::fibreculture:: Julian Assange's Ultimate Publicity Stunt: Running For Australian Senate?

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Julian Assange's Ultimate Publicity Stunt: Running For Australian  
Senate? (Politics)
by Mike Masnick from the really,-now? dept on Monday, March 19th, 2012  
@ 10:57PM
Even for supporters of Wikileaks and what it tried to achieve, Julian  
Assange is a polarizing figure -- often accused of letting his ego get  
in the way of good judgment. So, to be honest, it comes as little  
surprise that he's announced plans to run for the Australian Senate,  
even while he's still stuck in the UK, awaiting a ruling on being  
extradited to Sweden (with some concerns about eventually being  
extradited to the US as well). Wikileaks also announced plans to have  
someone else run against current Australian Prime Minister Julia  
Gillard, who Assange feels has not done enough to support him. While  
there have been some questions about the legality of such a run,  
enough Australian legal experts seem to agree that he can probab ly do  
it. Whether or not he can actually get very much support is another  
question altogether. However, from an outside observer's standpoint,  
it's going to make the next Australian elections a lot more interesting.

Oh, and just for amusement's sake, one Australian publication mocked  
Wikileaks for misspelling Gilard's electorate, given its namesake's  
similarities to Assange himself:
Assange had an electoral learning process of his own which played out  
live on Twitter yesterday morning, with a first message from the  
Wikileaks feed announcing only that the organisation would be  
“fielding a candidate to run against Julia Gillard in her home seat of  
Laylor (sic)”. Very shortly afterwards, a second tweet declared: “We  
have discovered that it is possible for Julian Assange to run for the  
Australian Senate while detained. Julian has decided to run.” The  
spelling error in the initial tweet betrayed a curious ignorance of  
Australian history, given that the electorate in question is named  
after Peter Lalor, who led the famous Eureka Rebellion at the Ballarat  
goldfields in 1854. One would have thought that Lalor, a radical  
activist who saw his efforts crudely suppressed by the authorities  
before going on to a distinguished career as a parliamentarian, might  
have been better known to Assange – if not to the extent that he would  
have spe lt his name correctly, then at least so far that he might  
have misspelled it in a phonetically correct manner (“Lawlor”). But I  
digress.
I would be pretty surprised if this candidacy (or either candidacy if  
they really do raise two candidates) actually goes anywhere, but that  
won't make it any less entertaining to follow.
18 Comments
No That Won't Backfire At All: Questionable Story About Obama's  
Daughter Disappears From The Web (Journalism)
by Mike Masnick from the rampant-speculation dept on Monday, March  
19th, 2012 @ 6:57PM
Generally speaking, the press has something of an implicit agreement  
that they don't use underage Presidential offspring in politically  
tinged stories. For obvious reasons, it's considered to be a pretty  
cynical move. Of course, if they actually do something newsworthy, it  
might be a different story. This afternoon a bunch of stories started  
appearing, talking about how President Obama's daughter Malia was  
traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico as part of a trip with some classmates  
(and 25 secret service agents). This story was reported on by the AFP  
wire service, and some tied it to the fact that the State Department  
recently issued a travel advisory urging Americans to stay away from  
parts of Mexico. Not surprisingly, some picked up on this story to  
suggest some sort of... something. Double standard? Hypocrisy? Of  
course, the details suggest this really was not much of a story. I f  
you actually read the State Department warning, it makes it clear that  
there is no warning in place for Oaxaca -- so this trip doesn't appear  
to go against that warning.

It seems likely, then, that the AFP decided to pull back the story  
once someone pointed that out, but the story is now rapidly  
disappearing from a variety of online publications (big and small),  
leading to questions and easy political points about how the story is  
being "scrubbed." Google News listed about 27 versions of the story  
when I looked, and later, following the links, I found almost every  
single one of them was flat out gone. In most cases, they were  
replaced with a 404 (including The Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the  
Australian) or sometimes just redirecting people to a front page  
(Huffington Post and International Business Times). The only version I  
still found up was at TurkishPress.com, but it might not last very long.



Now, I tend to think that using the President's underage kids for a  
political story is generally a low blow and not particularly nice, but  
if there is something newsworthy happening, it should be fair game. I  
also think that, from the sound of it, this story got blown out of  
proportion by those who didn't bother to actually read the details of  
the destination or the State Department's specific warning which notes  
no problem at that destination.

