Private Eye Covers the EPO Scandals, Says EPO Hired ‘British Snooping Firm Global Risk Consultants’

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Private Eye

Summary: Popular British paper covers the EPO scandals and focuses on revelations from Techrights

FOR THOSE who are not British, Private Eye, to quote Wikipedia, “has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deems guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency, corruption, pomposity or self-importance and it has established itself as a thorn in the side of the British establishment.” It has a circulation of 228,264 people.

We were gratified to have found out that Private Eye, like Belgian TV for instance (also very mainstream, not some niche audience like a publication for technical readers or lawyers), decided to write about EPO abuses. It’s not very often that we find articles about these abuses in English, partly because EPO is centered around Holland and Germany (where the languages are different and rarely understood by British journalists).

“I’m not sure if you’ve seen this,” wrote a reader to us, “but Private Eye did a write up of the EPO showing favouritism to Microsoft in its latest issue.”

“A bit of a surprising neutral tone from the Eye and the opening line says they “are to be offered preferential treatment”. They already have been since April!”

Here is a camera copy of the article.

Patently Odious

We have manually put that into textual form, as follows:

Patently Odious

A HANDFUL of global firms are to be offered preferential treatment by the European Patent Office (EPO) in an effort to improve the “epirit de service” on offer, according to leaked documents reported in German media.

Several of the big technology players have filed complaints against the EPO due to a backlog of hundreds of delayed applications at the office. Microsoft alone has around 600 separate applications in the pipeline and is one of the companies listed to be fast-tracked in the new pilot scheme as the EPO tries to repair its reputation with major applicants.

The EPO is run by the European Patent Organisation, an entity separate to the EU that has a wider membership including Turkey and Switzerland as well as the EU countries. The UK has been a member since 1977. the other companies being offered VIP treatment include Canon, Siemens, Fujitsu, BASF, Bayer, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Philips. The leaked documents suggest that Samsung and Huawei could join them, with other large firms being added if the pilot is successful. Thus Europe’s patent officers will be putting US or Far Eastern firms ahead of many European firms when dealing with patents.

Meanwhile, the EPO is in dispute with its own staff over various issues, including the hiring of British snooping firm Global Risk Consultants to investigate allegations of internal bullying and intimidation. There have been protests at the organisation’s offices in Munich and The Hague.

We are not sure what they mean by “Global Risk Consultants”, perhaps just another name for CRG or some kind of sub-division (or maybe an editorial error). It is described as a “British snooping firm”, which isn’t the description CRG publicly gives of itself, for obvious reasons. We wrote about CRG in some articles including the ones below.

Former German Constitutional Court Judge Denounces the EPO’s Possible Campaign of Defamation Against Judge Accused of Truth-Telling

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Siegfried Broß
Image courtesy: campact.de

Summary: Siegfried Broß explains why the discrediting allegations against the accused judge (a hard-working technical person) are just totally unacceptable

SUEPO has just shared this article from the Germany media. We are looking for someone who can provide an accurate translation of it. For now, however, we only have a partial translation, as published in SUEPO’s public pages. SUEPO says that it is an “interview with Siegfried Broß, a former judge of the German Constitutional Court, who considers that the European Patent Organisation suffers from structural deficiencies requiring a conference of the Ministers of its member states.” That’s an understatement; there are vastly bigger issues than structural deficiencies.

“The Unitary Patent is anything but necessary, yet the EPO actively promotes this because it’s an opportunity for more money and power. At whose expense?”SUEPO added the following excerpts from the article: “The disciplinary procedure against a member of the Boards of Appeal is unconstitutional [...] it does not respect presumption of innocence and [...] was initiated by the President of the EPO [...] The publication of discrediting allegations against the accused are totally unacceptable. [...] The Enlarged Boards of Appeal should refuse the request from the Administrative Council and stop the procedure in order to denounce the fundamental abuse. [...] An organisational separation of the Boards of Appeal from the management of the EPO should be seriously considered by the Administrative Council as it is necessary for the Unitary Patent.”

The Unitary Patent is anything but necessary, yet the EPO actively promotes this because it’s its opportunity for more money and power. At whose expense? It’s like like a continental ‘trade’ agreement, akin to TPP. It’s an organised passage of wealth from the already-impoverished (or small businesses) to few conglomerates and billionaires who tyrannically run them. By extension, in due course, this extends to foreign wealth holders and corporations. The Unitary Patent helps nobody except some bureaucrats, multi-national (or very large) corporations, and their lawyers. What’s in it for the public? Virtually nothing.

Not only SUEPO noticed the article above. One source sent us this very same interview with the former German Constitutional Court judge, quoting: “AC and Battistelli activities have no legal basis” (probably a direct quote/translation).

“You might be interested in this interview,” wrote the source, “with the former judge at the German Constitutional Court, Prof. Broß, on the EPO disciplinary case against the DG3 judge and the apparent lack of judicial independence, published yesterday on the website of the German legal magazine “Juve“.”

What we are hoping for right now is a full translation for future reference.

“So Benoît, who has been engaged in a “campaign of defamation”?”If someone could kindly provided us with a decent and complete translation promptly enough (it can be posted below in the comments section), that would be lovely. It helps reinforce what we already know — that what Benoît Battistelli does (potentially defaming board members he doesn't like, in cooperation with the media) is not just an embarrassment to the already-abusive EPO but also legally improper.

So Benoît, who has been engaged in a “campaign of defamation”? Team Battistelli, even complemented by new and professional PR placements, is going to have a difficult weekend, with even the International Labour Organisation on its tail. Historically, it has not been atypical for the criminal to accuse the accuser of being “criminal”. It’s projection and it’s the most desperate defence tactic. Team Battistelli should seriously consider stepping down (Battistelli reportedly threatened to resign), not continue this war that they simply can’t win. The longer this goes on, the more talented people this organisation will permanently lose. And that’s just bad for Europe in general.

“The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference”

Bess Myerson

Links 30/10/2015: System76 Sells Oryx Pro, Plasma 5.5 Looks for Wallpapers

Posted in News Roundup at 11:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • The new era of community

    The new Director of Community at GitHub, Jono Bacon, delivered a keynote at All Things Open this year titled: The new era of community. His talk was largely a call action to do better job of leading, guiding, and engaging in open source communities. Here’s how.

  • The Race to Develop an Open-Source Voting System Is On

    The City and County of San Francisco joined Los Angeles County and Travis County, Texas, in their pursuit of open source voting systems, where the public can review the software code for evidence of ballot tampering.

    The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) adopted a report titled “Study on Open Source Voting Systems” on Friday, recommending how the county can build its own in San Francisco.

  • Look at that nice looking FreedomBox!

    I’m rebuilding one my home server and decided to take a look at the FreedomBox project as the base for it.

    The 0.6 version was recently released and I wasn’t aware of how advanced the project is already!

    They have a virtualbox image ready for some quick test. It took me longer to download it than to start using it.

  • Tor Messenger chat client beta available

    Messaging is generally thought to be safer than PGP encrypted email because there aren’t emails sitting around for interested parties to decrypt at their leisure. Once a messaging session is over, the messages, if not logged, disappear.

  • Greenplum goes open source — and a new cloud analytics star is born

    Greenplum Database, Pivotal’s data warehouse solution, has come full circle. Once derived from the open source PostgreSQL, Greenplum is open source once again.

    Greenplum could be used to yank the rug out from under the stagnant legacy players in data warehousing and analytic RDBMSes, but Oracle, Impala, and Teradata alone aren’t the competition. Rather, cloud leaders are also at risk.

  • What good is open source nobody knows about?

    Here’s a pet peeve of mine, because I see it time and time again: Folks work on software or projects, put in a ton of effort, and then do nothing to promote the project or release. (And, for bonus points, complain that they don’t understand why the project isn’t getting more attention!)


    This isn’t necessarily intuitive for folks, I understand. But it is absolutely, vitally, necessary. Maybe, occasionally, a project is just so darn awesome that somebody happens to stumble on it via GitHub or whatever and word of mouth makes it a success – but typically, things get out into the world via consistent updates and communications to the right channels to get the word out.

  • Tor Just Launched the Easiest App Yet for Anonymous, Encrypted IM

    The anonymity network Tor has long been the paranoid standard for privacy online, and the Tor Browser that runs on it remains the best way to use the web while revealing the least identifying data. Now the non-profit Tor Project has officially released another piece of software that could bring that same level of privacy to instant messaging: a seamless and simple app that both encrypts the content of IMs and also makes it very difficult for an eavesdropper to identify the person sending them.

    On Thursday the Tor Project launched its first beta version of Tor Messenger, its long-in-the-works, open source instant messenger client. The app, perhaps more than any other desktop instant messaging program, is designed for both simplicity and privacy by default: It integrates the “Off-the-Record” (OTR) protocol to encrypt messages and routes them over Tor just as seamlessly as the Tor Browser does for web data. It’s also compatible with the same XMPP or “Jabber” chat protocol used by millions of Facebook and Google accounts, as well as desktop clients like Adium for Mac and Pidgin for Windows. The result is that anyone can download the software and in seconds start sending messages to their pre-existing contacts that are not only strongly encrypted, but tunneled through Tor’s maze of volunteer computers around the world to hide the sender’s IP address.

  • Tor Messenger Beta: Chat over Tor, Easily

    Tor Messenger is a cross-platform chat program that aims to be secure by default and sends all of its traffic over Tor. It supports a wide variety of transport networks, including Jabber (XMPP), IRC, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Twitter, Yahoo, and others; enables Off-the-Record (OTR) Messaging automatically; and has an easy-to-use graphical user interface localized into multiple languages.

  • Events

    • OpenStack Summit Tokyo 2015

      Yesterday I conducted my presentation about “99.999% available OpenStack Cloud – A builder’s guide”. The room was full. If you could not join, you can find the slide deck on slideshare and the video is also already available online.

    • How to keep a technical conference relevant for decades

      LISA is an annual technical conference for IT operations professionals, organized by The USENIX Association. The first LISA was held back in 1986, and the event still has a reputation for delivering top-notch technical content and an exceptional hallway track. This year, Amy Rich (Mozilla Corporation) and Cory Lueninghoener (Los Alamos National Laboratory) co-chaired the conference.

  • SaaS/Big Data

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Sharing Work Is Easier With An Open Document Format

      The Open Document Format (ODF) is one such format. ODF was specified by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), an industry consortium which aims to produce standards for e-business.

      Key players in OASIS include the tech giants Sun Microsystems (now part of the Oracle) and IBM. Sun has been one of the main drivers of the format as it grew out of the format used by its free OpenOffice application. In 2006 the Open Document Format was approved jointly by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as an international standard for office software.

      Sun promised not to enforce any of its patents against implementations using the OpenDocument standard, although there can be much uncertainty associated with patents.

    • LibreOffice 5.1 to Start Twice as Fast, Has MS Office 2016 Interoperability

      The first major point release for LibreOffice, the 5.1 branch, is being worked on this weekend during the 1st Bug Hunting Session. This promises to be an important upgrade that should really make a difference.

    • LibreOffice Hackfest at Hamburg

      Thanks to CIB, who sponsored the event with their office location, drinks and food, we again had a LibreOffice Hackfest at Hamburg on Saturday/Sunday October 24/25, and a get-together on Friday evening with the opportunity to meat also some long time colleagues from Sun and Star.

  • Education

    • Lawrence school district joins open source initiative

      The Lawrence school district is taking part in a new U.S. Department of Education campaign, #GoOpen, to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials.

