and containers is a great technology fit for EOH to lead open source in the market.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Choosing a tool to track and mitigate open source security vulnerabilities

      Continuously tracking your application’s dependencies for vulnerabilities and efficiently addressing them is no simple feat. In addition, this is a problem shared by all, and is not an area most companies would consider their core competency. Therefore, it is a great opportunity for the right set of tools to help tackle this concern.

    • Open source software: to be celebrated or cursed?

      The use of Open Source Software (OSS) has become widespread. The latest statistics show that 78% of companies run OSS, and a number of mainstream software and hardware products are based on the OSS model – for example Android, Skype [sic], Firefox, Amazon Kindle, Tivo and BT Home Hub.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Data
      • Marshall Students Use Open Source Data to Help Stop Sex Trafficking Cases

        The work involved sex trafficking cases in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Select students in Marshall’s Open Source Intelligence Exchange program worked to provide open source intelligence collection and analysis for law enforcement and other clients. Open source refers to data collection from publicly available sources.

    • Open Access/Content
      • Stanford scholar celebrates Western culture’s open-access tradition

        The move toward “open access” to research and scholarship, far from being a modern digital-age creation, has roots in the West that date back to medieval times, writes a Stanford education scholar. John Willinsky’s new book explains how learning has long benefited from efforts to increase its circulation.

    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • Open source RISC-V architecture is changing the game for IoT processors

        Over the past decade, open source software has been one of the biggest catalysts in the tech world. Today, the power of open source, the freedom it enables, and the communities that it generates are gaining traction in the hardware world too. For these reasons, RISC-V is gaining huge popularity. Here is an introduction to RISC-V and the opportunities it opens.

  • Programming/Development
    • Pyenv – Python Version Management Made Easier

      You’re a programmer who wants to test your python code on multiple different Python environments. What would you do? Install a specific python version and test your code and then uninstall that version and again install another different version and test code? No, wait! It is completely unnecessary. Say hello to Pyenv , an useful utility to manage multiple Python versions, simultaneously. It made the python version management easier than ever. It is used to install, uninstall and switch to multiple different versions of Python.

    • GitHub Predicts Hottest 2018 Open Source Trends

      As the world’s largest repository of open source projects, GitHub is in a unique position to witness what developers are up to. GitHub staff recently sifted through the site’s 2017’s data in order to identify top open source trends they predict will thrive in 2018.

    • What is LLVM? The power behind Swift, Rust, Clang, and more

      New languages, and improvements on existing ones, are mushrooming throughout the develoment landscape. Mozilla’s Rust, Apple’s Swift, Jetbrains’s Kotlin, and many other languages provide developers with a new range of choices for speed, safety, convenience, portability, and power.

      Why now? One big reason is new tools for building languages—specifically, compilers. And chief among them is LLVM (Low-Level Virtual Machine), an open source project originally developed by Swift language creator Chris Lattner as a research project at the University of Illinois.

    • Oxidizing Fedora: Try Rust and its applications today

      In recent years, it has become increasingly important to develop software that minimizes security vulnerabilities. Memory management bugs are a common cause of these vulnerabilities. To that end, the Mozilla community has spent the last several years building the Rust language and ecosystem which focuses primarily on eliminating those bugs. And Rust is available in Fedora today, along with a few applications in Fedora 27 and higher, as seen below.

    • This Week in Rust 222

      This is a weekly summary of its progress and community. Want something mentioned? Tweet us at @ThisWeekInRust or send us a pull request. Want to get involved? We love contributions.

    • Google Summer Of Code 2018 Larger Than Ever

      Google Summer of Code gives students an opportunity to make a substantive contribution to Open Source projects with the motto “Flip bits not burgers” has recruited more mentoring organizations than ever for its 13th year.

    • The Beauty of the COBOL Programming Language

      The first thing I needed in my journey to learn COBOL was an IDE. I am a big supporter of coding in an integrated development environment (IDE). I like being able to write, test and run code all in one place. Also, I find the support features that an IDE provides, such as visual code structure analysis, code completion and inline syntax checking, allow me to program and debug efficiently.

    • Clear Linux Is The Latest Distribution Figuring Out What To Do With Python 2

      While Python 3 has been around now for a decade, most Linux distributions are still working towards moving away from Python 2 and that includes Intel’s Clear Linux distribution.

      Like with Ubuntu, Fedora, and others moving away their base packages from any Python 2 dependencies and moving them to Python 3, Clear Linux developers are working on the same. Arjan van de Ven of Intel provided an update on their Python 3 transitioning. By the end of 2018, but hopefully within the next six months, they hope to be at a point where their performance-oriented Linux distribution is “fully and only Python 3.”

Leftovers
  • KFC restaurants across Britain are forced to close

    KFC said it first became aware of a problem in the software around a new computer ordering and delivery system on Friday.

    [...]

    The new regime is built around software developed by QSL, which is meant to ensure efficient delivery.

  • KFC chicken shortage closes outlets

    Last week, KFC switched its delivery contract to DHL, which blamed “operational issues” for the supply disruption.

    [...]

    The distribution network uses software developed by the firm Quick Service Logistics (QSL).

  • Science
    • Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

      Lead magnesium niobate (PMN) is a prototypical “relaxor” material, used in a wide variety of applications, from ultrasound to sonar. Researchers have now used state-of-the-art microscopy techniques to see exactly how atoms are arranged in PMN – and it’s not what anyone expected.

      “This work gives us information we can use to better understand how and why PMN behaves the way it does – and possibly other relaxor materials as well,” says James LeBeau, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of a paper on the work.

    • The “Black Mirror” scenarios that are leading some experts to call for more secrecy on AI

      AI could reboot industries and make the economy more productive; it’s already infusing many of the products we use daily. But a new report by more than 20 researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, OpenAI, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that the same technology creates new opportunities for criminals, political operatives, and oppressive governments—so much so that some AI research may need to be kept secret.

    • Tech wishes for 2018
    • 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2018

      Every year since 2001 we’ve picked what we call the 10 Breakthrough Technologies. People often ask, what exactly do you mean by “breakthrough”? It’s a reasonable question—some of our picks haven’t yet reached widespread use, while others may be on the cusp of becoming commercially available. What we’re really looking for is a technology, or perhaps even a collection of technologies, that will have a profound effect on our lives.

  • Health/Nutrition
  • Security
  • Defence/Aggression
    • Daniel Ellsberg: Preventing Extermination Of Humanity By Nukes

      But he was asked to work in the plants that give materials for H-bombs, and as he said to his deputy when he decided not to do that, he said they have A-bombs. Now they’re building H-bombs, which he knew as he told me would be a thousand times more powerful than the A-bombs that triggered it. He said they’ll go right through the alphabet til they have Z-bombs they said.

    • U.S. Empire Still Incoherent After All These Years

      In the intervening 15 years, U.S. policy failures have resulted in ever-spreading violence and chaos that affect hundreds of millions of people in at least a dozen countries. The U.S. has utterly failed to bring any of its neo-imperial wars to a stable or peaceful end. And yet the U.S. imperial project sails on, seemingly blind to its consistently catastrophic results.

      Instead, U.S. civilian and military leaders shamelessly blame their victims for the violence and chaos they have unleashed on them, and endlessly repackage the same old war propaganda to justify record military budgets and threaten new wars.

      But they never hold themselves or each other accountable for their catastrophic failures or the carnage and human misery they inflict. So they have made no genuine effort to remedy any of the systemic problems, weaknesses and contradictions of U.S. imperialism that Michael Mann identified in 2003 or that other critical analysts like Noam Chomsky, Gabriel Kolko, William Blum and Richard Barnet have described for decades.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • A Defender of Assange Says She’s Fighting for All

      More than five years ago, on two different continents and only days apart, an Australian woman and an Australian man entered indefinite detention.

      For the woman, a defense lawyer at the International Criminal Court, being arrested was a relatively brief but harrowing affair, punctuated by armed men, dark rooms and aggressive interrogation. For the man, a co-founder of WikiLeaks, detention continues, though some might say voluntarily.

      The lawyer, Melinda Taylor, would go on to represent the man, Julian Assange.

      Ms. Taylor, now 42, has earned a reputation for defending the rights of individuals condemned by the court of public opinion before they have set foot inside an actual courtroom. Her clients have included Mr. Assange and Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the deposed Libyan strongman.

    • Under Attack Part Six: The Stratfor and Syria Files I

      In what has to be one of the more spectacularly craptastic court decisions in recent history, last week the UK’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court upheld an outstanding warrant for Julian Assange which stemmed from a 2010 Swedish investigation that has since been closed. Despite public outcry, two UN rulings in favor of Assange’s freedom, and the fact that it recently came to light that the UK encouraged Sweden to keep the investigation open despite the Swedish prosecutor’s desire to close it in 2012, it appears that the UK is still taking its marching orders from Washington regardless of the implications. Of course there’s no evidence (yet) showing that the US directly interfered in the court case and I could be astrosurfing better than an Intercept journalist high on a government prescription of shill-lax. But unlike Micah Lee, this story has some worthwhile evidence to back up its claim including the fact that the magistrate who denied Julian Assange his freedom and the ability to receive adequate health care last week is none other than Baroness Emma Arbuthnot, wife of Lord James Arbuthnot— the former chairman of Parliament’s Defence Select Committee.

      Journalist Randy Credico also pointed out that James Arbuthnot and his cronies acquired a massive defense contract with the UK government through a little known group called SC Strategy which is headed up by none other than the former Chief of M16, Sir John McLeod Scarlett, and the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Lord Alexander Carlile. In 2015, The Guardian reported that the elusive firm’s only known client at the time was Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund which perhaps isn’t all that surprising since that the Financial Times reported last year that Qatar, via the wealth fund, bought up a piece of Heathrow airport, the Shard skyscraper, a “portion” of the Canary Wharf financial district, and Harrods department stores. Apparently Qatar also bailed out Barclays bank because the only thing more comforting than one of the largest terrorist hotspots in the world investing about forty billion euros in your country is knowing that your country’s former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation is in bed with them.

    • What? NYT’s Haberman Compares Wikileaks Harm of Hillary Campaign to 9-11 Attacks

      Tuesday’s New York Times featured a humdrum personal profile of its own reporter, Maggie Haberman, whose only point of interest was an offensive comparison the White House reporter made between Michael Bloomberg’s 2001 run for mayor of New York City and Donald Trump’s run for president in 2016. In both cases, “an unprecedented form of terror in an election” resulted in an unlikely result. One was an Islamist terrorist attack that murdered over 3000 people; the other, some embarrassing campaign emails that may have damaged Clinton’s prospects over Trump. Same thing, really, right?

    • Congressman Says He Was Blocked From Briefing Trump on WikiLeaks

      A recent report in The Intercept says that California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher claimed to have told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about a meeting he had last August with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In the meeting, Rohrabacher told The Intercept, Assange provided definitive proof—to him and his traveling companion, Charles Johnson—that Russia was not the source of Democratic Party communications leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Record high temperatures possible Tuesday, Wednesday

      High temperature records for Roanoke from the 1930s are very much in danger of being challenged or even toppled the next couple of days.

    • If climate change wrecks your city, can it sue Exxon?

      Last summer, Ryan Coonerty, a county supervisor in Santa Cruz, got word that the neighboring county of San Mateo was about to take a bold step in adapting to climate change. Rising seas are already eroding San Mateo’s coast, and the county will need to spend billions of dollars on new sea walls and other infrastructure to protect itself in the years to come. So in July, San Mateo, along with Marin County and the city of Imperial Beach, sued 37 fossil fuel companies, arguing that they should help pay for the damage their products cause.

  • Finance
    • Rookie’s Guide to Ethereum and Blockchain

      Blockchain is the digital and decentralized ledger that records all transactions. (See the “Blockchain Simplified” video for more information.) Every time someone buys digital coins on a decentralized exchange, sells coins, transfers coins, or buys a good or service with virtual coins, a ledger records that transaction, often in an encrypted fashion, to protect it from cybercriminals. These transactions are also recorded and processed without a third-party provider, which is usually a bank.

    • Aviation cliff-edge: How Brexit is sabotaging a British success story

      The usual civil service metaphor for Brexit is of a series of rocks. Each time you pick one up, all these horrible slimy things crawl out from under it – things you’d never have thought were remotely connected to Brexit. This is an article about the horrible slimy things under the rock named ‘aviation’.