But, having said all that, simply having the article disappear  
completely, rather than putting up a correction or an explanation of  
what happened, simply fuels both the conspiracy theories and the  
interest in the story. It's exactly the wrong way to go about dealing  
with the situation. There are a variety of possibilities here. The  
administration may have asked the press to pull the story, which would  
only generate more interest in the news. The AFP, upon realizing that  
it shouldn't have posted the story, may have issued a kill order/ 
retraction of sorts. Or perhaps there's some other reasoning. But  
there are good ways to handle these situations and ways that are  
guaranteed to backfire. Simply making the articles disappear is pretty  
much guaranteed to backfire and generate more interest in the story,  
even if it's a total non-story. Replacing the original story with a  
"hey, we thought this, but we got it wrong," would have been much more  
effective.
38 Comments
DailyDirt: Pigs In Space... ((Mis)Uses of Technology)
by Michael Ho from the urls-we-dig-up dept on Monday, March 19th, 2012  
@ 5:00PM
The space race has been over for quite some time now, and we're headed  
into unknown territory now -- without a singular mission for space  
exploration. There are a few manned missions still on-going, and  
there's also a lot of experimental spacecraft under development. Here  
are just a few space projects that use some interesting technologies.
A Japanese construction company says it might be possible to build a  
space elevator by 2050 using carbon nanotubes to form a cable 96,000  
kilometers long. There's no way to estimate the cost for this gigantic  
elevator to space, though, since the materials to actually build it  
can't be manufactured (yet?). [url]
Ion propulsion systems have been under development for decades, and  
the Dawn spacecraft used an ion thruster to get a closer look at a big  
asteroid named Vesta. Ion thrusters can run for a long time, unlike  
chemical propulsion, and achieve velocities far greater than  
conventional rockets. [url]
Masten Space Systems' Xombie suborbital rocket had a successful test  
flight, demonstrating vertical takeoff and landing maneuvers for NASA.  
This rocket uses a flight control system that could help land  
spacecraft on asteroids or other non-terrestrial bodies. [url]
To discover more links on space exploration, check out what's floating  
around in StumbleUpon universe. [url]
By the way, StumbleUpon can also recommend some good Techdirt  
articles, too.
Why Hollywood's Six Strike Plan Should Be Investigated For Antitrust  
Violations (Legal Issues)
by Mike Masnick from the good-points dept on Monday, March 19th, 2012  
@ 3:49PM
With there being renewed interest in the questionable deal between the  
RIAA/MPAA and the US's largest ISPs to set up a "six strikes"graduated  
response plan to cause trouble for those accused (not convicted) of  
file sharing, some are beginning to realize that the whole plan  
deserves serious antitrust scrutiny. After all, you have the  
representatives of two major industries getting together in a room to  
collude on a plan that will make internet access more expensive for  
users.

On top of that, since it's based on mere accusations (not convictions)  
-- and those accusations will come from a company with a terrible  
track record for accuracy -- you'll have to pay to challenge a strike  
and (most ridiculous of all) if you do challenge it, you are limited  
to just six defenses -- significantly less than are allowed under  
copyright law. That is, if the work is in the public domain, but  
published after 1923,you have no official defense under the plan. In  
other words, not only does the plan involve collusion a mong multiple  
big industries, but at the outset it assumes guilt before innocence,  
makes you pay to claim you're innocent, and won't even let you use  
basic defenses afforded to you under existing copyright law.

All of that seems of questionable legality. It also makes the White  
House's direct involvement in brokering this plan look even worse.  
And, once again, it makes us wonder why the real stakeholders,  
internet users, weren't given a seat at the table. If they were,  
perhaps this would have been avoided.

Of course, given the White House's involvement in brokering the deal,  
there doesn't seem much likelihood that the Attorney General will  
bother to scrutinize the agreement, since it would effectively be  
challenging his own boss.

That said, the article linked above suggesting that an antitrust  
inquiry seems necessary is written by Sean Flaim, and is based on his  
even more thorough research paper detailing why this program needs to  
be reviewed for antitrust violations. Unfortunately, the chances of  
that actually happening are still pretty slim.
87 Comments
The Pirate Bay Claims It's Going To Host The Site Via Drones Flying  
Over International Waters ((Mis)Uses of Technology)
by Mike Masnick from the the-pirate-ships-continue-to-go dept on  
Monday, March 19th, 2012 @ 2:46PM
One of the more amazing things about the recent moves by the  
entertainment industry to put in place stricter laws around the globe  
to attack file sharing, is that they still don't realize how pointless  
this is compared to the only real solution, which is to offer more of  
what consumers actually want, rather than trying to force them into  
some old way of doing business. For every "victory" the industry  
declares, we see more and more evidence that the file sharing just  
moves further away from what the industry can control (and keeps  
growing). The Pirate Bay, of course, has always been one of the  
leaders in mocking the legacy entertainment industry as it continues  
to operate, despite years-long efforts to shut it down. And even as  
there are reports of new raids pending, the organization has shifted  
to magnet links, meaning that taking it down will be even more  
meaningless than in the past.

Even so, the folks involved in TPB are still trying to go further. As  
highlighted on TorrentFreak, the latest plan from TPB is to see if it  
canserve the site from GPS-controlled drones flying over international  
waters:
One of the technical things we always optimize is where to put our  
front machines. They are the ones that re-direct your traffic to a  
secret location. We have now decided to try to build something  
extraordinary.

With the development of GPS controlled drones, far-reaching cheap  
radio equipment and tiny new computers like the Raspberry Pi, we're  
going to experiment with sending out some small drones that will float  
some kilometers up in the air. This way our machines will have to be  
shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act  
of war.

