CanHasDIY writes "Straight out of 1984, Samsung has unveiled a new series of televisions with integrated cameras and microphones, complete with facial and voice recognition software. Best of all, there appears to be no physical indication of the mic and camera's status, so consumers have no way of knowing when they're being monitored, or by whom... and if you don't find the idea of a TV that watches you creepy enough, apparently Samsung's Terms of Service include a clause allowing third-party apps to make use of the monitoring system, and use the data gathered for their own purposes. Nothing Orwellian about that..."
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New submitter sed quid in infernos writes "The Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion yesterday holding that 'to transform an unpatentable law of nature into a patent-eligible application of such a law, a patent must do more than simply state the law of nature while adding the words "apply it."' The Court invalidated a patent on the process of adjusting medication dosage based on the levels of specific metabolites in the patient's blood. The opinion sets forth a process for determining patent eligibility for patent claims that include a law of nature. The court wrote that the "additional features" that show an application of the law must "provide practical assurance that the [claimed] process is more than a drafting effort." This language suggests that the burden will be on the patentee to prove that its limitations are more than patent attorney tricks.'"
AstroPhilosopher writes "Recently Wired, USA Today and other news outlets reported on a new spy center being built to store intercepted communications (even American citizens'). Tuesday, Gen. Keith Alexander testified in front of Congress refuting the articles. Alexander even went so far as to claim the NSA lacks the authority to monitor American citizens. It's an authority that was given to the NSA through the FISA Amendments Act signed into law by Bush and still supported today by Obama."
Fluffeh writes "As recently covered here, EU countries are starting to drop ACTA support. Now, long-time opponent of the secretly negotiated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Sen. Ron Wyden introduced an amendment to a Senate 'jobs bill' that would force ACTA to come before Congress for approval. His second amendment tries to force a change (PDF) in how the whole process around such treaties is handled. Right now, the U.S. attempts to keep its negotiating positions a secret. What vital national security interests could be at stake if the public knew USTR was promoting 'graduated response' laws or proposing changes in ISP liability? Wyden doesn't believe there are any."
TheUnknownCoder writes "The MPAA claims $58 billion in actual U.S. economic losses and 373,000 lost jobs due to piracy. Where are these numbers coming from? Rob Reid puts these numbers into perspective in this TED Talk, leaving us even more puzzled about the math behind copyright laws. 'Ignoring improbabilities like pirated steaks and daffodils, I looked at actual employment and headcount in actual content industries, and found nothing approaching the claimed losses. There are definitely concrete and quantifiable piracy-related losses in the American music industry. The Recording Industry Association’s website has a robust and credible database that details industry sales going back to 1973, which any researcher can access for a few bucks (and annoying as I’ve found the RIAA to be on certain occasions, I applaud them for making this data available). I used it to compare the industry’s revenues in 1999 (when Napster debuted) to 2010 (the most recent available data). Sales plunged from $14.6 billion down to $6.8 billion — a drop that I rounded to $8 billion in my talk. This number is broadly supported by other sources, and I find it to be entirely credible. But this pattern just isn’t echoed in other major content industries.'"
Fluffeh writes with news that U.S. Congressmen Baca (D-CA) and Wolf (R-VA) have proposed a bill that would require most video games to have a warning label decrying their "potential damaging" long-term effects on children. "Under the one-page Violence in Video Games Labeling Act (PDF), packaging for all video games except those rated 'EC' for Early Childhood would be required to prominently display a message reading: 'WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.' The proposed label would be required even if the video game in question is not violent."
Writing for Boing Boing, Carl Malamud describes the campaign he's been waging to let U.S. citizens read the public safety standards that have become part of federal law — without needing to pay for the privilege. "These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear." Despite a U.S. Appeals Court ruling which said 'the law' should be in the public domain, many safety codes are still privately produced and then distributed for a fee, to recoup development costs. "Public.Resource.Org has a mission of making the law available to all citizens, and these technical standards are a big black hole in the legal universe. We've taken a gamble and spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 of these technical public safety standards that are incorporated into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations." Malamud and his Public.Resource.Org foundation are trying — very cautiously — to make these laws more broadly available. "...even though we strongly believe that the documents are not entitled to copyright protection, and moreover that our limited print run is in any case definitely fair use, if a judge were to decide that what we did was breaking the law, 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000 in potential liability. While whales may make bigger bets, we draw the line at $273 million."
suraj.sun writes with a followup to last week's news that Mozilla was thinking about reversing their stance on H.264 support. Mozilla chairman Mitchell Baker and CTO Brendan Eich have now both written blog posts explaining why they feel H.264 support is no longer optional. Eich wrote, "We will not require anyone to pay for Firefox. We will not burden our downstream source redistributors with royalty fees. We may have to continue to fall back on Flash on some desktop OSes. I’ll write more when I know more about desktop H.264, specifically on Windows XP. What I do know for certain is this: H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile. I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile. Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won’t sugar-coat this pill. But we must swallow it if we are to succeed in our mobile initiatives. Failure on mobile is too likely to consign Mozilla to decline and irrelevance." Baker added, "Our first approach at bringing open codecs to the Web has ended up at an impasse on mobile, but we’re not done yet. ... We'll find a way around this impasse."