      European aviation is fundamentally a British success story. It’s one of the best pieces of evidence for how Britain made the single market work for its services economy and helped make life better for passengers all over the continent in the process. But that success is now a hostage of Brexit. If the hard Brexiters in Cabinet get their way, Britain will turn back the clock on the last 30 years of development.

      This is how the system works. Aviation is governed by a series of treaties. The foundation text is the 1944 Chicago convention, which gave nation states sovereignty over their airspace. You can only fly to another country once you’ve signed an agreement with them. There’s no WTO option or fallback system. You either sign a treaty or you’re out in the cold.

    • Oxfam Releases Internal Report into Its Sex Scandal & Cover-Up in Haiti

      The British charity Oxfam has been hit with dozens more misconduct allegations involving a slew of countries, in the days since The Times of London revealed Oxfam tried to cover up sex crimes by senior aid workers in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. On Monday, Oxfam released its own internal report into the sex scandal, in which Oxfam senior aid workers, including the country director, hired prostitutes at Oxfam properties and then tried to cover it up. Prostitution is illegal in Haiti, but Oxfam refused to report the activity of its aid workers to Haitian police. Oxfam’s internal report also includes claims that three Oxfam staff members physically threatened a witness during the charity’s internal investigation. Haiti has threatened to expel Oxfam from the country. This is Haiti’s external cooperation minister, Aviol Fleurant.

    • ‘The Trump slump’: Remington files for bankruptcy as gun sales tumble

      For 200 years, Remington has been one of the most famous names in guns, supplying arms to soldiers in the civil war, both world wars and to generations of gun enthusiasts. Now it has met its match: the gun-friendly presidency of Donald Trump.

      After a golden era of sales under Barack Obama, America’s gun manufacturers are in trouble. Sales have tumbled, leaving the companies with too much stock on their hands and falling revenues. The crunch claimed its biggest victim this week when Remington filed for bankruptcy.

    • H&M and Others Tied to Chinese Prison Labor, But What About the U.S.?

      Peter Humphrey was jailed in Qingpu Prison just outside of Shanghai for two and a half years before he was deported from China. While he was incarcerated, the British fraud investigator – who (along with his wife, a fellow instigator) was convicted by a Shanghai court for “illegally acquiring personal information” on Chinese nationals – worked. He and his fellow prisoners were paid meager wages to make packaging parts for companies that you have heard of: H&M, international fashion chain, C&A and consumer products company, 3M.

    • Debt Collection Companies Have Hijacked the Justice System

      People who can’t afford to pay bills face arrest and jailing because of powerful money-hungry debt collectors.

      Denise Zencka, a mother of three in Indiana, had to file for bankruptcy because she couldn’t afford to repay her bills for treatment for thyroid cancer. And because she was unable to work, she had to stay with her parents in Florida while she recovered. She didn’t know that during that time, at the request of a debt collector seeking to collect outstanding medical bills, a small claims court judge had issued three warrants for her arrest. When she returned to Indiana, she was arrested by local sheriff’s deputies for the private debt she owed. Once at the jail, and being too sick to climb the stairs to the women’s section, she was held in a men’s mental health unit. Its glass walls allowed the male prisoners to watch everything she did, including using the toilet.

      As in Zencka’s case, and in thousands of other similar cases around the country, courts are issuing arrest warrants and serving as taxpayer-funded tools of the multi-billion-dollar debt collection industry.

      Debtors’ prisons were abolished by Congress in 1833. They are often thought to be a relic of the Dickensian past. In reality, private debt collectors are using the courts to get debtors arrested and to terrorize them into paying, even when a debt is in dispute or when the debtor has no ability to pay.

      Tens of thousands of arrest warrants are issued annually for people who fail to appear in court to deal with unpaid civil debt judgments. In investigating this issue for the new ACLU report, “A Pound of Flesh,” we examined more than 1,000 cases in 26 states, in which civil court judges issued arrest warrants for debtors. The debtors were often unaware that they had been sued. In many cases, they had not received notice to show up in court.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Man who says he was a Russian ‘troll’ arrested after going public

      Russian police have reportedly arrested a man who has claimed to be a worker at a so-called troll factory in St. Petersburg, Russia, hours after he gave interviews to foreign journalists and lifted the lid on a secretive organization the U.S. Department of Justice last week accused of trying to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

    • How the Washington Post Missed the Biggest Watergate Story of All

      Stephen Spielberg’s film The Post is still running in theaters, lauding the Washington Post, Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee as fearless exposers of official secrets about government wrongdoing. But previously overlooked evidence now reveals for the first time how the Washington Post missed the most serious leak in newspaper history, and as a result history itself took a serious wrong turn. Consequently, this is a story that was also missed by Spielberg, and missed by Alan Pakula in his 1976 film about The Washington Post’s role in Watergate, All The President’s Men.

    • ‘Trump, Inc.’ Podcast: Russia, Trump and ‘Alternative Financing’

      After special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for an intensive, elaborate effort to interfere with the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump reacted as he has before — with bluster and bellicosity, at everyone but Russia.

      This week on “Trump, Inc.,” we’re exploring the president’s, well, persistent weirdness around Russia: Why has Trump been so quiet about Russia and its interference?

    • Billy Graham: An Old Soldier Fades Away

      Billy Graham was a preacher man equally intent on saving souls and soliciting financial support for his ministry. His success at the former is not subject to proof and his success at the latter is unrivaled. He preached to millions on every ice-free continent and led many to his chosen messiah.

      When Graham succumbed to various ailments this week at the age of 99 he left behind an organization that is said to have touched more people than any other Christian ministry in history, with property, assets and a name-brand worth hundreds of millions. The address lists of contributors alone comprise a mother lode for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, now headed by his son and namesake, William Franklin Graham, III.

      Graham also left behind a United States government in which religion plays a far greater role than before he intruded into politics in the 1950s. The shift from secular governance to “In God We Trust” can be laid squarely at this minister’s feet.

    • Even If The Russian Troll Factory Abused Our Openness Against Us, That Doesn’t Mean We Should Close Up

      Last week, we wrote about the Mueller indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian organizations for fraud in trying to sow discord among Americans and potentially influence the election by trolling them on social media. If you haven’t read the indictment yet, I recommend doing so — or at least reading Garrett Graff’s impressive attempt at basically turning the indictment into one hell of a narrative story. The key point I raised in that article was that the efforts the Russians undertook to appear to be American shows how difficult-to-impossible it would be to demand that the various internet platforms magically block such trolling attempts in the future.

      But, there’s a larger issue here that seems worth exploring as well. Among the various attacks aimed at social media companies (mainly Facebook) it feels that many are using this as yet another excuse to demand more regulation of these platforms or to poke more holes in Section 230 of the CDA.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Vietnam’s Internet is in trouble

      The development of Vietnam’s Internet infrastructure has outpaced the government’s ability to regulate and control it. The best it can do is restrict access to certain sites. It has also deployed an army of people to closely monitor public sentiment on social media. In December, Vietnam unveiled a new, 10,000-strong military cyber unit to combat “wrong” views online, a move that was apparently modeled on the Chinese route of controlling the Internet.

    • Wired’s Big Cover Story On Facebook Gets Key Legal Point Totally Backwards, Demonstrating Why CDA 230 Is Actually Important

      That’s a pretty amazing story, which certainly could be true. After all, just a few years later there was the famous NY Times article about how companies were courting state Attorneys General to attack their competitors (which later came up again, when the MPAA — after reading that NY Times article — decided to use that strategy to go after Google). And Blumenthal had a long history as Attorney General of grandstanding about tech companies.

      But, for all the fascinating reporting in the piece, what’s troubling is that Thompson and Vogelstein get some very basic facts wrong — and, unfortunately, one of those basic facts is a core peg used to hold up the story. Specifically, the article incorrectly points to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as being a major hindrance to Facebook improving its platform. Here’s how the law incorrectly described in a longer paragraph explaining why Facebook “ignored” the “problem” of “fake news”…

    • Chinese Censorship Moves Into the American Workplace

      There is evidence to support a claim that the mission to censor criticism of China is moving into the American workplace. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have been students in the United States, and many move into jobs for American companies after graduation. But as China acquires American companies, existing and newly hired Chinese employees may feel both emboldened and pressured to incorporate a culture of censorship into the new entity.

      Last year I gave a publicly listed American company a series of seminars on Chinese business, social, legal, and cultural norms and expectations. The audiences were primarily American-born employees, although many Chinese employees attended the sessions, as well. Some were relatively new hires; a few had been in the United States for years. The reason for the seminars? The company is being acquired by a Chinese company in an acquisition that requires CFIUS approval. (For legal reasons, the company names will be withheld here.)

    • Historians fear ‘censorship’ under Poland’s Holocaust law

      A new law in Poland that threatens those who say that Poles played any part in the Holocaust with up to three years in prison will create an atmosphere of “inner censorship” for the country’s historians, reminiscent of its communist past, critics have warned.

      Poland has been internationally condemned over the law, which some historians say attempts to whitewash broad swathes of Polish history.

    • Federal Judge Bars California’s Actor-Age Censorship Law

      A federal court judge has barred California’s legislation requiring that subscription entertainment database sites remove an actor’s age, if requested by the actor.

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

      The defendants are Secretary of State Xavier Becerra and SAG-AFTRA, which joined the suit as a defendant after campaigning vigorously for the law in 2016.

    • California’s IMDb Age Censorship Law Declared Unconstitutional
    • IMDb age censorship law declared unconstitutional – L.A. Biz
    • IMDb Can Still List Actors’ Ages After Court Rules California Censorship Law Unconstitutional
    • The new censorship: Flooding us with ‘phony phacts’

      Everyone knows about censorship that has been perpetuated throughout history: the USSR, the Nazis, South African Apartheid, Chairman Mao’s China, the Kim Jung family in North Korea, etc. The United States is certainly not innocent in this regard either — the early 1900s race riots, Civil Rights-era violence, the systematic extermination of native populations, and much, much more has been downplayed and sometimes completely omitted from American history.

    • Hate Speech or Censorship? Civil servants redeployed over social media comments

      The decision of one of government parastatals, to start monitoring the activities of its employees on the social media is spreading fears of censorship of the media and its practitioners.

    • Twitter Censorship Should TERRIFY Everyone
    • Tech giants should resist Russia’s iron grip of censorship
    • Germany’s Speech Laws Continue To Be A Raging Dumpster Fire Of Censorial Stupidity

      Germany’s new law, targeting hate speech and other unpleasantness online, is off to a roaring start. Instead of cleaning up the internet for German consumption, the law has been instrumental in targeting innocuous posts by politicians and taking down satirical content. The law is a bludgeon with hefty fines attached. This has forced American tech companies to be proactive, targeting innocuous content and satire before the German government comes around with its hand out.

      It took only 72 hours for the new law (Netzwerkdurchsezungsgesetz, or NetzDG) to start censoring content that didn’t violate the law. Some German officials have expressed concern, but the government as a whole seems content to let more censorship of lawful content occur before the law is given a second look. The things critics of the law said would happen have happened. And yet the law remains in full effect.

    • Sanford: Is the removal of murals sensible or censorship?

      From the 1920s through the early ’50s, most entertainment in Memphis was at the mercy of a guy named Lloyd T. Binford, the chairman of the city’s Board of Censors. Binford banned scores of movies from being shown in Memphis simply because he personally found them distasteful and even refused to allow the staging of plays featuring a racially diverse cast.

      In the 1970s, an over-jealous federal prosecutor pressed obscenity charges against the makers of X-rated films. Roughly a decade later, city leaders tried to shut down topless nightclubs with an anti-nudity ordinance that was later ruled unconstitutional.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Trump, Nunes Accidentally Undo DOJ’s Efforts To Keep Surveillance Docs Under Wraps

      The government’s antipathy towards FOIA requesters is well-documented. Our last president declared his White House to be the Openest Place on Earth. This was followed by a clampdown on FOIA responses, huge increases in withheld documents, and a war on whistleblowers. The Trump Administration has made no such promises. Good thing, too, as the uncontrollable mouth running the country would make these promises impossible to keep. We’re living in a halcyon era of unprecedented, if inadvertent, government transparency. Whatever multitudinous leakers won’t provide, the president will hand over himself via Twitter or televised interviews.

