When Jeff Olson used chalk to draw an octopus whose tentacles were full of money, and to write "No thanks, big banks," and "Shame on Bank of America," on a San Diego sidewalk, Bank of America complained to the Republican City Atty. Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith threw the book at him, charging him with misdemeanor vandalism and threatening him with 13 years in prison for writing in water-soluble chalk. Goldsmith was not swayed by the mayor's disapproval of this course of action -- Mayor Bob Filner said it was "stupid" and a "waste of money" -- and pressed on.
Yesterday, a jury acquitted Olson on all charges. The #chalkgate tag is full of congratulatory messages and photos of supportive chalking.
"I am disappointed that Will, a fellow artist, would file a case against me," Pharrell told Rolling Stone. "I am someone who likes to talk things out and, in fact, I attempted to do just that on many occasions. I am surprised in how this is being handled and I am confident that Will's trademark claims will ultimately be found to be as meritless and ridiculous as I do."
Castle View School in Canvey Island, Essex, England, briefly banned triangular flapjacks (not pancakes; the English call granola-bar-like food "flapjacks") after a student sustained an injury when another student threw a cornersome flapjack at him. The school authorities required that all flapjacks must be served in rectangular portions, to increase the safety of food-fights.
The ban did not stand very long. Public mockery seems to have killed it.
According to one report, in 2011 British MP and Education Secretary Michael Gove was prevented from taking flapjacks into a cabinet meeting, after officials cited similar safety concerns. That is the only report of that alleged incident, however—although Gove was (and is) the Education Secretary, there does not appear to be any other evidence that he was ever frisked for flapjacks or that even the British government has actually classified them as a security risk.
Matthew, a young man who blogs about air-travel, was thrown off a United jet after a flight attendant chastised him for taking photos of the new first class seats. She apparently thought he was a terrorist. According to Matthew, she lied (and the captain backed her up) and said that he refused to stop taking pictures when asked. The captain apparently threatened to have him taken off the plane by the police. Matthew says he's logged 950,000 miles with United though he's only 26 years old, and that this has made him question his views of the airline.
Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.
Me: Can you tell me why?
Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.
Me: That's a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].
Captain: Look, I don't care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We'll call the police if we have to.
Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.
Captain: Look, we're already late. I'd advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don't make us bring the police in. Goodbye.
Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?
Captain: I don't have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is...[removed].
This entire interaction between Penelope Soto, 18, who was arrested on possession of Xanax, and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat rivals Wapner and Judge Judy in its absurdity. The climax is at 2:18 when Soto flips off the judge. "Did you say fuck me?… 30 days in the county jail!" (via NBC Miami)
CakeWrecks reports that a local Safeway bakery has banned all photography in its bakery department, in a desperate, misguided bid to prevent its horrific creations from appearing on CakeWrecks. Safeway employees are to tell potential photogs that its cakes are copyrighted, and may not be photographed.
Today's post requires a special intro, so here's Dara G. to explain:
"My local [CENSORED*] bakery has this new policy - not strictly enforced, but kinda enforced - NO PHOTOS in the bakery department. None, nada. Per an ex-employee there, upper management is afraid that one of that store's specific cakes will be posted on 'that bad cake site.' Per what they tell you in the store, their cakes are 'all copyright protected.'"
(*Store name omitted. Because I care.)
She goes on to say:
"Apparently this new 'no photos' thing came about after y'all had posted their 'Popcorn' cakes on the site."
Faulkner estate claims that quoting his novels in films is both a trademark and copyright infringement
EU working group produces the stupidest set of proposed Internet rules in the entire history of the human race
An EU working group that's been charged with coming up with recommendations for a terrorist-free European Internet has been brainstorming the stupidest goddamned ideas you've ever read, which are now widely visible, thanks to a leaked memo. The group, CleanIT, which is composed of cops, governments, and some NGOs from across Europe, has been given €400,000 to make its recommendations, and a document dated August 2012 sets out some of the group's thinking to date. As mentioned, it's pretty amazingly bad. Like, infra-stupid, containing strains of stupidity so low and awful they can't be perceived with unaided human apparatus. Here's Ars Technica's summary of the ideas in the memo:
* "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
* "Governments must disseminate lists of illegal, terrorist websites"
* "The Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 of 27 May 2002 (art 1.2) should be explained that providing Internet services is included in providing economics instruments to Al Qaeda (and other terrorist persons and organisations designated by the EU) and therefore an illegal act"
* "On Voice over IP services it must be possible to flag users for terrorist activity."
