On January 26th, unlocking a cell phone that is under contract became illegal in the U.S. Just before that went into effect, a petition was started at whitehouse.gov to have the Librarian of Congress revisit that decision. "It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full. The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked." The 30 days time limit on the petition is almost up, and it's about 11,000 signatures shy of the amount necessary to ensure a response from the Obama administration (100,000 total, recently increased from 25,000). The creator of the petition received a Cease & Desist letter from Motorola in 2005 for selling software that would allow users to unlock their phones, and he thinks it's only a matter of time before such legal threats begin again. This is part of a larger battle to protect the way consumers can use their devices. While it's still legal for people to root their phones, the Librarian of Congress failed to expand that legal protection to tablets, even though the devices are incredibly similar. The Librarian's decision (PDF) needs further review, and if the White House petition doesn't get enough signatures by February 23, such a review may not happen.
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coondoggie writes "Communications and effective system control are still big challenges unmanned aircraft developers are facing if they want unfettered access to U.S. airspace. Those were just a couple of the conclusions described in a recent Government Accountability Office report on the status of unmanned aircraft (PDF) and the national airspace. The bottom line for now seems to be that while research and development efforts are under way to mitigate obstacles to safe and routine integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, these efforts cannot be completed and validated without safety, reliability, and performance standards, which have not yet been developed because of data limitations." The FAA and others seem mostly concerned about the drones hitting things if their GPS and ground communications are both disrupted.
New submitter BetterThanCaesar writes "The Swedish Pirate Party and their ISP Serious Tubes have received a letter from 'The Rights Alliance' (formerly Antipiratbyrån, The Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau), demanding they cease supplying Internet access to The Pirate Bay. Referring to the final sentence on the four Pirate Bay profiles, they threaten with legal action if access is not removed by February 26. On her blog, party leader Anna Troberg calls the letter 'extortion,' pointing out that (translated from Swedish) '[i]t is not illegal to provide The Pirate Bay with Internet access. There is no list of illegal sites that ISPs cannot provide access to.' (google translation to English)." The letter sent (in Swedish). Update: 02/20 14:58 GMT by U L : richie2000 notes that hosting isn't quite right; they're just routing traffic to TPB: "We're not hosting TPB, we're just routing traffic to them. Just like an ISP. Serious Tubes routes traffic to the Pirate Party, so they're even more removed. But, last night, Portlane, one of the ISPs that routes traffic to Serious Tubes, was pressured into cutting their transit to ST, even if they were just a provider to a provider to a provider to TPB."
An anonymous reader writes "We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets. We've seen patent claims thrown against Linux, Android, and countless other software projects. Now, as 3-D printing becomes more capable and more affordable, it seems a number of patents threaten to do the same to the hobbyist and tinkerer crowd. Wired has highlighted some of the most dangerous ones, including: a patent on soluble print materials that support a structure while it's being printed; a ridiculously broad patent on distributed rapid prototyping, which could affect "every 3-D printing service that has launched in the past few years"; and an 18-year-old patent on 3-D printing using a powder and a binding material, held by MIT."
pigrabbitbear writes "It's the most modern lament in retail: Brick-and-mortar shopping has gone the way of the dodo as everyone buys their junk online. But for the once-booming online gambling market, salvation may require a reversal of that trend. For one online gaming giant, buying a casino in Atlantic City is the first step to bring Internet poker back to the U.S. In 2006, playing online poker for real cash was deemed illegal. While that didn't stop more serious players from playing, especially once the big hosts started funneling cash offshore, the FBI and DoJ's crackdown on April 15, 2011 did. The big trio of online poker – PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker – were all shut down, domains seized, and executives arrested on charges related to fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling. While PokerStars and others continued operations in foreign, legal markets, the U.S. poker craze pretty much collapsed. That doesn't mean the lucrative market has gone away. Now, the Rational Group, which owns both PokerStars and Full Tilt, may be hinting at a workaround: the company is looking to buy a struggling casino in Atlantic City. Rational faces a rather large mess of regulatory hurdles, but if it does end up acquiring the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, it would have a huge foothold in New Jersey's young market for internet gambling."