      Late last year, Trump handed plaintiffs in two FOIA lawsuits a gift when he undercut an FBI Glomar response (“neither confirm nor deny”) by confirming FBI investigations (and FISA court involvement) in domestic surveillance. Trump has done it again, thanks to approving the release of the Nunes memo. Again, FOIA requesters seeking information about FBI domestic surveillance have been handed a gift by the Commander in Chief, as Politico reports.

    • The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data

      Picture this: You’re driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.

      Are you annoyed that your car’s trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won’t mind much. Car companies—looking to earn some extra money—hope so, too.

    • German Court Says Facebook’s Real Names Policy Violates Users’ Privacy

      With more and more people attacking online trolls, one common refrain is that we should do away with anonymity online. There’s this false belief that forcing everyone to use their “real name” online will somehow stop trolling and create better behavior. Of course, at the very same time, lots of people seem to be blaming online social media platforms for nefarious activity and trollish activity including “fake news.” And Facebook is a prime target — which is a bit ironic, given that Facebook already has a “real names” policy. On Facebook you’re not allowed to use a pseudonym, but are expected to use your real name. And yet, trolling still takes place. Indeed, as we’ve written for the better part of a decade, the focus on attacking anonymity online is misplaced. We think that platforms like Facebook and Google that use a real names policy are making a mistake, because enabling anonymous or pseudononymous speech is quite important in enabling people to speak freely on a variety of subjects. Separately, as studies have shown, forcing people to use real names doesn’t stop anti-social behavior.

      All that is background for an interesting, and possibly surprising, ruling in a local German court, finding that Facebook’s real names policy violates local data protection rules. I can’t read the original ruling since my understanding of German is quite limited — but it appears to have found that requiring real names is “a covert way” of obtaining someone’s name which raises questions for privacy and data protection. The case was brought by VZBZ, which is the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. Facebook says it will appeal the ruling, so it’s hardly final.

    • Also, Android P Won’t Let Malicious Apps Secretly Record Audio On Your Phone

      Just yesterday we heard about an Android 9.0 feature that would prevent idle background apps from accessing the camera. The move could prevent unauthorized use of the device’s camera to record video clips of the user’s environment.

    • Ubisoft Perma-Bans Creator Of Cool, Non-Cheating Tool For ‘The Division’ Because It Was Made With Cheating Software

      There are lots of ways companies can deal with those who cheat in online video games. We have seen developers and publishers sue those who cheat, we have seen national governments criminalize this kind of cheating, and we even got to see Rockstar’s attempt to force cheaters to only play with other cheaters. While these sorts of efforts vary wildly, the common response from game publishers is to be entirely too ham-fisted in keeping cheaters out of online games. This results in all sorts of problems, ranging from punishing players who weren’t actually cheating to creating all kinds of collateral damage.

    • Facebook ‘Security’: A New VPN That’s Spyware And Two-Factor Authentication That Spams You

      Facebook’s definition of protection isn’t quite up to snuff. Last week, some Facebook users began seeing a new option in their settings simply labeled “Protect.” Clicking on that link in the company’s navigation bar will redirect Facebook users to the “Onavo Protect – VPN Security” app’s listing on the App Store. There, they’re informed that “Onavo Protect helps keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web.” You’re also informed that the “app helps keep your details secure when you login to websites or enter personal information such as bank accounts and credit card numbers.”
      [source: imgur.com]

    • Nunes Demands Copies Of FISA Docs About Steele Dossier Warrants; Court Suggests Taking It Up With The FBI

      Having already released the memo purportedly showing surveillance abuses committed by the FBI, the legislators behind the release are now getting around to asking for documents to back up the memo’s assertions. Bob Goodlatte and Devin Nunes have both asked the FISA court for the paperwork they probably should have looked at before writing and releasing the memo.

      Nunes has asked for “transcripts of relevant FISC hearings” related to the FISA warrants predicated largely on assertions made in Steele dossier. Goodlatte has asked applications and orders for the same warrants. The FISA court has replied with two letters stating basically the same thing: thanks for the weird (and inappropriate) question, but maybe take this up the FBI.

    • Lawyers for accused NSA leaker asking for some evidence to be thrown out

      One of Winner’s lawyers tells NewsChannel 6 there will be a hearing on February 27th.

      During that hearing, her lawyers are expected to question one of the FBI investigators who worked the case when Winner was arrested.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation

      In the coming decades, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are going to transform many aspects of our world. Much of this change will be positive; the potential for benefits in areas as diverse as health, transportation and urban planning, art, science, and cross-cultural understanding are enormous. We’ve already seen things go horribly wrong with simple machine learning systems; but increasingly sophisticated AI will usher in a world that is strange and different from the one we’re used to, and there are serious risks if this technology is used for the wrong ends.

      Today EFF is co-releasing a report with a number of academic and civil society organizations1 on the risks from malicious uses of AI and the steps that should be taken to mitigate them in advance.

    • Video: This Obscure Plea Deal Offers Freedom to the Wrongfully Convicted at a Huge Cost

      In 1987, police detectives — who’d later be made famous by David Simon, creator of “The Wire” — used flimsy evidence to pin a burglary, rape and murder case on James Thompson and James Owens. They were both sentenced to life in prison. Then, 20 years later, DNA evidence cleared them of the rape and unraveled the state’s theory of the crime. But instead of exonerating the two men, prosecutors pushed them to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for immediate freedom.

    • Court Sends Cop Back To Prison For Bogus ‘Contempt Of Cop’ Arrest

      It shouldn’t take an appeals court to reach this conclusion, but that’s the route taken most frequently by people challenging their convictions. Former sheriff’s deputy Matthew Corder doesn’t want to serve time after being convicted of depriving Derek Baize of his constitutional rights, and so we’ve ended up at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (h/t Sixth Circuit Blog)

      This all stems from a “contempt of cop” incident. Baize returned home one night to find Deputy Corder parked in his parking spot in front of his home. Baize asked what was going on, only to be told to “mind his own business.” Baize then asked the deputy to move his car so Baize could park in front of his house. The deputy said he’d move his car “when he was ready.”

      Nonplussed by the behavior of this supposed public servant, Baize told the deputy to “fuck off.” Deputy Corder asked for clarification. Baize responded: “I did not stutter. I said ‘fuck off.’” Baize then walked into his house. Corder claimed he yelled for Baize to stop. Baize said he didn’t hear this. It really doesn’t matter. Citizens are under no legal obligation to engage in conversations with law enforcement officers. The deputy’s testimony indicates Baize wasn’t committing any crime nor was he wanted for a suspected criminal act when he walked away from the yelling deputy.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Why Decentralization Matters

      The good news is that billions of people got access to amazing technologies, many of which were free to use. The bad news is that it became much harder for startups, creators, and other groups to grow their internet presence without worrying about centralized platforms changing the rules on them, taking away their audiences and profits. This in turn stifled innovation, making the internet less interesting and dynamic. Centralization has also created broader societal tensions, which we see in the debates over subjects like fake news, state sponsored bots, “no platforming” of users, EU privacy laws, and algorithmic biases. These debates will only intensify in the coming years.

      [...]

      We saw the value of decentralized systems in the first era of the internet. Hopefully we’ll get to see it again in the next.

    • The Great Puri.sm Outage of 2018

      We contacted the specialist first thing in the morning, and he had no idea why the domain was suspended; he said he would contact the .sm registry but with one complication: the San Marino .sm registry office was now closed so it might take until the next day for them to respond to the email! Because their office was closed, he said all he could do is put the ticket in the queue of the team on the next support shift—that’s right, the same team out of Ireland we originally contacted. Because their office hours mirrored the San Marino office hours, he assured us they would get to it first thing in the morning their time.

    • FCC reversal of net neutrality rules expected to be published Thursday: sources

      The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to publish on Thursday its December order overturning the landmark Obama-era net neutrality rules, two sources briefed on the matter said Tuesday.

      The formal publication in the Federal Register, a government website, means state attorneys general and advocacy groups will be able to sue in a bid to block the order from taking effect.

      The Republican-led FCC in December voted 3-2 to overturn rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content. The White House Office of Management and Budget still must sign off on some aspects of the FCC reversal before it takes legal effect.

    • More Than Half Of U.S. States Now Pushing Their Own Net Neutrality Rules

      Large ISP lobbyists, the FCC and agency head Ajit Pai are going to be rather busy for the foreseeable future. In the wake of the agency’s extremely unpopular net neutrality repeal, consumer groups note that 26 states (27 including a new effort in Kansas) have now taken action to protect net neutrality themselves — with more efforts on the way. The efforts range from attempts to pass state-level net neutrality rules banning anti-competitive behavior, to executive orders modifying state procurement rules to prohibit ISPs that violate net neutrality from getting state money or securing state contracts.

  • DRM
    • When the Copyright Office Meets, the Future Needs a Seat at the Table

      Every three years, EFF’s lawyers spend weeks huddling in their offices, composing carefully worded pleas we hope will persuade the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress to grant Americans a modest, temporary permission to use our own property in ways that are already legal.

      Yeah, we think that’s weird, too. But it’s been than way ever since 1998, when Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, whose Section 1201 established a ban on tampering with “access controls for copyrighted works” (also known as “Digital Rights Management” or “DRM”). It doesn’t matter if you want to do something absolutely legitimate, something that there is no law against — if you have to bypass DRM to do it, it’s not allowed.

      What’s more, if someone wants to provide you with a tool to get around the DRM, they could face up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine, for a first offense, even if the tool is only ever used to accomplish legal, legitimate ends.

    • Pirates Crack the First Windows 10 UWP Game

      One of the reasons Microsoft is pushing so aggressively for developers to bring their apps and games to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 is that with the UWP approach, they can target more than one platform at the same time, including PCs, mobile phones, tablets, Xbox, and HoloLens.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Data on the first year of the Defend Trade Secrets Act

      In preparing for the Evil Twin Debate on the DTSA, David Levine (Elon) and Chris Seaman (Washington & Lee) were kind enough to share a draft of their empirical study of cases arising under the first year of the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Now that the article is forthcoming in Wake Forest Law Review and on SSRN, it only makes sense to share their latest draft.

    • Copyrights
      • Crazy new Swedish bill makes sharing music and TV as bad a “crime” as manslaughter (yes, really)

        A new bill has been tabled in Sweden that triples the maximum prison sentence for infringement of the copyright monopoly, such as using ordinary BitTorrent, to a maximum of six years in prison.

        Typical imprisonment time for crimes varies across the world, so talking in terms of prison years becomes apples and oranges. In order to understand the perceived severity of a crime, and the harm this bill does to society, we need to compare it to another crime in the same jurisdiction.

        And in this particular jurisdiction, the maximum penalty for copyright infringement becomes as harsh as the maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter, if this new crazy bill passes — which it very well might. (The maximum sentence in question is six years in prison, which is a light sentence by US standards, but among the harshest in Europe and the Nordics.)

      • Did Congress Really Expect Us to Whittle Our Own Personal Jailbreaking Tools?

        In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and profoundly changed the relationship of Americans to their property.

        Section 1201 of the DMCA bans the bypassing of “access controls” for copyrighted works. Originally, this meant that even though you owned your DVD player, and even though it was legal to bring DVDs home with you from your European holidays, you weren’t allowed to change your DVD player so that it would play those out-of-region DVDs. DVDs were copyrighted works, the region-checking code was an access control, and so even though you owned the DVD, and you owned the DVD player, and even though you were allowed to watch the disc, you weren’t allowed to modify your DVD player to play your DVD (which you were allowed to watch).

        Experts were really worried about this: law professors, technologists and security experts saw that soon we’d have software—that is, copyrighted works—in all kinds of devices, from cars to printer cartridges to voting machines to medical implants to thermostats. If Congress banned tinkering with the software in the things you owned, it would tempt companies to use that software to create “private laws” that took away your rights to use your property in the way you saw fit. For example, it’s legal to use third party ink in your HP printer, but once HP changed its printers to reject third-party ink, they could argue that anything you did to change them back was a violation of the DMCA.

Rumour: European Patent Office to Lay Off a Significant Proportion of Its Workforce

Wednesday 21st of February 2018 10:51:02 AM

While Team Battistelli gives itself major bonuses


Just don’t mention anything about luxury cars of top-level management or bars built secretly at the 10th floor (among other ludicrous spendings on media influence, Eurovision-type festivals, plenty of personal bodyguards and so on)

Summary: While the Administrative Council of the EPO praises Battistelli for his financial accomplishments (as laughable as it may seem) a lot of families stuck in a foreign country may soon see their breadwinner unemployed, according to rumours

THE EPO is in trouble/peril; insiders started to insinuate that something wrong and very major was brewing at the Office yesterday. We’ve waited long enough and we now hear it from multiple sources. So here it goes.

