Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Judge tells porno copyright troll that an IP address does not identify a person

In Florida, District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has dismissed a suit brought by notorious porno-copyright trolls Malibu Media on the grounds that an IP address does not affirmatively identify a person, and so they cannot sue someone solely on the basis of implicating an IP address in an infringement. This is a potentially important precedent, as it effectively neutralizes the business-model of copyright trolls, who use IP addresses as the basis for court orders to ISPs to turn over their customers' addresses, which are then inundated with threatening letters. The porno copyright trolls have a distinctly evil wrinkle on this, too: they threaten their victims with lawsuits that will forever associate the victims' names with embarrassing pornographic video-titles, often with gay themes.

Read the rest

LAPD says every car in Los Angeles is part of an ongoing criminal investigation


The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to figure out what the LAPD is doing with the mountains (and mountains) of license-plate data that they're harvesting in the city's streets without a warrant or judicial oversight. As part of the process, they've asked the LAPD for a week's worth of the data they're collecting, and in their reply brief, the LAPD argues that it can't turn over any license-plate data because all the license-plates they collect are part of an "ongoing investigation," because every car in Los Angeles is part of an ongoing criminal investigation, because some day, someone driving that car may commit a crime.

As EFF's Jennifer Lynch says, "This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity."

This reminds me of the NSA's argument that they're collecting "pieces of a puzzle" and Will Potter's rebuttal: "The reality is that the NSA isn't working with a mosaic or a puzzle. What the NSA is really advocating is the collection of millions of pieces from different, undefined puzzles in the hopes that sometime, someday, the government will be working on a puzzle and one of those pieces will fit." The same thing could be said of the LAPD.

Read the rest

Assistant AG admits he doesn't understand what Weev did, but he's sure it's bad

Andrew “weev” Auernheimer is serving a 41-month sentence for visiting a publicly available webpage and revealing that AT&T had not secured its customers' sensitive financial information. Now, weev's lawyers are appealing, and in the opening day's arguments, Assistant US Attorney Glenn Moramarco admitted I don’t even understand what [Auernheimer actually did.]" Then he compared it to blowing up a nuclear power-plant. Cory 33

Microsoft has always reserved the right to read and disclose your Hotmail messages

Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign (no relation) boastfully compared Hotmail's privacy framework to Gmail's, condemning Google for "reading your mail." Now, Microsoft has admitted that it scoured the Hotmail messages belonging the contacts of a suspected leaker in order to secure his arrest, and points out that Hotmail's terms of service have always given Microsoft the right to read your personal mail for any of a number nebulously defined, general reasons.

The company says that is had an undisclosed "rigorous process" to determine when it is allowed to read and publish your private email. In a statement, it sets out what the process will be from now on (though it doesn't say what the process has been until now) and vows to include the instances in which it reads its users' mail in its transparency reports, except when it is secretly reading the Hotmail accounts of people who also work for Microsoft.

Here's a PGP tool that claims to work with Hotmail, and would theoretically leave your Hotmail messages unreadable to Microsoft, though the company could still mine your metadata (subject lines, social graph, etc).

Read the rest

Tech companies to Senate Finance Committee chair Wyden: no Fast Track for TPP!

More than 25 tech companies -- including Happy Mutants, LLC, Boing Boing's parent company -- have signed onto a letter asking Senator Ron Wyden (chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) to oppose "Fast Track" for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a secretly negotiated trade agreement that allows for big corporations to trump national law, suing governments that pass regulations that limit their profits; it contains a notoriously harsh chapter on Internet regulation that will allow entertainment companies unprecedented power to surveil, censor, and control the Internet.

The US Trade Representative and the Obama administration have demanded that Congress give "Fast Track" status to the TPP, meaning that they would not be allowed to debate the individual clauses of the bill, and would only be able to vote it up or down. The treaty is likely to have lots of sweeteners that will make it hard for key lawmakers to reject it entirely, a manipulative maneuver that, combined with Fast Track, means that the treaty has a substantial chance of passing, even though it means Congress will be surrendering its power to make laws that impact on massive corporations.

