Congressmen ask ad companies to pretend SOPA is law, break anti-trust

A murder of Congresscritters and Senators have told Internet ad-brokers that they expect them to behave as though SOPA passed into law (instead of suffering hideous, total defeat); they want the companies to establish a secret, unaccountable blacklist of "pirate" sites. The group comprises Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Adam Schiff, and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Orrin Hatch. This isn't just a terrible idea, it's also an obviously illegal antitrust violation, as Mitch Stoltz from the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out: Read the rest

This Day in Blogging History: Lamar "SOPA" Smith is Congress's new science czar; Shatnerquake!; MIT's hilarious Jack Valenti exit interview

One year ago today SOPA's daddy is now in charge of government science funding, and he hates peer-review: The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress.

Five years ago today Shatnerquake: bizarro novel about every Shatner character sucked into reality to hunt down William Shatner: Shatnerquake! It's the first ShatnerCon with William Shatner as the guest of honor! But after a failed terrorist attack by Campbellians, a crazy terrorist cult that worships Bruce Campbell, all of the characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William

Ten years ago today MIT makes Jack Valenti look like an idiot: The Tech interviews the MPAA's outgoing spokesmonster Jack Valenti, with hilarious results. Read the rest

Obama official responsible for copyright chapters of TPP & ACTA gets a job at MPAA; his replacement is another copyright lobbyist

Stan McCoy is the assistant US Trade Representative who oversaw the creation of the disastrous, far-reaching copyright provisions in ACTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership. He's left the Obama administration for a high-paid job at the MPAA, which represents companies that stood to reap massive profits and permanent control over Internet governance and innovation thanks to his efforts while in government. Now, the Obama administration has headhunted a software industry lobbyist (who supported SOPA) to take over his job. McCoy is one of more than a dozen USTR officials who've left the government to work for copyright lobbying bodies, including former Obama copyright czar Victoria Espinel, who now gets her paycheck from the Business Software Alliance.

Timothy Lee has an excellent piece on the revolving-door relationship between the USTR and the entertainment industry and other copyright lobbyists. When Obama was campaigning for office, he vowed that "lobbyists won't work in my White House." Read the rest

Obama whirls the copyright lobbyist/government official revolving door

The Obama administration has a new negotiator in its effort to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretly negotiated treaty that includes broad powers to censor and surveil the Internet: Robert Holleyman, one of the chief SOPA lobbyists. Holleyman just retired from serving as head of the Business Software Alliance. His successor is Victoria Espinel, who just quit the Obama administration, where she served as "IP Czar." Obama promised to shut down the revolving door between lobbyists and government, but it's spinning quicker than ever. Read the rest

Self-published ebooks: the surprising data from Amazon

Hugh Howey, author of the bestselling, indie-original science fiction series Wool, has published an eye-popping, and important data-rich report on independent author earnings from ebooks sold on Amazon. Howey makes a good case that the "average" author earns more from a self published book than she would through one of the Big Five publishers, and, what's more, that this holds true for all sorts of outliers (the richest indie authors outperform the richest Big Five authors; less-prolific indies do better than less-prolific traditionals, etc).

Howey's report includes a lot of raw data and makes a lot of very important points. It certainly is an aid to authors wondering whether to do business with major publishers or go it alone. I read it with great interest.

I think that there are a couple of important points that Howey skirts, if not eliding them altogether. The most important of these is that all the authors Howey studies live and die by the largesse of one company: Amazon. This is the same company whose audiobook division, Audible, requires authors to lock their products to its store with non-optional DRM, and which has no real competitors in its space. So it is neither an angel by nature, nor is it subject to strong competitive pressures that would cause it to treat authors well when its own self-interest would cause it to treat them badly. As bad as it is to have a publishing world with only five major publishers in it -- a monoposony in which a tiny handful of companies converge on terms and practices that are ultimately more to their benefit than those of authors, it's even worse to have a world in which a single company controls the entire market. Read the rest

Join Boing Boing, Reddit, and websites all over the world on the 11th to fight mass surveillance

In two days, the Internet will erupt in a protest to rival the uprising against SOPA: in Aaron Swartz's memory, websites everywhere will add code from to their templates, helping to flood Congress -- and the world's legislative bodies -- with calls for an end to mass surveillance.

In America, we're demanding that Congress pass The USA Freedom Act, restoring the Fourth Amendment protection that Americans have enjoyed for hundreds of years. If you have a website (a Tumblr, a blog) then you -- like us -- can add the code to your template today, and on the 11th, it will go live.

The Day We Fight Back - February 11th 2014 Read the rest

Extorted out of a one-character Twitter ID by a hacker who seized control of Godaddy domains

Naoki Hiroshima was lucky enough to snag a one-character Twitter username: @N. Over the years, he'd been offered large sums -- as much as $50,000 -- for the name, but he kept it. Then, according to a horrifying first-person account, a hacker socially engineered the last four digits of his credit-card out of Paypal, used that information to seize control of his Godaddy account, and threated to trash all of Hiroshima's websites unless Hiroshima transferred @N to the hacker. The hacker also seized control of Hiroshima's Facebook account. The attack took place over the Martin Luther King, Jr day holiday, and Hiroshima couldn't get his case escalated to anyone at Twitter, Godaddy or Paypal while it was taking place, and so he lost his domain. All three companies now say that they're looking into his story. Hiroshima offers some helpful advice on avoiding his fate (use two-factor authentication, mostly).