“According to rumours heard at the EPO’s canteen,” one source told us, “the EPO seems to be planning dismissals of 700 to 1000 employees.”

“If they have as much money as they claim, why would the Office shrink this much?”This does not surprise us. We wrote about layoffs just earlier this week and many imminent changes seem to be hinting at that. Battistelli is just planting the seeds of catastrophe, which no doubt already causes super-hard-working examiners to panic.

Now that we hear these things we can’t help but recall some recent comments. One such comment said that “the only bells to which the Administrative Council of the EPO usually reacts to are the cash register bells operated by Mr. Battistelli.”

What cash register?

If they have as much money as they claim, why would the Office shrink this much? This is unprecedented; the Office grew over time rather than shrink.

Here is another interesting new comment:

” If the Freie Wähler stand up and file a pretty sensible and non-ideological resolution like this one, then I would not be surprised if it will actually be passed by the state parliament on 20/2/2018.”

Dear Dr. Bausch, far be it from me to question your optimism about Bavarian democracy.
But I wouldn’t count on the motion passing if the CSU gets its way.

But I suggest that you take a look at the contribution from Mr. Taubeneder (CSU) during the last debate on EPO affairs back in March 2017:

https://www1.bayern.landtag.de/www/player/index.html?playlist=https://www1.bayern.landtag.de/lisp/res/metafiles/wp17/17_346/meta_vod_24176.json&startId=

Maybe it is just me, but he gives the impression of singing off the same hymn sheet as the EPO management.
It would not surprise me if the EPO PR department wrote the speech for him.

We wrote about that at the time. People said the same thing to us (that the EPO seems to be ‘operating’ some politicians behind the scenes).

Thorsten Bausch responded by noting that he “heard that today’s [yesterday's] session was postponed to March due to sickness of Ms. Schmidt.”

Schmidt is a key figure in all this. Fantastic politician.

“As to your comments about Mr. Taubeneder,” Bausch continued, “you may indeed be right. Some of the language he used was clearly not his own (but the same is true for Ms. Schmidt, to be fair). Mr. Taubeneder’s main argument in 2017 was that the Bavarian Parliament is not competent to judge about such matters, which are in the very capable hands of the Administrative Council (sarcasm added by me, but not much). If I were Mr. Taubeneder or any of his CSU fellows, I would rather argue that it is the failure of the SPD-led Federal Ministry of Justice to apply more pressure on the Administrative Council to change things at the EPO to the better.”

Where is the German state when all these abuses are happening, culminating in the likely dismissal of many public servants living and working abroad with their families? Can the sessions wait another month?

Here is another new comment from another thread. This one too is about the supine Administrative Council:

Introducing the provision to “terminate the service of an employee if the exigencies of the service require abolition of their post or a reduction in staff” looks like a classic (“dead cat”) strategy from the EPO management.

Getting feedback that nobody likes the proposal to change to 5 year contracts? Starting to worry that the proposal might not be passed? No problem, we have the answer for you: just introduce a proposal that is far more outrageous an objectionable and then everyone will expend their energy and time fighting that instead.

So here’s my prediction: unless the AC has become completely supine, the “dead cat” proposal will draw objections, at which point the EPO management (with a theatrical show of exasperation and reluctance) will agree to withdraw it, but only if the AC agrees to rubber-stamp all of the other proposals (including the expansion of 5-year contracts).

It will be interesting to see how accurate this prediction turns out to be.

If the rumours are true, it all makes sense now. And as a followup comment put it: “Our salaries at the USPTO are even more competitive than the EPO’s [...] Conclusion: the overall better employment conditions at the USPTO allows USPTO examiners to provide much higher quality than that provided by the EPO. Hence, applicants would be better advised to file first in the US to get value for money…”

It’s hardly surprising that under Battistelli, e.g. last year, the number of patent applications (for EPs) actually fell slightly. Battistelli doomed the Office. Whether it was intentional or not (UPC in mind) we’ll let readers decide.

The demise of the EPO threatens Europe’s competitiveness. One might say, “so they’ll turn to NPOs…”

Well, not necessarily. Some people now go abroad for their patents.

As a side note, earlier this month EPLAW wrote about the ‘Drum Unit’ case that relates to the NPO:

With its milestone ‘Drum Unit’ decision, the German Federal Supreme Court revisits its case law on the exhaustion of patent rights, and in particular, on the delimitation of ‘permissible use’ on the one hand and the ‘unlawful (re-)making’ of a patented product on the other.

What would exhaustion of a patent office itself mean to stakeholders? Has it ever happened?

We have, on numerous occasions, been told that an EPO career should be lifelong because finding a job after the EPO is hard (there are several different reasons for this). It pains us to think that many EPO workers, some of whom were supportive of us over the years, are not in a state of shock if not additional stress (as it things weren’t already stressful enough).

The Patent Trolls’ Lobby, Bristows and IAM Among Others, Downplays Darts-IP/IP2Innovate Report About Rising If Not Soaring Troll Activity in Europe

Tuesday 20th of February 2018 09:21:10 PM

…Because they’re not interested in facts; they actively promote the UPC and patent trolls, which they’re even paid to promote

Summary: Exactly like last year, as soon as IP2Innovate opens its mouth Bristows and IAM go into “attack dog” mode and promote the UPC, deny the existence or seriousness of patent trolls, and promote their nefarious, trolls-funded agenda

Déjà vu today. We saw that last year in spring. Lobbyists of patent trolls come out of the woodwork and relentlessly attack those who dare point out that today’s EPO gives rise to patent trolls and UPC would further exacerbate this problem. But let’s structure what happened yesterday and today chronologically, having researched this the entire day. We’ll leave this for readers to decide on, e.g. who is right and who is wrong.

It has long been known that low-quality patents granted by the USPTO were partly responsible for a trolls epidemic in the United States. Almost nobody would deny this, not even patent extremists; they just use different words for patent trolls. The same thing is happening in China right now because patent scope is broadened and examination weakened. It’s an avalanche of low-quality patents.

“The same thing is happening in China right now because patent scope is broadened and examination weakened. It’s an avalanche of low-quality patents.”This brings us to the EPO. We last wrote about decline of patent quality just earlier today, based on a two-page report/bulletin from EPO insiders. Anyone still in denial about the decline of European Patents’ (EPs) quality is either deluded or called Benoît Battistelli (he probably lies to himself about it, maybe he actually believes his own lies).

We’ve long warned (long before we covered EPO scandals) about low-quality EPs ushering in patent trolls, more so if the UPC ever becomes a reality. We weren’t alone. Others were saying the exact same thing. It’s so evident that in order to deny this one has to be both greedy and financially-motivated (Bristows comes to mind).

Patent trolls are already soaring in Germany. This was measured last year. Patent trolls’ representatives make a load of money out of it and they want to make it worse with ‘unitary’ effect (more defendants, higher damages and so on). The UPC is a disaster in the making, but thankfully it has been stopped. IP2Innovate already spoke out against it, echoing many of the same arguments we had made for years.

“Patent trolls are already soaring in Germany. This was measured last year. Patent trolls’ representatives make a load of money out of it and they want to make it worse with ‘unitary’ effect (more defendants, higher damages and so on).”Remember that IP2Innovate isn’t some ‘commie’ thing or some ‘radical’ group; it’s an actual representative of many companies, both large and small. It’s akin to CCIA and HTIA in terms of the pattern of membership. Many are technology firms. They actually create and innovate things. They’re not litigators.

This brings us to the study, which was carried out by another firm, probably at the behest of IP2Innovate. The study speaks of PAE [sic] activity in Europe. This is a form of troll (the other form typically being NPE or something the trolls’ lobby calls PIPCO if large enough to have gone public).

“The study speaks of PAE [sic] activity in Europe. This is a form of troll (the other form typically being NPE or something the trolls’ lobby calls PIPCO if large enough to have gone public).”“The reports shows there is growing activity of patent trolls in Europe,” told us a source associated with the study, “with a 20% year-on-year jump over the last ten years. US-based patent trolls initiated 60% of all lawsuits targeting European companies. 25% of victims are European SMEs. Furthermore, here is the link to our latest press release.”

I was about to cover this irrespective of their reach-out. From the press release:

European innovation is increasingly under attack from patent assertion entities (PAEs) and particularly from US-based PAEs who now file the majority of PAE suits in Europe. This is the conclusion evident from the information presented by the world’s leading authority in intellectual property case law data, DARTS-IP, to Europe’s lawmakers, regulators and business leaders this evening.

PAEs do not innovate and do not create and sell new products. Instead, they buy up patents and profit from asserting these patents against operating companies. In pursuing this model, PAEs can exploit certain aspects of Europe’s patent legal system to the detriment of Europe’s innovators and the European public.

DARTS-IP’s comprehensive study of the past ten years of available patent litigation data in Europe reveals increasing activity by PAEs, also commonly known as “non- practising entities” (NPEs) or “patent trolls.” There has been a 20% year-on-year jump in PAE litigation. US-based PAEs initiated most of those suits (60%) and targeted applications of information and communication technologies (ICT) (75%). As application of ICT is central to innovation and growth across many industries, the consequences of these attacks will be far-reaching. Most importantly, data shows that it is not just large companies who are affected — almost a quarter of the unique defendants are European SMEs. Germany is the preferred venue, with 20% of all German patent litigation having been brought by PAEs.

“Patent abuse is damaging digital innovation in Europe,” the headline from IP2Innovate said. Dull enough as it is, right? Because it’s nothing but a press release. The response to it was a lot more fascinating than the study because it revealed allegiances and biases. Here is the only press report we’ve seen so far. To quote:

Non-practicing entity (NPE) litigation and enforcement in Europe has increased by an average almost 20 percent year-on-year since 2007, according to a new report from Darts-IP.

The report, NPE Litigation In The EU, which was released yesterday (19 February), claims to provide a “factual overview of NPE related litigation and patent enforcement activities across the EU”.

In 2017, 173 NPE-related actions were recorded by the report, compared to 56 in 2007.

The report noted a spike in the number of cases in 2014, with 146 NPE-related actions that year compared to 90 in the previous year.

So now comes the ugly part. Richard Lloyd, probably the worst of the entire IAM bunch (he’s pro-trolls, the most vocal proponent of software patents etc.) worked an ‘article’ about this, calling it “spin” right there in the headline (wow, spot the hypocrisy) and then distorting the overall message of the study. Typical IAM. Lobbying disguised as ‘journalism’ from trolls denialists who are literally funded by patent trolls. This lobby group now uses articles to smear a study showing trolls’ rise in Europe. This is the kind of headline that will show up in aggregators like Google News (which deems this lobby group to be a news site): “Despite the spin, new report shows NPEs are responsible for a fraction of European patent litigation”

Got that? This is what people will read, based on a trolls-funded lobby group masquerading as IAM Media [sic].

“The response to it was a lot more fascinating than the study because it revealed allegiances and biases.”If that’s not bad enough, watch their tweets (based on the Google TLD, someone who works for IAM from Belgium tweeted these): “IP2Innovate press release here: ip2innovate.eu/wp-content/upl… @IPKat report here: ipkitten.blogspot.be/2018/02/has-eu… Judge for yourselves whether IP2Innovate is painting an entirely accurate picture here. @DartsIp [] The last US IP import Europe needs is the distorted debate about patent litigation that deep pocket corporations with a vested interest in infringement have successfully created. https://twitter.com/iam_magazine/status/965643285816664069 … [] If there are around 1,000 patent cases filed in Germany each year, 20% would be 200. The @DartsIp NPE report says there were 173 suits filed by NPEs in the whole of Europe last year. So how can the #IP2Innovate claim that NPEs file 20% of all cases in Germany be correct? https://twitter.com/BenGrzimek/status/965868605652000768 …”

“It’s called extrapolation,” I told them, “but carry on bashing people who speak out against patent trolls (sponsors of IAM).”

Remember that the IAM company (they call themselves IAM Media) was paid by the EPO’s PR firm and by patent trolls to promote UPC and to muzzle the voice of real SMEs. IAM is basically funded to undermine news, not to spread news. This is why Battistelli loves them so much (he recently wrote an article for them and will soon be their keynote speaker).

Disturbing? To us it is.