We're just starting so we haven't figured everything out yet. But we  
can't limit ourselves to hosting things just on land anymore. These  
Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) are just the first attempt. With  
modern radio transmitters we can get over 100Mbps per node up to 50km  
away. For the proxy system we're building, that's more than enough.
Whether or not they can actually pull it off is a totally different  
question, but as we've been discussing recently, drone technology is  
getting cheaper, and the potential disruption of the Raspberry Pi  
should not be underestimated. While such things might not really be  
ready yet to do what TPB hopes to do, it's not difficult to project  
these trends out just a little ways to see that not only will it be  
possible in the not-too-distant future, but it would be a surprise if  
we didn't see setups that go way beyond what TPB is currently  
proposing before too long.
79 Comments
 From Lori Drew To Dharun Ravi, Punishing People Based On Others'  
Suicides Is A Mistake (Free Speech)
by Mike Masnick from the giving-the-wrong-message dept on Monday,  
March 19th, 2012 @ 1:40PM
A few years back, we covered the Lori Drew case, involving charges  
brought against a woman who stupidly set up a fake user account on  
MySpace to try to find out what was going on with a girl the woman's  
daughter had some issues with. The "fake account" was of a boy who the  
real 13-year-old girl became very friendly with. At some point, the  
"boy" turned on the girl, said some nasty things to her -- including  
"the world would be better off without" her -- and cut off  
communications. The girl committed suicide soon after. Lots and lots  
of people wanted Lori Drew brought up on charges for the girl's death.  
While we found Drew's actions to be incredibly immature and  
ridiculous, we were much more concerned with efforts to pin the  
suicide on her. Of course, the law wouldn't allow such a thing, so  
prosecutors trumped up some charges, involving a claim that she  
committed a felony by not following MySpace 's terms of service. She  
was found guilty of a misdemeanor (not felony) charge -- which was  
then dropped by the judge, who wasn't comfortable with the ruling.

Of course, this did lead to a flurry of attempts to pass  
"cyberbullying" laws -- which try to make it a crime of some sort to  
be a jerk online. This is problematic for a variety of reasons,  
especially since it raises significant First Amendment issues, in part  
because "being a jerk" is extremely subjective. But the worst part is  
that much of what is considered to be "jerky" behavior is determined  
after the other party commits suicide. This is extremely problematic  
-- because whether or not your actions are seen as criminal depends  
almost entirely on how someone else reacts to them. If they shake off  
your actions, then you're fine. If they commit suicide, you get  
punished. Thus, the incentive then is actually for kids to seriously  
hurt themselves, if someone acts in a mean way towards them, as that  
increases the likelihood of the bully getting punished. That doesn't  
sound like a good incentive system.

I'm thinking about all of this after hearing about the guilty verdict  
against Dharun Ravi -- the Rutgers student who surreptitiously filmed  
his roommate engaged in a sexual encounter with another male. That  
roommate, Tyler Clementi, later killed himself, once he found out  
about it being filmed. Like the Lori Drew case, much of the  
prosecution focused on the dead teenager -- and you can understand  
why. It's a horrible (and horrifying) story. But, again, the reaction  
is much more based on the end results, rather than the initial action.  
No doubt, what Ravi did was despicable, but is it really criminal? Law  
professor Paul Butler has an excellent opinion piece explaining why  
this is an overreaction. He notes that Ravi was clearly immature and  
did an obnoxio us thing in invading his roommate's privacy, but the  
desire to see him locked up (and apparently there's a good chance  
he'll be deported to India, despite not having lived there since he  
was 2 years old) is almost entirely because of Clementi's tragic death:
Let's be honest. A lot of people want a pound of flesh from Ravi  
because they blame him for Clementi's death. Tyler's reaction was  
tragic, and it was idiosyncratic.... No judge in the country would  
have allowed a homicide prosecution, because, legally speaking, Ravi  
did not cause the death, nor was it reasonably foreseeable. Of the  
millions of people who are bullied or who suffer invasions of privacy,  
few kill themselves.

[....]

For his stupidity, Ravi should be shamed by his fellow students and  
kicked out of his dorm, but he should not be sent to prison for years  
and then banished from the United States.
As Butler notes, the rush to the criminal justice system, and the  
focus on blaming Ravi, takes us away from a more reasonable place in  
thinking about how to deal with these things:
The problem with broad laws like New Jersey's is that they come too  
close to punishing people for what they think. Bigotry, including  
homophobia, is morally condemnable, but in a free country, it should  
not be a punishable offense....

[....]

Ravi did not invent homophobia, but he is being scapegoated for it.  
Bias against gay people is, sadly, embedded in American culture. Until  
last year people were being kicked out of the military because they  
were homosexuals. None of the four leading presidential candidates --  
President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich -- thinks  
that gay people should be allowed to get married. A better way to  
honor the life of Clementi would be for everyone to get off their high  
horse about a 20-year-old kid and instead think about how we can  
promote civil rights in our own lives.