Other signatories to the letter include Reddit, Techdirt, Imgur, Duckduckgo, Ifixit, Cheezburger, Automattic (WordPress), and many others.

Read the rest

EFF, Public Knowledge and Engine tell the USPTO how to improve patent quality

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and Engine have submitted comments [PDF] to the US Patent and Trademark Office explaining how examiners could improve the quality of patents that the USPTO issues by expanding their search for "prior art" (that is, evidence that the thing under discussion has already been invented) by building searchable databases, and by seeing through the common, misleading practices of using synonyms for common words to make obvious things sound new.

As EFF points out in its post on the filing, the real answer for this is action from Congress to reform patents and end patent-trolling, but these are all useful steps for the USPTO to take in the meantime.

Read the rest

On knife-crime island, teens are not allowed to buy spoons

The UK tabloid press spent a decade drumming up hysteria about teenage knife-crime, and MPs responded on cue, passing a series of meaningless, overbearing feel-good measures that require shops to refuse to sell anything knife-like to teenagers -- meaning that seventeen-year-old art students can't buy xacto blades, and 16-year-old carpenter's apprentices can't buy utility knives.

This silliness has burrowed deep into the automated systems and psyches of English society. A 16 year old boy who tried to buy a pack of teaspoons at a Tesco automated checkout was flagged for an "age check," and when an employee came to check it out, she or he explained to the teen that he was not allowed to buy any cutlery at all.

Tesco later apologised, but even the kid's stepmum says that she can understand why her stepson shouldn't be allowed to buy forks or butter knives, and the BBC story doesn't question why the state (or Tesco) should be intervening in teenagers' cutlery purchases -- why a kid who is old enough to marry and rent a flat isn't considered old enough to buy cutlery to eat with in that flat.

Read the rest

Miami Crimestoppers head eats a tip rather than hand it over to defense lawyer

Richard Masten is the executive director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, a service that promises anonymity to the people who send in tips on serious crimes. So when a judge ordered him to hand over a tip -- with potentially identifying information -- to a defendant's lawyer, he ate it.

As Lowering the Bar points out, this is probably more of a symbolic gesture than a real defense of his source's anonymity, since there's likely a file-copy at Crimestoppers itself. Masten is going back to court this week to receive a punishment from the judge: "I'll bring a toothbrush and some pajamas."

Read the rest

Australian attorney general wants the power to launch man-in-the-middle attacks on secure Internet connections


The Australian attorney general has mooted a proposal to require service providers to compromise their cryptographic security in order to assist in wiretaps. The proposal is given passing mention in a senate submission from the AG's office, where it is referenced as "intelligibility orders" that would allow "law enforcement, anti-corruption and national security agencies" to secure orders under which providers like Google, Facebook and Yahoo would have to escrow their cryptographic keys with the state in order to facilitate mass surveillance.

Edward Snowden referenced this possibility in his SXSW remarks, pointing out that any communications that are decrypted by service providers are vulnerable to government surveillance, because governments can order providers to reveal their keys. This is why Snowden recommended the use of "end-to-end" security, where only the parties in the discussion -- and not the software vendor -- have the ability to spy on users.

The "intelligibility order" is the same kind of order that led to the shutdown of Lavabit, the secure email provider used by Snowden, whose creator shut the service down rather than compromising his users' security.

Read the rest

Modeling privacy rules on environmental regulations

Michael Froomkin writes, "My latest privacy paper, Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements, has a new take on how to regulate mass surveillance in the US where the EU privacy model has not taken root, and where the 1st Amendment creates obstacles to stopping some data sharing."

