aws910 points to an L.A. Times article which explains that "Cablevision (a huge cable network) is suing Viacom (owner of MTV, Nickelodeon, etc), alleging that Viacom is violating U.S. federal anti-trust laws by requiring programming packages to be bundled. If they are victorious, it would be a tiny step closer to 'a la carte cable,' but not much — Cablevision just wants to make their own bundles, and not give the customer the freedom to choose which channels they get. Where can I get my "Kill your TV" bumper sticker?" The thing I care more about buying separately is no-TV internet service, which the major cable companies seem reluctant to admit is even possible.
Edgewood_Dirk writes "In response to the recent White House petition, the FCC will be investigating the viability and possible harm of the ban on cell-phone unlocking. Gregory Ferenstein met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at a TechCrunch CrunchGov event Wednesday, where the Chairman said the 'ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns.'" This line from the end of the article fails to inspire confidence: "Genachowski isn’t sure what authority he has, but if he finds any, given the tone of the conversation, it’s likely he will exert his influence to reverse the decision."
TrueSatan writes "In an utterly craven move, the Canadian government has launched a bill to bring Canada into full compliance with the discredited, U.S.-led ACTA agreement — an agreement to which most of the world does not agree. To further pressure the acceptance of this awful bill, the U.S., on the same day, released their Trade Policy and Agenda Annual Report (PDF), which calls on Canada to comply with ACTA obligations. For ACTA to take effect, it would require six signatures from the major economic blocks. Tt appears to have no remaining possibility of getting them, yet the U.S., and now Canada, continue to push it forward. The Canadian bill features claims based on spurious health and safety concerns that have been thoroughly debunked by a U.S. report. Despite these claims being so dubious, they remain a cornerstone of the Canadian bill. Similarly, the claimed losses due to counterfeiting ($30 billion USD) stated in the bill have also been debunked. The Canadian bill seeks to give border guards an unprecedented level of control, without the possibility of judicial oversight. Despite a lack of evidence to suggest that Canada is a major source of counterfeit product, the bill puts at risk the fully-legal parallel import of generic items — pharmaceuticals, for instance. The bill would also change copyright infringement from a civil dispute to a breach of criminal law. Pity Canada if this bill is enacted!"
New submitter charlesj68 writes with news that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has cut Apple's $1.05 billion patent infringement award from Samsung down by $450.5 million. She also said Samsung deserves a new trial over claims related to some of its smartphones. "Koh rejected Apple’s request to enhance the jury’s award, saying the amount Samsung owed was heavily disputed and the jury wasn’t bound to accept either side’s damages estimate. 'It is not the proper role of the court to second-guess the jury’s factual determination as to the proper amount of compensation,' Koh said in her ruling. Apple is entitled to additional damages for sales of infringing products that weren’t considered by the jury, Koh ruled, saying she intends to calculate the amount beginning on Aug. 25, the day after the jury reached its verdict. As the case has been appealed, Koh said she would delay considering evidence of actual post-verdict sales and pre-judgment interest until the appeals are completed."
Later today, the U.S. government will enter the sequestration process, a series of across-the-board budget cuts put into place automatically because U.S. politicians are bad at agreeing on things. "At that moment, somewhere in the bowels of the Treasury Department, officials will take offline the computers that process payments for school construction and clean energy bonds to reprogram them for reduced rates. Payments will be delayed while they are made manually for the next six weeks." The cuts will directly affect science- and tech-related spending throughout the country. Tom Levenson writes, '[s]equester cuts will strike bluntly across the scientific community. The illustrious can move a bit of money around, but even in large labs, a predictable result will be a reduction in the number of graduate student and post – doc slots available — and as those junior and early-stage researchers do a whole lot of the at-the-bench level research, such cuts will have an immediate effect on research productivity. The longer term risk is obvious too: fewer students and post-docs mean on an ongoing drop from baseline in the amount of work to be done year over year.' The former director of the National Institute of Health says it will set back medical science for a generation. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has laid out how the cuts will affect the U.S. space program. He said, "The Congress wasn’t able to do what they were supposed to do, so we’re going to suffer." The sequester will also prevent billions of dollars from flowing into the tech industry. This comes at a time when there's a pressing need in the tech sector for professionals versed in the use of Linux, and salaries for those workers are on the rise.