Though a national conversation about civility and respect would have  
been better, as usual for social problems, we looked to the criminal  
justice system. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens  
than any country in the world. We are an extraordinarily punitive  
people.
Indeed, as tragic as Clementi's death is, it did inspire thousands of  
people to act in a positive manner against homophobia by launching the  
It Gets Better project -- a very powerful way that tons of people have  
gathered to try to pass along the message to bullied teens (mainly  
from the LGBT community) that things do, in fact, get better. That  
response is a way of trying to deal with the actual problems. Going  
after Ravi with these charges just seems like a punitive action based  
on what Clementi did after Ravi's clearly childish and obnoxious  
actions. It certainly can be difficult to separate out what Ravi did  
from what Clementi did later, but in a society based on law, that's  
what we're supposed to do. Being a jerk should get you shunned, but  
not put in prison.
45 Comments
Summit Entertainment Claims To Own The Date November 20, 2009; Issues  
Takedown On Art Created On That Day(Trademark)
by Mike Masnick from the hello-ip-fraud dept on Monday, March 19th,  
2012 @ 12:38PM
Summit Entertainment, the movie studio behind the Twilight films, is  
no stranger to ridiculous-to-insane overreaches of intellectual  
property law. In fact, the studio seems to make a habit out of it. The  
company has sued Zazzle because some of its users made fan art  
inspired by Twilight. It's shut down a Twilight fanzine. It's said  
that only it can make a documentary about the real town where the  
fictionalTwilight story is based. It's sued to stop a fashion designer  
from factually stating that a character in one of the movies wore its  
jacket. Itshut down a silly 8-bit YouTube game. It issued a takedown  
on a song that was written years before the Twilight movies. It went  
after Bath & Bodyworks for daring to to sell a body lotion called  
Twilight Woods, which had nothing to do with the movies. It  
aggressively sued a fanand pressed criminal charges< /a> for tweeting  
some behind the scenes photos of a Twilight movie. It also sued the  
guy who registered twilight.com back in 1994.

This is a company that thinks that the world revolves around its  
trademarks, and it appears to have little concern for what the law  
actually says.

Its latest move is particularly asinine. The company came across the  
following lovely image created by artist Kelly Howlett and posted to  
Zazzle, and issued a takedown.

If you're thinking that image has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do  
with Twilight, or any other Summit property, you're entirely correct.  
But it turns out that Summit Entertainment has decided it owns the  
date 11-20-09 (that's Kelly's Facebook explanation of what happened,  
found via Bleeding Cool), which was the date the sketch was created,  
and what it was tagged with. It also happens to be the date that  
theTwilight movie New Moon was released.

Summit has no legitimate claim here. At all. And yet it took the  
artwork down anyway, because that's the kind of IP abusers they are.

Zazzle eventually came to its senses and restored the image, and  
Howlett is offering it on Society 6 as well. If Summit Entertainment  
had anyone with a soul working for them, they'd buy a few hundred  
prints to apologize.

Either way, the company has such a long and consistent history of  
abusing intellectual property law, isn't there a point at which we  
just say that the company no longer deserves any such power? If you  
regularly abuse monopoly privileges, shouldn't they be taken away?
54 Comments
:-( Samsung, Research In Motion Sued For Making It Easy To Use  
Emoticons (Patents)
by Mike Masnick from the thus,-infringing-a-patent dept on Monday,  
March 19th, 2012 @ 11:39AM
All the way back in 2001, we wrote about how the brilliant satirists  
at Despair Inc. successfully trademarked :-( and announced that they  
planned to sue 7 million internet users for violating the trademark.  
The actual announcement was pretty funny -- even though not everyone  
got the joke. In 2006, we also had a story that mentioned a whole  
bunch of patents and patent applications related to emoticons.

It appears that one of those is now being used in a lawsuit against  
Samsung and RIM for having the gall to create a button that makes it  
easy to pick an emoticon without typing it in. The patent in question  
(US Patent 7,167,731) really is for having a button that lets you pick  
emoticons. How this is possibly patentable is beyond me. But, for some  
reason, examiner Lee Nguyen thought it was somehow non-obvious. The  
patent was originally assigned to Wildseed, a mobile accessories firm  
that AOL bought in 2005. The patent itself then went to Varia Mobil,  
who moved it to Varia Holdings to Varia and back to Varia Holdings.  
It's Varia Holdings bringing the lawsu it. Varia appears to just be a  
trolling operation (of course).

It's fairly stunning that anyone considered this a valid patent at any  
point. That it's now being used as the basis for a lawsuit should  
(once again) raise significant questions about the USPTO's approval  
process for patents.
Read More | 42 Comments
A Terrifying Look Into The NSA's Ability To Capture And Analyze Pretty  
Much Every Communication (Privacy)
by Mike Masnick from the be-afraid dept on Monday, March 19th, 2012 @  
10:33AM
You may recall that we've written a few times about the "turf war"  
between the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense  
Department's NSA over who gets to run the "cybersecurity" efforts for  
the country. The NSA has been particularly insistent that all  
cybersecurity efforts should go through it, and an amazing, detailed  
and positively frightening article from James Bamford at Wired  
Magazine, which is ostensibly about the NSA's massive new spy center  
in Bluffdale, Utah, but is really a rather detailed (and well-sourced)  
account of just how much spying the NSA is doing on pretty much all  
communications. The article breaks some news in not just confirming  
the details of the infamous warrantless wiretapping that st arted  
under President Bush and has continued unabated under President Obama,  
but also explains how the program is more advanced and more expansive  
than previously thought. Basically, the NSA now collects everything,  
whether or not the law allows it -- and it's building massively  
powerful computers to break any encryption that is used on that  
communication.

