They told us DRM would give us more for less, but they lied

My latest Locus Magazine column is DRM Broke Its Promise, which recalls the days when digital rights management was pitched to us as a way to enable exciting new markets where we'd all save big by only buying the rights we needed (like the low-cost right to read a book for an hour-long plane ride), but instead (unsurprisingly) everything got more expensive and less capable. Read the rest

Library of Congress releases 11,700 freely usable photos of "roadside America," taken by John Margolies

For decades, architectural critic and photographer John Margolies obsessively documented roadside attractions: vernacular architecture, weird sculpture, odd businesses and amusements. By his death in 2016, his collection consisted of more than 11,000 slides (he published books of his favorites, with annotations). Read the rest

First detailed look at Poland's challenge to the EU Copyright Directive

After the EU Copyright Directive passed with a slim majority that only carried because some MEPs got confused and pressed the wrong button, the government of Poland filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the Directive -- and its rule requiring that all online discourse be filtered by black-box algorithms that will block anything that might be infringing -- violated both Polish and European law. Read the rest

Ohio State University files for a trademark on "THE"

"The Ohio State University" is apparently the full name of Ohio State, and to remind everyone of it, they're selling a line of clothing emblazoned with the stark word "THE," and so they've asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to give them the exclusive right to sell t-shirts, baseball hats and hats with the word "THE" on them. This is stupidly generic and unlikely to survive a challenge or even examination. Doesn't THE university have a law-school that could prevent this kind of public embarrassment? Read the rest

Facebook has filed a laughable patent-application for the well-known practice of "shadow banning"

Shadow-banning is a process that dates back to at least the 1980s, with Citadel BBS's "twit bit," which would allow users to post replies to forums that they could see, but no one else could see. Read the rest

DOJ indicts man for paying AT&T employees to help him unlock millions of customers' phones

When Congress legalized phone unlocking in 2014, they added a bunch of carve-outs that let phone companies veto your attempt to unlock your phone, with the big one being that you couldn't unlock your phone while you were still in a contract that provided it to you at a reduced price. Read the rest

Elsevier sends copyright threat to site for linking to Sci-Hub

Sci-Hub (previously) is a scrappy, nonprofit site founded in memory of Aaron Swartz, dedicated to providing global access to the world's scholarship -- journal articles that generally report on publicly-funded research, which rapacious, giant corporations acquire for free, and then charge the very same institutions that paid for the research millions of dollars a year to access. Read the rest

Open archive of 240,000 hours' worth of talk radio, including 2.8 billion words of machine-transcription

A group of MIT Media Lab researchers have published Radiotalk, a massive corpus of talk radio audio with machine-generated transcriptions, with a total of 240,000 hours' worth of speech, marked up with machine-readable metadata. Read the rest

Data-mining reveals that 80% of books published 1924-63 never had their copyrights renewed and are now in the public domain

This January, we celebrated the Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain, as the onerous terms of the hateful Sonny Bono Copyright Act finally developed a leak, putting all works produced in 1923 into the public domain, with more to follow every year -- 1924 goes PD in 2020, and then 1925, etc. Read the rest

Podcast: Adblocking: How About Nah?

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay Adblocking: How About Nah?, published last week on EFF's Deeplinks; it's the latest installment in my series about "adversarial interoperability," and the role it has historically played in keeping tech open and competitive, and how that role is changing now that yesterday's scrappy startups have become today's bloated incumbents, determined to prevent anyone from disrupting them they way they disrupted tech in their early days.

At the height of the pop-up wars, it seemed like there was no end in sight: the future of the Web would be one where humans adapted to pop-ups, then pop-ups found new, obnoxious ways to command humans' attention, which would wane, until pop-ups got even more obnoxious.

But that's not how it happened. Instead, browser vendors (beginning with Opera) started to ship on-by-default pop-up blockers. What's more, users—who hated pop-up ads—started to choose browsers that blocked pop-ups, marginalizing holdouts like Microsoft's Internet Explorer, until they, too, added pop-up blockers.

Chances are, those blockers are in your browser today. But here's a funny thing: if you turn them off, you won't see a million pop-up ads that have been lurking unseen for all these years.

Because once pop-up ads became invisible by default to an ever-larger swathe of Internet users, advertisers stopped demanding that publishers serve pop-up ads. The point of pop-ups was to get people's attention, but something that is never seen in the first place can't possibly do that.

MP3

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Author hid funny messages on the copyright page of his book

When my first couple novels came out, I lobbied to add some kind of notation about "fair use" and "limitations and exceptions to copyright" on the copyright notice page and was told not even to try because legal would never allow even the slightest variance from the boilerplate; apparently Steve Stack is better connected than I am, because his book 21st Century Dodos, has a copyright notice that is full of whimsy and gags, as Rebecca discovered and documented. Read the rest

Make the internet better by empowering users, not by demanding that platforms implement automated filters

In the wake of the Senate's predictably grandstanding "Protecting Digital Innocence" hearings (on how to keep kids from online harms), my EFF colleagues Elliot Harmon and India McKinney have posted an excellent, thoughtful rebuttal to proposals to segregate a "kid internet" from an "adult internet" in order to ensure that kids don't see "harmful" things. Read the rest

A 3D papercraft Haunted Mansion board game to print and assemble

Escape from the Haunted Mansion is a massive, ambitious free papercraft project to download, print, mount on coreboard, cut out, assemble and play. I have no idea if the gameplay is any good, but the model is freaking gorgeous. It's from the good folks at Disney Experience, who have a wealth of papercraft Disney projects and other fan media for you to play with. (via Metafilter) Read the rest

An Indian research university has assembled 73 million journal articles (without permission) and is offering the archive for unfettered scientific text-mining

The JNU Data Depot is a joint project between rogue archivist Carl Malamud (previously), bioinformatician Andrew Lynn, and a research team from New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University: together, they have assembled 73 million journal articles from 1847 to the present day and put them into an airgapped respository that they're offering to noncommercial third parties who want to perform textual analysis on them to "pull out insights without actually reading the text." Read the rest

Cooperative porno copyright troll gets 5 years in prison, while his co-conspirator got 14 years

Last month, Paul Hansmeier was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.5m in restitution for the copyright trolling his firm, Prenda Law, engaged in: the firm used a mix of entrapment, blackmail, identity theft, intimidation and fraud to extort millions from its victims by threatening to drag them into court for alleged infringement of copyright in eye-watering pornography, thus forever associating their victims' name with lurid pornography in the public record. Read the rest

Judge rules that EFF's DRM lawsuit can proceed!

In 2016, EFF sued the US Government on behalf of Andrew "bunnie" Huang and Matthew Green, both of whom wanted to engage in normal technological activities (auditing digital security, editing videos, etc) that put at risk from Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Read the rest

Pacman in 512 bytes

Pillman is Oscar "Nanochess" Toledo's reimplementation of Pacman ("a game about a yellow man eating pills") in 512 bytes -- small enough to fit in a boot sector -- written in 8088 assembler. (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

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