“Podcasting” might as well have been the word of the year in 2014, when “Serial” shot the form straight to the top of the pop-culture buzz charts for a few months. But while everyone in America was plugging in earbuds and trying to decide whodunit, the U.S. Patent Office had the more important end of the challenge: deciding who actually owns the patent for the idea of podcasting. [More]
It seems like every few months we hear about another video game that the publisher has decided it’s no longer worthwhile to support. Once upon a time, that merely meant no more patches or new content. But now that more frequently means that much, if not all, of that game is now unplayable because gamers will no longer be able to access the servers needed to play or authenticate the title. And it’s all perfectly legal thanks to the infamous Digital Millennium Copyright Act. [More]
The backlash against the federal government’s surveillance programs continues. This time, the folks at Human Rights Watch have filed suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that the DEA’s bulk collection of data related to certain phone calls made by the organization runs afoul of basic protections afforded by the Constitution. [More]
Patents are intended to protect the developers of specific concepts. That’s why you don’t see a patent for “thing that can treat diseases,” but for individual medicines and devices. Last summer, the Supreme Court confirmed you can’t simply patent a generic idea just because you apply it to a computer. But a small photo-sharing site is being sued for infringing on a patent that arguably covers a vast range of vote-for-your-favorite competitions. [More]
Last November, a Wall Street Journal report pulled back the covers on a U.S. Marshals Service program that uses small planes carrying devices that mimic cellphone towers, allowing them to track criminals but also scoop up information from countless other phones of citizens not involved in any crimes. After months of trying to get more details on the program, one consumer privacy advocacy group has sued the Dept. of Justice hoping to compel the release of this information. [More]
Podcasts are simply the done thing, in 2014: everyone’s taking their modern update on the radio show with them on the go. One company out there, seeing all the dollar signs, now claims that they invented and patented podcasting 18 years ago, and is suing anyone not paying them license fees. But consumer tech advocates are fighting back, and hoping to get regulators to make the patent trolls crawl back under their bridge. [More]
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a really big deal — literally. The international trade agreement, still under negotiation, has wide-ranging implications for every sector of the American economy and individuals’ rights within it. But its contents are, largely, a complete black box mystery. And now a large group of advocates from around the world are once again asking the negotiators and nations involved to change that. [More]
A businessman wants to launch a new website. Like a Christian Mingle or a JDate, its purpose is to let members of a particular religion find love with one another. In this case, the target is members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as Mormons. But he’s running into a snag with the name. When is a Mormon not a Mormon? When he’s a “Mormon®.” [More]
In the wake of that whole thing where the National Security Agency is reportedly snooping on people, a whole bunch of tech industry giants have banded together with privacy advocates to send a letter to the lawmakers and President Barack Obama asking for some transparency when it comes to government surveillance. [More]
F**** Facebook! More and more, fed up with ever-disintegrating privacy policies, are saying just that, even going so far as to kill their Facebook accounts. Gizmodo has “Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook,” among them, one-sided terms of service, a “war on privacy,” the sharing of private data with applications, but perhaps best of fall, “Facebook is not technically competent enough to be trusted”: [More]
It’s difficult enough to parse a lengthy TOS for one web-based service, let alone for dozens, or to keep track of when and how they update them. It would be nice if some public-service website out there would keep track of this stuff for all of us, wouldn’t it? Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) did just that with the launch of TOSBAck.org, “the terms-of-service tracker.” It tracks TOS agreements for 44 different services, including Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter, and eBay.
Update: It turns out the special chips used in the headphone controls of the third generation Shuffle don’t contain any DRM after all, so any attempts at reverse-engineering won’t bring on the wrath of the DMCA.
[it] would have the right to claim statutory damages of up to $2,500 “per act of circumvention.” People who jailbreak phones, might even be subject to criminal penalties of as long as five years, if they circumvented copyright for a financial gain.
Look at this kid dance and smile as he revels in his mother’s blatant copyright infringement. The song fueling his happiness, Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” is owned by Universal Music Group, whose lawyers are not dancing, smiling, or happy.
The EFF is encouraging consumers to write their Senators about a new “spyware” bill that has been, in their words, “massaged by by lobbyists for the software and adware industries.” Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing says the bill
“makes it impossible for consumer rights groups to sue DRM companies for putting spyware in their DRM (like Sony did last year, with its rootkit DRM). The irony is that spyware is already illegal, so all that this act does is immunize big media companies that sneak spyware onto your computer.”
Spyware is spyware, we think, even if it comes with a Sony/BMG logo.
The EFF was none too happy about the AOL Search Records Data Leak. This is exactly the sort of thing that gets them to pull their lower lip over their heads in paranoid frustration.