Boing Boing 

GOP declares war on itself

GOP power-brokers have raised a $50M war-chest to fight the nomination of "fools" to GOP seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. Effectively, the Republican big-business-friendly establishment has declared war on the Tea Party, in an effort to ensure donors that the slate will not be full of what Matt Taibbi calls "a bottomless pit of brainless Bachmanns and Cruzes and Santorums, all convinced our Harvard-educated president is a sleeper-cell Arab and that Satan is a literal being intent on conquering Nebraska with U.N. troops."

Taibbi is, as always, fucking incandescent on the subject. He points out the delicious irony of svengalis like Karl Rove and Dick Armey -- who put GW Bush in the White House by gleefully pandering to the ignorant and prejudiced with "faith-based initiatives" to bring in "the nuts" (as Rove calls evangelicals when he thinks he's in private) and Swift-Boating -- now having to keep those people from derailing the party and scaring off all the millionaires and billionaires.

If they're going to keep on donating to the GOP, they need to be assured that the party's elected reps understand that gay marriage and no-abortion-for-rape-victims are just distracting side-shows to win votes, and should be set aside once in office to pursue the serious business of looting the nation and spying on everyone to prevent any kind of popular uprising.

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Happy Public Domain Day: works that would enter public domain today, but for copyright extension


Jennifer Jenkins from the Duke Center for the Public Domain writes, "What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2014? Under the law that existed until 1978 -- Works from 1957. The books 'On The Road,' 'Atlas Shrugged,' and 'The Cat in the Hat,' the films 'The Bridge on the River Kwai,' '12 Angry Men,' and 'Funny Face,' the musical 'West Side Story' and the songs 'All Shook Up' and 'Great Balls of Fire,' and more -- What is entering the public domain this January 1? Not a single published work."

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Replace bank chiefs with small dogs: Chinese top economist


China's former chief economist has excoriated the nation's banking system, which charges high fees and maintains a greedy-large gap between its deposit interest and lending interest rates.

Such a business provides no value, and is merely parasitic on the people: "With this kind of operational model, banks will continue making money even if all the bank presidents go home to sleep and you replaced them by putting a small dog in their seats."

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Utility companies go to war against solar


Utility companies across America are fighting solar, imposing high fees on homeowners who install their own solar panels to feed back into the grid. This one was predictable from a long, long way out -- energy companies being that special horror-burrito made from a core of hot, chewy greed wrapped in a fluffy blanket of regulatory protection, fixed in their belief that they have the right to profit from all power used, whether or not their supply it.

Bruce Sterling once proposed that Americans should be encouraged to drive much larger trucks, big enough to house monster fuel-cells that are kept supplied with hydrogen by decentralized windmill and solar installations -- when they are receiving more power than is immediately needed, they use the surplus to electrolyze water and store the hydrogen in any handy nearby monster-trucks' cells. When the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining, you just plug your house into your enormous American-Dream-mobile -- no need for a two-way grid.

This solution wasn't just great because it aligned the core American value of driving really large cars with environmental protection, but also because it was less vulnerable to sabotage from hydrocarbon-addicted energy companies.

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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.

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Bletchley's cybersecurity exhibit will not mention Edward Snowden; McAfee's sponsorship blamed

Bletchley Park's historical exhibit on cybersecurity will not mention Edward Snowden -- possibly the most significant figure in the world of contemporary cybersecurity -- because its corporate sponsor, McAfee, has prohibited them from doing so. A collection of MPs and other government figures have written to Bletchley Park museum to urge them to reconsider. As the Tory MP Dominic Raab says, "Either it's a history exhibition or it's not."

The omission raises disturbing questions about the integrity of Bletchley Park as an independent historical institution, and of the quality of oversight it receives from its board. If the McAfee sponsorship came with the kind of strings attached that prohibited neutral exploration of relevant, even crucial, factual material, it's a sponsorship that never should have been accepted.

I have a letter from the Friends of Bletchley Park on my desk at the office, and I was planning on renewing my membership when I got back from the holidays. This has made me rethink my support of the institution, and now I'm not so sure. I certainly hope that Bletchley reconsiders this decision and upholds its reputation as an institution committed to integrity and education.

