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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 162

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.
The Almighty Buck

"Clock Boy" Ahmed Mohamed Seeking $15 Million In Damages 723

phrackthat writes: The family of Ahmed Mohamed, the boy who was arrested in Irving, Texas has threatened to sue the school and the city of Irving if they do not pay him $15 million as compensation for his arrest. To refresh the memories of everyone, Ahmed's clock was a clock he disassembled then put into a pencil case that looked like a miniature briefcase. He was briefly detained by the Irving city police to interview him and determine if he intended for his clock to be perceived as a fake bomb. He was released to his parents later on that day and they publicized the matter and claimed Ahmed was arrested because of "Islamophobia".

Sued Freelancer Allegedly Turns Over Contractee Source Code In Settlement 129

FriendlySolipsist writes: Blizzard Entertainment has been fighting World of Warcraft bots for years. TorrentFreak reports that Bossland, a German company that operates "buddy" bots, alleges Blizzard sued one of its freelancers and forced a settlement. As part of that settlement, the freelancer allegedly turned over Bossland's source code to Blizzard. In Bossland's view, their code was "stolen" by Blizzard because it was not the freelancer's to disclose. This is a dangerous precedent for freelance developers in the face of legal threats: damned if you do, damned if you don't.
The Courts

Judge: Stingrays Are 'Simply Too Powerful' Without Adequate Oversight ( 111

New submitter managerialslime sends news that an Illinois judge has issued new requirements the government must meet before it can use cell-site simulators, a.k.a. "stingrays," to monitor the communications of suspected criminals. While it's likely to set precedent for pushing back against government surveillance powers, the ruling is specific to the Northern District of Illinois for now. What is surprising is Judge Johnston’s order to compel government investigators to not only obtain a warrant (which he acknowledges they do in this case), but also to not use them when "an inordinate number of innocent third parties’ information will be collected," such as at a public sporting event. This first requirement runs counter to the FBI’s previous claim that it can warrantlessly use stingrays in public places, where no reasonable expectation of privacy is granted. Second, the judge requires that the government "immediately destroy" collateral data collection within 48 hours (and prove it to the court). Finally, Judge Johnston also notes: "Third, law enforcement officers are prohibited from using any data acquired beyond that necessary to determine the cell phone information of the target. A cell-site simulator is simply too powerful of a device to be used and the information captured by it too vast to allow its use without specific authorization from a fully informed court."

File Says NSA Found Way To Replace Email Program ( 93

schwit1 writes: Newly disclosed documents show that the NSA had found a way to create the functional equivalent of programs that had been shut down. The shift has permitted the agency to continue analyzing social links revealed by Americans' email patterns, but without collecting the data in bulk from American telecommunications companies — and with less oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The disclosure comes as a sister program that collects Americans' phone records in bulk is set to end this month. Under a law enacted in June, known as the USA Freedom Act, the program will be replaced with a system in which the NSA can still gain access to the data to hunt for associates of terrorism suspects, but the bulk logs will stay in the hands of phone companies.

The newly disclosed information about the email records program is contained in a report by the NSA's inspector general that was obtained through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. One passage lists four reasons the NSA decided to end the email program and purge previously collected data. Three were redacted, but the fourth was uncensored. It said that "other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements" that the bulk email records program "had been designed to meet."


YouTube Defending Select Videos Against DMCA Abuse 56

Galaga88 writes: It's not a complete solution, but YouTube is going to begin stepping up to defend select videos in court on fair use terms, including covering court costs. Will this help stem the tide of bad DMCA takedown requests, or just help the select few YouTube doesn't want to lose? From the blog post linked: We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them. ... In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a “demo reel” that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community.

Chicago Sends More Than 100,000 "Bogus" Camera-Based Speeding Tickets 200

Ars Technica, based on an in-depth report (paywalled) at the Chicago Tribune, says that the city of Chicago has been misusing traffic cameras to trigger automated speeding tickets. In particular, these cameras are placed in places where there are enhanced penalties for speeding, putatively intended to increase child safety. The automated observation system, though, has been used to send well over 100,000 tickets that the Tribune analysis deems "questionable," because they lack the evidence which is supposed to be required -- for instance, many of these tickets are unbacked by evidence of the presence of children, or were issued when the speeding rules didn't apply (next to a park when that park was closed).
The Internet

New Anti-Piracy Law In Australia Already Being Abused ( 73

Gumbercules!! writes: A small Australian ISP has received a demand that it block access to an overseas website or face legal action in the Federal Court, in a case in which a building company is demanding the ISP block access to an overseas site with a similar name. This case is being seen as a test case, potentially opening the way for companies and aggregated customers to use the new anti-piracy laws to block access to companies or their competition. The ISP in question has obviously been selected because they're very small and have limited financial capacity to fight a legal case.