Read the rest

Why DRM'ed coffee-pods may be just the awful stupidity we need


I've been thinking about the news that Keurig has added "DRM" to its pod coffee-makers since the story first started doing the rounds a couple of days ago. I've come to the conclusion that while the errand is a foolish one, and the company deserves nothing but contempt for such an anti-competitive move, that there might be a silver lining to this cloud. As I've written recently, there's not a lot of case-law on Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the law that prohibits "circumventing...effective means of access control" to copyrighted works. In the past, we've seen printer companies and garage door opener manufacturers claim that the software in their devices was a "copyrighted work" and that anyone who made a spare part for their products was thus violating 1201. But that was 10 years ago, and it's been a while since there was someone stupid and greedy enough to try that defense.

I think Keurig might just be that stupid, greedy company.

Read the rest

Feds drop link-related charges against Barrett Brown

The DoJ has filed a motion to dismiss charges against Barrett Brown related to republishing a link, an act they had previously characterized as a felony. Brown, a journalist, had posted links to the Anonymous dump of emails from private military contractor Stratfor. The US DoJ is still trying to put him in jail for putting his laptop in a cabinet ("obstruction of justice") and losing his shit and ranting about hurting the cops who were hounding him for pasting a link into a chat room (threatening acts). Cory 5

Robots and the law: what's after cyberlaw?


Ryan Calo, the organizer of the annual Stanford conference on Robots and the Law has written a new paper called Robotics and the New Cyberlaw , examining the new legal challenges posed by the presence of robots in our public spaces, homes and workplaces, as distinct from the legal challenges of computers and the Internet.

I'm not entirely convinced that I believe that there is such a thing as a robot, as distinct from "a computer in a special case" or "a specialized peripheral for a computer." At least inasmuch as mandating that a robot must (or must not) do certain things is a subset of the problem of mandating that computers must (or must not) run certain programs.

It seems to me that a lot of the areas where Calo identifies problems with "cyberlaw" as it applies to robots are actually just problems with cyberlaw, period. Cyberlaw isn't very good law, by and large, having been crafted by self-interested industry lobbyists and enacted on the basis of fearmongering and grandstanding, so it's not very surprising that it isn't very good at solving robot problems.

But the paper is a fascinating one, nevertheless.


Update: The organizer of Robots and the Law is Michael Froomkin; Ryan Calo is the person who sent it in to Boing Boing. The conference isn't held at Stanford every year; next year it will be in Miami. Sorry for the confusion!

Read the rest

Barrett Brown legal motion: linking is protected by the First Amendment

Kevin writes, "A motion just filed by the defense in Barrett Brown's case makes the argument that merely linking to information which is already publicly available should be protected by the First Amendment. The government has charged Brown with multiple counts of fraud and identity theft for copy and pasting a link from one chat-room to another. The URL pointed to data that was obtained during the late-2011 hack of Stratfor and the unextracted file happened to contain some credit card numbers."

Read the rest

Phoenix on Lessig and Lisztomania: "We Support Fair Use of Our Music!"

Last August, I posted about a lawsuit brought by Larry Lessig and the Electronic Frontier Foundation against Australia's Liberation Music, who hold the rights to "Lisztomania," a song by the French band Phoenix. Lessig had used brief clips from Lisztomania in a presentation on remix culture, and when the lecture was posted to Youtube, Phoenix Music sent a series of bogus copyright notices and threats to Youtube and Lessig.

Now (unsurprisingly), Liberation has settled, admitting that it was wrong. It has paid a confidential sum to EFF to cover costs and pay for future work defending the rights of people whose work is censored from Youtube by bogus copyright claims. It has also promised to fix the way it polices its copyright.

The best part is the statement released by Phoenix, who were apparently aghast to learn that their label was so reactionary when it came to remixing and fair use. It's amazing to see a band bust out statements like "One of the great beauties of the digital era is to liberate spontaneous creativity - it might be a chaotic space of free association but the contemporary experience of digital re-mediation is enormously liberating."

Click through for the whole thing, it's amazing.

Read the rest