* "Internet companies must allow only real, common names."
* "Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users."
* "At the European level a browser or operating system based reporting button must be developed."
* "Governments will start drafting legislation that will make offering... a system [to monitor Internet activity] to Internet users obligatory for browser or operating systems...as a condition of selling their products in this country or the European Union."
Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar tracked down a CleanIT spokesman on his home planet. But Klaasen is
the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security*, and he is really upset that we can read this stupid, stupid document full of recommendations that would be illegal in European law. He also can't believe that European Digital Rights, the NGO that published the leaked stupid, stupid document, didn't honor the confidentiality notice on the stupid, stupid cover-page.
* Update Cyrus sez, "Klaasen has corrected his title calling himself now the 'programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security'. Here's his LinkedIn page. He's referred to as the 'project manager,' which as far as I can tell, makes him in charge of the whole thing."
"I do fully understand that the publishing of the document led to misunderstandings," he told Ars. "If we publish like this, it will scare people—that’s the reason that we didn’t publish it. It’s food for thought. We do realize these are very rough ideas."
..."You can compare [this situation] to taking pictures of what someone buys for dinner with how a dinner tastes—you don’t have the complete picture," he added.
..."We really didn’t expect that people would publish a document that clearly says ‘not for publication’—that really surprised us," he said. "I don’t know if it’s naive. Why can’t I trust people?" [Ed: Oh, diddums]
France's Hadopi finally punishes someone for infringement -- a guy whom everyone agrees isn't an infringer
In a rare and welcome moment of sanity, the UK High Court has ruled that guy who made a snarky tweet about bombing an airport is not a criminal. The judge's written opinion is not kind to the cops and prosecutors who spent years chasing Paul Chambers, the tweeter in question, pointing out that no one at any point believed that Chambers was serious, that no one was credibly alarmed, and that they were all, basically, total idiots. Wired UK's Mark Brown has more.
"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed," his infamous tweet read. "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!"
A week later, he was arrested by anti-terror police for making a bomb threat. In May 2010, the Doncaster magistrates court found him guilty "of sending, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message of a menacing character." He was fined and lost his job.
After a lengthy appeal process, Chambers has finally been acquitted. In the judgement document, the high court said, "the appeal against conviction will be allowed on the basis that this tweet did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character; we cannot usefully take this aspect of the appeal further."
London Olympic committee says you're only allowed to link to their site if you have nice things to say
James Losey from New America Foundation sez,
"a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner."
Hey, LOCOG! I think you're a bunch of greedy, immoral corporatist swine who've sold out London to a bunch of multinationals and betrayed the spirit of athleticism and international cooperation. You're a disgrace. And I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.
What are you going to do about it?
How stupid is Charles Carreon's lawsuit against The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation? Really, really stupid
Regular readers of Boing Boing will know that Charles Carreon is a lawyer hired by the humor-aggregating website FunnyJunk to send a letter to the webcomic The Oatmeal, demanding $20,000 and threatening a defamation suit (over The Oatmeal's year-old post about FunnyJunk's unauthorized use of his comics, and their bad behavior when this was pointed out to them) unless payment was made.
You will also know that Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, responded with a funny, insulting letter to FunnyJunk and Carreon, and a vow to raise $20,000 for charity, and to remit a photo of Inman standing with the money, along with a comic depicting FunnyJunk's owner's mother trying to seduce a bear in lieu of payment.
You will also know that Carreon proceeded to provoke Internet-wide outrage by threatening to have the fundraiser (which was hugely successful, to the tune of over $200K) shut down, along with IndieGoGo, the site on which it was hosted. And that he made good on that threat by filing suit against Inman, the Oatmeal, IndieGogo, the American Cancer Society, and the National Wildlife Federation.
Now, Ken at Popehat, a former US federal prosecutor, has obtained a copy of the complaint, and has made a detailed analysis of it. From his reading, it appears that Carreon has made a number of really dumb errors (besides the obvious dumb error of picking a fight with the whole Internet). In his usual entertaining fashion, Ken gives us the details, at some length (amazingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg, as Ken is apparently withholding the really juicy stuff for use in the courtroom).