      The Lawrence school district is one of 10 districts nationwide that have taken up the #GoOpen challenge to replace at least one textbook with openly licensed educational resources within the next year.

  • Electronic Payments

  • BSD

    • Deweloperzy OpenBSD: joshua stein

      I started using OpenBSD in 1998 (version 2.3 or 2.4) to host a BBS that I was running. I switched from Slackware Linux to OpenBSD because of its focus on security and eventually stuck with it because of its simple design and ease of administration. The ports system was a big draw for me as well.

    • Deweloperzy OpenBSD: Stefan Sperling

      I’m currently self-employed, with a focus on open source development and consulting for companies interacting with open source projects.

      Besides OpenBSD, I have been contributing to Apache Subversion since 2007. One of my main jobs is to provide support, workshops, and consulting for Subversion, plus fixing bugs and working on new features. I am somewhat involved in the Apache Software Foundation as a whole, but at this point in time my contributions there are more symbolic in nature, mostly because of lack of time and focus.


    • A road trip into the Free Software Foundation’s early days

      On my 21st birthday in 1998, I received a phone call from Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation (FSF), to tell me the root password of the GNU Project’s web server.

      I’d learned about something called UNIX a great many years prior, and in 1993, on a two-week language course in Swansea, Wales, I managed to up my storage quota on the university’s Pyramid system from 2MB to 4MB, enough to download Slackware from the University of Vaasa’s FTP server and bring it back home with me.

  • Licensing

    • Christoph Hellwig Continues VMware GPL Enforcement Suit in Germany

      The lawsuit continues to progress. VMware has filed a statement of defense, in which they assert arguments for the dismissal of the action. Christoph, with the assistance of his lawyer Till Jaeger, has filed his response to these arguments. Unfortunately, VMware has explicitly asked for the filings not to be published and, accordingly, Conservancy has not been able to review either document. With the guidance of counsel, Christoph was able to provide Conservancy with a high-level summary of the filings from which we are able to provide this update. VMware’s statement of defense primarily focuses on two issues. First, VMware questions Christoph’s copyright interest in the Linux kernel and his right to bring this action. Second, VMware claims vmklinux is an “interoperability module” which communicates through a stable interface called VMK API.

    • VMware vs German kernel dev: Filings flung in Linux-lifting lawsuit

      Software Freedom Conservancy has spat out a “high level” update on the GPL enforcement case it is backing against VMware, ahead of an expected first hearing next year.

      SFC said that VMware had filed its defence against the suit brought by German kernel developer Christoph Hellwig back in March, which alleges VMware’s proprietary ESXi hypervisor products use portions of the code that Hellwig wrote for the Linux kernel, in violation of the terms of version 2 of the GPL.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Romania prepares its second Action Plan

      “Creating an open governance process requires a larger commitment and a more engaged dialogue between the government, civil society, citizens and the private sector. Having an efficient administration can drive a better communication between public institutions, civil servants, and other stakeholders,” according to an evaluation report published by the Romanian government, which will form the basis of its second OGP Action Plan (2014-2016).

    • Can Greenpeace become an open organization?

      I’m fascinated by what the open community takes for granted. Outside FOSS, free and open source software, the idea that work needs to have a solid foundation before being released is deeply seeded. But, in open source communities we say, “Release early, release often,” a phrase I regularly substitute now for: “Throw it into the world as soon as you can formulate words around it.” Heck, even if you aren’t coherent, someone might still understand you. Go ahead and share!

    • Open Hardware

      • Novena: A Laptop With No Secrets

        Our next choice had social repercussions. When you adopt a CPU/operating-system combination, you also adopt its developers. We decided against Google Android because it’s optimized for phones and tablets, its graphical display typically shows only one application at a time, and its touch-screen paradigm is too imprecise for computer-aided design work. Therefore, in order to create a system that our target market of developers and creators could use, we decided to run on our ARM chip a version of Linux called GNU/Linux. GNU, which authored both the OS libraries and the license that the Linux kernel uses, is a coder’s organization, right down to the self-referential acronym itself (it stands for “Gnu’s Not Unix”).

      • Open Source Laptop

        Andrew “bunnie” Huang & Sean Cross tell, in great detail, how they created the Novena laptop, using solely open source software and hardware. For anyone familiar with or even interested in how computers really work, it’s quite a gripping tale. I believe their work could have lasting beneficial effects on the hobbyist computing and open source communities.

      • Open-Source Robotic Arm Exceeds 1200% of Initial Crowdfunding Goal

        The open-source robotic arm called Dobot that can be used by everyday consumers and experience makers alike has now raised over $430,000 on crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, with funds still rising.

  • Programming

    • Top 3 open source Python IDEs

      Python is everywhere. These days, it seems it powers everything from major websites to desktop utilities to enterprise software. Python has been used to write all, or parts of, popular software projects like dnf/yum, OpenStack, OpenShot, Blender, Calibre, and even the original BitTorrent client.

    • Azul’s Open Source JVM Supports Java 9 a Year Before Release

      While DZone was at JavaOne 2015 this week, Azul Systems released an early access version of Zulu, which is a certified OpenJDK build / JVM, that supports the latest JDK 9 features.


  • Hardware

    • Oracle ships first Sparc M7 systems with security in silicon

      ORACLE HAS STARTED SHIPPING systems based on its latest Sparc M7 processor, which the firm said will go a long way to solving the world’s online security problems by building protection into the silicon.

      The Sparc M7 chip was originally unveiled at last year’s Openworld show in San Francisco, and was touted at the time as a Heartbleed-prevention tool.

      A year on, and Oracle announced the Oracle SuperCluster M7, along with Sparc T7 and M7 servers, at the show. The servers are all based on the 32-core, 256-thread M7 microprocessor, which offers Security in Silicon for better intrusion protection and encryption, and SQL in Silicon for improved database efficiency.

  • Security

    • Intel x86 considered harmful (new paper)

      Back in summer I have read a new book published by one of the core Intel architects about the Management Engine (ME). I didn’t quite like what I read there. In fact I even found this a bit depressing, even though Intel ME wasn’t particular news to me as we, at the ITL, have already studied this topic quite in-depth, so to say, back in 2008… But, as you can see in the linked article, I believed we could use VT-d to protect the host OS from the potentially malicious ME-based rootkits (which we demonstrated back then).

    • MySQL Windows servers come under malware attack

      Researchers at Symantec say they have discovered a form of malware that attacks MySQL on Windows servers, using them to launch distributed denial of service attacks.

    • Sustaining Digital Certificate Security

      Following our notification, Symantec published a report in response to our inquiries and disclosed that 23 test certificates had been issued without the domain owner’s knowledge covering five organizations, including Google and Opera.

      However, we were still able to find several more questionable certificates using only the Certificate Transparency logs and a few minutes of work. We shared these results with other root store operators on October 6th, to allow them to independently assess and verify our research.

      Symantec performed another audit and, on October 12th, announced that they had found an additional 164 certificates over 76 domains and 2,458 certificates issued for domains that were never registered.

    • British Gas leak sees 2,400 customer passwords posted online

      COOKING AND HEATING ENABLER British Gas has confessed to a data loss that has seen the details of many of its customers released online.

      British Gas has written to affected customers to tell them that, while it may not have been hacked, the effect is the same. It has somehow managed to leak information that has found its way onto the internet and in the direction of ne-er-do-wells.

      Reports have it that 2,399 email addresses and passwords have been leaked online. A package of emails and passwords is a pretty good haul for an online exploiter, particularly if the same details are used for access on other sites and services.

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Britain’s Poppy Fascism

      Some brave television figures refuse to go along with the established “norm”. It was Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow who coined the phrase “poppy fascism” a few years ago when he was publicly berated by BBC journalists and other media outlets for refusing to don the flower during his nightly broadcasts. It remains to be seen if the Channel 4 news anchor will this year cave to public pressure – a pressure which seems to be growing every year.

    • Over 16,000 Alleged Terrorists Believed Dead, Yet Many Remain Watchlisted

      EVEN DEATH WON’T GET YOU OFF the U.S. terrorism watchlist. As of last July, over 3,500 suspected terrorists included in the U.S. government’s central terror database were “confirmed dead” and another 13,000 were “reportedly dead,” yet many of their names continued to be actively monitored in databases like the no-fly list, according to an intelligence assessment prepared by the Department of Homeland Security in August of this year.

    • Israel only country at UN to join US in supporting Cuba embargo

      The UN General Assembly on Tuesday called for an end to the decades-long US embargo on Cuba in a resolution adopted by a near-unanimous vote, three months after US-Cuba diplomatic ties were restored.

      The United States and Israel voted against the non-binding resolution, but a resounding 191 countries supported the measure in the 193-member assembly, the highest number ever.

    • We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel.

      But we must face reality: The occupation has become permanent. Nearly half a century after the Six-Day War, Israel is settling into the apartheid-like regime against which many of its former leaders warned. The settler population in the West Bank has grown 30-fold, from about 12,000 in 1980 to 389,000 today. The West Bank is increasingly treated as part of Israel, with the green line demarcating the occupied territories erased from many maps. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin declared recently that control over the West Bank is “not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.”

    • Sentenced to Be Crucified

      Any day now, our Saudi Arabian allies may behead and crucify a young man named Ali al-Nimr.

    • Exclusive: Saudi Arabia Admits Bombing MSF Hospital in Yemen — But Faults MSF

      Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN has admitted a “mistake” was made when Riyadh-led coalition jets bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen, but says the medical charity provided incorrect geographic coordinates for the facility, leading to the incident.

      MSF, as the organization is known by its French acronym, reported on Tuesday that a hospital they supported in Haydan district in the northern Saada province was hit by several airstrikes starting at around 10:30PM local time on Monday. Initial blasts occurred outside the building, and all staff and patients were able to flee before it was destroyed by subsequent airstrikes. One MSF employee suffered minor injuries.

      In a statement, MSF said that the hospital’s GPS coordinates “were shared with Coalition forces. They are sent every week to the Coalition operations room, and the last time they were shared was on October 24.” The organization also said that it’s logo had been painted on the facility’s roof and was visible from the air.

    • Yemen: MSF Hospital Destroyed by Airstrikes

      Airstrikes carried out late last night by the Saudi-led coalition in northern Yemen destroyed a hospital supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), MSF announced today.

      The small hospital, in the Haydan District in Saada Province, was hit by several airstrikes beginning at 10:30 p.m. last night. Hospital staff and two patients managed to escape before subsequent airstrikes occurred over a two-hour period. One staff member was slightly injured while escaping. With the hospital destroyed, at least 200,000 people now have no access to lifesaving medical care.

    • Saudi prince arrested on private plane with 2 tons of drugs – reports

      Lebanese security forces are interrogating a Saudi prince on charges of carrying drugs on his private plane after they allegedly retrieved 2 tons of narcotics from the aircraft, local media reported.

      Abd al-Muhsen bin Walid bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud was detained on Monday in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport.

      The prince was about to conduct a flight on his private plane to Saudi Arabia.

    • Saudi Arabia executes people over drugs while its princes are caught with tons of drugs at the airport

      Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdulaziz was caught in an airport in Lebanon on Monday with over two tons of drugs.

      Lebanese security found 40 suitcases full of more than 4,000 pounds of amphetamine pills and cocaine on the prince’s private plane, which was on its way to Saudi capital city Riyadh. A security source told AFP that this was the largest smuggling operation ever foiled by Beirut International Airport security.

      While this may seem like just another case of rich and powerful aristocrats going wild, the implications of this drug bust are much more insidious: In Saudi Arabia, people are executed over drugs. And not rarely — several times a month, on average.