theodp writes "'The lack of interest, the disdain for history is what makes computing not-quite-a-field,' Alan Kay once lamented. And so it should come as no surprise that the USPTO granted Google a patent Tuesday for the Automatic Deletion of Temporary Files, perhaps unaware that the search giant's claimed invention is essentially a somewhat kludgy variation on file expiration processing, a staple of circa-1970 IBM mainframe computing and subsequent disk management software. From Google's 2013 patent: 'A path name for a file system directory can be "C:temp\12-1-1999\" to indicate that files contained within the file system directory will expire on Dec. 1, 1999.' From Judith Rattenbury's 1971 Introduction to the IBM 360 computer and OS/JCL: 'EXPDT=70365 With this expiration date specified, the data set will not be scratched or overwritten without special operator action until the 365th day of 1970.' Hey, things are new if you've never seen them before!"
ananyo writes "Monsanto and other biotechnology firms could be looking to bring back 'terminator' seed technology. The seeds are genetically engineered so that crops grown from them produce sterile seed. They prompted such an outcry that, as Slashdot noted, Monsanto's chief executive pledged not to commercialize them. But a case in the U.S. Supreme Court could allow farmers to plant the progeny of GM seeds rather than buying new seeds from Monsanto, making the technology attractive to biotech companies again. Some environmentalists also see 'terminator' seeds as a way of avoiding GM crops contaminating organic/non-GM crops." Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry. From the NY Times: "BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might 'facilitate software piracy on a broad scale' because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file." The case was heard today; here is a transcript (PDF), and a clear explanation of what the case is about.
judgecorp writes "The Chinese government has been accused of backing the APT1 hacking group, which appears to be part of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), according to the security firm which worked with the New York Times when it fell victim to an attack. The firm, Mandiant, says that APT1 is government sponsored, and seems to operate from the same location as PLA Unit 61398." Unsurprisingly, this claim is denied by Chinese officials. You can read the report itself online (PDF), or skim the highlights.
An anonymous reader writes "Hollywood crime dramas are infamous for the scene when an accused is taken to a local police station and permitted a single phone call to contact a relative or lawyer. While the storyline is myth — there is no limit on the number of phone calls available to an accused or detainee — Michael Geist reports on a recent Canadian case establishing a new, real requirement for law enforcement. After a 19-year old struggled to find a lawyer using the telephone, the court ruled that police must provide an accused with Internet access in order to exercise their right to counsel."
Last week, a Finnish anti-piracy agency copied the CSS and HTML of The Pirate Bay. Today, TPB announced that they have filed a police report and are preparing to sue for copyright infringement: "The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest site for cultural diversity and file sharing, has today (Monday 2013-02-18) reported a suspected crime to the Finnish police. The suspected criminals are the Finnish anti-piracy organization CIAPC (locally known as TTVK). The reason is that CIAPC have copied files from which The Pirate Bay is built, to produce a fraudulent parody site. While The Pirate Bay may have a positive view on copying, it will not stand by and watch copyright enforcing organizations disrespect copyright." The Pirate Bay is also arguing that parody laws do not apply thanks to recent legal precedent.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Decades after the space race pitted the United States against Russia, a new race has emerged: the race to map the human brain. The New York Times reported Feb. 18 that the Obama administration is gearing up to announce the Brain Activity Map project, an effort to map an active human brain that could give new insight into how neurons interact with each other, providing new avenues of research for diseases such as Alzheimer's. The U.S. will apparently pit itself against a collection of European research agencies that have announced similar projects. The U.S. effort, however, will apparently involve U.S. businesses, which would naturally benefit from the high-profile nature of the effort; in theory, the latter could also apply the resulting discoveries to their own computing efforts. The Times reported that representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm met with government representatives at the California Institute of Technology to try and figure out whether or not there are sufficient computing resources to process the vast amounts of data that the experiments are expected to produce, or whether new ones would need to be built."
sfcrazy writes "Mark Shuttleworth has for the first time talked about the privacy issues in Ubuntu Dash after being criticized by EFF and FSF. He mentioned some changes in the way use can 'disable' the search results. However the company has showed that under no circumstances they will disable the online search by default as demanded by EFF and FSF. Shuttleworth was simply spinning the wheel moving things around to give an impression that something has been done where as the core problem remains — Dash sends keystrokes by default and legally every user agrees to send such keystrokes to PRODUCT.canonical.com server to be shared with partners like Facebook."
rbrandis writes "Google is in discussions with payment companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to put illegal download websites out of existence by cutting off their funding. If Google goes ahead with the radical move, it would not mark the first time that illegal websites have been diminished or driven out of business by having a block put on their source of money."