An anonymous reader writes "The Charleston Gazette is reporting that the state of West Virginia hired a consulting firm for over $100,000 to investigate the state's use of Federal stimulus money (which included the purchase of $22,000 routers for tiny buildings). Unfortunately, the state government is now refusing a FOIA request to release the firm's report. The reason? The findings 'might be embarrassing to some people,' according to Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Velcroman1 writes "The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was enacted in 1998. In 2011, the FTC beefed up the measure, preventing sites from collecting personal information from kids such as name, location and date of birth without a parent's consent. This July, new amendments for kids under 13 will go into effect, approved by the FTC in December. The rules are targeted at sites that market specifically to kids. However, even a site like Facebook could be fined for allowing minors to post self-portraits, audio recordings of their voice, and images with geo-location data. There are also new restrictions on tracking data, with cookies or a unique identifier that follow registrants from one site to another."
Jeremy Allison - Sam writes "Ian Hickson, author and maintainer of the HTML5 specification, comments about the real reasons for DRM. They're not what you might think. Ian nails it in my opinion. He wrote, 'The purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations. The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices. Content providers have leverage against content distributors, because distributors can't legally distribute copyrighted content without the permission of the content's creators. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, what would happen is that users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it, letting them do so in whatever manner they wanted. ... Arguing that DRM doesn't work is, it turns out, missing the point. DRM is working really well in the video and book space. Sure, the DRM systems have all been broken, but that doesn't matter to the DRM proponents. Licensed DVD players still enforce the restrictions. Mass market providers can't create unlicensed DVD players, so they remain a black or gray market curiosity."
r5r5 writes "European Commission's Institute for Prospective Technological Studies has published a study which concludes that the impact of piracy on the legal sale of music is virtually nonexistent or even slightly positive. The study's results suggest that Internet users do not view illegal downloading as a substitute for legal digital music and that a 10% increase in clicks on illegal downloading websites leads to a 0.2% increase in clicks on legal purchase websites. Online music streaming services are found to have a somewhat larger (but still small) effect on the purchases of digital sound recordings, suggesting a complementary relationship between these two modes of music consumption. According to the results, a 10% increase in clicks on legal streaming websites leads to up to a 0.7% increase in clicks on legal digital purchase websites." It's worth noting that this study only measured the effect of piracy on online purchases, not on revenue from physical formats.
Diamonddavej writes "The Guardian warns that Bloggers in the U.K. could face costly fines for libel with exemplary damages imposed if they do not sign up with a new press regulator under legislation (Clause 21A — Awards of exemplary damages) recommended by The Leveson Inquiry into press behavior and ethics. Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, said this a 'sad day' for British democracy. 'This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's web use.' Exemplary damages, imposed by a court to penalize publishers who remain outside regulation, could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, easily enough to close down smaller publishers such as Private Eye and local newspapers. Harry Cole, who contributes to the Guido Fawkes blog says he does not want to join a regulator, he hopes his blog will remain as irreverent and rude as ever, and continue to hold public officials to account; its servers are located in the U.S. Members of Parliament voted on Clause 21A late last night, it passed 530 to 13."
langelgjm writes "In a closely-watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court today vindicated the first-sale doctrine, declaring that it "applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad." The case involved a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who sold cheap foreign versions of textbooks on eBay without the publisher's permission. The 6-3 decision has important implications for goods sold online and in discount stores. Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion (PDF) that the publisher lost any ability to control what happens to its books after their first sale abroad."
theodp writes "The Boston Globe reports that the estate of Aaron Swartz filed a motion in federal court in Boston Friday to allow the release of documents in the case that has generated national controversy over the U.S. attorney's aggressive pursuit of a stiff sentence. The Court filing (PDF) suggests that the U.S. attorney's office is still up for jerking Aaron around a little posthumously, seeking what his lawyers termed overbroad redactions, including names and titles that are already publicly known. Swartz's family also seeks the return of his seized property (PDF). Last week, Swartz's girlfriend accused MIT of dragging its feet on investigating his suicide. Meanwhile, Slate's Justin Peters asks if the Justice Department learned anything from the Aaron Swartz case, noting that Matthew Keys, who faces 25 years in prison for crimes that include aiding-and-abetting the display of humorously false content, could replace Swartz as the poster boy for prosecutorial overreach."