    • The Pentagon’s Missionary Spies: U.S. Military Used Christian NGO as Front for North Korea Espionage

      Hiramine’s NGO, Humanitarian International Services Group, or HISG, won special praise from the president for having demonstrated how a private charity could step in quickly in response to a crisis. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” read Hiramine’s citation, “HISG’s team launched a private sector operation center in Houston that mobilized over 1,500 volunteers into the disaster zone within one month after the hurricane.”

      But as the evangelical Christian Hiramine crossed the stage to shake hands with President Bush and receive his award, he was hiding a key fact from those in attendance: He was a Pentagon spy whose NGO was funded through a highly classified Defense Department program.

  • Transparency Reporting

    • Obama Bypassed OLC on Bin Laden Killing

      This means that on the OBL raid, Donilon excluded the Attorney General in the same way Dick Cheney excluded John Ashcroft from key information about torture and wiretapping. I find that interesting enough, given hints that Holder raised concerns about the legal authority to kill Anwar al-Awlaki in the weeks after we missed him on December 24, 2009, which led to OLC writing two crappy memos authorizing that killing in ways that have never been all that convincing.

      But Savage provides no explanation for why Krass was excluded, which is particularly interesting given that the month after OBL’s killing, Savage revealed that President Obama had blown off Krass’ advice on Libya (as I read it, the decision to blow off her advice would have happened after the OBL killing, though I am not certain on that point). The silence about Krass is also remarkable given that she was looped in on the initial Libya decision — and asked to write a really bizarre memo memorializing advice purportedly given after the fact.

    • WikiLeaks emails from head of CIA reveal he ‘consulted a mental health expert’, suggested US spying on own citizens may be illegal and that his own security firm had been ‘disingenuous’ to win contract

      Highly sensitive personal details about the head of the CIA from his hacked emails have been leaked, including his phone number, home address, passport number and how he once consulted a mental health expert.

      The emails, obtained by WikiLeaks, show that John Brennan had concerns about the US spying on its own citizens and called for ‘firm criteria’, warning that the activities ‘must be consistent with our laws and reflect the democratic principles and values of our Nation’.

      The files also show how a security firm he established was accused of ‘disingenuous’ behavior by the CIA in its bid to win a government contract for a terrorist watch list.

      In a further memo released by the anti-secrecy agency, Brennan takes a swipe at former President George W. Bush for his ‘gratuitous’ labeling of Iran as part of a worldwide ‘axis of evil’.

    • European Parliament Urges Protection for Edward Snowden

      On Twitter, Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about electronic surveillance by the United States government, called the vote a “game-changer.” But the resolution has no legal force and limited practical effect for Mr. Snowden, who is living in Russia on a three-year residency permit.

    • EU Parliament Calls On EU Countries To Drop All Charges Against Snowden, Protect Him From Extradition

      The EU Parliament has just approved a measure (by a narrow 285 to 281 vote) telling EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender.” That’s pretty huge. Of course, as a resolution, it’s more symbolic than actually meaningful, because the member states may not follow through on the request. But it is an important step in the right direction.

      At the same time, the EU Parliament reviewed some other issues concerning mass surveillance, including the whole EU-US safe harbor setup. As we noted, the EU Court of Justice recently tossed out that agreement, which is really creating a huge mess for the internet right now. The EU Parliament “welcomed” the ruling, and pushed for alternatives to the safe harbor agreement. As we noted, the safe harbor agreement was a bit of a mess, but it’s important to have something in place to allow the internet to function — and the real problem was the NSA surveillance program.

    • European Parliament Says Snowden Should Be Welcomed in Europe

      The European Parliament voted on Thursday to call on its member states to welcome “human rights defender” Edward Snowden to Europe with open arms.

      The member states should “drop any criminal charges against Edwards Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as a whistle-blower and international human rights defender,” read the resolution.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Lions Declining in Africa

      A predictive population model suggests that lion populations in West, Central, and East Africa are likely to be halved in the next 20 years.

    • 22 more elephants killed by cyanide in Zimbabwe

      National park officials say 22 more elephants have been killed by cyanide in Zimbabwe, adding to a worrying poaching trend.

      A source with knowledge of an investigation of the killings says 78 elephants have been poisoned in the country this month.

      The elephants were found in the remote Sinamatella area of Hwange National Park on Monday, Zimbabwe national park officials say. The park received international attention in July as the site where American dentist Walter Palmer shot and killed Cecil the lion.

    • Joseph Stiglitz: Under TPP, Polluters Could Sue U.S. for Setting Carbon Emissions Limits

      Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz warns about the dangers of the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “We know we’re going to need regulations to restrict the emissions of carbon,” Stiglitz said. “But under these provisions, corporations can sue the government, including the American government, by the way, so it’s all the governments in the TPP can be sued for the loss of profits as a result of the regulations that restrict their ability to emit carbon emissions that lead to global warming.”

    • The African lion: what faster decline of apex predator means for ecosystems

      There is nothing as awe-inspiring as watching the brutal power of a lion capturing its prey. At close range, their throaty roars thump through your body, raising a cold sweat triggered by the fear of what these animals are capable of doing now, and what they once did to our ancestors. They are the most majestic animals left on our planet, and yet we are currently faced with the very real possibility that they will be functionally extinct within our lifetime.

      In fact, lion populations throughout much of Africa are heading towards extinction more rapidly than previously thought, according to new research by Oxford biologist Hans Bauer and colleagues, published in PNAS. The team looked at 47 sites with credible and repeated lion surveys since 1990, and found they were declining everywhere in Africa aside from four countries: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

    • Indonesia is burning. So why is the world looking away?

      I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypse struck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work. What I did not expect was that they would ignore it.


      At the climate summit in Paris in December the media, trapped within the intergovernmental bubble of abstract diplomacy and manufactured drama, will cover the negotiations almost without reference to what is happening elsewhere. The talks will be removed to a realm with which we have no moral contact. And, when the circus moves on, the silence will resume. Is there any other industry that serves its customers so badly?

    • NASA warns of worst ever forest fires, environmental disaster, as smoke blankets six countries

      IT’S the biggest environmental disaster in our region and Australia cannot avoid being affected by its enormous reach.

      A sickening haze that has spread across southeast Asia is being described as a “crime against humanity” and has NASA warning of a disaster of its kind never before seen.

      For more than two months, raging forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have released vast plumes of smoke that has spread across neighbouring countries including Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Censorship

    • AdBlock Plus accuses Axel Springer of censorship after ad-block move

      Axel Springer’s war with ad-blocking firm Eyeo’s Adblock Plus continues to rage.

      According to AdBlock Plus, the German publisher has tried to quash conversations about how to get around the wall that Axel Springer erected to keep ad block users from accessing its tabloid site Bild. Adblock Plus is claiming Axel Springer’s approach smacks of censorship.

    • Anti-Israel Activism Criminalized in the Land of Charlie Hebdo and “Free Speech“

      Worst of all, the march took place in a country that is one of the most hostile to free speech rights in the West, as France quickly demonstrated in the days after the march by rounding up and prosecuting Muslims and other anti-Israel activists for the political views they expressed. A great, best-selling book by French philosopher Emmanuel Todd released this year argues that these “free speech” marches were a “sham,” driven by many political sentiments — nativism, nationalism, anti-Muslim bigotry — that had nothing to do with free speech.

    • ORG response to David Cameron’s call for web filter law

      ORG has responded to the Prime Minister’s calls for legislation that will implement filters for adult content. This follows the European’s Parliament vote for net neutrality regulations, which will ban the current voluntary agreement made between ISPs and the government to provide filters, which some providers switch on by default.

    • UK Prime Minister Apparently Last To Realize New EU Net Neutrality Rules Mean No Porn Filtering

      The EU’s new net neutrality “protections” are largely deserving of the scare quotes, what with their myriad loopholes and built-in provisions that allow ISPs to throttle/manipulate traffic to prevent “congestion” — something that has yet to be the actual source of any ISP’s “traffic $haping” efforts.

      But what the rules did do is throw off David Cameron’s ongoing plans for a porn-free UK. And, of course — considering Cameron has no idea how ISP-level filters work, much less aware of numerous logical fallacies “supporting” his claims this will actually prevent porn consumption by minors — the Prime Minister was the last to know.

    • ‘Soft’ Censorship Threatens Serbian Press Freedom

      The Serbian government’s use of “soft” censorship remains a threat to press freedom, a report issued on Thursday by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, WAN-IFRA, and the Center for International Media Assistance, CIMA, in Washington says.

      The report, “Media reform stalled in the slow lane: Soft censorship in Serbia”, was published with the support of the Open Society Foundation while BIRN Serbia was a research partner.

      The report noted that Serbia lacks a functional, vital and competitive media market.

      “Taxpayers’ funds are now one of the most important sources for survival of media outlets. However, public monies are deployed with partisan intent,” the report said.

    • Censorship at Ubud writers’ festival proves a creeping menace

      The censorship of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has spread from sessions discussing the 1965 anti-communist massacres to other politically sensitive topics on the resort island.

      A panel has now been scratched on the controversial reclamation of land in Benoa Bay in southern Bali for a massive luxury development that critics say will devastate the environment.

    • Ubud festival kicks off amid censorship pressure

      Last week, the UWRF organizer, however, was forced to drop all sessions that were to look at the massacre of communists in Indonesia in the 1960s following pressure from local authorities.

    • Bali Nine lawyer joins Indonesians warning against return to Suharto censorship

      Panel sessions and a film on the 1965 anti-communist massacres in Indonesia were prohibited at an international literary festival in Bali due to a 1966 government regulation banning communism and Marxism-Leninism, according to a Balinese police chief.

      Gianyar police chief Farman told Fairfax Media there was also a 1999 criminal code which made the spreading of communism, Marxism and Leninism in public a punishable offence with a maximum sentence of 12 years’ jail.

    • Ubud Writers Fest Censorship Pressure: Indonesians can’t freely talk about 1965 killings

      The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) has cancelled events discussing the 1965 Indonesian massacres, after police threatened to revoke the festival permit.

      I research and write about the massacres’ impact on Indonesia. I was to moderate one of the five events that were dropped from this week’s festival.

    • Censorship is returning to Indonesia in the name of the 1965 purges

      A week ago I received a message from Janet DeNeefe, director of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

      “I just wanted to let you know that the UWRF is being censored this year, and we have been told to remove all programs to do with ‘1965’,” she wrote. “Or else next year they will not give us a permit to hold the festival.”

    • Report: Global internet surveillance, censorship on rise

      Governments around the world are expanding censorship and surveillance of the internet as overall online freedom declined for the fifth consecutive year, according to a report from a group that tracks democracy and human rights.

      Nearly half of 65 countries examined have seen online freedom weaken since June 2014, Freedom House said in an annual survey released on Wednesday.

      One of the steepest declines occurred in France, which passed a law that many observers likened to the US Patriot Act in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks earlier this year, according to the report.

      Ukraine, mired in a territorial conflict with Russia, and Libya also experienced sharp drops.

      The report highlighted China as the country with the most severe restrictions on internet freedom, followed by Syria and Iran.

      Sri Lanka and Zambia, both of which recently underwent changes in government leadership, were credited with making the biggest improvements in overall online freedom.

    • Internet freedom falls for fifth year in row: survey

      The annual report by non-government watchdog Freedom House said the setbacks were especially noticeable in the Middle East, reversing gains seen in the Arab Spring.

      Freedom House found declines in online freedom of expression in 32 of the 65 countries assessed since June 2014, with “notable declines” in Libya, France and Ukraine.