Sweet Charity: Mr. Carreon's theory of how California charity law governs the defendants is wholly harebrained. As but one example: Mr. Carreon asserts that California Government Code section 12599 controls The Oatmeal, even though that statute by its own terms applies to "any individual, corporation, unincorporated association, or other legal entity who for compensation" engages in fundraising in California — professional telemarketers and fundraisers, in other words. In a similarly wrong-headed or deliberately deceptive vein, Mr. Carreon claims that Government Code section 12599.6(b) requires charities like the ones he has sued here to "exercise and establish control" over "all fundraising activities conducted by others for their benefit." Except that's not what Government Code section 12599.6 says at all. It says "A charitable organization must establish and exercise control over its fundraising activities conducted for its benefit, including approval of all written contracts and agreements . . . ." Mr. Carreon made up the part requiring charities to police fundraising they don't control themselves or contract out. That's why if your kids sell lemonade in order to donate the proceeds to save the pandas, the World Wildlife Fund doesn't have to come and proofread their signs and make sure that they aren't misstating the ingredients of the snickerdoodles or coercing the Jenkins kid up the block to buy seconds.
True Versus Truthy: Mr. Carreon makes a number of factual assertions that appear to play rather fast and loose with the requirements of Rule 11, cited above. Take, for example, his claim in paragraph 37 that "Mr. Inman's stated intention is to turn over only $20,000 of the amount raised by the Bear Love campaign" to the charities. Mr. Carreon's own exhibits show that he is lying. Mr. Inman said that he was trying to raise $20,000 (at the time of this writing he has exceeded ten times that) and that he would donate half to one charity and half to the other. Later, when results far exceeded expectations, Mr. Inman posted an update, saying "a lot of people have been asking what I plan to do with the extra money we raised over the initial $20,000. 100% of it is going to charity. I’m going to add 2 more charities to the list, in addition to the ACS and the NWF." Mr. Carreon also implies falsely in paragraph 30 — as he has stated falsely to the media — that the bear-loving mother Mr. Inman drew was meant to be Mr. Carreon's mom, when in fact the post makes it perfectly clear that the statement is directed a FunnyJunk, a web site that does not actually have a mother (unless, perhaps, its mother is AOL).
Twitter's #freebyron hashtag is alive with the news that Byron Sonne, the Toronto-area security expert who was incarcerated and treated as a terrorist for pointing out and making fun of the security flaws in the $1.2B security scheme for the Toronto G20 summit, has been found Not Guilty on all counts.
A moment of sanity from the Canadian judicial system, and all it cost was Sonne's marriage, house, and freedom.
Black-light acrobats Fighting Gravity send trademark threat over unrelated fantasy novel called "Fighting Gravity"
Update: And it's off: "Fighting Gravity To Leah Peterson and her fans: Disregard the cease and desist letter that was issued by our lawyers. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some people have taken that too far and we have had to deal with it. By no means is Leah Peterson one of those people, our lawyers were just doing their jobs and trying to protect our name and trademark. We wish the best for Leah and hope her book becomes a great success! "
If you're on parole, don't steal a judge's office-door nameplate (If you do, don't pose with it on Facebook)
21-year-old Steven Mulhall cut a Spicolian caper when he stole the nameplate off a judge's courthouse office-door, then posed with it for a photo, which his romantic ladyfriend posted to Facebook. It was discovered by a law enforcement professional, who took the fellow into custody.
Adding to the stupidity quotient, Mulhall did this while already on parole for theft. "The nameplate is [worth] only $40, not that big of a crime, but what an idiot," said Sheriff Al Lamberti. "Here he is flaunting it on Facebook. He violated the terms of his parole by stealing, from a judge no less. He's got multiple convictions for petty theft, so now this is a felony." Lamberti said the plate would be "returned to the rightful owner," who, again, is a judge.
Lamar Smith (R-TX), author of the ill-starred SOPA Internet regulation, has an even dumber idea for the Internet. In the name of fighting child pornography, he wants to force ISPs to log everything you do online, then make it available to police and government agents without a warrant. Leslie Meredith has a writeup on the mounting opposition to Smith's latest act of unconstitutional lunacy:
However, under Smith’s bill, records of both suspects and ordinary citizens would all be available to any government agency at any time, no warrant required.
"This type of legislation goes against the fundamental values of our country where individuals are treated as innocent until proven guilty," Reitman said. "H.R. 1981 would uproot this core American principle, forcing ISPs to treat everyone like a potential criminal."