“This lobby group now uses articles to smear a study showing trolls’ rise in Europe.”Here is what Benjamin Henrion wrote: “European innovation is increasingly under attack from patent assertion entities (PAEs) and particularly from US-based PAEs who now file the majority of PAE suits in Europe http://www.ip2innovate.eu/patent-abuse-damaging-digital-innovation-europe/ …”

Here is what they themselves wrote in Twitter: “We are pleased to be part of the launch of @DartsIp report today. Hope the new #data will demonstrate the need for greater #transparency and improvements to make Europe’s #patent legal system robust, balanced and flexible.” [] There is an average 20% annual increase in Non-practicing entity #litigation in Europe – David Marques, @DartsIp #patents #BalancedPatents [] US-based #NPEs account for 60% of NPE-related #litigation in the #EU – David Marques of @DartsIp. #patents #BalancedPatents [] Patrick Schmitz sharing @Telekom_group experience with abusive #patent practices by patent assertion entities. #BalancedPatents [] Our Chairman Kevin Prey of @SAP concluding the event: hopefully it’s just the beginning of the discussion about how Europe can promote #innovation by making its #patent legal system fit for our modern era. #BalancedPatents [] We hope that all the stakeholders represented at our event today – #EC, Member States authorities, industry, legal profession and judicial authorities will work together to implement safeguards against abusive #patent practices. #BalancedPatents”

“Remember that the IAM company (they call themselves IAM Media) was paid by the EPO’s PR firm and by patent trolls to promote UPC and to muzzle the voice of real SMEs.”But wait, there’s more.

Lawyers of patent trolls saw it as their duty to confront this study in public (but without disclosure). We’re talking about Bristows, who love posting anonymously these days (because they lack ethics and when they consciously lie they don’t want to be held accountable for these lies).

Watch Bristows’ own site. It’s a shipwreck. Nobody reads it. It is run by incompetent people who hours ago posted a blank test page and neglected to remove it for several hours (in the process revealing weaknesses; it’s like a toy site with physical path being publicly exposed as "D:\inetpub\sites\upcblue\latest-news\test\").

“Lawyers of patent trolls saw it as their duty to confront this study in public (but without disclosure).”This Windows site of Bristows, with its truly bizarre (infinite) RSS feeds, does not want to be seen as attacking IP2Innovate, so obviously, as usual, they’ll just ‘borrow’ some other blogs (with an actual audience) like IP Kat and Kluwer Patent Blog.

For those in doubt about Bristows’ motivations, the firm is working for trolls. It knows that. For those who wonder why Bristows staff spends endless efforts and money promoting UPC, check out its list of services. It’s all about money and greed. Earlier today Bristows’ Sophie Lawrance, Francion Brooks and Jonathan Ross did a puff piece for the notorious patent troll MPEG-LA. “The creation of the CRISPR patent pool was announced last spring by MPEG LA,” they wrote. It now uses CRISPR patents (which are mostly invalid) to bully everyone who ‘dares’ study genetics. In their own words (just hours ago):

The creation of the CRISPR patent pool was announced last spring by MPEG LA, an organisation well-known for creating patent pools for consumer electronics. Thus far, only the Broad Institute has publically revealed that it has submitted patents for evaluation.

We wrote about this scam of a ‘pool’ several months ago. They’re relying on dodgy patents here, just as they relied on dodgy software patents beforehand. It’s a classic protection racket. The cost of challenging them in a court is just too high.

“And the last time the same sort of study/press release came out (from IP2Innovate) IAM also came out with an attack.”Going back to Bristows, watch what IP Kat posted in Twitter and in its blog. IP Kat did not disclosure that the writer is from Bristows. She’s always promoting software patents, pushing the pro-UPC card, as she/IP Kat did last year (almost exactly the same, in response to IP2Innovate).

And the last time the same sort of study/press release came out (from IP2Innovate) IAM also came out with an attack. Yes, IAM did the same thing back then. At least they’re consistent. Reading between the lines, Bristows — like IAM — alleges that the data is wrong:

However, the data is imperfect. This is only data held by Darts-IP and in many countries information about issued cases which settle early is impossible to maintain. Data and scrutiny of data is important. The lack of fulsome data from EU Member States’ courts is important not just for this study but for analysis of all substantive and procedural IP subsistence, validity, protection and enforcement. As it is in the business of sharing IP decisions from across the world, the IPKat has been banging this drum for near 15 years now – the EU must make it a priority to ensure that all Member States court information and decisions relating to IP are made easily accessible by the public (subject to confidentiality restrictions of course). It is noted that this issue was/is being looked at by the Commission as part of their IP Enforcement consultation.

That’s UPC propaganda right there from Bristows. The author continues to nitpick and downplay the study, doing little but pretending it boils down to drama and false claims (that’s quite hysterical coming from Bristows, best known for its UPC lies that even comments in Kluwer Patent Blog keep debunking — at least the comments which survive their censorship).

“Reading between the lines, Bristows — like IAM — alleges that the data is wrong…”Check out the comments, which are generally better than the posts (shameless lobbing and marketing) at IP Kat, especially after the founder of the blog left. “All of these factors point to the UPC becoming a paradise for NPE litigants,” the following comment said. “Is this really what we want for Europe?”

To quote the whole comment:

This certainly lends weight to the concerns voiced (repeatedly) about possible, negative impacts of the UPC.

It is no surprise that bifurcation in Germany attracts NPE litigants, and that the costs of litigation in the UK (as well as the absence of bifurcation) is off-putting for all but the most confident / determined of NPEs. However, the confirmation that these factors do indeed influence the behaviours of litigants ought to prompt some serious consideration of what behaviours we can expect the UPC to induce in NPE litigants.

My own view is that there are a number of important factors that will almost certainly influence behaviour. These include: the (relatively) low cost of bringing infringement cases at the UPC; the absurdly high cost of raising a defence of invalidity at the UPC; the opportunities for “forum-shopping”, particularly the selection of fora that are inconvenient for defendants; and the opportunities for “gaming” the system with regard to withdrawal of opt-outs (and consequent changes to the law(s) of infringement that will be applied by the court).

All of these factors point to the UPC becoming a paradise for NPE litigants. Is this really what we want for Europe?

Someone then said: “I am sceptical about considering the background of a patentee. To use an analogy from real estate: should it really matter who the owner of a piece of land is when he decides to take action against someone constructing buildings without a permit on his land? A title to a piece of land is a title to a piece of land whether you like it or not.”

“The author continues to nitpick and downplay the study, doing little but pretending it boils down to drama and false claims…”And the response: “Sure, but consider this. If someone is living on that land, and then someone moves in next door and plays loud music every evening (and thereby disrupting the landowner’s quiet enjoyment of the property next door), then the damage being caused is much greater here than the alternative where no one is living on the land.”

The following comment notes the correlation with the EPO’s actions. “With the EPO seemingly granting more and more (clearly) invalid patents,” it said, “and with the current UPC set-up being such a favourable forum for NPE litigants…”

Here is the full comment:

Drawing an analogy with land ownership is not appropriate.

New plots of land cannot be created “at will” by those seeking land. And they most certainly not be created within an existing plot that has a different owner.

Another point is that, for land, there is no official authority that decides whether or not title to the land will be granted, and how big the plot will be.

The latter topic reminds me that there is yet another factor that could drive “antisocial” behaviour in Europe from NPE litigants. That is, if the granting authority does not do its job properly (ie grant new titles inappropriately) then this will encourage abusive litigation based upon invalid rights.

Such abusive litigation has many characteristics in common with protection rackets run by gangsters: “That’s a nice market for your product that you’ve got going there. It would be a real shame if something nasty happened to it, like a court injunction.”

With high costs for launching a defence and no absolute guarantee of a high-quality (ie correct) court decision, how many of those threatened with such abusive litigation do you think would be inclined to pay the litigants to make the issue go away?

It is at least a little reassuring to see that “big” companies have so far been the main targets of NPE litigation in Europe, as they should at least have the option of fighting back (hard) against any “gangsters”. However, if pan-European litigation is made that much cheaper, and the costs for raising an invalidity defence are made that much more expensive, then it is a no-brainer that NPE litigants will inevitably turn their attention to less lucrative but far “softer” targets … such as SMEs.

With the EPO seemingly granting more and more (clearly) invalid patents, and with the current UPC set-up being such a favourable forum for NPE litigants, it is clear what will be in store for us if and when the UPC as currently envisaged ever sees the light of day. I repeat: is this really what we want for Europe?

“That Google News syndicates IAM as though it’s a source of news says a lot about Google itself.”We think it’s important to remind our readers what Bristows and IAM stand for. They’re the worst in Europe when it comes to coverage regarding patent matters because they’re deeply corrupted by money. They pretend to be telling news, but they knowingly spread falsehoods, such as patently 'fake news' about the UPC. That Google News syndicates IAM as though it’s a source of news says a lot about Google itself.

Links 20/2/2018: Mesa 17.3.5, Qt 5.11 Alpha, Absolute 15.0 Beta 4, Sailfish OS 2.1.4 E.A., SuiteCRM 7.10

Tuesday 20th of February 2018 06:48:12 PM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • Open source intelligent solutions to transform work, businesses

    New trends are opening up new opportunities and new ways to deal with IT, according to Thomas di Giacomo, SUSE CTO, speaking at the SUSE executive roundtable, which the open source company hosted in partnership with ITWeb last week.

    There are many new and innovative technologies that can help IT leaders meet these new demands, he added. Open source based technologies have become the driving force behind most of the technologically disruptive innovations, said Di Giacomo.

    “It is pretty clear that all the new innovation is coming from open source.

    “For example, open source progress with Linux and virtualisation a couple of decades ago, cloud in the last 10 years, and more recently, containers for applications, software-defined infrastructure, and platform-as-a-service, empowering DevOps principles.”

    However, these trends also present some new challenges, said Di Giacomo. Compared to a couple of decades ago, the number of open source projects today has skyrocketed – from hundreds in the different foundations like the Linux Foundation, Apache, Eclipse and others, to millions of projects on Github.

  • Choosing project names: 4 key considerations

    Working on a new open source project, you’re focused on the code—getting that great new idea released so you can share it with the world. And you’ll want to attract new contributors, so you need a terrific name for your project.

    We’ve all read guides for creating names, but how do you go about choosing the right one? Keeping that cool science fiction reference you’re using internally might feel fun, but it won’t mean much to new users you’re trying to attract. A better approach is to choose a name that’s memorable to new users and developers searching for your project.

    Names set expectations. Your project’s name should showcase its functionality in the ecosystem and explain to users what your story is. In the crowded open source software world, it’s important not to get entangled with other projects out there. Taking a little extra time now, before sending out that big announcement, will pay off later.

  • Events
    • FOSDEM 2018 Community DevRoom Recap: Simon Phipps & Rich Sands

      It’s been a few weeks now since FOSDEM and if you didn’t have a chance to attend or watch the livestream of the FOSDEM 2018 Community DevRoom, Leslie my co-chair, and I are doing a round up summary on posts on each of the talks to bring you the video and the highlights of each presentation. You can read the preview post of Rich Sands and Simon Phipps pre FOSDEM blog post here.

    • Scheduling Voxxed Days Zurich 2018 with OptaPlanner

      My name is Mario Fusco and I’m honored to be the Program Committee Lead of Voxxed Days Zurich for the third year in a row. Reading, evaluating, discussing, and selecting from the 200+ proposals that arrive every year is a long and challenging process. I must admit, I largely underestimated the task the first year I started doing it. It’s necessary to evaluate not only the quality of every submission, but also how they fit together. In the end, the worst part is having to reject so many incredible proposals because there are a limited number of slots.

      However, once all the talks have been selected and all the approval and rejection emails have been sent, the process is still not complete. Now it is time to take all the accepted talks and schedule the actual program. Even for a moderate sized event like Voxxed Days Zurich (the conference lasts only one day and we have four parallel tracks), this is not a trivial task. There are many constraints and nice-to-haves that you may need to consider. For example, some speakers will arrive late in the morning or will have to leave early in the afternoon. Some talks require different room capacities. Two talks belonging to the same track must not be scheduled at the same time. There are many more variables to this process.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • 20 Big Ideas to Connect the Unconnected

        Last year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Mozilla announced the Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) challenges: $2 million in prizes for big ideas to connect the unconnected across the U.S.

