MPAA targeted subreddit is an overnight sensation

Fulllengthfilms, an obscure subreddit with next to no traffic shot up to more than 300,000 daily visitors after it was targetted for takedown by the MPAA. It is now the fastest-growing subreddit on Reddit.

Kleargear must pay $306,750 for trashing a complaining customer's credit


The notorious online retailer Kleargear (previously) has been ordered to pay $306,750 in damages (including punitive damages) as well as legal costs to Jennifer and John Palmer. The Palmers wrote an online complaint when they didn't get their Kleargear order, only to have Kleargear send them a bill for $3500 for violating a "nondisparagement clause" in the company's terms of service; when they didn't pay it, Kleargear damaged their credit rating, which ended up sabotaging a house-purchase for the couple. Kleargear claims to be based in France, and refused to participate in the case against them.

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Podcast: How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage

Here's a reading (MP3) of my latest Guardian column, How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage, which examines how Hachette's insistence on DRM for their ebooks has taken away all their negotiating leverage with Amazon, resulting in Amazon pulling Hachette's books from its catalog in the course of a dispute over discounting:

Under US law (the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and its global counterparts (such as the EUCD), only the company that put the DRM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon's DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you're Amazon. So while it's technical child's play to release a Hachette app that converts your Kindle library to work with Apple's Ibooks or Google's Play Store, such a move is illegal.

It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can't afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion's share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon's DRM.

The more books Hachette sold with Amazon DRM, the more its customers would have to give up to follow it to a competing store.

MP3

Cop gives parking ticket to man installing no parking sign

Dan Greding was installing a roadside parking sign warning motorists of a 75-minute parking limit when a Santa Barbara cop gave him a ticket for parking for more than 75 minutes. "I said, 'But I'm putting these signs up,'" Greding told KEYT. "And [the officer] says, 'Then you should know you can't park here more than 75 minutes.' I said, 'Well, I haven't put the sign up yet, so you can't write me a ticket.'" He fought the ticket and lost. He's appealing.

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Stross on NSA network sabotage

"The same security holes that the NSA relied on to gain access to your (or Osama bin Laden's) email allowed gangsters to steal passwords and login credentials and credit card numbers. And ultimately these same baked-in security holes allowed Edward Snowden to rampage through their systems. The moral of the story is clear: be cautious about poisoning the banquet you serve your guests, lest you end up accidentally ingesting it." Cory 10

Eric Schmidt, war crimes apologist and colossal hypocrite

Just a reminder that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is a colossal hypocrite and an apologist for war crimes:

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Florida nixes concealed carry for the zombpocalypse


Florida state senator Dwight Bullard thought that a proposed bill to legalize carrying concealed firearms during disaster evacuations was an incredibly stupid idea. So he proposed an amendment to rename the bill "An act relating to the zombie apocalypse." Both the bill and the amendment failed to pass the state legislature.

If you're serious about killing zombies, you don't want a gun, anyway. You want one of these.

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UK Tory MP who helped kill Legal Aid is wiped out by defending himself against sexual assault claim

Alan sez, "At least he's got the sense to own up and say he's sorry. Nigel Evans used to be in Parliament. While there he helped cut legal aid. As a result, people who are charged by the government but found innocent can't recover costs. Mr Evans is now looking at a (UKP) 130,000 legal bill (plus VAT) after defending successfully against an allegation of sexual assault. Of course, were he in the US he'd be in the same or worse shape."

He's been wiped out, and has pledged to try to undo the damage he's done to Legal Aid if he gets reelected. Meanwhile, the real victims of this are poor crime victims, especially women in abusive relationships, who are grappling with a system where only rich people get lawyers.

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Anti-video-game California politician indicted for gun-running

California Senator Leland Yee has been indicted, along with 25 others, in an organized crime bust that includes charges of wire fraud and firearms trafficking, as well as accepting bribes for legislative action. Yee is best known for sponsoring legislation to limit the sale of "violent" video-games to minors, which federal courts declared unconstitutional and struck down. (via /.) Cory 22

Business Software Alliance accused of pirating the photo they used in their snitch-on-pirates ad


The Business Software Alliance -- a proprietary software industry group -- has pulled a controversial ad that promised cash to people who snitched on friends and employers who used pirated software, after they were credibly accused of pirating the image used in the campaign.

The ad used a photo of a pot of gold, captioned with "Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID." The photo used in the ad was of a cake baked by Cakecentral user Bethasd (the cake itself is pretty amazing! "St. Patrick's Day Pot O' Gold - Chocolate Guinness cake with Bailey's Irish Buttercream").

The BSA has refused to comment on its use of the photo, or to confirm that it was licensed prior to use, but they immediately pulled the ad after being asked about it. Meanwhile, Torrentfreak "encourage[s] 'bethasd' to get in contact with the software industry group, and demand both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use of her photo. Surely, the BSA will be happy to hand over a pot of gold to her."

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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).

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Surveillance baron busted by FBI for election-finance fraud


Last week, the FBI arrested Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at his home in Coronado, CA. Azano was a rich, successful surveillance technology vendor who came to prominence by touting ubiquitous, intense surveillance as an answer to social problems and got rich through a no-bid contract to supply surveillance tools to the Mexican military, and expanded to supply Internet surveillance tools through his company Security Tracking Devices, with offices in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

Azano's company supplied bulk-surveillance tools for spying on entire populations, as well as targeted malware intended for secret implantation on victims' laptops and phones to turn them into spy tools. They also sold access to a database, maintained by IBM, of 1.3 million names of people whom governments should be spying on.

Azano was arrested for corruption -- illegal election financing in San Diego. His scandal is just the latest in a string involving con artists, crooks and grafters who go into the spying business. For example, the founder of one major censorware company, doing business with numerous American school districts (as well as autocratic Middle Eastern leaders) was placed on the California sex-offender registry for "sexually interfering with a 14 year old girl."

One of the arguments for surveillance is that only the good guys will be able to peer into the data gathered by the bugs. But the evidence is that the kind of person who decides to get rich by spying on other people is generally not a very good guy, and these people are the people who ultimately have control over the tools that spy on kids, on citizens, on visitors, on Internet users and on members of our governments.

Designing a surveillance regime whose first line of defense is "Come on, we're all good people, what could go wrong?" is either naive or cynical on its face. But to continue to do so when we know that so many surveillance barons are monumentally unfit to serve as honorable guardians of our privacy is just plain evil.

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Militant commander accidentally blows up dozens of trainee suicide bombers

The commander of the Iraqi militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly blew up 21 suicide bombers in training when he made an error during a live explosives exercise. 15 other trainees were injured. The popular imagination paints terrorists as hundred-foot-tall supermen with the power to destroy entire states simply by staring crosseyed at them, but the reality is that people who are willing to be suicide bombers -- and those who exploit them -- may not be very bright at all. Cory 67

Congress: Are you spying on us? NSA: We don't spy on you except to the extent that we spy on everydamnbody


When Senator Bernie Sanders asked the NSA whether it was spying on Congress, he was very clear: "gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business."

When the NSA answered, it was a lot less clear: "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons."

So, we'll take that as a yes, then?

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Pirate Bay uploads up by 50% in 2013


2013 was a banner year for the Pirate Bay, despite having been forced to change domain names half-a-dozen times. The site saw a 50% increase in uploads in 2013, to 2.8 million links, presently being swarmed by nearly 19 million users. The Pirate Bay is reportedly developing a peer-to-peer browser that will be much harder to block using existing censorship techniques.

Pirate Bay Uploads Surge 50% in a Year, Despite Anti-Piracy Efforts [Ernesto/TorrentFreak]