Inside a Supreme Court case on cheerleader uniforms, a profound question about copyright

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Copyright protects creative expression, but not utilitarian forms: that's why the silkscreened art on your t-shirt is copyrightable, but the t-shirt's design itself is not. Read the rest

High profits mean capitalism is cooked

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From The Economist to the White House Council of Economic Advisers to Goldman Sachs itself, the staunchest supporters of capitalism are worried about the consistently high profit margins in key industries, especially finance. Read the rest

From dingo babysitter to net neutrality hero: Tom Wheeler's legacy

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When Obama appointed Tom Wheeler, formerly the top lobbyist for both the cable industry and the mobile phone industry to run the FCC, many people (including me) were outraged at the idea of putting such an insider in charge of keeping his own former employers honest (it didn't help that AT&T and Comcast both issued triumphant press releases at the news). Read the rest

Error 53: Apple remotely bricks phones to punish customers for getting independent repairs

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Iphone 6s that have been repaired by independent service centers are bricking themselves, seemingly permanently, with a cryptic message about "Error 53." Read the rest

Toronto City Council defies mayor, demands open, neutral municipal broadband

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After years of fumbling, deference and mismanagement, Canada's telcoms regulator, the CRTC, laid down a landmark net neutrality rule and demanded that Bell, the nationally founded telcoms giant, would have to share its infrastructure with new entrants to the market. Read the rest

The End of the Internet Dream: the speech that won Black Hat (and Defcon)

"The End of the Internet Dream," cyberlawyer Jennifer Granick's keynote at Black Hat, was all anyone could talk about at this year's Defcon -- Black Hat being the grown-up, buttoned-down, military-industrial cousin to Defcon's wild and exuberant anarchy. Read the rest

Google anti-trust action is dumb, but the EU should be worried about online giants

My latest Guardian column, Can anything curb the dominance of the internet's big guns? points out that everything governments do to tame the online giants has no effect on them -- but makes it nearly impossible for new companies to compete with them. Read the rest

Windows 10 announcement: certified hardware can lock out competing OSes

Microsoft has announced a relaxation of its "Secure Boot" guidelines for OEMs, allowing companies to sell computers pre-loaded with Windows 10 that will refuse to boot any non-Microsoft OS. Read the rest

Consumer groups tell DoJ to block Comcast/Time Warner merger

If it goes through, Comcast will control an unimaginable swath of American Internet access -- that's a hell of a lot of power to give the Worst Company in America. Read the rest

Oligopolistic America: anti-competitive, unequal, and deliberate

A brilliant, enraging op-ed in the Washington Post from analysts from the New America Foundation and the American Antitrust Institute shows how the Reagan-era policy of encouraging monopolistic corporate behavior has made America unequal and uncompetitive, creating a horror Gilded Age where the Congressional consensus is that laws cannot possibly put a check on bad corporate actors.

It's another look at the problems set out in Matt Taibbi's brilliant book The Divide, tracing the policies that created both the private prison industry and banks so big that even the most depraved criminality can't be punished lest the bank tremble and collapse on wider society.

Particularly galling and illuminating is a quote from a Goldman Sachs report that advises investors to seek out "oligopolistic market structure[s]" where there's "lower competitive intensity, greater stickiness and pricing power with customers due to reduced choice" as the ideal way to maximize your return on capital. Read the rest

FCC Chairman's competition promise means nothing

Cable lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to "balance" his attempt to nuke Net Neutrality by promising to override state laws that prohibit cities from setting up their own broadband networks. But it's a largely meaningless gesture: practically every big city in America is locked into a decade-long contractual "franchise" arrangement with a big cable company. Read the rest

Frontier takes over Verizon's network, complaints fall by 68%

Since 2010, the lucky people of West Virginia have gotten their local phone/Internet service from Frontier Communications, who bought the business from noted shit-shovelers Verizon. In a mere four years, complaints about phone service have plummeted by 68 percent, and 88 percent of their customers now have access to broadband. The company has also installed a 2,600-mile-long fiber loop. There is nothing intrinsic about operating a phone network that makes your company into a horror-show, but once the telcos get big, they turn into some of the worst companies in the world. Read the rest