The bill has been forwarded from committee to the full House of Representatives for consideration, which is expected later this year. There is no sign of a Senate version at this time.
If the past is any indicator, Smith may be in for a hard fight with activists. He was also sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that would have shut off access to foreign websites accused of hosting pirated content. But he was forced to withdraw the legislation after massive protests by many of the same opponents who likewise thought the remedy was too harsh for the problem.
Canadian universities sign bone-stupid copyright deal with collecting society: emailing a link is the same as making a photocopy, faculty email to be surveilled
Under a new deal signed by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, the act of emailing a link will be classed as equivalent to photocopying, and each student and faculty member will cost the universities $27.50/year for this right that the law gives them for free, along with a collection of other blanket licenses of varying legitimacy. In order to enforce these licenses, all faculty email will be subject to surveillance.
“Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s actions are inexplicable,” said James L. Turk, CAUT executive director. “They have buckled under to Access Copyright’s outrageous and unjustified demands at a time when courts have extended rights to use copyrighted material, better alternatives are becoming available to the services Access offers and just before the passage of new federal copyright legislation that provides additional protections for the educational sector”.
Turk also pointed out that the Supreme Court is set to clarify the educational use of copyrighted works in the coming months, clarifications that could undercut Access’s bargaining position. In contrast to Western Ontario and Toronto, many institutions have opted out of agreements with Access Copyright or are fighting its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.
“These two universities threw in the towel on the copyright battle prematurely,” said Turk. “We call on other post-secondary institutions not to follow Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s example of capitulating to Access Copyright. It‘s time to stand up for the right to fair and reasonable access to copyrighted works for educational purposes”.
Just when you thought PayPal couldn't get any stupider, well, they get stupider. Erica sold an antique violin to someone who paid $2500 for it over PayPal. The buyer disputed the authenticity of the violin -- which had been authenticated by a top luthier -- and PayPal instructed him that he could have his money back if he destroyed the violin. He did, and sent the photo of the destroyed, one-of-a-kind, precious instrument to the seller and PayPal. PayPal took the $2500 back from Erica, gave it to the violin-smasher, and called it a day.
I am now out a violin that made it through WWII as well as $2500. This is of course, upsetting. But my main goal in writing to you is to prevent PayPal from ordering the destruction of violins and other antiquities that they know nothing about. It is beyond me why PayPal simply didn’t have the violin returned to me.
I spoke on the phone to numerous reps from PayPal who 100% defended their action and gave me the party line.
SOPA, the House version of the US Senate's PROTECT-IP Bill, might be the worst-ever copyright proposal in US legislative history. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun a series of articles examining the bill in depth, explaining just how insane it is. Here's part one:
If an IP rightsholder (vaguely defined – could be Justin Bieber worried about his publicity rights) thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc.) and ad services you rely on.
Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court. Indeed, services that have been specifically found legal, like Rapidshare, could be economically strangled via SOPA. You can file a counter-notice, but you’ve only got 5 days to do it (good luck getting solid legal advice in time) and the payment processors and ad networks have no obligation to respect it in any event. That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.
Maybe you've heard about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan for America: 9% sales tax, 9% income tax, and 9% corporate tax, and wondered how it would play out in the real world. Here's a chart that illustrates the answer neatly (click for full, farcically long-ass version): the poor will pay a little more (or a lot more, relative to their income), and the rich will pay a lot less, and the very rich will pay so much less that it takes 9403 vertical pixels to express how much they'll save.
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
From the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, a helpful banker's guide to spotting "single-issue terrorists," which includes (apparently) abortionists and ecological extremists. It also groups attacks on property with attacks on people, and sales of books and literature with sales of false identification documents.
Counter-terrorism specialists define single-issue or special interest terrorist groups as being motivated by political and social issues and as using violence and criminal activities to further their agendas. Single-issue terrorists may include militant minority rights activists, abortionists, animal rights activists and ecological/environmental extremists. They believe that their legitimate cause morally justifies their extremist violent behavior in opposition to government action or inaction. Terrorist attacks include the use of bombs, such as mail and car bombs. Their targets are often research laboratories, clinics and individuals' property. Single-issue terrorist groups function domestically but have an international scope.
Last June, the Swiss Press Club held a launch for the Global Innovation Index at which various speakers were invited to talk about innovation. After the head of CERN and the CEO of the Internet Society spoke about how important it was that the Web's underlying technology hadn't been patented, Francis Gurry, the Director General of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), took the mic to object.