In regards to the question of "cybersecurity," one reason why the NSA  
wants official control over cybersecurity is that's the curtain it  
tries to hide behind to explain its massive spying operations:
A short time later, [NSA deputy director Chris] Inglis arrived in  
Bluffdale at the site of the future data center, a flat, unpaved  
runway on a little-used part of Camp Williams, a National Guard  
training site. There, in a white tent set up for the occasion, Inglis  
joined Harvey Davis, the agency’s associate director for installations  
and logistics, and Utah senator Orrin Hatch, along with a few generals  
and politicians in a surreal ceremony. Standing in an odd wooden  
sandbox and holding gold-painted shovels, they made awkward jabs at  
the sand and thus officially broke ground on what the local media had  
simply dubbed “the spy center.” Hoping for some details on what was  
about to be built, reporters turned to one of the invited guests, Lane  
Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Did he have any idea of  
the purpose behind the new facility in his backyard? “Absolutely not,”  
he said with a self-conscious half laugh. “Nor do I want them sp ying  
on me.”

For his part, Inglis simply engaged in a bit of double-talk,  
emphasizing the least threatening aspect of the center: “It’s a state- 
of-the-art facility designed to support the intelligence community in  
its mission to, in turn, enable and protect the nation’s  
cybersecurity.” While cybersecurity will certainly be among the areas  
focused on in Bluffdale, what is collected, how it’s collected, and  
what is done with the material are far more important issues. Battling  
hackers makes for a nice cover—it’s easy to explain, and who could be  
against it? Then the reporters turned to Hatch, who proudly described  
the center as “a great tribute to Utah,” then added, “I can’t tell you  
a lot about what they’re going to be doing, because it’s highly  
classified.”

And then there was this anomaly: Although this was supposedly the  
official ground-breaking for the nation’s largest and most expensive  
cybersecurity project, no one from the Department of Homeland  
Security, the agency responsible for protecting civilian networks from  
cyberattack, spoke from the lectern. In fact, the official who’d  
originally introduced the data center, at a press conference in Salt  
Lake City in October 2009, had nothing to do with cybersecurity. It  
was Glenn A. Gaffney, deputy director of national intelligence for  
collection, a man who had spent almost his entire career at the CIA.  
As head of collection for the intelligence community, he managed the  
country’s human and electronic spies.
The entire article is worth reading, as it details the extent of the  
NSA's spying, as well as their near total lack of concern for what the  
law says it's allowed to do. A former NSA official who left the agency  
soon after all this started notes that the organization "violated the  
Constitution setting it up," and that "they didn't care. They were  
going to do it anyway and they were going to crucify anyone who stood  
in the way." This same officials notes multiple ways that the NSA  
could have set up programs that only focused on specific "targets" or  
those close to the targets, to stay within the framework of the law.  
He even suggested these to people at the NSA and elsewhere in the  
federal government and was completely brushed off. The temptation to  
collect everything is apparently just too powerful.

As the article notes, even if such an effort may be useful in getting  
information on those who wish to do us harm, the threat of it being  
massively abused is incredibly high:
But there is, of course, reason for anyone to be distressed about the  
practice. Once the door is open for the government to spy on US  
citizens, there are often great temptations to abuse that power for  
political purposes, as when Richard Nixon eavesdropped on his  
political enemies during Watergate and ordered the NSA to spy on  
antiwar protesters. Those and other abuses prompted Congress to enact  
prohibitions in the mid-1970s against domestic spying.
But it appears that things have gone very much in the other direction  
now, with the NSA having much more ability to spy on people today than  
in the past. And even the idea of strong encryption may only be a  
temporary way of keeping the NSA from knowing everything you've  
communicated. Bamford details the NSA's classified effort to build  
superfast supercomputers that can help in breaking even the strongest  
encryption being used today. It's not quite there yet, from the sound  
of things, but it also appears they're advancing faster than most  
people predicted.

The whole article is worth a read, but it's a frightening reminder of  
the amount of power the federal government has today and its ability  
to abuse it.
84 Comments
Indian Court Orders 104 Sites Censored Based On The Say So Of The  
Indian Music Industry (Free Speech)
by Mike Masnick from the censorship-by-any-other-name dept on Monday,  
March 19th, 2012 @ 9:32AM
Torrentfreak notes the interesting timing on this one. Just as MPAA  
boss Chris Dodd was in India talking up the importance of stricter  
copyright laws (like SOPA), an Indian court ordered a SOPA-like block  
of 104 sites that were declared as "dedicated to infringement" by the  
Indian Music Industry (IMI). What's interesting is that as you look  
down the list of blocked sites, they include many that appear to focus  
on movies, not music -- so it's not clear why IMI gets to decide  
what's infringing and what's not.