      The researchers found 61 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where criticism of the government, military or ruling family has been subject to censorship.

      And 58 percent live in countries where bloggers or others were jailed for sharing content online on political, social and religious issues, according to the “Freedom on the Net 2015″ report.

    • Porn filters: Cameron vows to protect internet censorship from EU law

      Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to counter a European Union ruling that branded his internet porn filters illegal. He reiterated his stance that children must be protected from adult material online.

      The EU ruling states that information must be allowed to travel through the internet “without discrimination, restriction or interference.” The measures are intended to allow data companies to reduce roaming charges.

      The British government says it will protect internet companies from the EU laws and make it a legal right for the firms to use porn filters.

      Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Cameron said parents should be able to control the materials their children are exposed to.

    • UK.gov plans to legislate on smut filters after EU net neutrality ruling

      Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed today that the Tory government planned to legislate on smut filters, following yesterday’s net neutrality ruling in the European Union.

      Cameron told MPs during PMQs that he had “spluttered over my cornflakes” when he read this morning that the EU measures would fail to think of the children by protecting their prying eyes from “indecent images”.

      “I think it’s absolutely vitally important that we enable parents to have that protection for their children from this material on the internet,” he told the Palace of Westminster.

      “We worked so hard to put in place these filters,” the PM added. “But I can reassure her [Conservative MP for Derby North, Amanda Solloway] because we actually secured an opt-out yesterday so we can keep our family-friendly filters to protect children.”

    • EU Unbans Occult Websites Banned By David Cameron

      This rather shows the bias inherent in the Independent’s editorial style, for these filters applied not just to porn sites, but to websites that dealt with topics and lifestyles that somehow made David Cameron and his government uncomfortable — such as those dealing with the Occult.

    • Porn Under Attack Once Again By Clueless British Government

      Sometimes politicians make me mad enough to scream at my computer. Today is a great example of that as the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has restated his claim that he will block internet-based porn and adult content to “protect children”.

      But this isn’t about protecting children at all, it’s about controlling the internet and stopping British people’s freedom to browse as they wish without having to subject themselves to a registration process in order to watch adult material. The whole idea of blocking porn to protect “children” is a fiction, you can’t protect children from porn – it’s impossible. And anyway “children” don’t watch porn, young adults do. Getting the government to understand the difference between a child and an adolescent is impossible though.

    • Shadow-Censorship on Social Media Sparks New Concerns for Open-Internet Advocates

      The future of information suppression may be much harder to detect—and thus enormously more difficult to counteract. The digital censors of tomorrow will not require intimidation or force; instead, they can exploit the dark art of “shadow-censorship.”

      Shadow-censorship is a way to control information by secretly limiting or obscuring the ways that people can access it. Rather than outright banning or removing problematic communications, shadow-censors can instead wall off social-media posts or users in inaccessible obscurity without the target’s knowledge. To an individual user, it just looks like no one is interested in his or her content. But behind the scenes, sharing algorithms are being covertly manipulated so that it’s extremely difficult for other users to view the blacklisted information.

      In theory, there are a variety of ways that shadow-censorship could be applied on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Users may be automatically unsubscribed from blacklisted feeds without notice. Social media analytics can be selectively edited after the fact to make some posts look more or less popular than they really were. Individual posts or users can be flagged so that they are shown in as few feeds as possible by default. Or provocative content that originally escaped selective filtering may be memory-holed after the fact, retrievable only by the eagle-eyed few who notice and care to draw attention to such curious antics.

    • Putin’s New Censorship Rules Will Weaken Russian Science

      In a surprising development this past week, Russia has notified all scientists at Moscow State University (MSU) that they must submit their research papers to the state security service before they will be permitted to publish them. Nature News reports that Russia is imposing this policy on universities and research institutes throughout the country.

    • Smooth censorship in Russia

      The history of censorship in Russian media runs for pages and pages. There’s little point dealing with Soviet censorship here, but the 1990s, which many people remember as a time when press freedom prevailed, are different. Journalists of the time reminisce about how they used to push bureaucrats’ doors open, the public officials scared of them: bureaucrats and politicians had never been so vulnerable.

      The media, however, was another part of the country’s terrain of political conflict—just as articles could be pulled, so could journalists. Take Dmitry Kholodov, for instance, a journalist for Moskovsky komsomolets who died as he collected a booby-trapped suitcase in 1994. Ministry of Defence officials weren’t pleased with Kholodov’s coverage of army corruption and, having asked their subordinates to ‘shut him up’, their subordinates took the order literally.

    • S. Korean journalists criticize MoU for failing to prevent censorship

      South Korean journalists released a statement on Tuesday urging that the Ministry of Unification (MoU) demand that North Korea not interfere in their reporting during family reunions.

      The journalists from 38 media outlets criticized North Korea for interfering in their reporting during the family reunions that finished Monday at Mount Kumgang, North Korea. North Korea examined the journalists’ computers and USB drives, they said, returning the devices a day later despite the journalists’ complaints.

    • Zimbabwe: Censorship board should be abolished, says workshop group

      Zimbabwe should abolish the censorship board and other bodies censoring or regulating artistic expressions in order to comply with Zimbabwe’s new constitution. Instead a new classification board should be mandated to issue age recommendations to protect children. This was a recommendation made by arts practitioners, artists, journalists and human rights lawyers at a workshop on artistic freedom, held on 23-24 October 2015 in Harare, Zimbabwe.


      It says the effects of art censorship or unjustified restrictions of the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity deprive artists of means of expression and livelihood and generate important cultural, social and economic losses to society.

    • Lego refuses to supply bricks for Weiwei installation at National Gallery of Victoria because of ‘political context’

      Part of a major international exhibition planned for Melbourne has been thrown into doubt after toymaker, Lego, refused to supply building blocks for the project.
      External Link: Ai Weiwei instagram

      Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei said Lego refused his studio’s request for a bulk order of Lego to create an artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria.

    • Chinese activist Ai Weiwei accuses Lego of ‘censorship’

      Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says Lego refused to sell him toy bricks for his artwork, calling it an “an act of censorship and discrimination.”

    • Australia gallery collects Lego for Ai Weiwei

      An Australian gallery has set up a collection point for Lego for a work by artist Ai Weiwei, after the Danish company refused a bulk order from him.

      The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) wants Australians to donate the toy bricks by pouring them through the sunroof of a car parked at the gallery.

    • Chinese artist Ai Weiwei fights Lego Group ‘censorship’

      Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has begun gathering the building blocks for his next artwork, asking fans from all over the world to donate their Lego pieces for use in his next project.

    • Video showing censorship plan by Erdoğan’s chief advisor sparks outrage

      There has been a recent development concerning the removal of critical channels from TV streaming platforms in which newly emerged video footage provides evidence that such movements are politically motivated, as the chief advisor of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is featured urging a minister to drop critical TV channels from the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) — a move that has attracted widespread criticism.

    • US says Turkey not keeping with democratic values after media takeover

      The United States has reiterated its concern over the hostile takeover of five media outlets in Turkey, saying that Turkey is not keeping with its own democratic values.

    • Turkish Police Storm TV Channels Linked to Erdogan Foe Gulen

      Cops sprayed water cannon to disperse crowds in front of the offices of Kanalturk and Bugun TV in Istanbul, a live broadcast on Bugun’s website showed.

      The media groups are owned by Koza Ipek Holding, which has links to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. The authorities on Tuesday took over 22 companies owned by Koza Ipek in an investigation of alleged financial irregularities, including whether it funded Gulen. The company denies wrongdoing.

    • International press rights groups slam growing censorship in Turkey
    • Shutting down online comments: Censorship or sanity?

      Vile comments and phenomena such as trolling are simply a small part of the avalanche of electronic detritus that we have to learn to cope with as the internet revolution progresses. Dubious and unethical practices have proliferated and yet, the only sustained attempt to moderate the internet, in China, is notable for its failures as Chinese internet users have quickly learnt how to dodge censors and spread news and opinions in flash comments reaching hundreds of millions.

      Racist and violent comments can easily be identified, and then simply ignored. Many websites urge users “not to feed the trolls”, even with traffic signs. In Brazil, trolls are called pombos enxadristas (chess player pigeons), and the advice is not to play them, since all they can do is defecate on the board and knock over the pieces.

    • Malaysian cartoonist facing 43 years in prison

      Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, aka Zunar, is facing nine simultaneous charges under the country’s Sedition Act and will appear in court on 6 November. He could be sentenced to 43 years in prison for drawing cartoons that mock Malaysia’s corrupt government officials.

      Ahead of his court appearance, Zunar is coming to the UK to display a small selection of his work as part of the permanent exhibition at the Cartoon Museum and several other events.

    • Government Censorship Of Internet Speech

      Repressive regimes have sought to quell the speech of dissidents throughout history, and long before the advent of the Internet. It therefore is not entirely surprising that attempted censorship by governments will continue in the online world. But, hopefully, the Internet will help to foster free speech and communication, and will not be a means of governmental surveillance on citizens.

    • Quentin Tarantino, the NYPD and the First Amendment

      Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino exercised his First Amendment rights by speaking at a New York City protest against police brutality. At the October 24 event, he denounced “police terror,” and reportedly said this: “I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”

      In response, Patrick Lynch, the head of New York’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association union, called Tarantino a “cop-hater” and said that it was “time for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s films.” A union affiliated with the Los Angeles Police Department has reportedly endorsed the boycott as well.

    • Arpat uproar points to censorship flaws

      The hullabaloo around the Thai film Arpat, which features a misbehaving young monk, is the latest example of problems caused by what some people in the film industry perceive as flaws in the Film and Video Act 2008.

      Some of the controversial aspects of the law, which was passed by the coup-appointed National Legislative Assembly, include the composition of the censor committees, and the measure that allows a film to be banned for national security reasons.

      Also criticised were a conservative interpretation of the rules, and most importantly strict state control over film, compared to lighter regulation of other cheaper and more accessible media such as television and print.

    • Bollywood Directors and TVF Comedians Troll Censorship in New Video

      Kanu Behl, the debutant director of Titli which releases this Friday, October 30, along with producer Dibakar Banerjee, teamed up with TVF to make an episode on censorship in India. The fun video Censor Qtiyapa which released online on October 26, has gone viral and got more than two lakh views in less than 24 hours.

      The video featuring eminent filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt, Sudhir Mishra, Hansal Mehta, Kamal Swaroop, Ajay Bahl, producer Guneet Monga, Vasan Bala along with the Titli director and producer is directed by Shlok Sharma (director of Haramkhor).

      Excited about the tremendous response, the director Kanu Behl says, “The response to the video has been overwhelming. Close to 2 lakh hits in less than 24 hours, as we write this. It’s interesting to know that the audience across the board can bite in to the humour and get all the nuances of a film maker’s labour pains!”

    • Google Asked to Remove One Billion “Pirate” Search Results

      Copyright holders have asked Google to remove more than 1,000,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine in recent years. The remarkable milestone, reached this week, is at the center of an ongoing debate over how search engines are expected to deal with pirate sites.

    • How The EU’s Proposed New ‘Privacy’ Rules Will Be A Tool For Massive Censorship

      We recently wrote about some concerns about the new Data Protection Directive that is being set up in Europe. The law is driven by people with good intentions: looking to better protect the privacy of European citizens. Privacy protection is an important concept — but the current plans appear to be so focused on privacy protection that it gives very little regard for the unintended consequences of the way it’s been set up. As we wrote in our last post, Daphne Keller at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society is writing a series of blog posts raising concerns about how the new rules clash with basic concepts of free speech. She’s now written one about the immensely troubling setup of the “notice and takedown” rules included in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). For years, we’ve been concerned by problematic notice and takedown procedures — we’ve seen the DMCA frequently abused to stifle speech, rather than for genuine copyright challenges. But, for some reason, people often immediately leap to “notice and takedown solutions” for any kind of content they don’t like, they and the drafters of the GDPR are no different.