Manhattan DA Pressures Google and Apple To Kill Zero Knowledge Encryption ( 291

An anonymous reader writes: In a speech to the 6th Annual Financial Crimes and Cybersecurity Symposium, New York County District Attorney for Manhattan Cyrus Vance Jr. has appealed to the tech community — specifically citing Google and Apple — to "do the right thing" and end zero-knowledge encryption in mobile operating systems. Vance Jr. praised FBI director James Comey for his 'outspoken' and 'fearless' advocacy against zero knowledge encryption, and uses the recent attacks on Paris as further justification for returning encryption keys to the cloud, so that communications providers can once again comply with court orders.

Carnegie Mellon Denies FBI Paid For Tor-Breaking Research ( 79

New submitter webdesignerdudes writes with news that Carnegie Mellon University now implies it may have been subpoenaed to give up its anonymity-stripping technique, and that it was not paid $1 million by the FBI for doing so. Wired reports: "In a terse statement Wednesday, Carnegie Mellon wrote that its Software Engineering Institute hadn’t received any direct payment for its Tor research from the FBI or any other government funder. But it instead implied that the research may have been accessed by law enforcement through the use of a subpoena. 'In the course of its work, the university from time to time is served with subpoenas requesting information about research it has performed,' the statement reads. 'The university abides by the rule of law, complies with lawfully issued subpoenas and receives no funding for its compliance.'"
The Courts

Taxi Owners Sue NYC Over Uber, While Court Overrules Class-Action Appeal ( 209

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi owners in New York have filed a lawsuit against cab-hailing app giant Uber, citing damaged revenues and a hefty fall in value of NYC's 'medallion' business. The case against the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission claims that the regulators have unfairly permitted Uber to steal away business from the regulated cab industry. Getting away without regulation has enabled Uber drivers to compete directly, and drown out official taxi companies. A further lawsuit case hovering over Uber this week, is its request to immediately appeal an order approving class certification filed by its own drivers. The appeal was denied by a U.S. court yesterday.
The Courts

Facebook Can Block Content Without Explanation, Says US Court ( 146

An anonymous reader writes: A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook can block any content posted to its site without explanation, after a Sikh group legally challenged the company for taking its page offline. U.S. Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the U.S. based rights group's encouragement of religious discrimination is illegal under the Communications Decency Act, which protects 'interactive computer services' providers by preventing courts from treating them as the publishers of the speech created by their users.
The Courts

Terrorism Case Challenges FISA Spying ( 108

An anonymous reader writes: As we've come to terms with revelations of U.S. surveillance over the past couple years, we've started to see lawsuits spring up challenging the constitutionality of the spying. Unfortunately, it's slow; one of the difficulties is that it's hard to gain standing in court if you haven't been demonstrably harmed. A case before the 9th Circuit Appeals Court is now testing the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act in a big way, and whatever the outcome, it's likely to head to the Supreme Court. The case itself is long and complicated; it centers on a teenager who joined a plot to detonate a huge bomb in Portland, Oregon in 2010, but his co-conspirators turned out to be undercover FBI agents.

The case history is worth a read, and raises questions about entrapment and impressionable kids. However, the issue now being argued in court is simpler: the defendant was a U.S. citizen, and the FBI used FISA powers to access his communications without a warrant. Crucially, they failed to notify the defendant of this before trial — something they're legally required to do. This gives him and his lawyers standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the first place. It's a difficult puzzle, with no clear answer, but oral arguments could begin as soon as January for one of the most significant cases yet to challenge the U.S. government's surveillance of its own citizens.