Dr Max sends this excerpt from an AP report: "U.S. prosecutors won a New Zealand court victory Friday in their battle to extradite Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and three colleagues accused of facilitating massive copyright fraud through the now-defunct online file-sharing site. The appeals court overturned an earlier ruling that would have allowed Dotcom and the others broad access to evidence in the case against them at the time of their extradition hearing, which is scheduled for August. The appeals court ruled that extensive disclosure would bog down the process and that a summary of the U.S. case would suffice. Dotcom says he's innocent and can't be held responsible for those who chose to use the site to illegally download songs or movies."
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from TorrentFreak: "The website blocking phenomenon has continued today in the UK, with the High Court adding three major torrent sites to the country's unofficial ban list. Following complaints from the music industry led by the BPI, the Court ordered the UK's leading Internet service providers to begin censoring subscriber access to Kickass Torrents, H33T and Fenopy." Unlike when the Pirate Bay was blocked, none of the ISPs contested this. They did, however, refuse to block things without a court order. Looks like the flood gates have been opened. On the topic of filesharing, Japan arrested 27 file sharers, using the recent changes to their copyright law that allow criminal charges to be brought against file sharers.
Entropy98 sends this quote from the LA Times: "Army Pfc. Bradley Edward Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 charges that he illegally acquired and transferred highly classified U.S. government secrets, agreeing to serve [up to] 20 years in prison for causing a worldwide uproar when WikiLeaks published documents describing the inner workings of U.S. military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the globe. The 25-year-old soldier, however, pleaded not guilty to 12 more serious charges, including espionage for aiding the enemy, meaning that his criminal case will go forward at a general court-martial in June. If convicted at trial, he risks a sentence of life in prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan."
Zordak writes "According to Law 360, H.R. 845, the 'Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes' (SHIELD) Act of 2013 would require non-practicing entities that lose in patent litigation to pay the full legal costs of accused infringers. The new bill (PDF) would define a 'non-practicing entity' as a plaintiff that is neither the original inventor or assignee of a patent, and that has not made its own 'substantial investment in exploiting the patent.' The bill is designed to particularly have a chilling effect on 'shotgun' litigation tactics by NPEs, in which they sue numerous defendants on a patent with only a vague case for infringement. Notably, once a party is deemed to be an NPE early in the litigation, they will be required to post a bond to cover the defendants' litigation costs before going forward."
An anonymous reader writes "Officials at the Chinese Defense Ministry say hackers from the U.S. have been attacking Chinese military websites. 'The sites were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks each month last year, two thirds of which came from the U.S., according to China's defense ministry. The issue of cyber hacking has strained relations between the two countries.' This follows recent hacks from people in China on high-profile U.S. sites, as well as a report accusing the Chinese government of supporting a hacking group. '[Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng] called on U.S. officials to "explain and clarify" what he said were recent U.S. media reports that Washington would carry out "pre-emptive" cyber attacks and expand its online warfare capabilities. Such efforts are "not conducive to the joint efforts of the international community to enhance network security," he said.'"
The new Copyright Alert System, a.k.a. the 'Six Strikes' policy, went into effect on Monday. Comcast and Verizon activated it today. Ars Technica asked them and other participating ISPs to see the copyright alerts that will be sent to customers who have been identified as infringing. Comcast was the only one to grant their request, saying that a "small number" of the alerts have already been sent out. The alerts will be served to users in the form of in-browser popups. They explain what triggered the alert and ask the user to sign in and confirm they received the alert. (Not admitting guilt, but at least closing off the legal defense of "I didn't know.") The article points out that the alerts also reference an email sent to the Comcast email address associated with the account, something many users not be aware of. The first two notices are just notices. Alert #5 indicates a "Mitigation Measure" is about to be applied, and that users will be required to call Comcast's Security Assurance group and to be lectured on copyright infringement. The article outlines some of the CAS's failings, such as being unable to detect infringement through a VPN, and disregarding fair use. Comcast said, "We will never use account termination as a mitigation measure under the CAS. We have designed the pop-up browser alerts not to interfere with any essential services obtained over the Internet." Comcast also assures subscribers that their privacy is being protected, but obvious that's only to a point. According to TorrentFreak, "Comcast can be asked to hand over IP-addresses of persistent infringers, and the ISP acknowledges that copyright holders can then obtain a subpoena to reveal the personal details of the account holder for legal action."