  • Privacy

    • JLENS blimp returns to Earth in Central Pennsylvania; military recovery ‘in progress’

      The military surveillance blimp that broke free of its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground Wednesday morning has returned to Earth after a four-hour, 160-mile, power line-snapping odyssey, authorities said.

      NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek said the runaway aircraft was on the ground near Moreland Township, Pa. — 160 miles north of its mooring in Edgewood — and was deflating. The blimp had slowly been losing helium, he said, and appears to have drifted to the ground.

    • Runaway Military Surveillance Blimp Drifts From Maryland to Pennsylvania

      Military officials scrambled Wednesday to retrieve an unmanned Army surveillance blimp that detached from its moorings in Maryland and drifted north over Pennsylvania.

      Two American fighter jets tracked the blimp, military officials said, that had been tethered at Aberdeen Proving Ground and broke free around noon.

    • Billion Dollar Surveillance Blimp to Launch over Maryland

      In just a few days, the Army will launch the first of two massive blimps over Maryland, the last gasp of an 18-year-long $2.8-billion Army project intended to use giant airships to defend against cruise missiles.

      And while the blimps may never stave off a barrage of enemy missiles, their ability to spot and track cars, trucks and boats hundreds of miles away is raising serious privacy concerns.

    • Did Your Senator Vote for CISA?

      The most outspoken group opposing the bill, Fight For the Future, noted in a scathing statement that the vote would be one we one day look back at as being formative for the internet.

      “This vote will go down in history as the moment that lawmakers decided not only what sort of Internet our children and our children’s children will have, but what sort of world they will live in,” the group wrote in an emailed statement. “Every Senator who voted for CISA has voted for a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights.”

      It may not be that simple, but then again, maybe it is. So here’s a list of who voted for CISA, who voted against it, and who abstained. Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham are all in Denver for Wednesday’s debate. Paul is anti-CISA but didn’t think it was worth sticking around in Washington for the vote.

    • U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session
    • Mark Zuckerberg Courts China With Speech on People and Perseverance
    • Mark Zuckerberg, in India, Defends Facebook’s Plan to Expand Internet Access [Ed: zero-rating]

      Despite the promising, if difficult to verify, statistics, the program has not gone without complaints in India, the world’s largest democracy. Critics argue that by controlling which companies and individuals can offer services on Internet.org, Facebook is creating a walled-off kingdom in which it decides the beneficiaries of its initiative.

    • Email Encryption Is Broken

      Email was never designed to be private. When the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) was first invented, it didn’t come with protections or ways to check that a message really came from where it claimed to. Those came later, with the addition of extensions like STARTTLS for encrypting communications and others for authenticating messages.

    • Turns Out Police Stingray Spy Tools Can Indeed Record Calls

      The federal government has been fighting hard for years hide details about its use of so-called stingray surveillance technology from the public.

      The surveillance devices simulate cell phone towers in order to trick nearby mobile phones into connecting to them and revealing the phones’ locations.

      Now newly released documents confirm long-held suspicions that the controversial devices are also capable of recording numbers for a mobile phone’s incoming and outgoing calls, as well as intercepting the content of voice and text communications. The documents also discuss the possibility of flashing a phone’s firmware “so that you can intercept conversations using a suspect’s cell phone as a bug.”

    • Low-cost IMSI catcher for 4G/LTE networks tracks phones’ precise locations

      Researchers have devised a low-cost way to discover the precise location of smartphones using the latest LTE standard for mobile networks, a feat that shatters widely held perceptions that the standard is immune to the types of attacks that targeted earlier specifications.

      The attacks target the LTE specification, which is expected to have a user base of about 1.37 billion people by the end of the year, and require about $1,400 worth of hardware that run freely available open source software. The equipment can cause all LTE-compliant phones to leak their location to within a 32- to 64-foot (about 10 to 20 meter) radius and in some cases their GPS coordinates, although such attacks may be detected by savvy phone users. A separate method that’s almost impossible to detect teases out locations to within an area of roughly one square mile in an urban setting.

    • Europe wants a fresh data transfer pact with the US

      The European Union said on Monday it agreed in principle with the US on a new trans-Atlantic data transfer pact that’s still in the works, reports The Wall Street Journal.

      Earlier this month, a European court invalidated Safe Harbor, a 15-year old agreement that included laws which allowed technology companies to move user data between data centers if they guaranteed it would receive an “adequate level” of protection.

      The ruling came after Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems brought a case against Facebook in Ireland claiming that his privacy had been violated by the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. Following the court’s decision, Irish authorities said last week that they plan to investigate the social network’s data transfers under the act.

    • U.S. sees new EU data-sharing pact within reach

      A new transatlantic data-sharing agreement is within reach after the “Safe Harbour” deal used by thousands of companies to comply with EU privacy law was struck down by the highest EU court this month, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said.

      The so-called “Safe Harbour 2.0″ agreement currently being negotiated would meet European concerns about the transfer of data to the United States, Pritzker told journalists in Frankfurt on Thursday during a visit to Germany.

    • Safe Harbor 2.0: Judges to keep NSA spying in check – EU justice boss

      The NSA’s blanket surveillance of Europeans will be subject to judicial review, according to EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová.

      At a committee meeting of the European Parliament this week, Jourová provided details of the replacement to the struck-down safe harbor framework, which until this month allowed people’s personal information to flow across the Atlantic and into American servers.

      She told the hearing the new agreement would move away from the previous self-regulatory approach to one that allows for “pro-active” enforcement and sanctions.

    • EU Round-UP: Safe Harbor 2.0 And Upcoming National Challenges
    • Germany to investigate Google, Facebook data transfers to US

      Data protection authorities in Germany have announced that they will review the legality of internet giants’ data transfers from the EU to the US, after the European Court of Justice ruled that Europeans’ data isn’t safe from intelligence services on US-based servers.

    • Germany investigates claims of NSA-backed malware spying

      When word got out that both the US’ NSA and the UK’s GCHQ were likely using purpose-built Regin malware for their spying campaigns, that raised more than a few alarm bells… including in the German government, apparently. The country’s prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into a report that Regin infected (and thus monitored) the laptop of a Chancellery division leader. Officials aren’t jumping to conclusions yet, but it’s easy to guess where their suspicions lie — the concern is that allies are hacking into the devices of multiple German higher-ups, not just its Chancellor. If the evidence holds up, it could worsen political relationships that have already turned a bit sour.

    • Top German official infected by highly advanced spy trojan with NSA ties

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel may not be the only high-ranking leader from that country to be spied on by the National Security Agency. According to a report published over the weekend, German authorities are investigating whether the head of the German Federal Chancellery unit had his laptop infected with Regin, a highly sophisticated suite of malware programs that has been linked to the NSA and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters.

    • The Economic Consequences Of State Surveillance Programs

      State surveillance programs spell serious consequences for business — could Canada be next?

    • Anti-Surveillance Campaign Urges NSA Employees to Quit their Posts

      As part of the campaign, which is called Intelexit, the group have sought to place billboards as close as possible to the intelligence agency’s buildings across the world.

      A billboard posted near the NSA outpost and military base in Darmstadt, Germany, for example, said: “listen to your heart, not to private phone calls.”

      The group is planning to place a billboard outside GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, UK. It is expected to read “the intelligence community needs a backdoor,” in a jibe at the UK and US governments, who are attempting to push through legislation allowing them to de-crypt all encrypted digital communications between their citizens.

    • The Senate’s New ‘Give the NSA All Your Private Info’ Bill Would Make George Orwell Blush

      While nobody was watching, the Senate a couple of days ago passed something called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which passed at least partly because if you say “Cyber warfare, boogedy-boogedy!” around nervous legislators these days, they’ll pass a bill agreeing to have the NSA plant microchips in their spleens. The bill passed by one of those bipartisan majorities so beloved by Beltway pundits, 74-21. Now it goes to conference, and its final passage may be stalled because of the currently fluid state of the House Republican leadership.

    • These Senators Voted “Yes” on CISA, But There’s Still Time to Change Their Minds

      As a cybersecurity bill, CISA is a joke: It doesn’t address the security problems that create the conditions for hacks. What it will create a streamlined information pipeline for the NSA.

    • Is the NSA trying to warn us that cryptography is dead?

      Back in August, the NSA released an updated advisory that was at once interesting and expected: It said that the world had to prepare for the oncoming impact of quantum computers, and the possibility that these devices could render existing computer cryptography almost completely obsolete. They called for the cryptographic community to invest heavily in developing so-called post-quantum cryptographic solutions that could survive this hypothetical watershed invention. And, as you might imagine, this advisory has very nearly driven the internet insane. Now, two security researchers have published a paper compiling all the various theories surrounding this advisory, and trying to make sense of the situation.

    • Online freedom hit as governments ramp up surveillance

      Global online freedom declined for a fifth consecutive year as governments around the world stepped up surveillance and censorship efforts, a study showed Wednesday.

      The annual report by non-government watchdog Freedom House said the setbacks were especially noticeable in the Middle East, reversing gains seen in the Arab Spring.

      Freedom House found declines in online freedom of expression in 32 of the 65 countries assessed since June 2014, with “notable declines” in Libya, France and Ukraine.

    • Mass surveillance: EU citizens’ rights still in danger, says Parliament

      Too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Thursday. They urge the EU Commission to ensure that all data transfers to the US are subject to an “effective level of protection” and ask EU member states to grant protection to Edward Snowden, as a “human rights defender”. Parliament also raises concerns about surveillance laws in several EU countries.

    • UK government: We don’t want backdoors, just access to all communications

      The UK government has said that it recognises the “essential role that strong encryption plays in enabling the protection of sensitive personal data and securing online communications and transactions,” and does not “advocate or require the provision of a back-door key or support arbitrarily weakening the security of internet applications and services.” However, speaking in the House of Lords, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Shields, went on to say: “This is not about creating back doors; this is about companies being able to access communications on their network when presented with a warrant.”

      Shields singled out “an alarming movement towards end-to-end encrypted application” for criticism. She said that David Cameron “expressed concern that many companies are building end-to-end encrypted applications and services and not retaining the keys. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that there cannot be a safe place for terrorists, criminals and paedophiles to operate freely, with impunity and beyond the reach of law.” For this reason, she claimed, “It is absolutely essential that these companies which understand and build those stacks of technology are able to decrypt that information and provide it to law enforcement in extremis.”

    • UK police push for powers to access your Web browsing history for the last year

      UK police are lobbying the government to be given access to every UK Internet user’s Web browsing history as part of the new Snooper’s Charter—the Investigatory Powers Bill—which is expected to be published next week. According to The Guardian, the police want to revive the controversial plan for ISPs to store details about every website visited by customers for 12 months, an idea first mooted in the original Communications Data Bill, which was dropped after opposition from the Liberal Democrats when they were part of the previous coalition government.

      Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman for data communications, is quoted as saying: “We essentially need the ‘who, where, when and what’ of any communication”—who initiated it, where were they and when did it happened. And a little bit of the ‘what’, were they on Facebook, or a banking site, or an illegal child-abuse image-sharing website?”