Reading some of the details, it's pretty clear that the sites in  
question were not given a chance to present their side in court. In  
fact, it appears that even the IMI bosses admit that they haven't yet  
proved that all of those sites are infringing:
Taking the sites to court is not humanly feasible: when we went after  
one site, we got the impression that the owner was in the US, based  
out of the Bahamas, and it was very difficult to get him to respond.  
Our person has to pose as an advertiser before the owner came on an  
email, and we eventually found that it was a young kid in Rajkot, and  
the entire process took six months. Going after 104 sites – can you  
imagine the effort, the time and the money spent in chasing this? The  
better route is to establish comprehensively that each ofthese 104  
sites is pirating content, and we’re doing that – as a body and not a  
company – and it’s easier to interact with the ISP now.
In other words, shoot first, deal with the fallout of incorrect  
censorship later.

Not surprisingly, the head of the IFPI (the international RIAA)  
cheered on this result:
“This decision is a victory for the rule of law online and a blow to  
those illegal businesses that want to build revenues by violating the  
rights of others,” said IFPI CEO Frances Moore in a statement.

But in a clear signal that for the music and movie industries even the  
toughest of anti-piracy measures are never enough, Moore says that  
current developments are a good start.

“The court ruled that blocking is a proportionate and effective way to  
tackle website piracy,” Moore noted, adding that the Indian government  
should now “build on this progress” by advancing further legislation  
to tackle digital piracy.
The situation here seems extreme and disproportionate. Not only have  
the serious problems with DNS and IP blocking been described  
concerning internet security, but it's pretty clear that efforts like  
this don't work. There are already reports of sites from the list  
reappearing under different domain names, and all the court order is  
doing is spreading the game of whac-a-mole. Amusingly, the same Indian  
music exec who made the claim above about how it's impossible to  
actually track down these sites, later (in the same interview) admits  
he doesn't want to shut down these sites, because they have a "passion  
for music" and he'd like to work out deals with them. Of course,  
getting a court order to block access to their existing sites is a  
funny way to say "hey, I'd like to work with you."
57 Comments
Judge Chooses Pi Day To Reject Lawsuit Over Attempt To Copyright Pi As  
A Song (Copyright)
by Mike Masnick from the can't-copyright-facts dept on Monday, March  
19th, 2012 @ 8:25AM
Last year, we wrote about a dispute between two guys who had both  
recorded songs based on the number pi. A guy named Lars Erickson had  
recorded The Pi Symphony back in 1992 and registered a copyright on  
the output. It was based on assigning notes to the numbers 0 to 9,  
then playing them according to the sequence of pi. On March 14th, 2011  
-- also known as Pi Day, since the 3/14 date matches the 3.14  
beginning of pi -- musician Michael Blake came up with a similar idea.  
According to NPR's report on the song:
He decided the song would be in C, then assigned each note a number:  
C=1, D=2 and so on up through 9. Using those assignments, he played  
the sequence of pi: 3.14159 through 31 decimal places. He assigned  
numbers to chords, too, but could only play the chords every other  
note and still make it sound vaguely musical.

Finally, he used pi as the basis for the tempo — it's 157 beats per  
minute, which is half of 314. He played this part on several  
instruments, as you can see in the video above, and layered them to  
make a song. The result isn't exactly catchy, but it's certainly  
melodic.
Apparently Erickson got upset about this -- though he admits he was  
mainly upset that his own comments on the YouTube video of Blake's  
song were deleted. So he filed a lawsuit claiming copyright  
infringement.

Blake successfully had the lawsuit transferred from Nebraska to  
Portland, Oregon, and has now succeeded in having the case dismissed,  
with the ruling itself issued on March 14 -- Pi Day once again. The  
ruling is embedded below, and it's a worthwhile read, highlighting the  
limitations of copyright. It actually goes into a fairly detailed  
description of the separation between ideas and expression, as well as  
questions about "substantial similarity." The conclusion:
The primary similarity between Pi Symphony and "What Pi Sounds Like"  
is the musical pattern formed by transposing the digits of pi to a set  
of musical notes. That pattern is not protected by Mr. Erickson’s  
copyright for Pi Symphony. Pi is a non-copyrightable fact, and the  
transcription of pi to music is a non-copyrightable idea. The  
resulting pattern of notes is an expression that merges with the non- 
copyrightable idea of putting pi to music: assigning digits to musical  
notes and playing those notes in the sequence of pi is an idea that  
can only be expressed in a finite number of ways. This does not mean  
that Mr. Erickson’s copyright is invalid, only that Mr. Erickson may  
not use his copyright to stop others from employing this particular  
pattern of musical notes.

What may be protected by copyright is the combination of that pattern  
with other musical elements: the choice of scale, rhythm, harmony, and  
embellishments or variation, for example.... Pi Symphony and "What Pi  
Sounds Like" employ different rhythms, different phrasing, different  
harmonies, and different tempos. The court does not agree with Mr.  
Erickson that the melodies of Pi Symphony and "What Pi Sounds Like"  
are sufficiently similar in their cadence or tempo to raise a question  
of substantial similarity. If there are additional similarities that  
relate to protectable elements of Mr. Erickson’s musical work, those  
similarities are minor and scattered throughout the work. For one work  
to be substantially similar to another, more than incidental and  
occasional similarities are required....