        Today, we’re announcing our first set of winners: 20 bright ideas from Detroit, Cleveland, Albuquerque, New York City, and beyond. The winners are building mesh networks, solar-powered Wi-Fi, and network infrastructure that fits inside a single backpack. Winning projects were developed by veteran researchers, enterprising college students, and everyone in-between.

        What do all these projects have in common? They’re affordable, scalable, open-source, and secure.

  • Databases
  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice
  • CRM
    • How startups and SME’s can leverage open source CRM to increase business

      Prominent Open Source CRM in India:

      – SugarCRM
      Founded in 2004, Sugar CRM has over 7,000 customers and more than half a million users worldwide. Easily one of the largest open sources CRM in the world, SugarCRM offers versatile functionalities including sales-force automation, marketing campaigns, customer support, collaboration, Mobile CRM, Social CRM and reporting. While SugarCRM has released no open source editions since early 2014, its earlier community versions continued to inspire other open source software, namely Suite CRM, Vtiger CRM and SarvCRM.

      – SuiteCRM
      Suite CRM is a popular fork of SugarCRM and was launched as the latest version of the SugarCRM in October 2013. In a short period of its existence, it has won several awards and has been adopted by reputed clientele, including the Govt. of UK’s National Health Scheme (NHS) program. Suite CRM is an enterprise-class open source alternative to proprietary alternatives and offers a series of extension for both free and paid-for enhancements. Prominent additional modules available with SuiteCRM include Teams security, Google Maps, Outlook Plugin, Products, Contracts, Invoices, PDF Templates, workflow, reporting and Responsive Theme.

    • SuiteCRM 7.10 released

      SalesAgility, the creators and maintainers of SuiteCRM, are excited to announce a new major release of the world’s most popular open source CRM – SuiteCRM 7.10, including highly anticipated new features and many enhancements.

      SuiteCRM is a fully featured, highly flexible, open source CRM, which can be installed on-premise or in the cloud, and allows companies and organisations to have full control over their own customer data. It delivers actionable insights into customers, boosts conversions, helps increase sales, bolsters customer care and streamlines business operations. The CRM is as powerful as Salesforce and Dynamics, but with the unique benefit of being completely open source.

    • SuiteCRM 7.10 released

      SuiteCRM is a fork of the formerly open-source SugarCRM customer relationship management system.

    • SuiteCRM 7.10 Released For Open-Source Customer Relationship Management

      SuiteCRM 7.10 is now available as the latest major feature release to this customer relationship management (CRM) software forked from SugarCRM’s last open-source release.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
  • Licensing/Legal
  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Access/Content
      • A new Maryland bill would allow students to buy textbooks tax-free twice a year [Ed: This is a reaction to open-source (Open Access) books and maybe an attempt to extinguish such state-level initiatives]

        University of Maryland student Kayla Little has wanted to be a doctor since she was 11 years old — but a nationwide rise in textbook prices has proved to be an obstacle to her success.

        “I’ve wanted to go into medicine for the longest [time], and I really don’t want to give that up for books,” said Little, who hopes to go to medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon for a professional sports team.

      • How the Grateful Dead were a precursor to Creative Commons licensing

        From its founding in 1965, the Grateful Dead was always an unusual band. Rising amidst the counterculture movement in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Grateful Dead’s music had roots in multiple styles and genres but did not lend itself to easy categorization. Was it psychedelic? Folk? Blues? Country? Yes, it was all of these and more. The band frequently performed well-known public domain songs, but they made the songs their own.

        Members of the band could effortlessly play across traditional and diverse styles. At concerts, they often performed songs that sounded familiar at first but grew and evolved across styles and genres. Songs often turned into lengthy jam sessions in which musicians played off one another, discovering new musical motifs and expanding them together.

  • Programming/Development
    • Rust things I miss in C

      Librsvg feels like it is reaching a tipping point, where suddenly it seems like it would be easier to just port some major parts from C to Rust than to just add accessors for them. Also, more and more of the meat of the library is in Rust now.

      I’m switching back and forth a lot between C and Rust these days, and C feels very, very primitive these days.

    • Learning to program is getting harder

      I have written several books that use Python to explain topics like Bayesian Statistics and Digital Signal Processing. Along with the books, I provide code that readers can download from GitHub. In order to work with this code, readers have to know some Python, but that’s not enough. They also need a computer with Python and its supporting libraries, they have to know how to download code from GitHub, and then they have to know how to run the code they downloaded.

      And that’s where a lot of readers get into trouble.

Leftovers
  • “Just an Ass-Backward Tech Company”: How Twitter Lost the Internet War

    Del Harvey, Twitter’s resident troll hunter, has a fitting, if unusual, backstory for somebody in charge of policing one of the Internet’s most ungovernable platforms. As a teenager, she spent a summer as a lifeguard at a state mental institution; at 21, she began volunteering for Perverted Justice, a vigilante group that lures pedophiles into online chat rooms and exposes their identities. When the group partnered with NBC in 2004 to launch To Catch a Predator, Harvey posed as a child to help put pedophiles in jail. In 2008, she joined Twitter, then a small status-updating service whose 140-character quirk was based on the amount of alphanumerics that could be contained on a flip-phone screen. She was employee No. 25, and her job was to combat spam accounts.

  • Science
    • Why even a moth’s brain is smarter than an AI

      These differences probably account for why machine-learning systems lag so far behind natural ones in some aspects of performance. Insects, for example, can recognize odors after just a handful of exposures. Machines, on the other hand, need huge training data sets to learn. Computer scientists hope that understanding more about natural forms of learning will help them close the gap.

      Enter Charles Delahunt and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle, who have created an artificial neural network that mimics the structure and behavior of the olfactory learning system in Manduca sexta moths. They say their system provides some important insights into the way natural networks learn, with potential implications for machines.

    • Can’t get new lungs? Try refurbished ones instead.

      Harald Ott, a surgeon at Harvard Medical School, thinks that his lab’s unusual methods might someday solve the organ- transplant crisis. On average, 20 people in the United States die every day awaiting donor organs for transplant, according to the American Transplant Foundation. If Ott’s idea works, it could one day eliminate the need for an organ waiting list.

    • Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality

      A team led by engineers at the University of California San Diego has used data mining and computational tools to discover a new phosphor material for white LEDs that is inexpensive and easy to make. Researchers built prototype white LED light bulbs using the new phosphor. The prototypes exhibited better color quality than many commercial LEDs currently on the market.

    • Pattern formation—the paradoxical role of turbulence

      The formation of self-organizing molecular patterns in cells is a critical component of many biological processes. Researchers from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have proposed a new theory to explain how such patterns emerge in complex natural systems.

      Many biological processes are crucially dependent on the formation of ordered distributions of specific molecules within cells. These patterns are self-organizing structures that evolve in a predictable fashion in time and space. Perhaps the best known example of intracellular protein patterning is the molecular machinery that orchestrates the regular segregation of complete chromosome sets to the two daughter cells during cell division.

    • Ocean array alters view of Atlantic ‘conveyor belt’

      Oceanographers have put a stethoscope on the coursing circulatory system of the Atlantic Ocean, and they have found a skittish pulse that’s surprisingly strong in the waters east of Greenland—data that should improve climate models.

      The powerful currents in the Atlantic, formally known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), are a major engine in Earth’s climate. The AMOC’s shallower limbs—which include the Gulf Stream—transport warm water from the tropics northward, warming Western Europe. In the north, the waters cool and sink, forming deeper limbs that transport the cold water back south—and sequester anthropogenic carbon in the process. This overturning is why the AMOC is sometimes called the Atlantic conveyor belt.

  • Hardware
    • Qualcomm raises bid for NXP to about $43.22B

      Qualcomm is raising its takeover bid for NXP Semiconductors by nearly 16 percent to about $43.22 billion, citing in part NXP’s strong results since the companies first announced their merger in October 2016.

      The move announced Tuesday comes as Qualcomm itself is in the crosshairs of Broadcom Ltd., which earlier this month raised its own cash and stock bid for Qualcomm to $121 billion.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Woman billed $17,850 for dodgy pee test. Alarmed experts say she’s not alone

      In 2015, a college student in Texas named Elizabeth Moreno had back surgery to correct a painful spinal abnormality. The procedure was a success, and her surgeon followed it with just a short-term prescription for the opioid painkiller hydrocodone to ease a speedy recovery. Then came a “routine” urine drug test, ostensibly to ensure she didn’t abuse the powerful drug.

      A year later, she got the bill for that test. It was $17,850.

    • Breakthrough as scientists grow sheep embryos containing human cells

      Growing human organs inside other animals has taken another step away from science-fiction, with researchers announcing they have grown sheep embryos containing human cells.

      Scientists say growing human organs inside animals could not only increase supply, but also offer the possibility of genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the immune system of the patient receiving them, by using the patient’s own cells in the procedure, removing the possibility of rejection.

  • Security
  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Warning after Assange fans targeted MP for retweets by Wikileaks

      POLITICIANS have been urged to show more caution on social media after evidence emerged that Wikileaks supporters were encouraged to use an SNP MP to spread their message on Twitter.

      Followers of Julian Assange were told to try and persuade Paul Monaghan to retweet content as part of a wider campaign to use parliamentarians to amplify their views.

    • Denis’s Dreaming: Julian Assange And His Doppelganger

      The ubiquitous US empire, I realized, had become an omnipresent force capable of vacuuming up and silencing all who dared question the activities of a system promulgating political chicanery… and it doesn’t approve of unauthorized disclosure, as the Julian Assange case demonstrates. Particularly as the covert activities of the ever-expanding American Empire – criminal by any measure – have become ever more rabid and rancid in its’ quest for full spectrum dominance.

      Fat chance that the masters of the universe would give a fig about the UN vote – pigs might fly I thought – recalling that the UN findings reflected the injustice of a system that hounded a man whose only crime was speaking truth to power. As I exited Hans Crescent, I felt queasy upon realising that it’s the ‘poodles’ – in this case the British variety – who sustain the status quo. When I arrived at my office I felt somewhat dejected, and closing the door on the outside world, sat myself down at my desk and said aloud to nobody in particular, “compliance is the flip side of expediency”.

      As morning turned to afternoon, I continued to reflect on the life of Julian Assange. Here was a man who was in possession of 250,000 diplomatic cables which shone an uncomfortable spotlight on US foreign policy. He published material documenting extrajudicial killings in Kenya, a report on toxic waste dumping on the Ivory Coast and Guantanamo Bay detention camp procedures and material involving large banks such as Kaupthing and Julies Baer. He also revealed the ugly truth of crimes committed by US forces in Iraq and the West’s role in the destabilization of Ukraine in 2014 plus the destruction of Libya, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    • Alleged Trump-Assange Backchannel: ‘There Was No Backchannel’

      One of the most curious episodes of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is also one of its most intriguing: Did Roger Stone—the eccentric informal Trump adviser—have backchannel communications with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange?

    • How Trump took advantage of Russian interference: Amplifying Wikileaks
    • Razer: journalism is not a crime! Except, you know, when WikiLeaks does it.

      I know you guys remember the detention of journalist Peter Greste, held with Al Jazeera colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahm in Cairo from December 2013. I remember, but perhaps not as well as you. I didn’t know the guy’s name before he was arrested charges of spreading “false news”. This was my fault, and not that of the Australian who had offered the Anglophone world an understanding of a coup that powers in the West would not call a coup. I was dumped that year, so any affairs more foreign than the one the ex was enjoying in Balwyn North were of limited concern.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Alaska’s Bering Sea Lost a Third of Its Ice in Just 8 Days

      In just eight days in mid-February, nearly a third of the sea ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast disappeared. That kind of ice loss and the changing climate as the planet warms is affecting the lives of the people who live along the coast.

      At a time when the sea ice should be growing toward its maximum extent for the year, it’s shrinking instead—the area of the Bering Sea covered by ice is now 60 percent below its average from 1981-2010.

      “[Bering sea ice] is in a league by itself at this point,” said Richard Thoman, the climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska region. “And looking at the weather over the next week, this value isn’t going to go up significantly. It’s going to go down.”

    • China’s polar ambitions cause anxiety

      Chinese tourists going abroad must be used to it by now – the lists of dos and don’ts to prevent them from tarnishing their country’s image.

      “Do not spit phlegm or gum” and “don’t take a long time using public toilets” are just two of the exhortations in a 2013 pamphlet from the National Tourism Administration.

    • The carbon-capture era may finally be starting

      The budget bill that President Donald Trump signed into law earlier this month provides a huge incentive for capturing and storing carbon emissions.