    • Police to be granted powers to view your internet history

      Police are to get the power to view the web browsing history of everyone in the country.

      Home Secretary Theresa May will announce the plans when she introduces the Government’s new surveillance bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

      The Telegraph understands the new powers for the police will form part of the new bill.

    • Michigan State Police Used Forfeiture Funds To Upgrade Its Stingray

      There are a few ways law enforcement agencies acquire cell tower spoofers. Very rarely do agencies pay for these expensive devices themselves. (Meaning with their funds drawn from their own departments. Obviously, no government agency is self-funded.) In most cases, funding in whole or in part is obtained from the DHS — something nearly any agency can obtain simply by checking [X] BECAUSE TERRORISM when applying for a Homeland Security grant.

    • Open source intelligence techniques and the Dark Web

      Techniques like Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) gathering and a proper understanding of the Dark Web is the first step in combating the Internet’s dark places. With an understanding of how to use open source encrypted anonymity services safely, organisations can explore OSINT sources – which include web-based communities, user-generated content, social-networking sites, wikis, blogs and news sources – to investigate potential threats or analyse relevant information for business purposes.

      Whether that’s using Deep and Dark web sites and directories to support intelligence gathering for investigation purposes, manage incidents or to combat cyber crime.

    • Court says it’s legal for NSA to spy on you because Congress says it’s OK

      You gotta love this twisted logic.

      In May, a federal appeals court declared the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata collection program illegal because it wasn’t authorized under the Patriot Act, as the Obama administration and its predecessor administration had maintained.

      Then, in June, Congress semi-dismantled the program with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which President Obama signed on June 2. As part of the new act, Congress authorized a spying transition period of sorts where the old tactics could continue until new laws were in place.

    • Ex-NSA Cybersecurity Leader’s Startup Secures $32.5M

      IronNet, a cybersecurity company founded by the former director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, secured $32.5 million in a Series A funding round.

    • IronNet, Founded by Ex-NSA Boss, Gains Funding
    • Ex-NSA head’s start-up raises $32.5m

      Former US National Security Agency (NSA) director Keith Alexander’s cyber security start-up, IronNet Cybersecurity, said yesterday it had raised $32.5 million in a “Series A” funding round led by Trident Capital Cybersecurity.

    • Former NSA Subcontractor Pleads Guilty To Filing False Time Sheets

      A former National Security Agency (NSA) subcontractor from Augusta has pleaded guilty to charges that he filed falsified time sheets.

    • NSA-Proof Wallpaper? Utah Company Invents Material to Keep Spies Out
    • The IRS Has Some of the Same Spy Tech As the NSA and FBI

      Previous investigations by the ACLU have shown that Stingrays are used by many government agencies—including the DEA, FBI, NSA, and local and state police​—across many states. Their use is so widespread in part because they only require a relatively low-level court order for use, which makes them an enticing alternative to attempting to get actual cell tower records with a warrant.

    • More on Standing As a Barrier to Surveillance Challenges: Bug or Feature?
    • United States judge dismisses Wikimedia lawsuit over NSA mass spying
    • Two ACLU Defeats Highlight Judiciary’s Lopsided Deference to Executive Branch Secrecy

      The American Civil Liberties Union suffered major defeats on Friday, when two of its cases involving clear violations of civil rights and civil liberties were dismissed, both undone by the judiciary’s deference to executive-branch secrecy.

    • Federal judge dismisses challenge to NSA surveillance

      The court modeled its opinion on the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International [JURIST report] that on matters of unconstitutionality surrounding intelligence gathering, the court is to be particularly rigorous.

  • Civil Rights

    • Newsnight journalist’s laptop seized by UK police under Terrorism Act

      Police have used special powers from the counter-terrorism laws in order to seize a laptop that belongs to a journalist from BBC Newsnight, it has emerged.

      The BBC and Secunder Kermani, who joined the broadcaster’s flagship current affairs programme last year and has reported extensively on UK-born jihadis, were the target of an order officers obtained from a judge under the Terrorism Act.

      Police sought the order to read communications between Kermani and a man in Syria who had publicly identified himself as a member of Islamic State and who had featured in Newsnight reports.

    • Police use terror powers to seize BBC Newsnight journalist’s laptop

      Police have used powers under the Terrorism Act to seize the laptop of a young Newsnight journalist in a case that has shocked BBC colleagues and alarmed freedom of speech campaigners, The Independent can disclose.

      Officers obtained an order from a judge that was served on the BBC and Secunder Kermani, who joined the flagship BBC2 news show early last year and has produced a series of reports on British-born jihadis.

      The development has caused alarm among BBC journalists. The editor of Newsnight, Ian Katz said: “While we would not seek to obstruct any police investigation we are concerned that the use of the Terrorism Act to obtain communication between journalists and sources will make it very difficult for reporters to cover this issue of critical public interest.”

    • Media Figures Blame Student After She Is Slammed To The Ground By Police Officer

      Media figures defended a school resource officer who was seen on video violently “slamm[ing] to the ground” a student in South Carolina, and blamed the student for not showing the officer and her teachers respect.

    • Student Arrested Says She Was Standing Up for Classmate

      Niya Kenny, 18, is speaking out after she was taken into custody in her Spring Valley High School math class. She says she was standing up for her classmate who was being arrested by Student Resource Officer Ben Fields.

    • Second student arrested for filming classroom takedown describes officer’s reputation: “He’s known as Officer Slam around our school”

      Officer Ben Fields, the South Carolina deputy who slammed and then threw a female high school student across a classroom this week, has been fired after video of his physical assault went viral. While the young girl recovers from injuries she sustained from the attack, according to her lawyer, officials have refused to drop criminal charges of disrupting a classroom against her and now one of the few students who protested against her violent arrest is speaking out about the fired deputy’s longstanding reputation at Spring Valley High.

    • Police clash with Kosovo Albanian protesters

      United Nations police fired tear gas during clashes with ethnic Albanians protesting in the Kosovo capital yesterday against a UN plan on the fate of the breakaway Serbian province.

    • Europe Union Risks ‘Tectonic Changes’ as Migrant Flow Swells to Over 700,000

      Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II risks triggering “tectonic changes”, a top EU official warned Tuesday, as figures showed more than 700,000 newcomers have reached the continent’s Mediterranean shores this year.

    • Court: Your Fourth And Fifth Amendment Rights No Longer Exist If You Leave The Country

      The DC Appeals Court has just come to an unfortunate conclusion: because terrorism exists, your rights as a citizen will not be upheld if you travel outside of the United States. This summary of the case is from Lawfare’s David Ryan, whose article claims this is a “victory” for the DOJ, rather than a loss for the American public.

    • Victory for DOJ in Bivens Suit Related to Overseas Terrorism Investigation

      The Department of Justice won a significant victory yesterday when the D.C. Circuit held in Meshal v. Higgenbotham that a plaintiff cannot state a cause of action under Bivens for alleged constitutional violations that occur during a terrorism investigation in a foreign country.

    • Marking One Year in Prison for Alaa Abd El Fattah

      Alaa is currently serving a five-year sentence for his role in a protest just two days after the passing of Egypt’s 2013 anti-protest law. While many others involved in the protest were pardoned after serving their first year, Alaa, along with Ahmed Abdel Rahman, has remained imprisoned. Since January 2011, when Egypt rose up against Hosni Mubarak, Alaa has spent more than 500 days in prison. His first arrest after the revolution coincided with his second trip to the United States, to attend RightsCon. He left San Francisco to fly directly back to Cairo, where he immediately faced a military prosecutor and a set of trumped-up charges that kept him in jail for 55 days. He has since been in and out of prison several times. He missed the birth of his first child, Khaled, and the death of his father last summer. He has undoubtedly missed so much more.

    • “With ‘free’ services, you are the product”: Censorship, the internet — and why fighting back works

      I am a free speech absolutist. Free speech, however, does not protect criminality, or threats of violence.

      Threats of violence must be taken seriously and prosecuted by law enforcement.

      That’s why — like The Rebel — I’m watching the case of “Israel vs Facebook” very closely.

      There’s no reason why companies such as Twitter or Facebook should be protected from legal actions when clear and present threats are being uploaded and circulated on their networks. As private companies, they can decide who is allowed to have an account or not, but they have a responsibility to existing criminal laws regarding threats of violence against general or specific targets.

    • USDA whistleblower claims censorship of pesticide research

      A senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a whistleblower complaint on Wednesday accusing the federal agency of suppressing research findings that could call into question the use of a popular pesticide class that is a revenue powerhouse for the agrichemical industry.

      Jonathan Lundgren, a senior research entomologist with the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service who has spent 11 years with the agency based in Brookings, S.D., said that retaliation and harassment from inside USDA started in April 2014, following media interviews he gave in March of that year regarding some of his research conclusions.

      Lundgren’s work has included extensive examination of a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, which are widely used by U.S. farmers to control pest damage to corn and other crops, helping protect production. The insecticides are sold in forms that both are sprayed on plants or coated on seeds before they are planted. They are also used on plants sold by lawns and garden retailers.

    • DEA Agents Caught Soliciting Prostitutes Rewarded With Light Punishments, Bonus Checks

      At the end of September, Brad Heath and Meghan Hoyer of USA Today published a DEA disciplinary log they’d obtained through an FOIA request. The document was obviously misnamed, as it showed plenty of misconduct by DEA agents, but not much in the way of discipline.

    • VICTORY: State Department Decides Not to Classify “Cyber Products” as “Munitions”

      This week, the U.S. Department of State’s Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG) met to decide whether to classify “cyber products” as munitions, placing them in the same export control regime as hand grenades and fighter planes. Thankfully, common sense won out and the DTAG recommended that “cyber products” not be added to the control list. EFF and Access Now filed a brief joint statement with the DTAG urging this outcome and we applaud the DTAG’s decision.

      There were a number of problems with the proposal to place “cyber products” on the U.S. Munitions List, but most importantly, no one knows how “cyber products” would be defined. As we’ve long argued in other contexts, trying to draw definitions around “defensive” and “offensive” tools is essentially impossible and any vagueness would have significant chilling effects on the security community. In essence, we think that the threshold problem of defining which “cyber products” are subject to control is likely an insurmountable obstacle to effective regulation.

    • An Award for a Jailed Saudi Blogger

      Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced last year to a decade in prison and 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks—a punishment that has been carried out once so far—for the crime of insulting Islam on his website. On Thursday, the European Parliament awarded Badawi the Sakharov Prize, its human-rights award.

      “The conference of Presidents decided that the Sakharov Prize will go to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi,” Martin Schulz, the parliament’s president, said. “This man, who is an extremely good man and an exemplary good man, has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties that exist in this country which can only be described as brutal torture.”

      Schulz called on Saudi King Salman to release Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and initially sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison—a punishment that was increased to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison after an appeal. Badawi was accused of insulting Islam on his website Free Saudi Liberals, which served as a forum for debate.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • EU Parliament adopts highly ambiguous Net Neutrality legislation

      Unfortunately, MEPs have created large loopholes and left ambiguity in much of the legislation. Net neutrality is the principle whereby Internet access providers treat internet traffic equally. Because of the vagueness of the new regulations, telecoms regulators in EU Member States will now have to decide whether telecoms companies in their country will be able to prioritise different categories of data.

    • Wi-Fi was no accident

      Wi-Fi is an incredible success story– carrying the majority of Internet traffic, responsible for over $90 billion in economic value for the United States in 2013 and a powerful force in closing the digital divide. The success of Wi-Fi demonstrates the power of unlicensed spectrum. But how did we get here? The story of how technologies like Wi-Fi have come to have such a significant impact on our lives will help us think about the future of unlicensed spectrum.