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Crowdfunding legal challenge by a Texas family whose farm was stolen by Keystone XL

Alan sez, "So there's this woman who decided she wasn't going to give Keystone XL passage rights through her land in Texas. Not even for the few tens of thousands of dollars they offered. And then the story gets weird. In Texas, companies (like TransCanada) can use eminent domain. All they have to do is declare themselves a 'common carrier' which is apparently a one-page form you have to fill out. Keystone did that and then took Julia Crawford's land."

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Music publishers claim to own "Silent Night" & ripoff indie Youtube singer; ContentID helps them do it

Adam the Alien has a Youtube channel that earns him some money through Youtube's "monetization" service, which inserts ads and gives him a cut of the money. It worked fine until Youtube's notorious "Content ID" system let some of the biggest music publishers in the world lay claim to the copyright in Adam's video, on the basis that his rendition of "Silent Night" belonged to them -- despite having been composed in 1818 and being firmly in the public domain. Once their claims had been laid, all the money his video generated was diverted to them.

The companies that laid claim to Adam's video are the publishing arms of the biggest record labels on the planet -- BMG, Warner/Chappell, and Universal Music Publishing Group -- and they use an automated system to identify videos and claim them. There is no penalty for automatically generated claims over things that the publishers have nothing to do with, and so, unsurprisingly, their copyright bots are fantastically sloppy and operate with little or no human oversight.

It's a perfect storm of stupidity and greed: Google has given the big publishers a platform that rewards fraudulent claims over indie creators' work; the publishers responded by making plenty of such claims, and all the while decrying "piracy" as the great evil of our day.

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NSF study shows more than 90% of US businesses view copyright, patent and trademark as "not important"


In March 2012, the National Science Foundation released the results of its "Business Research and Development and Innovation Survey" study, a rigorous, careful, wide-ranging longitudinal study on the use of trademark, copyright, and patents in American business. The study concluded that, overall, most businesses don't rate these protections as a significant factor in their success (in 2010, 87.2% said trademarks were "not important"; 90.1% said the same of copyright, and 96.2% said the same of patents).

What's striking about the survey is that even fields that are traditionally viewed as valuing these protections were surprisingly indifferent to them -- for example, only 51.4% of software businesses rated copyright as "very important."

In a very good post, GWU Political Science PhD candidate Gabriel J. Michael contrasts the obscurity of this landmark study with the incredible prominence enjoyed by a farcical USPTO study released last year that purported to show that "the entire U.S. economy relies on some form of IP" and that "IP-intensive industries" created 40 million American jobs in 2010. The study's methodology was a so sloppy as to be unsalvageable -- for example, the study claimed that anyone who worked at a grocery store was a beneficiary of "strong IP protection."

The NSF study doesn't merely totally refute the USPTO's findings, it does so using a well-documented, statistically valid, neutral methodology that was calculated to find the truth, rather than scoring political points for the copyright lobby. It's a study in contrasts between evidence-based policy production and policy-based evidence production.

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Oklahoma City cops charge Keystone XL protesters with "terrorism hoax" because their banner shed some glitter


Two protesters who held up an anti-Keystone-XL-pipeline banner at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Devon Energy have been charged with perpetrating a "terrorism hoax" because some of the glitter on their banner fell on the floor and was characterized by OKC cops as a "hazardous substance."

The arrest is an extreme example, but it's not an isolated one. Indeed, leaked documents show that TransCanada has an army of spies assembling dossiers on protesters, and has been briefing the FBI and local law on techniques for prosecuting anti-pipeline protesters as terrorists.

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Chief cable lobbyist: data caps were never about network congestion, always about profit

Michael Powell used to be the head of the FCC. Now he's the cable operators' chief lobbyist. In a recent speech, he admitted that the cable operators' long-running push for caps on data-usage had nothing to do with congestion, which isn't really a problem for them. Instead, they pursued data-caps as a way of making more money from their customers.

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Italy passes Internet censorship laws: regulator can censor sites on 12 days' notice without judicial review

Italy has passed an Internet censorship bill that allows for a regulator to order the national blocking of websites without judicial review. If the website's operator wants to come to Italy to object, they have as little as 12 days to do so. ISPs that fail to comply with the censorship orders face fines of €250,000 per day.