sarysa writes "The Supreme Court has refused to hear the latest appeal of the 7 year old Jammie Thomas case, regarding a single mother who was fined $222,000 in her most recent appeal for illegally sharing 24 songs. Those of us hoping for an Eighth Amendment battle over this issue will not be seeing it anytime soon. In spite of the harsh penalties, the journalist suggests that: 'Still, the RIAA is sensitive about how it looks if they impoverish a woman of modest means. Look for them to ask her for far less than the $222,000.'"
rcade writes "Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the creators of the old-school super-hero roleplaying game Villains & Vigilantes, have won a copyright and trademark lawsuit over the game's publisher Scott Bizar of Fantasy Games Unlimited. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Aspey of the U.S. District Court of Arizona ruled that Jeff Dee and Jack Herman own the rights to the game based on the 1979 contract they reached with Bizar. The court also found that Bizar never had the right to sell derivative products or ebook PDF editions, which are a big deal to tabletop publishers these days. Too bad this judge didn't hear Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's case."
In 2010, querying a public AT&T database yielded over 114,000 email address for iPad owners who were subscribed to the carrier. One of the people who found these emails, Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer, sent them to a news site to publicize AT&T's security flaw. He later ended up in court for his actions. Auernheimer was found guilty, and today he was sentenced to 41 months in prison. 'Following his release from prison, Auernheimer will be subject to three years of supervised release. Auernheimer and co-defendant Daniel Spitler were also ordered to pay $73,000 in restitution to AT&T. (Spitler pled guilty in 2011.) The pre-sentencing report prepared by prosecutors recommended four years in federal prison for Auernheimer.' A journalist watching the sentencing said, 'I felt like I was watching a witch trial as prosecutors admitted they didn't understand computers.'
An anonymous reader writes "When cell phone unlocking became illegal last month, it set off a firestorm of debate over what rights people should have for phones they have legally purchased. But this is really just one facet of a much larger problem with property rights in general. 'Silicon permeates and powers almost everything we own. This is a property rights issue, and current copyright law gets it backwards, turning regular people — like students, researchers, and small business owners — into criminals. Fortune 500 telecom manufacturer Avaya, for example, is known for suing service companies, accusing them of violating copyright for simply using a password to log in to their phone systems. That's right: typing in a password is considered "reproducing copyrighted material." Manufacturers have systematically used copyright in this manner over the past 20 years to limit our access to information. Technology has moved too fast for copyright laws to keep pace, so corporations have been exploiting the lag to create information monopolies at our expense and for their profit. After years of extensions and so-called improvements, copyright has turned Mickey Mouse into a monster who can never die.' We need to win the fight for unlocking phones, and then keep pushing until we actually own the objects we own again."
iComp writes "A sophisticated scheme to use a casino's own security systems against it has netted scammers $33 million in a high-stakes poker game after they were able to gain a crucial advantage by seeing the opposition's cards. The team used a high-rolling accomplice from overseas who was known to spend large amounts while gambling at Australia's biggest casino, the Crown in Melbourne, according to the Herald Sun. He and his family checked into the Crown and were accommodated in one of its $30,000-a-night villas. The player then joined a private high-stakes poker game in a private suite. At the same time, an unnamed person got access to the casino's CCTV systems in the poker room and fed the information he gleaned back to the player via a wireless link. Over the course of eight hands the team fleeced the opposition to the tune of $33 million."
dstates writes "SAM (Systems for Awards Management) is a financial management system that the US government requires all contractors and grantees to use. This system has recently been rolled out to replace the older CCR system. Friday night, thousands of SAM users received the following message: 'Dear SAM user, The General Services Administration (GSA) recently has identified a security vulnerability in the System for Award Management (SAM), which is part of the cross-government Integrated Award Environment (IAE) managed by GSA. Registered SAM users with entity administrator rights and delegated entity registration rights had the ability to view any entity's registration information, including both public and non-public data at all sensitivity levels.' From March 8 to 10, any registered user who searched the system could view confidential information including account and social security numbers for any other user of the system. Oops! The Government Services Administration says that they have fixed the problem."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Veoh has once again beaten the record companies; in fact it has beaten them in every round, only to have been forced out of business by the attorneys fees it expended to do so. I guess that's the record companies' strategy to do an 'end around' the clear wording of the DMCA 'safe harbor': outspend them until they fold. Back in 2009 the lower court dismissed UMG's case (PDF) on the ground that Veoh was covered by the DMCA 'safe harbor' and had complied with takedown notices. The record companies of course appealed. And they of course lost. Then, after the Viacom v. YouTube decision by the 2nd Circuit, which ruled that there were factual issues as to some of the videos, they moved for rehearing in UMG v. Veoh. Now, in a 61-page decision (PDF), the 9th Circuit has once again ruled that the statute means what it says, and rejected each and every argument the record companies made. Sadly, though, it did not award attorneys fees."