    • The FCC Has To Remind ISPs Not To Spend Taxpayer Subsidies On Booze, Trips To Disney World

      For many years now, the General Accounting Office has warned the FCC that if it’s going to throw billions of dollars at giant ISPs, it might just want to track how that money is spent. GAO reports like this one from 2009 (pdf) noted that not only has the FCC historically done a dismal job at tracking subsidy spending, most government broadband policies have been based on flawed, incomplete or downright hallucinated data (just check out our $300 million US broadband map). In other words, for the better part of fifteen years our government not only didn’t really know where broadband funding was needed, it couldn’t be bothered to track if it was actually going there.

    • Mark Zuckerberg: net neutrality is a first-world problem

      Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has hit out at net neutrality advocates who claim that zero-rating – the practice of offering access to certain popular online services for free – should be prohibited.

    • Telekom will put a cash till on Internet video/gaming/coms and monetize it from start-ups
    • A multi-speed Europe

      INTERNET providers will be barred from charging online businesses for “fast lanes”—that is, giving priority to their traffic—except for certain specialised services, such as videoconferencing or telesurgery. They also must not block or slow traffic other than reasonably to manage their networks, such as to avoid congestion.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Lego Tells Political Artist To Hit The Bricks, Refusing To Sell Him Legos

      LEGOs. Yes, the basic building block of our youthful imagination also holds a rather ugly over-protective side, in which it uses whatever tool happens to be nearest by to smash up any use of its products that it doesn’t fully endorse. Which, when you think about it, is really weird for a company that makes products that are essentially all about imaginative uses. Children building their own colorful castle? Awesome! But an adult using LEGOs to create political art? Oh, no, no, no.

    • 3D printing may not be for every home–and that is a good thing for IP

      Will IP matter? The question seems to arise in the wake of every new disruptive technology. It is no surprise, therefore, that it is being asked in connection with 3D printing, where digital content, easily distributed over the network, is married to the potential for making a myriad of objects in any location where a 3D printer can be operated (think: your home). If the concern a decade ago was how to regulate the downloading of a movie or a song, today it is how to regulate the downloading of a digital file containing all the instructions to make a perfect copy of a product, down to its trade mark. Recalling the discussion a decade or two ago regarding the downloading of digital songs and movies, suggestions are made for various technological solutions. More generally, calls are made for a cultural make-over, where the consumer will habitually come to prefer the genuine product, e.g., using authorized digital instructions and the correct product materials, within the context of 3D printing.

    • Copyrights

      • Dotcom’s Bid to Halt Extradition Hearing Fails, Defense Begins

        Efforts by Kim Dotcom’s legal team to have his extradition hearing thrown out have failed today. As a result the Megaupload founder will begin his defense next week, presenting legal argument that he hopes will stop New Zealand authorities sending him to the United States. Defiant, Dotcom insists that he “won’t be silenced by bullies!”

      • Academics have found a way to access insanely expensive research papers—for free

        Most academic journals charge expensive subscriptions and, for those without a login, fees of $30 or more per article. Now academics are using the hashtag #icanhazpdf to freely share copyrighted papers.

        Scientists are tweeting a link of the paywalled article along with their email address in the hashtag—a riff on the infamous meme of a fluffy cat’s “I Can Has Cheezburger?” line. Someone else who does have access to the article downloads a pdf of the paper and emails the file to the person requesting it. The initial tweet is then deleted as soon as the requester receives the file.

      • Copyright Fail: ‘Pirating’ Academic Papers Not Only Commonplace, But Now Seen As Mainstream

        Techdirt has been writing about open access for many years. The idea and practice are certainly spreading, but they’re spreading more slowly than many in the academic world had hoped. That’s particularly frustrating when you’re a researcher who can’t find a particular academic paper freely available as open access, and you really need it now. So it’s no surprise that people resort to other methods, like asking around if anyone has a copy they could send. The Internet being the Internet, it’s also no surprise that this ad-hoc practice has evolved into a formalized system, using Twitter and the hashtag #icanhazpdf to ask other researchers if they have a copy of the article in question. But what is surprising is that recently there have been two articles on mainstream sites that treat the approach as if it’s really quite a reasonable thing to do.

      • Spotify reduces piracy, but also cuts into digital track sales

        New research from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre shows that Spotify has helped to reduce the level of piracy in the countries where it is available. The work also reveals that Spotify reduces the number of digital track sales, but that those losses are cancelled out by the licensing fees paid by Spotify.

Benoît Battistelli Became an Embarrassment to the European Patent Organisation, Allege EPO Workers

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The revolt against the Battistelli regime culminates with explicit denunciation of an unprecedented assault on truth-tellers within the organisation

AS MANY people already know (especially those who have been paying close enough attention), the EPO’s thuggish management has a notorious track record and villainous pattern of using threats and menacing letters to remove access to information, and that is why we have decided to make copies of the following documents just shared by SUEPO. Many people need to read this because it’s about Benoît Battistelli and his ilk trying to shoot down a technical judge for merely discussing truthful information. This was last year's culmination of Benoît Battistelli's war against truth-tellers and it deserves broader reach, even worldwide attention. Will mainstream media (e.g. the BBC) finally decide to give this coverage? It’s well overdue.

SUEPO has just put in public circulation an alarming statement. It is not alarmist as based on information we have (from multiple independent sources) it’s simply too factual. Techrights is more censorship-resistant than SUEPO because there is little in terms of threats that the EPO can legally do to us, hence we decided to make copies of the English [PDF]French [PDF], German [PDF], and Dutch [PDF] versions. Here is it in HTML form and as images below. Cracking our servers and/or DDOS attacks may be the only way for EPO to censor this information, as the EPO’s ringleaders have already banned our site (internally).

English letter

French letter

German letter

Dutch letter

The International Labour Organisation Highlights Problems of Broader Dimensions at EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EPO complaints of unprecedented proportions

International Labour Organisation on EPO

Summary: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is raising serious concerns about the situation at the EPO, where labour or workers’ rights are being gradually abolished and the number of complaints has gone through the roof

“The International Labour Organisation in Geneva,” told us a source, “considers that “a governance problem of broader dimensions” exists at the EPO.” We have looked at the report, which we decided to host locally in case it becomes unavailable [PDF]. Our readers are probably well aware of the many abuses at the EPO, but this report look at a particular type of abuse and singles out EPO as an exceptional case study. As our source succinctly put it:

In a recent report, the International Labour Organisation in Geneva considers that the EPO suffers from “a governance problem of broader dimensions” and expresses concern that the number of staff complaints being filed by EPO staff with the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO “represent a challenge to its effective functioning”.

“It is the number of complaints filed against a single organization, the EPO, rather than the rise in the overall number of organizations having accepted its jurisdiction, that represents the main challenge for its effective functioning. The Tribunal further considers that all its efforts are being compromised by the continuing increasing trend of EPO-generated cases and also indicates that the complexity of the problem may require the attention of the Governing Body.”

The Governing Body plans to request the Director-General of the ILO “to initiate without delay discussions with the European Patent Organization (EPO), in consultation with the Tribunal as required, in order to identify a solution to the difficulties caused by the number of complaints generated within the EPO and which threaten the ability of the Tribunal to serve all other member organizations, and to report to the Governing Body at its next session”.

Paging through the report, the EPO isn’t mentioned until page 4, but in page 4 the report focuses on the EPO and singles it out. About a quarter of this whole report is a polite rant about the EPO. To quote:

3. The European Patent Organization (EPO) – A case apart

10. The largest member organization, employing approximately 8,800 staff, accepted the Tribunal’s jurisdiction in 1978. The EPO’s membership has always been marked by significant level of litigation. EPO-related complaints have generated, on average, 21 judgments per year, the lowest number being ten judgments in 1998 and the highest being 69 judgments in 2015. In its 37 years of Tribunal membership, the EPO has been concerned by 761 judgments out of a total of 3,560 judgments delivered by the Tribunal since its creation. By way of comparison, the Tribunal’s second oldest member organization – the World Health Organization – with similar staff numbers has been concerned by 447 judgments in 66 years of membership, that is an average of seven judgments per year (see the table below). In the last five years, whereas the EPO’s staff represents less than 16 per cent of all officials covered by the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, the number of cases filed annually against the EPO represented on average more than 30 per cent of all the cases received by the Tribunal, with peaks above 40 per cent of the overall annual Tribunal workload. This persisting pattern stretches the Tribunal’s resources and inevitably impacts on the processing time of complaints, including those filed against all other international organizations that have recognized its jurisdiction.

11. Despite the written exchanges between the ILO Director-General and the President of the EPO on this matter, and the measures taken internally by the EPO in recent years with a view to improve its internal remedies and reduce litigation, no progress has been registered so far to contain the number of labour disputes which give rise to cases referred to the Tribunal. In this regard, it should be noted that out of the 193 cases filed with the Tribunal from 1 January to 18 September 2015, 112 (or 56 per cent) originated from EPO officials, while the remaining 81 complaints were filed by officials of 23 different international organizations. In addition, following important reforms introduced in the EPO in the past two years, the number of internal individual grievances has grown exponentially, a situation that may reasonably be expected to give rise to an even larger number of EPO-related complaints with the Tribunal in the very near future.

International Labour Organisation rulings

4. Causes of increased caseload – The views of stakeholders

12. In order to present a balanced overview of the underlying reasons for the increase in the Tribunal’s caseload, the Office undertook broad consultations with the principal stakeholders, including the judges of the Tribunal as well as the administration and staff representatives of organizations having accepted the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.

4.1. The Tribunal’s assessment

13. According to the written reply provided by the Tribunal, the increase in the number of organizations is not a problem in itself as statistical data show that the organizations which recognized the Tribunal’s competence in the last ten years did not significantly increase the Tribunal’s workload4. It is the number of complaints filed against a single organization, the EPO, rather than the rise in the overall number of organizations having accepted its jurisdiction, that represents the main challenge for its effective functioning. The Tribunal further considers that all its efforts are being compromised by the continuing increasing trend of EPO-generated cases and also indicates that the complexity of the problem may require the attention of the Governing Body.

14. The Tribunal has made it clear that it has reached its limits in terms of output and that it could not be expected to increase it any further without compromising the quality of its services. This is probably also connected with the fact that the judges do no work for the Tribunal on a full-time basis, but usually sit only twice a year for three to four weeks each time, and that some of them have extremely busy schedules as they are still serving in the supreme courts of their respective countries.

15. The Tribunal also drew attention to the fact that administrative tribunals of much narrower coverage – geographical or other – have gradually come into existence which raises legitimate questions as to whether it can still be considered to be the “natural judge” to hear complaints against organizations operating, for instance, within the administrative framework of the Council of Europe or the European Union. While there is nothing in the Tribunal’s Statute to restrict admission on the basis of an organization’s coverage, it should be remembered that the original intention was to open up the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to truly global organizations which would be otherwise deprived from access to any international administrative jurisdiction.

16. Finally, the great diversity of staff rules of organizations under the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, the lack of internal means of redress in some organizations, the frequent challenges to normative acts of general application, especially by staff representatives, and the lack of employment stability of the Registry staff, were also identified as additional factors contributing to the Tribunal’s increasing caseload.

4.2. The views of member organizations

17. Based on written replies provided by seven organizations and the views expressed by representatives of 29 organizations during a one-day consultation meeting, it is generally recognized that the admission of small international organizations in recent years is neither at the origin of the rising backlog of the Tribunal nor likely to impact on the Tribunal’s caseload in any significant manner in the near future. However, the resulting diversity of legal frameworks governing employment relations of staff under the Tribunal’s jurisdiction may occasionally generate delays.