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Secretive TPP treaty could kill creator's right to get copyrights back from studios, labels and publishers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has new analysis of the leaked Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty, a secretive trade deal being hammered out without any public oversight, and set to be fast-tracked through the US Congress without substantial debate. EFF's piece focuses on the treaty's provisions that affect "termination rights," an obscure but important part of copyright law that allows creators to take their assigned copyrights back from the companies who bought them after 35 years. The studios, labels and publishers hate this, as it allows creators who scored big hits early in their careers when they were getting paid peanuts for their work to take those successful works back and re-sell them at a more appropriate price. EFF's view is that the TPP draft endangers Termination Rights.

It's more proof that just because many creators are on the side of the big entertainment companies, it doesn't follow that the companies are on the side of their creators. Any creator who endorses TPP, thinking that expansions to copyright will always benefit them, had better look again: TPP is a way of taking away one of the most valuable rights that creators have and handing it over to Big Content to make billions off of.

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Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership sucks: short, funny animation

Spocko sez, "Here's a short animated video explaining why the Trans-Pacific Partnership sucks. starring my imitation of Ross Perot! Remember, Ross knew all about the 'Giant sucking sound from the South' that became NAFTA. I pulled concepts from both the left and the right to inform this video."

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Elsevier censors self-publication by papers' co-authors


Joly writes, "Sauropod specialist Mike Taylor notes growing concern among scientists about the heavy-handed takedown practices of academic publishing company Elsevier, including serving DMCA notices on contributing authors who also self-publish their papers. (Thanks, Joly!)

AT&T to transparency-seeking shareholders: shut up and take what you're given

Alan writes, "In a formal response to a motion by shareholders to get a vote requiring AT&T to publish a transparency report the telecom giant has said, essentially, it's none of your business."

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How the TPP will gut environmental protection


I've posted a bunch about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a shadowy, secretive trade deal that will have a disastrous effect on the Internet, privacy and free speech, thanks to the brutal copyright provisions the US Trade Rep has crammed into it. But that's not the whole story.

Michael sez, "You might be interested to know the TPP looks terrible for environmental protection too, due to a proposed mechanism called 'investor-state arbitration'. Basically this'd allow investors to sue countries for passing legislation detrimental to the financial interests of those investors. Yep, think environmental protections, workers' rights laws and any other kind of public protection that might reduce a profit margin.

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ACTA about to be quietly written into Canadian law


Widespread, global protests killed ACTA, the secretive, over-reaching "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," which imposed brutal copyright rules on its signatories. But now, the Canadian Conservatives have introduced Bill C-8, which turns ACTA's provisions into Canadian law, and they're fast-tracking it through with little debate or public input.

If passed, C-8 will further criminalize infringement (that is, put Canadians in jail for watching TV or listening to the radio the wrong way), turn the police into private copyright enforcers for the American entertainment industry, and interfere with the trade in legal generic drugs and other products.

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How big corporations and government spy agencies surveil and sabotage activist groups

In Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations [PDF] a November 2013 report from a DC thinktank called The Center for Corporate Policy, researcher Gary Ruskin documents the scary, corrupt relationship between major corporations, private security firms, and secret police agencies like the FBI. These entities engage in highly militarized spying and sabotage campaigns against activist organizations from Greenpeace to the Camp for Climate Action, to Occupy and more; planting spies and provocateurs in their midst, compiling dossiers on organizers, and going through their trash for evidence of plans. Included in the opposition are active-duty CIA agents, who are allowed to moonlight for private clients in their off-hours, and the FBI, whose involvement in corporate anti-activist espionage was condemned in a 2010 report from the Office of the Inspector General in the US Justice Department.

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Europeans: help stop the export of digital arms from the EU!


Marietje Schaake, the EU's most tech-savvy MEP, writes, "Recently I launched a global campaign against the trade in digital arms from the EU: stopdigitalarms.eu It is unacceptable that EU-made technologies are still exported, deployed and operated by European companies to third countries without oversight."

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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.

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Germany threatens to jail Carl Malamud for making the law available for free


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "One of the most important public safety laws in Europe is Dir. 2001/95/EC which regulates general product safety. Public.Resource.Org, in our ongoing quest to make legally-mandated public safety codes available, purchased the German instantiation of 40 of these essential codes and made them available on the Internet. Every country in the EU is required to implement and publish these standards.