An anonymous reader writes "Google has once again stood up in court for the rights of users and services online, this time defending Hotfile from copyright infringement accusations. [Quoting the article]: 'Google takes a sort of hard-line approach via the DMCA, telling the court that however the MPAA may try to mislead them, Hotfile is in fact protected under safe harbor provisions. And furthermore, Google suggests that the MPAA's approach is contrary to the language in and precedents surrounding the DMCA. The onus is on copyright holders to alert a service to the nature and location of an infringement, and the service's responsibility is to alert the user if possible and remove the material within a reasonable period of time.'" The full brief has been uploaded to Scribd. The MPAA, naturally, has requested that the amicus brief be rejected by the court: "Google's proposed brief appears to be part of a systematic effort by Google, itself a defendant in ongoing copyright infringement cases, to influence the development of the law to Google's own advantage — as well as an effort by Hotfile (whose counsel also represent Google) to circumvent its page limits. Google is acting as a partisan advocate for Hotfile, making arguments that Hotfile has or could have made in its own opposition to summary judgment. The parties here are well-represented and have the incentive and wherewithal to make all the arguments the court will need. Although Google purports not to take a position regarding summary judgment here, Google unmistakably seeks a ruling against plaintiffs. Google's motion should be denied"
An anonymous reader writes "Following the recent Italian case, Apple is now being sued by the Belgian consumer association 'Test-Achats' (french/dutch website) for not applying the EU consumer protection laws by only giving a one-year warranty on its products. At the same time, Apple is not only refusing to give the mandatory two-year warranty but is also selling the additional year of warranty with its Applecare products. If the consumer association wins its case, Apple could be forced to refund Applecare contracts to its Belgian customers while providing the additional year of warranty for free."
eldavojohn writes "Apparently the Samsung and Apple patent hoedown has received some uninvited guests that wish to troll with the big trolls — all over a built-in button for an emoticon. According to Varia Holdings (don't bother googling, you won't find anyone trying to license their patents to you) 'by asserting [its European] emoticon patent against Apple, Samsung has recognized the value of the type of invention embodied in [Varia's] '731 Patent.' And, thusly, Varia feels this provides grounds to sue Samsung and RIM. Techdirt provides commentary on the obviousness of said patent while raking the USPTO examiner over the coals (although, curiously, gives Samsung a free pass)."
suraj.sun sends this quote from an op-ed at Ars Technica: "Eight months ago, content owners and Internet service providers agreed to the Copyright Alert System, a 'six-strike' plan to reduce copyright infringement by Internet users. Under the system, ISPs will soon send educational alerts, hijack browsers, and perhaps even slow/temporarily block the Internet service of users accused of online infringement (as identified by content owners). At the time it was announced, some speculated that the proposed system might not be legal under the antitrust laws. ... If I had to explain antitrust in a single word, it would not be 'competition' — it would be 'power.' The power to raise prices above a competitive level; the power to punish people who break your rules. Such power is something society usually vests in government. Antitrust law is in part concerned with private industry attempting to assert government-like power. ... The Copyright Alert System represents a raw exercise of concerted private power. Content owners as a group have control over their product. They have leveraged this control to forge this agreement with ISPs, who need to work with content owners in order to offer content to their own users. ISPs, in turn, have power over us as users."
1sockchuck writes "The Pirate Bay says it plans to deploy servers on airborne drones several kilometers above international waters. The site said it was experimenting with servers using Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized Linux computer. April Fools come early? Torrent Freak says the plan is real. It's apparently a literal approach to cloud computing."
An anonymous reader writes "It looks as if the Australian Government really doesn't want the public to know what's going on in its closed-door talks with ISPs and the content industry. The Attorney-General's Department has applied the black marker to almost all of the information contained in documents about the meetings released under Freedom of Information laws. The reason? It wouldn't be in the 'public interest' to release the information. Strange how the public seems to have a high degree of interest in finding out what's being talked about."
Nick Bilton, Lead Technology writer for The New York Times Bits Blog, called the FAA to complain about its gadget policies on flights and got an unexpected reply. Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, said that it might be time to change some of those policies and promised they'd take a “fresh look” at the use of personal electronics on planes. From the article: "Yes, you read that correctly. The F.A.A., which in the past has essentially said, 'No, because I said so,' is going to explore testing e-readers, tablets and certain other gadgets on planes. The last time this testing was done was 2006, long before iPads and most e-readers existed. (The bad, or good, news: The F.A.A. doesn’t yet want to include the 150 million smartphones in this revision.)"