Thus, after the similarities based on unprotected elements of Pi  
Symphony are set aside, very few--if any--similarities remain. Mr.  
Erickson’s copyright is therefore “thin” and protects his work only  
from virtually identical copying...
The court also dismisses Erickson's claim of "unfair competition,"  
noting that what appeared to be straight up jealousy is no reason for  
a legal claim:
Copyright protects against the copying of original elements of an  
author’s work. It does not protect the copyright holder's goodwill,  
market status, or artistic success. It does not even protect the  
author's hard work in being the first to create a compilation of  
information otherwise available in the public domain. See Feist, 499  
U.S. at 359-360 (rejecting the “sweat of the brow” theory of copyright  
protection). These limitations derive from the constitutional basis of  
copyright, which is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful  
Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the  
exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” U.S.  
Const. art. 1, sec. 8, cl. 8. Copyright is thus intended to protect  
the original work of authors without granting monopolies over facts or  
ideas that would hinder further progress.... Given statutory law, the  
Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent, Mr. Erickson cannot use his  
copyright to stop Mr. Blake from employing the same idea—the  
transcription of the digits of pi to musical notes.
Nice to see the court lay out the reasoning so clearly. It's unclear  
if the court recognized the symbolic nature of issuing the ruling on  
Pi Day, but either way, it was a nice move.
Read More | 31 Comments
Senators Tell The Obama Administration To Reveal Its Secret  
Interpretation Of The Patriot Act (Privacy)
by Mike Masnick from the and-again-and-again dept on Monday, March  
19th, 2012 @ 7:06AM
Over the last year or so, we've been covering Senator Ron Wyden's  
efforts to get Obama administration officials to come public with  
theirsecret interpretation of the Patriot Act. Wyden, of course,  
cannot say how they're interpreting the Patriot Act, though there have  
been clues, suggesting an extremely broad interpretation, that  
effectively allows them to spy on Americans, in direct contrast to the  
way most people (including many in Congress) believe the law allows.  
In the past, intelligence officials have basically said that they will  
not reveal how they interpret the Patriot Act because they don't want  
to, and doing so might reveal some of the details of how they spy on  
people.

Of course, keeping certain details secret concerning specific  
operations to monitor threats is reasonable. But a secret  
interpretation of the law that appears to go against what the law says  
directly? That's not acceptable. If the government can just make up  
how it interprets laws, and then keep those interpretations secret, we  
no longer have representative democracy at all. We have a sham  
government.

Given all of this, the NY Times and the ACLU sued the government for  
failing to reveal its interpretation of the law under a Freedom of  
Information Act. The administration is now seeking to get the two  
lawsuits dismissed... leading Senators Wyden and Udall to send a  
rather direct and forceful letter to Attorney General Holder  
questioning this move. I'll include a bunch of snippets below, but one  
key bit in this letter, which I believe is new, is the acknowledgement  
that further information that Wyden and Udall have come across suggest  
that the secret surveillance operation that makes use of this secret  
interpretation of the law is not even effective:
We would also note that in recent months we have grown increasingly  
skeptical about the actual value of the "intelligence collection  
operation" discussed in the Justice Department's recent court filing  
regarding the pending lawsuits. This has come as a surprise to us, as  
we were initially inclined to take the executive branch's assertions  
about the importance of this "operation" at face value. We will  
provide more detail about this skepticism in classified correspondence.
That's a pretty pointed claim, and certainly makes clear another  
reason why the administration is fighting so hard against revealing  
the secret interpretation. They know that once people find out just  
how widely they're tracking people under this bogus interpretation of  
the law, that not only will people be upset about it, but that the  
administration won't even be able to prove that such efforts did  
anything to prevent terrorism in the country.

On to some other key parts of the letter:
It is a matter of public record that section 215, which is a public  
statute, has been the subject of secret legal interpretations. The  
existences of these interpretations, which are contained in classified  
opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or  
"FISA Court") has been acknowledged on multiple occasions by the  
Justice Department and other executive branch officials.