"Imagine our surprise when we were served notice to appear in Hamburg District Court in Germany."

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Wikimedia sends legal threat to WikiPR over sockpuppetry and meatpuppetry


Wikimedia, the nonprofit that oversees the Wikipedia project, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to WikiPR, an astroturfing company that pays people to distort Wikipedia entries on behalf of clients who want to erase embarrassing history or boost their image (or both). WikiPR is thought to be behind hundreds of sockpuppet accounts that made thousands of edits over several years.

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Data visualization shows US isolation in pushing for brutal Trans-Pacific Partnership


Gabriel Michael, a PhD candidate at George Washington University, subjected the IP Chapter of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaked by Wikileaks last week to statistical analysis. The leaked draft has extensive footnotes indicating each country's negotiating positions. By analyzing the frequency with which the US appears as the sole objector to other nations' positions, and when the US is the sole proponent of clauses to which other nations object, Michael was able to show that TPP really is an American-run show pushing an American agenda, not a multilateral trade deal being negotiated to everyone's mutual benefit. Though Canada is also one of the main belligerents, with even more unilateral positions than the USA.

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G4S rips off UK government for £24M, wants to continue receiving government contracts

G4S, the titanic security contractor, has admitted to overcharging the UK Ministry of Justice £24M for its contract to monitor offenders' tracking tags. This is the latest mass-scale cock-up from the wildly profitable firm, whose recent hall of shame includes forging documents in order to deport asylum seekers, catastrophic failure to deliver London Olympics security, and complete mismanagement of a South African prison.

G4S offered to return the money, but the Ministry of Justice rejected the offer.

The firm is anxious to retain its eligiblility to bid on future government contracts, including the private municipal police forces for which it has aggressively lobbied.

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TPP's worst evil: making all future copyright reform impossible

In an excellent editorial, Michael Masnick explains what's so nefarious about the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- the secretive trade treaty whose IP chapter leaked yesterday. As Masnick explains, the worst aspect of this treaty is that it locks in all of our present, overreaching copyright rules, effectively making it impossible for Congress and the Copyright Office to continue their present work on modernizing copyright for the digital age, and ensuring that they can never do so in future:

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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.

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Muzzling Canadian scientists: Comparing US and Canadian routine scientific secrecy


Canada's Conservative government has become notorious for muzzling government scientists, requiring them to speak through political minders (often callow twentysomethings with no science background who received government jobs in exchange for their work on election campaigns). Government scientists are not allowed to speak to the press alone no matter how trivial the subject, and the default position when reporters seek interviews is to turn them down. (Much of Canada's state-funded science pertains to the climate and the environment; Canada's Tories were elected with strong backing from the dirty tar sands and other polluting industries)

A group of University of British Columbia students decided to measure just how extraordinarily secretive science has become in Stephen Harper's Canada. Dave Ng writes:

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Experian sold consumer data to identity thieves' service


Experian, the massive data-broker with far-reaching influence over your ability to get a mortgage, credit-card, or job, sold extensive consumer records to an identity thieves' service called Superget.info. Superget specialized in supplying identity thieves with "fullz" -- full records of their victims, useful for impersonating them and for knowing where their assets are. Experian sold the data through a third part called "Court Ventures" -- which they later acquired -- and the sales continued for about a year. Experian bills itself as a service for people worried about identity theft. It's not clear whether Experian will face any penalty for the wrongdoing.

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Insurance industry pricing climate risk as a dead certainty

Insurance underwriters generally operate in the real world, where science trumps ideology (that's why terrorism insurance is pretty darned cheap -- despite the politically successful posturing of our leaders, terrorism just isn't a very big threat). That's why climate change insurance costs big bucks -- insurers know that it's real, it's coming, and it's really, really bad news.

The difference between the general Big Business propaganda intended to sow doubt about climate science and the cold, hard economic reality of underwriting the risk of climate catastrophe is telling. It's like the Texas Young Earth Creationists who profess a public belief in the 5,000-year-old Biblically accurate planet, but still allow their geoscientists to direct oil-drilling operations in accord with the blasphemous four-billion-year-old Earth. Money talks, bullshit walks.

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