Weezul writes "The Ada Initiative's Valerie Aurora got Violet Blue's Hackers As A High-Risk Population (29c3 abstract) talk on harm reduction methodology pulled from the Security BSides meeting in San Francisco by claiming it contained rape triggers [ed note: you might not want to visit the main page of the weblog as it contains a few pictures that might be considered NSFW in more conservative places]. It's frankly asinine to object to work around hacker ethics as 'off topic' at such broad hacker conference. Is Appelbaum's 29c3 keynote 'off topic' for asking hackers to work for the 'good guys' rather than military, police, their contractors, Facebook, etc.? Yes, obviously harm reduction is a psychological hack that need not involve a computer, but this holds for 'social engineering' as well. It's simply that hacking isn't nearly as specialized or inaccessible as say theoretical physics. Worse, there is no shortage of terrible technology laws like the CFAA, DMCA, etc. that exist partially because early hackers failed to communicate an ethics that seemed coherent and reasoned to outsiders." The Ada Initiative responds that such talks do more harm than good. It could also be argued that "not working for the bad guys" type talks aren't off-topic, since the hacker community has traditionally cared about things like information freedom.
Zaatxe writes with a bit of news about the music industry; sales are slightly up (basically flat). From the article: "The music industry, the first media business to be consumed by the digital revolution, said on Tuesday that its global sales rose last year for the first time since 1999, raising hopes that a long-sought recovery might have begun. The increase, of 0.3 percent, was tiny, and the total revenue, $16.5 billion, was a far cry from the $38 billion that the industry took in at its peak more than a decade ago. Still, even if it is not time for the record companies to party like it's 1999, the figures, reported Tuesday by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, provide significant encouragement. 'At the beginning of the digital revolution it was common to say that digital was killing music,' said Edgar Berger, chief executive of the international arm of Sony Music Entertainment. Now, he added, it could be said 'that digital is saving music.'" Because CDs aren't digital. CD sales are declining, and being replaced by the sale of lossy files. I wonder how much more money they could be making if they'd just sell folks lossless music on the open market (not just iTunes) since at least that's all that keeps me buying a CD or three a year (I own way too many CDs personally, and stopped buying music until discovering Bandcamp and easy lossless downloads rekindled my desire to find new stuff).
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a blog post by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, founder of corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org and partner of the late Aaron Swartz: "The DOJ has told Congressional investigators that Aaron's prosecution was motivated by his political views on copyright. I was going to start that last paragraph with 'In a stunning turn of events,' but I realized that would be inaccurate — because it's really not that surprising. Many people speculated throughout the whole ordeal that this was a political prosecution, motivated by anything/everything from Aaron's effective campaigning against SOPA to his run-ins with the FBI over the PACER database. But Aaron actually didn't believe it was — he thought it was overreach by some local prosecutors who didn't really understand the internet and just saw him as a high-profile scalp they could claim, facilitated by a criminal justice system and computer crime laws specifically designed to give prosecutors, however incompetent or malicious, all the wrong incentives and all the power they could ever want. But this HuffPo article, and what I’m hearing from sources on the Hill, suggest that that’s not true. That Ortiz and Heymann knew exactly what they were doing: Shutting up, and hopefully locking up, an extremely effective activist whose political views, including those on copyright, threatened the Powers That Be."