We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how  
these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the  
Patriot Act. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what  
most Americans thinkthe law allows and what the government secretly  
claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to  
have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the  
public doesn't know what its government thinks the law says.
That seems like quite an understatement. It really makes you wonder  
what country we live in today. I'm fine with the government keeping  
certain things secret -- but one thing that it should never keep  
secret is the law itself. That's not a democracy any more at all, a  
point made in the letter as well:
In a democratic society -- in which the government derives its power  
from the consent of the people -- citizens rightly expect that their  
government will not arbitrarily keep information from them. Americans  
expect their government to operate within the boundaries of publicly- 
understood law, and as voters they have a need and a right to now how  
the law is being interpreted, so that they can ratify or reject  
decisions made on their behalf. To put it another way, Americans know  
that their government will sometimes conduct secret operations, but  
they don't think that government officials should be writing secret  
laws.
Later, the letter notes that the administration certainly has been  
willing to reveal this secret interpretation to some members of  
Congress (such as the two of them), but it appears that even many  
members of Congress have no idea how the administration is  
interpreting the law:
While the executive branch has worked hard to keep the government's  
official interpretation of the Patriot Act secret from the American  
public it has, to its credit, provided this information in documents  
submitted to Congress. However, these documents are so highly  
classified that most members of Congress do not have any staff who are  
cleared to read them. As a result, we can say with confidence that  
most of our colleagues in the House and senate are unfamiliar with  
these documents, and that many of them would be surprised and angry to  
learn how the Patriot Act has been interpreted in secret.
Wyden and Udall are equally troubled by the insistence by the  
administration that it needs to keep its interpretation of these laws  
secret to prevent adversaries from understanding what's being done.  
They point out that this is "chilling logic" as it could mean that the  
government could basically create all sorts of secret intelligence laws:
The crux of the Justice Department's argument for keeping the official  
interpretation of the law secret is that this secrecy prevents US  
adversaries from understanding exactly what intelligence agencies are  
allowed to do. We can see how it might be tempting to latch on to this  
chilling logic, but we would note that it would then follow that all  
of America's surveillance laws should be secret, because that would  
make it even harder to guess how the United States government collects  
information. For example, when Congress passed the Foreign  
Intelligence Surveillance ct in 1978 it would have been useful to keep  
that law secret from the KGB, so that Soviet agents would not know how  
the FBI was allowed to track them. But American laws should not be  
made public only when government officials find it convenient. They  
should be public all the time, and every American should be able to  
find out what their government thinks those laws mean.
There's a lot more in the full letter, but it's difficult not to be  
furious about the sense of entitlement the administration has over  
this. Keeping details of investigations secret is perfectly  
reasonable. But keeping a secret interpretation of the law secret --  
and one that lets them do much greater surveillance than what the law  
appears to state in plain language, is a significant problem for those  
who believe in a working democracy and representative government.
Read More | 88 Comments
Procedural Error By Law Enforcement Means Restraining Order On Kim  
Dotcom 'Null And Void' (Failures)
by Mike Masnick from the oops dept on Monday, March 19th, 2012 @ 5:34AM
We've already seen that the claims made by law enforcement in the  
indictment against Megaupload has raised significant legal questions,  
as they seemed to assume all sorts of things not necessarily factually- 
based. Part of that overreach resulted in a New Zealand judge granting  
Kim Dotcom bail despite US authorities insisting that the court keep  
him locked up. Now things are getting even worse, as a court has  
declared the restraining order issued in the case as "null and void"  
and having "no legal effect" after law enforcement admitted to making  
a significant series of procedural errors. The end result may mean  
that everything seized from Dotcom -- including his money, cars and  
other goods... may need to be returned.

The police apparently realized this and tried to apply for the proper  
restraining order after the fact, explaining to the judge that they  
had made five specific errors in the initial application. The judge is  
now figuring out what to do and whether or not this means that the  
government needs to return Dotcom's property. Of course, there's a  
good chance that the judge will allow the government to continue to  
hold the property and admit merely that "mistakes were made" and that  
they've now been corrected. However, given how many mistakes we've  
already seen in this case -- and the apparent carelessness with which  
so much of it happened -- it leads you to wonder how many other  
"errors" or shortcuts law enforcement in both New Zealand and the US  
took in bringing this case forward.

It's no secret that Dotcom's larger-than-life persona has been an easy  
target in the attacks on Megaupload, but it's beginning to appear that  
law enforcement assumed that just because the guy is an obnoxious show- 
off with a criminal past that it didn't need to actually follow all  
the rules in bringing a case against him this time. That's not how the  
judicial system is supposed to work.
82 Comments
FAA Admits That It's Going To Rethink Whether You Can Use Kindles &  
Tablets On Takeoff & Landing ((Mis)Uses of Technology)
by Mike Masnick from the about-time dept on Monday, March 19th, 2012 @  
3:33AM
It's been pretty clear for quite some time that there's no real safety  
reason why electronics are barred during takeoff and landing on  
airplanes. Furthermore, there's no legitimate technological reason for  
not allowing mobile phones on planes either -- that one's more just  
about keeping other passengers from going into a rage at having to  
hear others' half-conversations. However, it seems that more and more  
people are getting annoyed that they can't use their snazzy new ebooks  
or tablet computers (not just iPads, mind you) on airplane take-off  
and landings. Nick Bilton, over at the NY Times, asked the FAA what  
was up with that, and they admitted that they're taking "a fresh look"  
at those devices and whether or n ot they should be allowed to be used  
at those times. Of course, as he notes, this might just lead to a  
bunch of bureaucratic red tape -- including every possible device  
having to go through significant testing:
Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin  
America, explained that the current guidelines require that an airline  
must test each version of a single device before it can be approved by  
the F.A.A. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the  
iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad,  
each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane.

It would have to do the same for every version of the Kindle. It would  
have to do it for every different model of plane in its fleet. And  
American, JetBlue, United, Air Wisconsin, etc., would have to do the  
same thing. (No wonder the F.A.A. is keeping smartphones off the table  
since there are easily several hundred different models on the market.)

Ms. Lunardini added that Virgin America would like to perform these  
tests, but the current guidelines make it “prohibitively expensive,  
especially for an airline with a relatively small fleet that is always  
in the air on commercial flights like ours.”
But, hopefully, a better, more efficient process can be found, and  
people will actually be able to use these devices on airplanes that  
aren't just over 10,000 feet...
60 Comments
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