Nick Turse: "If you're reading this on the Internet, the FBI may be spying on you at this very moment.
Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the Department of Justice has been collecting e-mail and IP (a computer's unique numeric identifier) addresses, without a warrant, using trap-and-trace surveillance devices ("pen-traps"). Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice's principle investigative arm, may be monitoring the web-surfing habits of Internet users -- also without a search warrant -- that is, spying on you with no probable cause whatsoever."
We loved that this NYT piece reported on EFF's high-definition TV PVR build-ins. We hated that the highly unfortunate title, "Steal This Show," suggests that recording TV programs using a homebrew HDTV PVR is somehow tantamount to stealing. Not surprisingly, so did Public Knowledge's Mike Godwin. Today, he runs a fine-toothed comb through the piece, pointing out that the authors appear to have swallowed a few MPAA-propagated myths:
If there is one person who understands what the "content" business is going to look like in the 21st century, it is Mark Cuban. First, he built a billion dollar business in webcasting at Broadcast.com, long before media moguls were paying attention to "Internet radio." Today, at HDNet, he's the biggest producer of high-definition all-digital television content in the world, having lapped the media moguls yet again.
In our first episode, Marvel sued NCSoft and Cryptic Studios, makers of the role-playing game "City of Heroes," claiming the game allowed users playing superheroes to infringe unspecified Marvel copyrights and trademarks. NCSoft filed a motion to dismiss the compaint.
Flip ahead to episode 3, Marvel's Second Amended Complaint. Marvel finally includes eight screenshots of characters Marvel claims users "created," calling them proof of "literally thousands of infringing Heroes roaming the streets of Paragon City."
California's protracted, predictable, and ultimately preventable e-voting train wreck continues. On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that eight California counties that purchased paperless electronic voting machines before the state passed its paper-trail requirement are now balking at the cost of the required upgrades. According to the Times, costs will exceed $22 million, with Orange County on the hook for approximately $9 million. Shasta County's chief elections official laments that this burdensome requirement will reduce funds available for firefighting, law enforcement, and local libraries. Alameda County's registrar complains that the requirements are unnecessary and that "the people who wanted it have raised such a fuss that they've created this atmosphere of distrust in the public."
It's a bit hard to sympathize.
EFF Chairman Brad Templeton doesn't care much for football, but since he enjoys seeing the multi-million dollar commercials liberally interspersed with it, he held a reverse Superbowl party: fast forward through the game to watch the ads. To capture the show in high-definition and play it back around the house, he used a home-built MythTV system with pcHDTV's HD-3000 HDTV tuner card. Brad has posted a great account of the event:
At my party, it was very high-tech. An antenna on the roof fed the FOX HDTV signal coming over the air into a tuner card located in a server computer in my workroom. This computer ran the MythTV "backend" and did the fairly simple task of recording the video stream to the disk.
Bollier, a co-founder of the public interest group Public Knowledge, has written a darkly funny, accessible account of horror stories and outrages both large and small. A few years back, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers send out letters to 288 camps in the American Camping Association, demanding that Brownies and Girl Scouts stop singing copyrighted songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Row, Row, Row" unless the camping groups ponied over thousands of dollars in licensing fees.
Back in the day, a tattoo artist quite rationally saw your tattoo as a free advertisement for his art. Not anymore. According to this AP story, the man who put a tattoo on the right arm of Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace is suing to stop Wallace from "displaying" his artwork in ads for Nike basketball shoes. Wallace reportedly paid the artist, Matthew Reed of TigerLilly Tattoo and DesignWorks, $450.00 for the tattoo -- but evidently that wasn't enough. Reed told the Associated Press he "expected to benefit from the exposure."
Our friends at TV-Anytime are unusually candid in their dirigisme. Their working group on business models claims the obligation to predict "every conceivable present and future way that [a technology] can be used." Now that's ambition.
You can find the statement in question on the Business Models Working Group home page:
The Business Models working group's mission has been based on the premise that "no system can be properly developed without first imagining & documenting every conceivable present and future way that it could be used."
Did the FCC have jurisdiction to enter the broadcast flag order in November 2003? If it didn't, we'll need to go to Congress to discuss all this.
People in the Apple community are upset about the company's legal action against three Canadian students who allegedly posted a developer build of MacOS 10.4 via BitTorrent. Now the publisher of DrunkenBlog has posted responses from 25 members of the Mac community -- including one from none other than Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak:
I was shocked reading [DrunkenBlog's interview with the targeted students]. Everything fits into place that this is an unintentional oversight and the interviewed student appears to be one of the most honest people on this planet. I have to question who is most right in this case.
There are two laudable legislative efforts in the works that could help clarify that online journalists are entitled to the same rights and privileges as traditional print journalists.
The first is the national OPEN Government Act (S.394), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and co-sponsor Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.). It's aimed at reforming the law to make it easier for journalists and others to access government documents -- and as the ACLU points out, that includes implementing "news media status rules that recognize the reality of freelance journalists and the Internet."
If you've been looking for a way to help out with efforts like fighting the broadcast flag and connect with other people who want to keep the Internet open, safe, and free, here's the pitch-perfect opportunity to do both!
EFF's own Fred von Lohmann has a monthly column at Law.com, and fortunately we have the freedom to publish these columns in their entirety here at the EFF website. This month's column is "Publius, RIP?" -- a look at why it's critically important to our society that we preserve anonymous speech on the Internet.
Here, an excerpt; click on "More" to read the entire piece:
Google's Auto-Link adds links to certain kinds of content that appears on web pages (like a link to Google Maps for addresses, or Amazon for ISBNs).
Some people (like Dan Gillmor) are viewing this with suspicion. (The Trademark Blog has collected the commentary.) They shouldn't. The issue is simple: Who owns your desktop? You, or the owner of whatever webpage you happen to be browsing?