An anonymous reader writes "Bruce Schneier has written a blunt article in CNN about the state of privacy on the internet. Quoting: 'The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period. ... This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell. Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters. There are simply too many ways to be tracked."
An anonymous reader writes "The Obama Administration has put forth a proposal to collect $2 billion over the next 10 years from revenues generated by oil and gas development to fund scientific research into clean energy technologies. The administration hopes the research would help 'protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.' In a speech at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama said the private sector couldn't afford such research, which puts the onus on government to keep it going. Of course, it'll still be difficult to get everyone on board: 'The notion of funding alternative energy research with fossil fuel revenues has been endorsed in different forms by Republican politicians, including Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowsi. But the president still faces an uphill battle passing any major energy law, given how politicized programs to promote clean energy have become in the wake of high-profile failures of government-backed companies.'"
An anonymous reader writes "ComputerWeekly reports that the U.K. government 'has, for the first time, mandated a preference for using open source software for future developments.' This comes from the newly released version of the Government Service Design Manual, which has a section about when government agencies should use open source. It says: 'Use open source software in preference to proprietary or closed source alternatives, in particular for operating systems, networking software, web servers, databases and programming languages.' The document also warns against vendor lock-in. This policy shift comes under the direction of government CTO Liam Maxwell, who said, 'In digital public services, open source software is clearly the way forward.' He added, 'We're not dogmatic about this – we'll always use the best tool for the job – but open source has major advantages for the public sector.'"
An anonymous reader writes "An article at TechCrunch bemoans the naysayers of ubiquitous video camera headsets, which seems like a near-term certainty whether it comes in the form of Google Glass or a similar product. The author points out, rightly, that surveillance cameras are already everywhere, and increasingly sophisticated government drones and satellites mean you're probably on camera more than you think already. 'But there's something about being caught on video, not by some impersonal machine but by another human being, that sticks in people's craws and makes them go irrationally berserk.' However, he also seems happy to trade privacy for security, which may not be palatable to others. He references a time he was mugged in Mexico as well as a desire to keep an eye on abuses of authority from police and others. 'If pervasive, ubiquitous networked cameras ultimately make public privacy impossible, which seems likely, then at least we can balance the scales by ensuring that we have two-way transparency between the powerful and the powerless.'"
JayRott writes "According to Ars, 'The embattled copyright trolling firm Prenda Law is seeking to contain the fallout from a looming identity theft scandal by voluntarily dismissing lawsuits filed by the shell company AF Holdings. A Minnesota man named Alan Cooper has charged that Prenda fraudulantly used his name as the CEO of AF Holdings, allegations that have attracted the attention of a California judge. Ken at the legal blog Popehat broke the news that Prenda attorney Paul Duffy has sought dismissal of at least four pending infringement cases involving the Prenda-linked shell company AF Holdings. All four dismissals occurred in the Northern District of Illinois.' I don't see how Prenda thinks this is going to make one lick of difference to an already angry Judge."
RedLeg writes "ArsTechnica reports that Brian Krebs, of KrebsOnSecurity.com, formerly of the Washington Post, recently got SWATted. For those not familiar with the term, SWATting is the practice of spoofing a call to emergency responders (911 in the U.S.) to induce an overwhelming and potentially devastating response from law enforcement and/or other first responders to the home or residence of the victim. Brian's first-person account of the incident and what he believes to be related events are chronicled here. Krebs has been prominent in the takedown of several cyber-criminal groups in the past, and has been subject to retaliation. I guess this time he poked the wrong bear."