18. Member organizations expressed serious concern about the volume of complaints against the EPO, and most importantly about the fact that problems around the “litigation culture” and social dialogue in that organization are not conjunctural but are most likely to persist unabated for many years. The general sense is that, based on available information, the current situation is not sustainable and that measures such as the increase of the number of judges or the number of sessions will not have a lasting effect on, much less resolve, the current flow of complaints filed by EPO officials. While noting the explanations of EPO administration officials about their genuine efforts to improve the situation, member organizations agreed that this was a governance problem of broader dimensions which called for urgent action in the interest of preserving the Tribunal’s operation.

4 According to these data, 15 organizations have recognized the competence of the Tribunal since 2005 and have generated 65 complaints out of a total of 1,863 complaints; among those organizations, six have not so far been the object of any complaint, four organizations have each generated one complaint, and one organization has been the object of two.

Put briefly and in very simple terms, the International Labour Organisation recognises that there is something uniquely rogue in the EPO that causes a massive number of complaints to come from workers. There are so many complaints in fact that the International Labour Organisation finds itself drowning in them. The real issue here seems to be the EPO’s governance (or administration, or management). They make recommendations accordingly.

Skipping quickly to page 7, the EPO is revisited as follows:

Part II. Analysis of the situation and possible way forward

1. Principal findings and proposed course of action

24. On the basis of the information presented in Part I above, and following the broad consultations undertaken by the Office of the Legal Adviser over the past three months, three main conclusions seem to emerge: firstly, it is difficult to see how the Tribunal could continue under its current configuration and arrangements to cope with both its accumulated backlog and increasing workload. Secondly, the recognition of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction by new international organizations does not affect in any significant manner the capacity of the Tribunal even though the diversity of legal rules and regulations may at times prove challenging. Thirdly, the introduction of further changes to those undertaken by the Tribunal to increase its capacity to deal effectively with the workload may well result in efficiency gains in specific areas of the Tribunal’s functioning but will not be sufficient for the Tribunal to cope with the growing volume of complaints filed against one single organization (the EPO).

25. Faced with such reality, the Office could explore three strands of action in order to find long-lasting solutions to address the current situation. Firstly, an urgent, practicable and time-bound solution needs to be found regarding the facilitation of the speedy adjudication of all EPO complaints in a manner that permits the Tribunal to fulfil its mandate and effectively serve all other organizations, which have recognized its jurisdiction.

The following part ensures that thugs who have run the EPO won’t have a pleasant weekend. They should expect the Tribunal to apply pressure:

Draft decision

33. The Governing Body requests the Director-General:

(a) to initiate without delay discussions with the European Patent Organization (EPO), in consultation with the Tribunal as required, in order to identify a solution to the difficulties caused by the number of complaints generated within the EPO and which threaten the ability of the Tribunal to serve all other member organizations, and to report to the Governing Body at its next session;

It sure looks like the management of the EPO stepped in a scandal of its own making. It will be interesting to see what develops of this in the coming weeks, months, or even a year (justice is notoriously slow at these high levels).

IBM Bemoans the Collapse of Software Patents in the US and Wants US Congress to Intervene for ‘Certainty’

Posted in America, Apple, Europe, Patents at 4:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reza SarbakhshPhoto source (Sarbakhsh): “IP Monetization”, New York (2015)

Summary: The bizarre ‘friend’ of Free/Open Source software (FOSS), IBM, is still trying to ensure patentability of software whereas Apple and SAP, based on new stories, surprisingly enough serve to crush or at least weaken some

THE IMPACT of the Alice case has been great. Everyone is happy about it. Unless one is a patent lawyer or a software monopolist…

The American Intellectual Property Law Association (with its dodgy Microsoft Windows site) is an echo chamber that has just regathered and congregated many stakeholders, excluding people who actually invent and create things. The audience profits from patents, so it’s not an unbiased event that’s open to the wider public or at least offers the public speaking opportunities.

Just like the UPC Forum Munich, which lobbies regarding courts and litigation (money to be made by lawyers), the American Intellectual Property Law Association thinks in a narrow-minded way.

Now, let’s talk about IBM, which is actively spreading (or trying to spread) software patents to even more countries. People who made a career out of cataloging the patent monopolies of massive corporations (that’s where the big money is) are pursuing as many of them as possible, even 50,000 for just one company. Small business with an infinitesimal number of patents hardly every become a bleep on the radar and lawyers who work for them do nothing but drive them closer to bankruptcy, without any obvious benefits. Remember that the EPO also discriminately deals with applicants, prioritising large corporations even when these are not European (prominent patent practitioners — to use a euphemism — are still discussing the impact of this).

According to this new report from LES 2015, the “lead IP attorney” at IBM (whatever that actually means) isn’t happy about Alice. Here are some quotes:

Legislation will ultimately be required to address the uncertainty created by the Alice Corp v CLS Bank ruling, a lawyer from IBM told the LES 2015 Annual Meeting.

Reza Sarbakhsh, who is lead IP attorney at the company, said the decision has provided little guidance on what is patentable in the computer software space.

“As with any other business, uncertainty is the enemy,” he said, asking whether legislation should be required.

While he admitted that “I don’t know if we can convince Congress to address problems from our perspective” in the short term, “eventually legislation is the answer”.

Sarbakhsh was speaking during a lively discussion on the impact of the US Supreme Court’s ruling from last June. The court said computer-implemented inventions are not eligible for patent protection.

Sarbakhsh does not explicitly say it, but knowing that he works for IBM, a booster and lobbyist for software patents, by clarity he means advocacy. To quote the author’s paraphrasing: “Sarbakhsh said some large corporations are still pursuing software patents because the costs of getting them issued and the subsequent maintenance fees have not increased, even if patent value might be lower.”

“It’s not a business, it’s protectionism. It ensures money continues to flow from the powerless to the powerful.”Sarbakhsh said (direct quote): “Simply because one or two patents have been invalidated doesn’t mean we’re getting out of the patent business.”

It’s not a business, it’s protectionism. It ensures money continues to flow from the powerless to the powerful.

The overall tone of this lawyers-led event is similarly saddening. Then see the article (paywalled) titled “AIPLA 2015: Don’t dump portfolios due to section 101, patentees told”. To quote the excerpt: “Software patent owners should not jettison their portfolios despite worries over the impact of Alice Corporation v CLS Bank and its application of section 101, an industry conference heard.”

Why not? Because it harms the profits of patent lawyers?

Alice is a very big deal.

Apple is trying to invalidate software patents using Alice, whereupon “Ericsson says Apple’s Alice motion against wireless patents threatens to swallow all of patent law,” to quote Florian Müller.

Well, if it swallows all of patent law, or software patents in this particular case, then all the better.

One person wrote to us, “so if Apple succeeds then that may be troublesome for many other patent holders on wireless communication.”

Separately, in Twitter and in his blog, Müller says that “Google-SAP cross-license agreement announced: is SAP once again critical of software patents?”

As we showed earlier this week, SAP is still trying to patent software in Europe, so we very much doubt a change of policy is in the making. However, with this cross-license pseudo-’peace’, one might assume that SAP won’t take any legal action against Android, and perhaps by extension GNU/Linux.

We’re living in interesting times as we are at the crossroad when it comes to software patents. Lose it, as IBM wishes, and software patents may expand to the entire world. If we win this battle, then maybe we can still contain this injustice, even put an end to it worldwide. Patent lawyers won’t give up and sit idly until everything, including life itself, becomes patentable (i.e. profitable to them).

Not an Accident: Microsoft’s Monopoly is Dead, So Microsoft Plans to Maliciously Force Everyone to Move to Vista 10

Posted in Microsoft, Vista 10, Windows at 3:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Do what Microsoft says, or else…


Summary: Microsoft’s force-feeding of spyware is not an accident as Microsoft tried to frame it but probably a test run, ahead of Microsoft’s effort to impose installation of this spyware on everyone

“MICROSOFT IS ABOUT TO INCUR the wrath of loyal users once again,” The Inquirer wrote about yet another dead product (among many more), “after confirming that the company is to merge its popular Sunrise calendar app into Outlook, discontinuing the standalone version “down the line”.”

“Users are upset about it, but Microsoft doesn’t care what users think or feel. Computers are effectively being hijacked.”Microsoft is in a bad state, so no wonder many products get canceled, including some versions of Windows (especially for devices or mobile). What does Microsoft do? The usual: dirty tricks. It already annoys a lot of so-called 'customers' by forcing them to get Vista 10 and this new puff piece says that “Microsoft is planning to get a lot more aggressive about upgrading existing machines.” The puff piece repeats lies and fake figures from Microsoft, then quotes Microsoft spinners. They try market this unacceptable force-feeding (which Microsoft was trying to spin as an 'accident') as a good thing by saying things like “Microsoft is also making some changes designed to entice software pirates to upgrade.”

It even gets more like a marketing placement with statements like these: “This change in approach is all part of Microsoft’s overall effort to get 1 billion devices running Windows 10 within two or three years of its release. As long as Microsoft avoids nagging people to upgrade more than once, or forcibly updating Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, then this latest change won’t trigger a backlash.”


They already downloads it without consent, turning computers into the world’s worst spying devices and turning users into ‘products’. Users are upset about it, but Microsoft doesn’t care what users think or feel. Computers are effectively being hijacked. It’s all about what Microsoft wants and it simply commandeers its botnet to impose use of Vista 10, fulfilling a false prophecy of Vista 10 ‘success’. How much more of this abuse are people willing to tolerate?

Microsoft-Connected Xamarin Demolishes the Freedom of Android

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, GPL at 2:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s war on Android surely a benefactor here


Summary: An essential Android tool, RoboVM, turns into proprietary software just shortly after Xamarin, which is financially assisted by Microsoft veterans, takes over it; time to fork?

LAST WEEK we wrote about Xamarin‘s disturbing takeover of RoboVM [1, 2], which was a threat to Microsoft’s monopoly and domination of APIs (especially on the desktop). Xamarin, for the uninitiated, creates proprietary software that strives to spread Microsoft’s .NET to mobile (including Android) devices.

“Following RoboVM’s acquisition by Xamarin, the company has raised the price of their offering and has closed the source code.”
      –Abel Avram
It has only been less than a week and now we learn from Abel Avram that “RoboVM Is No Longer Open Source”.

“Following RoboVM’s acquisition by Xamarin,” explains Avram, “the company has raised the price of their offering and has closed the source code.”

“The community has wondered what would happen to RoboVM now that they have been acquired by Xamarin,” Avram noted. Well, now we know. Bye bye, community.

To quote further: “RoboVM is no longer providing the source code except to enterprise customers. [...] Several RoboVM components used to be made available under the Apache 2.0 license while the compiler was open sourced under the GPL license.”

It has gotten so bad that RoboVM might be forked. To quote Avram, “some developers consider that closing down the source code has to do with Xamarin’s acquisition. And some are discussing forking the project, perhaps starting with the sources v. 1.8 which will be pushed to GitHub this week, according to Zechner. It remains to see how successful they are in their endeavor considering that RoboVM is not a trivial piece of software.”

Xamarin and Mono were never about Free software and GNU/Linux; they were just a parasite trying to exploit Free software and GNU/Linux to spread .NET and now they serve to convert Free software into proprietary. Microsoft must love what Miguel de Icaza has been up to recently.

“At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very interested in it inmediately [sic].”

Miguel de Icaza

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