DoJ Going After Makers of Dietary Supplement ( 161

schwit1 writes: Several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, have announced criminal and civil actions related to unlawful advertising and sale of dietary supplements. "Six executives with USPlabs LLC and a related company, S.K. Laboratories, face criminal charges related to the sale of unlawful dietary supplements. Four were arrested on Tuesday and two are expected to surrender, the Justice department said. The indictment says that USPlabs used a synthetic stimulant manufactured in China to make Jack3d and OxyElite Pro but told retailers that the supplements were made from plant extracts." The FTC is working on this as well, and their press release has more details. The DoJ's case involves "more than 100 makers and marketers" of these supplements. It's about time.

Pandora To Buy Rdio Assets For $75M In Cash ( 20

An anonymous reader writes: Pandora is acquiring music subscription service Rdio for $75 million in cash. "The transaction is contingent upon Rdio seeking protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Upon approval of the proposed transaction by the bankruptcy court, Rdio will be winding down the Rdio-branded service in all markets," Pandora said in a statement. TechCrunch reports: "That was fast: just as soon as it was reported that Pandora was in talks to buy Rdio, the two sides have confirmed that an acquisition is indeed taking place. Pandora has acquired "key assets" from Rdio for $75 million, the company has just announced. But as part of it, the Rdio service as we know it is tanking: the streaming service is shutting down and Rdio is filing for bankruptcy."

ISP To Court: BitTorrent Usage Doesn't Equal Piracy ( 175

An anonymous reader writes: The music industry has long argued that evidence of BitTorrent is evidence of piracy, and ISPs have generally gone along with them. But now, ISP Cox Communications is pushing back against that claim. They have been sued by publishers for failing to halt service for users alleged to have pirated music. Not only has Cox argued that the piracy evidence is invalid, they're also contesting the idea that BitTorrent is only used for piracy (PDF). "Instead of generalizing BitTorrent traffic as copyright infringement, the music companies should offer direct proof that Cox subscribers pirated their work. Any other allegations are inappropriate and misleading according to Cox." The company says, "the Court should preclude Plaintiffs from relying on mere innuendo that BitTorrent inherently allows individuals to infringe Plaintiffs' copyrights."

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 88 writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."

FCC Clarifies: It's Legal To Hack Your Router ( 85

Mark Wilson writes with an update to an earlier report that the wording of new FCC regulations could mean that it would be illegal to modfiy the software running on wireless routers by installing alternative firmwares. Instead, The commission has now acknowledged that there was more than a little confusion from people who believed that manufacturers would be encouraged to prevent router modifications. The FCC wants to make it clear that most router hacking is fine and will remain fine. With a few exceptions, that is. In a blog post entitled Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates, Julius Knapp from the FCC tries to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.

Prison Hack Shows Attorney-Client Privilege Violation ( 190

Advocatus Diaboli writes with this excerpt from The Intercept: An enormous cache of phone records obtained by The Intercept reveals a major breach of security at Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside the nation's prisons and jails. The materials — leaked via SecureDrop by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating the constitutional rights of inmates — comprise over 70 million records of phone calls, placed by prisoners to at least 37 states, in addition to links to downloadable recordings of the calls. The calls span a nearly two-and-a-half year period, beginning in December 2011 and ending in the spring of 2014."

"Particularly notable within the vast trove of phone records are what appear to be at least 14,000 recorded conversations between inmates and attorneys, a strong indication that at least some of the recordings are likely confidential and privileged legal communications — calls that never should have been recorded in the first place. The recording of legally protected attorney-client communications — and the storage of those recordings — potentially offends constitutional protections, including the right to effective assistance of counsel and of access to the courts.


Tor Project Claims FBI Paid University Researchers $1m To Unmask Tor Users 108

An anonymous reader writes: Have Carnegie Mellon University researchers been paid by the FBI to unmask a subset of Tor users so that the agents could discover who operated Silk Road 2.0 and other criminal suspects on the dark web? Tor Project Director Roger Dingledine believes so, and says that they were told by sources in the information security community that the FBI paid at least $1 million for the service. From the article: "There is no indication yet that they had a warrant or any institutional oversight by Carnegie Mellon's Institutional Review Board. We think it's unlikely they could have gotten a valid warrant for CMU's attack as conducted, since it was not narrowly tailored to target criminals or criminal activity, but instead appears to have indiscriminately targeted many users at once," noted Dingledine. "Such action is a violation of our trust and basic guidelines for ethical research. We strongly support independent research on our software and network, but this attack crosses the crucial line between research and endangering innocent users," he pointed out.