Toxic Avenger's brilliant rant about the importance of Net Neutrality

Lloyd Kaufman, cofounder of Troma Entertainment (the people who brought us such films as the Toxic Avenger) has a brilliant, profane, and stirring editorial in support of Net Neutrality on Techdirt. Kaufman explains how an open Internet is the only competitve hedge against the communications giants that own "cinemas, newspapers, T.V. stations, radio and even Broadway 'legitimate' theaters." Thanks to the failure of the FCC to give Net Neutrality their full protection, and the court ruling that gutted the FCC's weak protections, Net Neutrality is in real trouble. Kaufman's editorial a great arguments for its preservation. Read the rest

Hanes's threat to Hanes Hummus: people might mistake chickpeas for underwear!

Canada's Hanes Hummus has received a legal threat from Hanesbrands, Inc, who make underwear and other textiles, demanding that the four-person company change its name lest the public begin to tragically confuse chickpea paste with undergarments. Hanes Hummus's lawyer wrote a spirited and funny letter explaining why Hanesbrands shouldn't be worried about a separate Hanes trademark over dips and spreads, but given the relative size of the two parties, it seems likely that Hanes Hummus will lose its fight if Hanesbrands continues to play the bully.

"Hanes" is short for Yohannes. Hanes Hummus's founder is named Yohannes Petros. He filed for a trademark on "Hanes Hummus" in Canada and the US. Read the rest

Cyanogenmod installer removed from Google Play store

Two weeks ago, the one-click Cyanogenmod installer hit the Google Play store, making it possible to switch from the stock Android operating system to a more free, more open version without any special expertise. Yesterday, Google asked Cyanogenmod to remove the installer, because using it voids your device's warranty. I've downloaded other apps from the Play Store that root your device and void the warranty, so this seems like a very selective enforcement to me.

In any event, Cyanogenmod's installer can be "sideloaded" into your device without having to go through the Play Store (one of the advantages of Android is that it doesn't attempt to prevent you from installing unapproved software). Hundreds of thousands of people used the Play Store version, and we can hope that it remains in use, even without Google's official support. Read the rest

Dear airline execs: crowing about new fees and price hikes before your merger makes the DoJ mad

The DoJ has filed suit to block the merger of US Air and American Airlines, because they've noticed that while the airlines' executives publicly gave the reason for the merger as "synergies" and efficiency, they told the industry that the merger would allow them to jack up prices and charge more fees. Pictured to the right, Scott Kirby the US Air President who took to the podium at a conference to say it was "impossible to overstate the benefit" of the new fees he'd be able to charge after a merger. Read the rest

The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon, and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-Book Business Overnight

Andrew Albanese, my editor at Publishers Weekly, has been tracking the antitrust action the DoJ brought against the big six publishers and Apple over price-fixing very carefully, and he's written a great-looking, DRM-free ebook about it called "The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon, and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-Book Business Overnight." Here's what he had to say about it:

It is mostly about the backstory of the case, how publishers' antipathy to $9.99 led them to what turned out to be a pretty fateful decision. It is also available in all the major e-book stores, Sony, B&N, Apple, and Amazon. Amazingly, Amazon is featuring it on their Singles home page here in the U.S.

So one note that might be of interest to you, I was surprised to learn in writing this essay how little the publishers negotiated their initial e-book retail terms back when the e-book market was just beginning. And, more to the point, that the thought they did put into e-books was all related to the negative aspects of digital: how to stop piracy, DRM, controlling unauthorized use. This is kind of where this whole legal saga begins. When Amazon came to launch the Kindle in 2007, the publishers were so focused on the bad things that digital might bring that they never really considered, hey, what if this e-book thing really works? What if this Kindle thing takes off?

Remember, at the time Amazon launched the Kindle, the publishers were stumping for the Google Settlement, so their attention was focused more on stopping the digitization and indexing of long out-of-print books that were making money for no one.

Read the rest

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