      Energy researchers who have crunched the numbers in the days since have concluded that on many projects the boosted tax credit could finally tip the scales for a technology that’s long proved far too expensive.

  • Finance
    • Working remotely, 4 years in

      It worked out. It obviously hasn’t always been 100% perfect in every way, but working remotely has been a great career move for me. I’ve learned a ton from my coworkers and have been able to do some really cool projects that I’m proud of. So here are some thoughts about what I think has made it work for me.

    • “Blockchain” Stocks Completely Disintegrate

      I’ve never seen a sector skyrocket and totally collapse this fast – in four months – as these newfangled “blockchain stocks.” Now they’re surrounded by debris and revelations of scams. These fly-by-night or near-failure outfits used the hype of “blockchain” and the whole media razzmatazz about cryptocurrencies to manipulate up their stocks, sometimes by several thousand percent in a matter of days.

    • Sears brand name deteriorates in value as sales suffer

      If Sears fails to execute a turnaround and ends up in bankruptcy, the company’s storied brand name could yet live on.

      But as the company slowly descends deeper and deeper into red ink, the value of the company’s brand is also suffering.

      [...]

      The nearly half-a-billion-dollar writedown underscores the severity of the company’s financial crisis. Although President Trump’s tax cut likely carried the Sears to a fourth-quarter profit, that was a one-time benefit that won’t solve the company’s ongoing issues.

    • Trump administration recommends steep tariffs on steel and aluminum

      The Commerce Department is recommending steep tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.

      The suggested tariffs, offered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the name of national security, are the latest indication that President Trump’s trade talk is turning from bark to bite. They also raise the risk of a trade war with China and other nations.

      Ross suggested three options for Trump — impose across-the-board tariffs on steel and aluminum, target select countries with even higher tariffs, or limit the total steel and aluminum coming into the United States.

    • Trump Contemplates Sanctions Against USA

      Think of it. If you slap on a tariff and importation instantly slows, it may take years to build new factories to take up the slack. Essentially, USA will be sanctioning itself. The tariffs won’t hurt China in the least. The world is hungry for its products and if USA ships fewer products made of aluminium and steel, China’s markets increase. So be it. USA, you reap what you sow. Trump adds this to the long list of stupid/crazy things he says and does.

    • Sorry, Brendan O’Neill, but we won’t be no-platformed on Brexit

      If you read Brendan O’Neill’s Coffee House article on Our Future, Our Choice! OFOC! – the campaign group of which I am co-president – you are left with the impression that we are a bunch of young fascists seeking a teenocracy. Brendan seems to believe that Britain’s youth see themselves as Nietzsche’s young warriors, and want to push out the ‘old men’. The ‘cult of youth’ wants to round up the walking-stick brigade, the village church congregations, the ageing Brexiteer army and send them where they belong: ‘peaceful’ correction camps.

      This is ludicrous. I wholeheartedly believe in ‘one person, one vote’. It goes without saying that we at OFOC! do not want to ‘dehumanise the old’. The concerns of the young should not override the concerns of the old. We all have an equal say. Brendan mistakenly assumes that we are making some grand philosophical point; that we are busy devising a voting system which would give a full vote to a healthy eighteen-year-old, and 0.4 of a vote to an 88-year-old on their deathbed. We are not. We are making a pragmatic argument rather than a philosophical one. Brexit is a national project which will take at least over half a decade to complete. In that time, according to demographic shifts alone, it will have lost its mandate. The British people will then clearly be inheriting a national project a majority didn’t ask for, and would rather not have.

    • Alibaba, Tencent rally troops amid $10 billion retail battle

      China’s tech giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) and Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), worth a combined $1 trillion, are on a retail investment binge, forcing merchants to choose sides amid a battle for shoppers’ digital wallets.

      Since the start of last year, the two companies have between them spent more than $10 billion on retail-focused deals, boosting their reach online and in brick-and-mortar stores.

    • Mutually Assured Contempt at 2018 Munich Security Conference

      Last year the biggest name in Munich was Chinese President Xi, who did not disappoint and stole the show by his robust defense of free trade, global cooperation to combat climate change and other leading issues of the day from which Donald Trump’s America seemed to be retreating. This year there was no one leader who commanded the attention of the audience and media. What special meaning the gathering had could be found in the Report of the organizers, which highlights the issues and guided the discussion in the various sessions over three days.

    • Irish Border issue is a legitimate threat to the Brexit talks

      One senior EU official is very pessimistic. The impasse over legally copperfastening the UK’s no-hard-Border commitment could shortly, single-handedly, bring the Brexit talks process to a crashing halt, the source warns.
      Could the Border issue be the rock on which the negotiations founder, propelling the UK into a no-deal departure?
      It’s an apocalyptic view not universally shared in Brussels but, as my colleague Pat Leahy reported recently, Dublin is also increasingly gloomy. “The Government fears that patience with the UK is running out in EU capitals.”
      It expects difficulties translating December’s guarantees on the Border into a legally binding agreement.

    • The bitcoin patent – only a matter of time?

      Given that no person (or group) has credibly claimed authorship of the 2008 Nakamoto paper or the bitcoin transaction method it describes, not surprisingly, no patent based on that original work has appeared.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Donald Trump and Facebook executive Rob Goldman’s tweets mislead about Russia’s election interference
    • Trump cites Facebook exec’s comments downplaying Russian ad influence on election

      Trump was citing Goldman’s own Twitter dump over the past week, responding to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 13 Russian citizens charged with interfering in the presidential election.

    • Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now

      Our democracy is in serious danger.

      President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

      That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

    • San Juan Mayor Calls for End to Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status Amid Slow Hurricane Maria Recovery

      Five months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, swaths of the island still have no electricity, while food and water supplies have been slow to arrive. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, has been hit by a series of scandals, after it was revealed that only a fraction of the 30 million meals slated to be sent to the island after Hurricane Maria was actually delivered. FEMA approved a $156 million contract for a one-woman company to deliver the 30 million meals. But in the end, FEMA canceled the contract after she delivered only 50,000 meals, in what FEMA called a logistical nightmare. This came after FEMA gave more than $30 million in contracts to a newly created Florida company which failed to deliver a single tarp to Puerto Rico. For more, we speak with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

    • Nunes: FBI and DOJ Perps Could Be Put on Trial

      Throwing down the gauntlet on alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the Department of Justice and the FBI, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stated that there could be legal consequences for officials who may have misled the FISA court. “If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial,” he said. “The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.”

      [...]

      This was not supposed to happen. Mrs. Clinton was a shoo-in, remember? Back when the FISA surveillance warrant of Page was obtained, just weeks before the November 2016 election, there seemed to be no need to hide tracks, because, even if these extracurricular activities were discovered, the perps would have looked forward to award certificates rather than legal problems under a Trump presidency.

      Thus, the knives will be coming out. Mostly because the mainstream media will make a major effort – together with Schiff-mates in the Democratic Party – to marginalize Nunes, those who find themselves in jeopardy can be expected to push back strongly.

    • Ignorance and Prejudice in Laura Ingraham’s Tiff With LeBron James

      Next came a clip with James saying: “The number one job in America, the appointed person, is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a f*** about the people.” James then continued his criticism of Trump in a discussion that aired on The Uninterrupted (a media platform founded by James).

      Ingraham clearly didn’t like James’ comments. First, she said: “Must they run their mouths like that? Unfortunately a lot of kids, and some adults, take these ignorant comments seriously.”

      She then went on to say that getting paid millions to play basketball doesn’t mean you can talk politics, and closed with a zinger inviting James and fellow NBA star Kevin Durant, also present in the video, to stick to what they do best – basketball – rather than attempt to provide political commentary: “As someone once said: shut up and dribble.”

    • Trump ‘Blatantly Backs Gerrymandering’ in Call for GOP to Fight New Pennsylvania Maps

      Shortly after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday issued a new congressional map that eliminates the state GOP’s partisan gerrymander, President Donald Trump implored Republicans to challenge the new district lines, arguing that the original map—which the state’s highest court said “clearly” violates the constitution—”was correct.”

    • Mueller Probe Heats Up: 13 Russians Indicted, Ex-Trump Aide to Plead Guilty, Focus on Kushner Grows

      There have been a number of significant developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration. CNN is reporting Mueller is now investigating Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his attempts to secure financing for his family’s business while working on the president’s transition team. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to plead guilty and testify against Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Under the deal, Gates will plead guilty to money laundering and illegal foreign lobbying. These developments come just days after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians and three companies in connection with efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election by orchestrating an online propaganda effort to undermine the U.S. election system. We speak to Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • China Uses The Same Excuse As This CNN Analyst To Censor Social Media

      With fears of Russia soaring to new heights, a CNN national security analyst is employing a classic argument used by the Chinese government to support censorship, arguing that social media sites should be held accountable for the content their users…

    • The Case Against the Bell Coalition’s Website Blocking Plan, Part 6: Over-Blocking of Legitimate Websites

      As the public concern over the Bell coalition website blocking plan continues to grow (both the Canadian Press and CBC this weekend covered the thousands of interventions at the CRTC), the case against the plan resumes with a review of why it is likely that it will lead to over-blocking of legitimate websites. Last week’s post highlighted the probable expansion of the scope of piracy for blocking purposes, a theme that continues today with a look at the many incidents over-blocking of legitimate sites sparked by website blocking (other posts in the series include the state of Canadian copyright, weak evidence on the state of Canadian piracy, the limited impact of piracy, and why the absence of a court order would place Canada at odds with virtually all its allies).

    • Closing windows.. censorship of the internet in Egypt

      Egypt was not familiar with the practice of blocking websites in the past, and therefore the skill of bypassing censorship was not one of the basic skills acquired by Egyptian users during their normal use of the Internet; in contrast, in some Arab countries which have a history of blocking practices, this has resulted in their citizens acquiring skills of how to deal with internet censorship. With the increase in the number of blocked websites in Egypt, social networks were flooded with advice on how one can bypass a block and links to free services that enable users to access blocked websites such as Tor browser, VPN services, and proxy servers. Some blocked websites began to direct their audience through social networks to rely on proxy servers as a free and easy-to-use way to access the content of blocked websites, while many activists who are interested in countering internet censorship have written about how to rely on Tor browser and VPNs to bypass blocking. On the other hand, blocked websites have tried to find easy mechanisms to reach their audiences, such as relying on alternative platforms to publish their material, or relying on services such as AMP [Accelerated Mobiles Pages], one of the most important services provided by Google on which millions of websites depend.

    • Censorship is a slippery slope

      The issue at question is censorship of a book, “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl,” by Tanya Lee Stone, currently in the high school library.

    • Andy Serkis says sex scene rules would be ‘censorship’

      Andy Serkis has said new rules being proposed this week for the filming of sex scenes could stifle creativity and amount to “censorship”.

      Actors’ union Equity is set to discuss new guidance for intimate scenes on film, TV and stage following the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood.

      In the wake of the accusations against the disgraced producer, many actresses have since come forward to detail uncomfortable or unscripted sex scenes they had felt pressured into doing.

    • Sex scene rules would be ‘censorship’ star says

      Hollywood star Andy Serkis says new rules surrounding the filming of sex scenes could amount to “censorship” and stifle creativity.

      Actors’ union Equity is considering bringing in guidance for intimate scenes on stage and screen in light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

      The proposals, being discussed this week, could ban actors kissing with tongues and nudity in auditions.

      [...]

      But speaking on the Bafta awards red carpet on Sunday night, Serkis said of the proposals: “I think that kind of censorship is censorship of creativity.

      “It should be arrived at by the director and the actors involved. They have to find a comfortable way of doing it that will tell the story, because that’s what we are all there to do.

      “It would be a shame if actors become so self-conscious about relating to people. You’re there to use your imagination, to create a role. I don’t think that you should be stopped from telling the story.”

    • The government is fighting ISIS online – but could it censor journalists?

      The government has developed new technology which can “automatically detect terrorist content” online. Propaganda by Daesh (also known as ISIS) could apparently be blocked as soon as it is uploaded.

      The software was created by private company ASI Data Science, with £600,000 of government money.

    • Instagram gives in to Russian censors

      Instagram has removed a video posted by Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny following pressure from the country’s communications regulator.

      The video shows deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko meeting with wealthy Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska on a yacht populated with models and escorts.