I'd add that it's generally good practice to avoid Godaddy, because they're SOPA-supporting sellout scum, and they suck. Read the rest

Save the Internet: Stop Fast Track

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "Want to help save democracy? The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a super-secretive trade agreement that threatens everything you care about. It's been negotiated behind closed doors with ample input from over 600 corporate lobbyists -- but no access for journalists or the public. Sound bad? It gets worse. The corporate interest groups pushing for the TPP are the same folks that brought us SOPA, ACTA, and NAFTA." Read the rest

Calling on the global Internet to keep the world free of mass government spying

A broad coalition of businesses, civil society groups, activists, and individuals (including Boing Boing) are planning a global day of action against surveillance for February 11, in memory of Aaron Swartz and in the service of a dream for an Internet that serves liberty and hope instead of spying and control. Much of the rhetoric about curbing American spying has focused on domestic surveillance, and the right of Americans to be free from warrantless, suspicionless surveillance from their government. But there's a lot of us who aren't Americans and don't live in America and we deserve to be free, too. Katitza Rodriguez from the Electronic Frontier Foundation tackles the global agenda for February 11th in a post that calls on the global Internet to get involved in making the Internet into a force for freedom. Read the rest

Remembering Aaron Swartz

It's been a year since Aaron Swartz killed himself. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Parker Higgins has posted a memorial to him that I found quite moving. I miss Aaron a lot.

I've been feeling pretty hopeless about the future lately, and I think a lot of it has been driven by the impending anniversary of Aaron's death. The last couple years were hard ones. Read the rest

Coalition to fight mass Internet surveillance declares global day of action, Feb 11

A broad coalition of organizations -- including Boing Boing -- have joined forces to declare February 11 a day of action in memory of Aaron Swartz and against NSA Internet spying and mass surveillance. Just as we did with the SOPA fight, we're asking people who care about this to make their own personal expressions of resistance, and take the case for caring about this and fighting back to the people closest to them. Each of us knows the arguments that will convince our friends and loved ones.

The Day We Fight Back sets out a number of ways you can participate, small and large. This is a fight we can win. Read the rest

Digital Rights Ireland needs help! Nearly bankrupt after fighting record industry censorship

Antoin sez, "Digital Rights Ireland has done great work challenging mass surveillance laws before the European Court of Justice. But it could now be shut down by the music industry if it can't pay legal bills arising from Internet blocking litigation." Read the rest

King James Programming: Markov chain trained on the Bible and a comp sci textbook

Michael Walker trained a Markov chain with the King James Bible and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a classic computer science textbook. The result is King James Programming, a tumblr filled with comp-sci-inflected biblespeak. I could read it all day long. Read the rest

Studios increase MPAA funding to $66.8M

The latest tax-filings by the MPAA show that the studios have increased their membership dues to $66.8 million -- up 50 percent. Former Senator Chris Dodd, the architect of the failed SOPA law, has gotten a raise to $3.3M/year. MPAA staffing levels are still down 20% after 2011's layoff of 44 people. Read the rest

Wikileaks publishes the "Internet Chapter" of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (SOPA's back)

Wikileaks has published the Internet Chapter of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade-deal negotiated between corporate leaders and government reps without any democratic oversight (the US Trade Rep wouldn't share TPP drafts with Congress, and now it is headed for fast-tracking into law). TorrentFreak has parsed out the text, and compares it to SOPA, the brutal US copyright law that collapsed in the face of massive public protest. The treaty is reportedly at a "negotiated stalemate" thanks to the US Trade Rep, who has refused to bend on treaty provisions that other nations objected to. Read the rest

Big Brother Bundle: name your price for surveillance-related media

Jamie from Vodo sez, "VODO has a new 'Big Brother Bundle' coming out today. It's a crossmedia, themed bundle on the crucial topic of surveillance - curated by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. It's pay what you like, time-limited and we're trying to raise awareness around these issues + donate to a charity working around this area."

There's some amazing books, comics, games, music and videos here, and the chance to get free iPredator service. The nominated charity is the excellent, SOPA-killing Fight for the Future. Read the rest

Report shows how the anti-SOPA fight came from the bottom up

Social Mobilization and the Networked Public Sphere: Mapping the SOPA-PIPA Debate is a scholarly paper by Yochai Benkler (et al) that analyzes the links, traffic and spread of the anti-SOPA campaign to see how the story went from an obscure area of wonkish concern to a massive Internet-scale shitstorm that put millions of phone-calls through to Congress and ultimately killed a bill that was tipped to be a sure thing. In the wake of SOPA, a lot of inside-the-Beltway commentators assured their constituencies that the SOPA fight wasn't really any kind of grassroots effort -- it was led by Google, or Wikipedia, or someone. It wasn't masses of people making such a big noise that Google (et al) were finally able to lend their support without getting clobbered by their policy people.

As Benkler and co show, the truth is that this really was a bottom-up, grassroots effort. I knew that, but it's nice to have it all laid out in black and white here. Read the rest

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