In Gurry's view, the Web would have been better off if it had been locked away in patents, and if every user of the Web had needed to pay a license fee to use it (and though Gurry doesn't say so, this would also have meant that the patent holder would have been able to choose which new Web sites and technologies were allowed, and would have been able to block anything he didn't like, or that he feared would cost him money).
This is a remarkable triumph of ideology over evidence. The argument that there wasn't enough investment in the Web is belied by the fact that a) the Web attracted more investment than any of the network service technologies that preceded it (by orders of magnitude), and; b) that the total investment in the Web is almost incalculably large. The only possible basis for believing that the Web really would have benefited from patents is a blind adherence to the ideology that holds that patents are always good, no matter what.
Here's the video; Gurry's talk starts at 0:49:50. The image above shows Gurry announcing his theory, while the reps from CERN and ISOC look on. Caption as you see fit.
Intellectual property is a very flexible instrument. So, for example, had the world wide web been able to be patented, and I think that is a question in itself, perhaps the amount of investment that has gone into or would be able to go into basic science would be different. If you had found a very flexible licensing model, in which the burden for the innovation of the world wide web had been shared across the whole user community in a very fair and reasonable manner, with a modest contribution for everyone for this wonderful innovation, it would have enabled enormous investment in turn in further basic research. And that is the sort of flexibility that is built into the intellectual property system. It is not a rigid system...
UK Labour Party wants journalism licenses, will prohibit "journalism" by people who are "struck off" the register of licensed journalists
The UK Labour party's conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.
Given that "journalism" presently encompasses "publishing accounts of things you've seen using the Internet" and "taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them" and "blogging" and "commenting on news stories," this proposal is even more insane than the tradition "journalist licenses" practiced in totalitarian nations.
I'm all for hanging up Murdoch and his phone hackers by their thumbs, but you don't need to license journalists to get that done: all you need to do is prosecute them under existing criminal statutes. In other words, the only "journalism code of conduct" the UK needs to avert another phone hacking scandal is "don't break the law." Of course, it would help if government didn't court favour with the likes of Murdoch, as was the case under Labour (and is the case with today's Tories).
For a party eager to shed its reputation as sinister, spying authoritarians, Labour's really got its head up its arse.
Lewis will suggest that newspapers should introduce a system whereby journalists could be struck off a register for malpractice. And he will question David Cameron's reluctance to explain why he made Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, his communications director both in opposition and then in government. He will say: "I believe in second chances too. So, isn't it time you and George Osborne came clean about Andy Coulson?"
Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg, who wrote an outstanding paper on the law and 3D printing, has a new paper, this one on 4G networks with data-caps, and how weird it is to advertise that your network is a) very fast and suitable for video; and b) that you'd better not use it for data-intensive applications. He sez, "Wireless carriers have started to push their new 4G networks. The carriers say that these new networks are amazing, and will allow you to do more, faster, than ever before. What they do not tell you is that you will not be able to use the new 4G networks for very much. That is because the wireless carriers (with the exception of Sprint, which offers truly unlimited 4G connections) have imposed arbitrary limits on their 4G networks. For the average user, this limit is set at 2 GB per month. As a result, just about everything that you would use the 4G network for will put you over your limit. At full speed, you will hit a month's worth of caps in under an hour. In that time, you might be able to download half an HD movie to watch for the rest of the month."
This unfortunate fact is the result of a combination between fast 4G networks that deliver a lot of data and low limits on how much data you can use. The 4G speed means that you hit your cap even faster than you would on the existing 3G network. How much faster? Well, Verizon advertises its 4G network can deliver top speeds between 5 and 12 Mbps. AT&T claims it can deliver 6 Mbps. At those speeds, you will hit your monthly limit in less than one hour.Arbitrary Data Limits Make Wireless 4G A Waste of Money
Of course, you may not think about your connection in terms of how long you can use it at full blast. Instead, you might think about it in terms of what you can actually do with the connection.
Under AT&T and Verizon’s 2 GB monthly limit, you could download half of an HD movie from iTunes before hitting your limit. Alternatively, you could download two 45-minute HD TV shows. If you shot some video you wanted to share with friends, you might be able to upload 2 ten-minutes videos. Keep in mind that any one of those things would essentially use up your data cap for the month, so you would not be able to do anything else with your smartphone (like get your email or get directions) without going over the limit.