schwit1 writes "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill Tuesday legalizing Internet gambling. While the bill only allows Atlantic City casino companies to take online bets, the WSJ believes that those casinos will partner with overseas companies that provide services for online gambling, potentially opening up a bigger market. Furthermore, the bill (PDF) will allow bettors from other states to gamble online, so long as regulators determine that the activity isn't prohibited by any federal or state laws. They included setting a 10-year trial period for online betting, and raising the taxes on the Atlantic City casinos' online winnings from 10 to 15 percent. New Jersey became the third state in the nation to legalize gambling over the Internet. Nevada and Delaware have passed laws legalizing Internet betting, which also is going on offshore, untaxed and unregulated."
eegad writes "I've been thinking a lot about how much information I give to technology companies like Google and Facebook and how I'm not super comfortable with what I even dimly know about how they're handling and selling it. Is it time for major companies like this, who offer arguably utility-like services for free in exchange for info, to start giving customers a choice about how to 'pay' for their service? I'd much rather pony up a monthly fee to access all the Google services I use, for example, and be assured that no tracking or selling of my information is going on. I'm not aware of how much money these companies might make from selling data about a particular individual, but could it possibly be more than the $20 or $30 a month I'd fork over to know that my privacy is a little more secure? Is this a pipe dream, or are there other people who would happily pay for their private use of these services? What kinds of costs or problems could be involved with companies implementing this type of dual business model?"
New submitter ThatsNotPudding writes "The U.S. Supreme court has rejected pleas to allow any challenges to the FISA wiretapping law unless someone can prove they've been harmed by it. 'The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, was originally designed to allow spying on the communications of foreign powers. But after the September 11 attacks, FISA courts were authorized to target a wide array of international communications, including communications between Americans and foreigners. ... In this case, the plaintiffs' groups said their communications were likely being scooped up by the government's expanded spying powers in violation of their constitutional rights. Today's decision, a 5-4 vote along ideological lines by the nation's highest court, definitively ends their case. In an opinion (PDF) by Justice Samuel Alito, the court ruled that these groups don't have the right to sue at all, because they can't prove they were being spied on.'" Further coverage at SCOTUSblog.
dp619 writes "Penn State law professor Clark Asay has written an editorial on F/OSS patent risk, saying, '...under the current patent system, it's entirely possible to obtain a patent that reads on software that FOSS communities independently create. Consequently, FOSS communities and their users are vulnerable to third party patent claims, even absent any sort of wrongdoing or copying on their part.' He suggests that developers collaborate to prevent bad or frivolous patents from being issued in the first place. The ongoing work of Linux Defenders and Peer-to-Patent are cited as good examples of how the FOSS community's collaborative spirit can help it counteract potential legal threats."
New submitter mynameiskhan writes "Major internet service providers today will start monitoring the internet traffic to their customers' computers and will warn them if they download copyrighted materials using peer to peer network. The article says, 'A person will be given up to six opportunities to stop before the Internet provider will take more drastic steps, such as temporarily slowing their connection, or redirecting Internet traffic until they acknowledge they received a notice or review educational materials about copyright law.' Furthermore, if you appeal the warning you will be required to pay $35 to state your case. Have the ISPs have had enough of RIAA pestering, or are they siding with RIAA?"
Google Hangout interview with Keith Bergelt, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Invention Network (OIN), which was jointly founded by IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony to share their relevant patents with all Linux and Open Source developers and users in order to prevent patent troll attacks on FOSS, such as the famous SCO vs. IBM lawsuits that hampered Linux adoption during the early 2000s. It costs nothing to become a an OIN licensee, and over 500 companies have done so. Few people know, however, that individual developers and FOSS users can become OIN licensees; that you are welcome to do so, and it costs nothing. Read their license agreement, sign it, and send it in. That's all it takes. They also buy patents and accept patent donations. And "...if your company is being victimized by any entity seeking to assert its patent portfolio against Linux, please contact us so that we can aid you in your battle with these dark forces." This OIN service is called Linux Defenders 911. We hope you never need to use it, but it's good to know it's there if you do need it.