    • Shut out: outcry over censorship of Inxeba

      The unthinkable has happened. The Film and Publication Board has banned the multiaward winning film Inxeba: The Wound from being screened in mainstream cinema outlets, restricting its distribution to “designated adult premises”.

      This reclassification of Inxeba by the board’s appeal tribunal in essence means that the film can only be seen at venues where pornographic films are also screened. Therefore, the banning has reduced Inxeba to a pornographic movie. When it opened it had an age restriction of 16 years.

    • Academics Protest China’s Censorship Requests

      James Millward, a historian at Georgetown University and supporter of the petition, also sees withholding peer review as a particularly fitting way to respond to censorship.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Letter to EU Commissioners: Concern over United Kingdom’s proposed ‘immigration exemptions’ from Data Protection Bill

      We, the undersigned, write to express our concern regarding the UK Government’s incorporation of the General Data Protection Regulation into domestic law. Setting aside other areas of concern, the UK’s Data Protection Bill proposes an exemption that would remove individuals’ fundamental right to data protection if it is likely to prejudice “effective immigration control”.

      This proposed exemption (‘the immigration exemptions’) will remove the right of individuals to receive information from a subject access request: a core mechanism in any immigration dispute. Further restrictions would remove the government’s responsibility to process an individual’s data in accordance with the principles of data protection including lawful, fair and transparent processing. The exemption would allow data to be shared across UK government institutions without accountability or opportunity for recourse.

    • Why the Internet of Things is designed for corporations, not consumers

      Let me drive this home: The way that consumer goods are evolving, any implement that can be connected back to the Net will be. Think of a world where the physical location of every single item is logged and known at every single moment. Imagine what that would look like on a three-dimensional grid; it would bring an engineer to religion. A wise man once said that not a sparrow falls without God knowing it. However, in a world where the Net keeps simultaneous watch on a thousand million spinning plates, the Lord will have a peer.

    • Epic Games Uses Private Investigators to Locate Cheaters

      After hiring the services of a private investigations firm, Epic Games discovered they’d sued another minor for alleged cheating. The gaming company asked the court to keep the personal information of the kid under seal. A private investigator was also used to locate another minor defendant in a separate case, who is now risking a default judgment.

    • Google on Collision Course With Movie Biz Over Piracy & Safe Harbor

      Google and one of Australia’s leading movie companies are on a collision course over piracy. Village Roadshow’s outspoken co-chief Graham Burke has twice this month accused Google of facilitating crime and is now inviting the company to sue him. Meanwhile, Google is fighting for new safe harbor protections that Village Roadshow insists should be denied.

    • Facebook ordered to stop tracking web users in Belgium [iophk: "chump change"]

      Last week, a Belgian court ruled that it must stop tracking web users who have not given their consent for this behaviour or face fines of up to €250,000 per day for non-compliance.

    • Facebook will mail out postcards to verify US election advertisers

      This new verification system will be required for all advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office — such as the presidency. It will be implemented in time for the mid-term elections this coming November.

    • Facebook plans to use U.S. mail to verify IDs of election ad buyers

      Facebook Inc will start using postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site, a senior company executive said on Saturday.

    • Swedish Public Healthcare Portal is sending your symptoms to Google

      We can see in the screenshot above that somebody has searched for “embarrassing symptoms”. With the Ghostery plug-in turned off, a call is made to Google Analytics (the ga.js script), to the host ssl.google-analytics.com highlighted in the screenshot above, which sends the data embarrassing symptoms in cleartext (the third highlight) as part of the Referer field.

      This happens even when you’re browsing over HTTPS/SSL, because of how bad this design is.

    • China’s mobile payment volume surges in 2017 to S$16.7 trillion by October

      Mobile payments in China totalled 81 trillion yuan (S$16.7 trillion) for the first 10 months of 2017, nearly 40 per cent more than the whole of the previous year as cashless transactions become increasingly popular in the country, official data showed.

      The 10-month figure represented a 37.8 per cent leap over the 58.8 trillion yuan recorded in 2016, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology cited by Xinhua news agency on Monday.

      China is one of the world’s leading players in mobile or e-payment, which has made it possible for Chinese to buy a pancake at roadside breakfast stalls, order food online, pay credit card bills, and manage stock accounts with just a smartphone.

    • Google files patent for robot that writes your Facebook posts, emails and tweets – but will need FULL access to scan your accounts
  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Control your phone. Don’t let it control you

      Here are some simple tips — recommended by Harris — to work around the tricks phone designers use to keep us hooked

    • Passenger in NSA incident questions police use of force

      A 24-year-old Southeast DC man who says he was the passenger in that SUV that crashed at an NSA gate last Wednesday, is questioning police use of force.

      [...]

      “They was meant to kill us,” said Brown, “You know what I’m saying? This was fatal shots they were shooting. They could’ve killed him. They hit him in his head. If I didn’t grab him and throw him under the wheel, little man would’ve got killed.”

      The “him” is a 17-year-old, reportedly unlicensed driver, Brown says he put behind the wheel because he and another passenger were too tired to drive. After shots were fired, Brown says the teen was grazed in the head with what was believed to be a piece of shrapnel.

    • For Taiwanese, tests of loyalty to China bring trouble in Australian workplaces

      China’s assertiveness has set off alarms in Australia, with officials warning that Beijing has been meddling in Australian politics more than the public realises. But the experiences of Yang and Tuan – along with many others – reveal how Chinese nationalism is also affecting private enterprise and, in some cases, leading to accusations of discrimination.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • FCC Broadband Availability Data Derided As Inaccurate, ‘Shameful’

      We’ve long-noted how the government doesn’t do a very good job tracking broadband availability and pricing, in large part because incumbent ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T don’t want them to. ISPs (and the lawmakers paid to love them) whined incessantly about the last FCC’s efforts to raise the standard definition of broadband, given it only highlighted the fact that two-thirds of Americans can’t get “broadband” (25 Mbps) from more than one ISP. ISPs also fight revealing pricing data, which is why our $300 million broadband availability map doesn’t contain any price data whatsoever.

      ISPs have also routinely lobbied against efforts to improve broadband availability mapping, since more clearly highlighting competition and deployment shortcomings might result in somebody actually doing something about it. As a result, government reports on the health of the clearly-dysfunctional U.S. broadband market tend to have a decidedly unrealistic and rosy timbre, which is often worse if the regulators in question are of the revolving door variety (as we’re currently seeing under current agency boss Ajit Pai).

      And while Pai is busy insisting that he’s all about transparency, hard economics, and “closing the digital divide,” his policies repeatedly and consistently undermine those claims.

    • The Fight to Save Net Neutrality Is Heating Up

      The many bids to try to stop the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality rules are gathering momentum.

    • “What’s happening in US on net neutrality and internet freedom?”

      149 Members of the European Parliament signed a letter to the US Congress in disapproval of an action taken by independent telecom regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The letter was organized by Mariete Schaake (D66/ALDE).

    • Wikipedia discontinues its “zero-rating,” will focus on research-driven outreach

      Wikimedia has since seen its zero-rated use dropping off a cliff, which has conclusively settled the argument. Wikimedia has a laudable goal: to incorporate input from all over the world, from all walks of life, into the canonical encyclopedia we all rely upon. But zero rating wasn’t doing that, so, to their eternal credit, Wikimedia is trying something different.

    • Building for the future of Wikimedia with a new approach to partnerships [iophk: "zero-rating"]

      After careful evaluation, the Wikimedia Foundation has decided to discontinue one of its partnership approaches, the Wikipedia Zero program. Wikipedia Zero was created in 2012 to address one barrier to participating in Wikipedia globally: high mobile data costs. Through the program, we partnered with mobile operators to waive mobile data fees for their customers to freely access Wikipedia on mobile devices. Over the course of this year, no additional Wikipedia Zero partnerships will be formed, and the remaining partnerships with mobile operators will expire.

      In the program’s six year tenure, we have partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges. Since 2016, we have seen a significant drop off in adoption and interest in the program. This may be due, in part, to the rapidly shifting mobile industry, as well as changes in mobile data costs. At this same time, we conducted extensive research [1][2] to better understand the full spectrum of barriers to accessing and participating in Wikipedia.

    • Free ‘Wikipedia Zero’ Is Shutting Down After Serving 800 Million Users

      The non-profit organization Wikimedia Foundation has been running their project called Wikipedia Zero. Started in 2012, it aims to provide free Wikipedia access to users mostly living in developing countries by partnering with carriers in those regions.

      Wikipedia Zero was inspired by Facebook Zero project which also allowed people to access a stripped down version of Facebook for free. Such services are given a zero-rating by the carriers and using them doesn’t count on users’ data bills. The service providers already pay the operation charges.

  • DRM
    • Flight Sim Company Embeds Malware to Steal Pirates’ Passwords

      Flight sim company FlightSimLabs has found itself in trouble after installing malware onto users’ machines as an anti-piracy measure. Code embedded in its A320-X module contained a mechanism for detecting ‘pirate’ serial numbers distributed on The Pirate Bay, which then triggered a process through which the company stole usernames and passwords from users’ web browsers.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • UKIPO launches trade secrets consultation

      The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) yesterday launched a technical consultation on the EU trade secrets directive and the draft regulations that will implement the directive into UK law.

      The directive obliges EU member states to ensure that victims of trade secret misuse are able to defend their rights in court and seek compensation. Provisions on ensuring trade secrets are kept confidential during legal proceedings are also covered.

    • Sharp and Hisense bury the patent hatchet as they move toward resolving acrimonious brand and commercial dispute

      A conflict over use of the Sharp brand name in the US market for televisions has pitted the Foxconn-owned display maker against Chinese licencee Hisense in IP and commercial lawsuits across multiple jurisdictions since last June. Now, disclosures made by Sharp in the process of withdrawing a patent infringement lawsuit and an ITC investigation suggest that the two parties have agreed to a patent truce as they move towards a broad resolution.

    • French Constitutional Court Rejects Challenge to Image Right in National Monuments

      France’s Constitutional Court has just ruled that a provision in the Code du patrimoine (Heritage Code) involving the use of images of buildings protected as national domains passes constitutional muster.

    • Trademarks
    • Copyrights
      • Decision Over Tom Brady Tweet “Threatens Millions of Ordinary Internet Users”

        A new decision from a New York federal judge could have a chilling effect on how we use the internet. This past week, Judge Katherine Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that Vox, Time, Yahoo, and Breitbart, among other publications, infringed another’s copyright-protected image of football star Tom Brady simply by embedding another person’s tweet that contained the image on their websites.

        According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, “if adopted by other courts, this legally and technically misguided decision would threaten millions of ordinary Internet users with infringement liability.”

      • Canadian Pirate Site Blocks Could Spread to VPNs, Professor Warns

        A group of prominent Canadian ISPs and movie industry companies are determined to bring pirate site blocking efforts to North America. This plan has triggered a fair amount of opposition, including cautioning analyses from law professor Michael Geist, who warns of potential overblocking and fears that VPN services could become the next target.

      • Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates

        Sweden’s Minister for Justice has received recommendations as to how the country should punish online pirates. Heléne Fritzon received a proposal which would create crimes of gross infringement under both copyright and trademark law, leading to sentences of up to six years in prison. The changes would also ensure that non-physical property, such as domain names, can be seized.

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So it was a shock to get an email this week that Tom had married for the first time at age 54, and passed away four days later due to a boating accident while on his honeymoon. Tom was a man with a big laugh and an even bigger heart. When I started a Linux Users Group (LUG) on campus, there was Tom – helping to arrange a place to meet, Internet access when we needed it, and gave his evenings to simply be present and a supporter. Read more

Introducing the potential new Ubuntu Studio Council

Back in 2016, Set Hallström was elected as the new Team Lead for Ubuntu Studio, just in time for the 16.04 Xenial Long Term Support (LTS) release. It was intended that Ubuntu Studio would be able to utilise Set’s leadership skills at least up until the next LTS release in April 2018. Unfortunately, as happens occasionally in the world of volunteer work, Set’s personal circumstances changed and he is no longer able to devote as much time to Ubuntu Studio as he would like. Therefore, an IRC meeting was held between interested Ubuntu Studio contributors on 21st May 2017 to agree on how to fill the void. We decided to follow the lead of Xubuntu and create a Council to take care of Ubuntu Studio, rather than continuing to place the burden of leadership on the shoulder of one particular person. Unfortunately, although the result was an agreement to form the first Ubuntu Studio Council from the meeting participants, we all got busy and the council was never set up. Read more