A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. 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

Debunking Microsoft's anti-Right-to-Repair FUD

Microsoft is no stranger to the use of "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" in the pursuit of monopolistic goals; the company perfected the tactic in the early 1990s as a way of scaring enterprise customers away from GNU/Linux; today, the company shows off its mastery of FUD in its filings to the Federal Trade Commission condemning proposals for Right-to-Repair rules. Read the rest

Felony Contempt of Business Model: Lexmark's anti-competitive legacy

In 2002, Lexmark was one of the leading printer companies in the world. A division of IBM—the original tech giant—Lexmark was also a pioneer in the now-familiar practice of locking customers in to expensive "consumables," like the carbon powder that laser-printers fuse to paper to produce printouts. Read the rest

Adversarial interoperability: reviving an elegant weapon from a more civilized age to slay today's monopolies

Today, Apple is one of the largest, most profitable companies on Earth, but in the early 2000s, the company was fighting for its life. Microsoft's Windows operating system was ascendant, and Microsoft leveraged its dominance to ensure that every Windows user relied on its Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Apple users—a small minority of computer users—who wanted to exchange documents with the much larger world of Windows users were dependent on Microsoft's Office for the Macintosh operating system (which worked inconsistently with Windows Office documents, with unexpected behaviors like corrupting documents so they were no longer readable, or partially/incorrectly displaying parts of exchanged documents). Alternatively, Apple users could ask Windows users to export their Office documents to an "interoperable" file format like Rich Text Format (for text), or Comma-Separated Values (for spreadsheets). These, too, were inconsistent and error-prone, interpreted in different ways by different programs on both Mac and Windows systems. Read the rest

Americans believe that they should own the mountains of data produced by their cars, but they don't

Your car is basically a smartphone with wheels, and it gathers up to 25gb/hour worth of data on you and your driving habits -- everything from where you're going to how much you weigh. Cars gather your financial data, data on the number of kids in the back seat, and, once they're connected to your phone, data on who you call and text. Read the rest

Discovering whether your Iphone has been hacked is nearly impossible thanks to Apple's walled garden

This week, we learned that the notorious Israeli cyber-arms-dealer NSO Group had figured out how hijack your Iphone or Android phone by placing a simple Whatsapp call, an attack that would work even if you don't answer the call. Read the rest

Big Tech lobbyists and "open for business" Tories killed Ontario's Right-to-Repair legislation

In February, Liberal Party opposition MPP Michael Coteau introduced Right to Repair legislation after he was charged $400 to fix the cracked screen on his daughter's Samsung phone; that bill is now dead, as are dozens of Right to Repair bills introduced in US state houses, after Conservative MPs, heavily lobbied by US Big Tech firms, killed it before it could proceed to committee. Read the rest

Starz abuses the DMCA to remove EFF's tweet about Starz abusing the DMCA

Torrentfreak published an article disclosing the fact that screeners of American Gods had leaked online ahead of their air date (they did not make the screeners available, nor did they link to any of the places where the screeners could be downloaded from) and they tweeted about the story. Read the rest

Researchers find mountains of sensitive data on totalled Teslas in junkyards

Teslas are incredibly data-hungry, storing massive troves of data about their owners, including videos of crashes, location history, contacts and calendar entries from paired phones, photos of the driver and passengers taken with interior cameras, and other data; this data is stored without encryption, and it is not always clear when Teslas are gathering data, and the only way to comprehensively switch off data-gathering also de-activates over-the-air software updates for the cars, which have historically shipped with limited or buggy features that needed the over-the-air updates to fix them. Read the rest

A critical flaw in Switzerland's e-voting system is a microcosm of everything wrong with e-voting, security practice, and auditing firms

Switzerland is about to have a national election with electronic voting, overseen by Swiss Post; e-voting is a terrible idea and the general consensus among security experts who don't work for e-voting vendors is that it shouldn't be attempted, but if you put out an RFP for magic beans, someone will always show up to sell you magic beans, whether or not magic beans exist. Read the rest

Record label censors copyright lawyers' site by falsely claiming it infringes copyright

SpicyIP is arguably the leading blog for experts on India's copyright system, but links to it disappeared from Google's search index following a fraudulent claim of copyright infringement filed by Saregama, India's oldest record label. Read the rest

Bird nonpologizes: "we accidentally sent you a threatening letter"

Last week, our lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation sent a reply to Bird, the scooter company, which had sent us an intimidating letter seeking to censor this post on Bird conversion kits, which let you unlock the hundreds of Bird scooters that are auctioned off by cities after Bird fails to claim them from their impound lots. Read the rest

Bird Scooter tried to censor my Boing Boing post with a legal threat that's so stupid, it's a whole new kind of wrong

Last month, I published a post discussing the mountains of abandoned Bird Scooters piling up in city impound lots, and the rise of $30 Chinese conversion kits that let you buy a scooter at auction, swap out the motherboard, and turn it into a personal scooter, untethered from the Bird company. Read the rest

A history of the sprawling personality clashes over RSS

Sinclair Target's long, deeply researched history of the format wars over RSS are an excellent read and a first-rate example of what Charlie Stross has called "the beginning of history": for the first time, the seemingly unimportant workaday details of peoples' lives are indelibly recorded and available for people researching history (for example, Ada Palmer points out that we know very little about the everyday meals of normal historical people, but the daily repasts of normal 21 centurians are lavishly documented). Read the rest

Big Tech loves disruption, when they're doing the disruption

My latest Locus Magazine column is "Disruption for Thee, But Not for Me," and it analyzes how Big Tech has been able to "disrupt" incumbent industries, but has repurposed obscure technology regulations to prevent anyone from meting out the same treatment to their new digital monopolies. Read the rest

Podcast: "Sole and Despotic Dominion" and "What is the Internet For?"

Here's my reading (MP3) of my Locus column, "What is the Internet For?" (which asks, "Is the internet a revolutionary technology?") and my short story for the fiftieth anniversary of Reason Magazine, Sole and Despotic Dominion, which builds on my 2015 Guardian column, If Dishwashers Were iPhones.

MP3 Read the rest

More posts