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Focus on Patent Trolls Persists, With Increasing Use of Euphemisms Such as NPEs and PAEs

Posted in Patents at 9:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From IAM’s Web site (NPE 2016 could be crudely called Patent Trolls 2016)

NPE 2016

Summary: The debate about patent trolls (not patent scope) carries on in the media and events that improve the image of trolls are being organised by some of the media (paid by these trolls)

PATENT trolls are a big problem, but they are also a symptom of a much broader problem, notably software patents which can target a whole lot of companies that don’t manufacture things, e.g. online retailers.

IAM, which receives money from patent trolls, says that “legislation [...] balanced between patent owners and users of IP” (what about the public? Externality?) when it writes about patent reform. IAM currently organises and runs an annual event for patent trolls, who paid IAM to set this up (they are partying like patent trolls and getting flak from critics). Watch what guests they attract. If one makes a living by just passing around patents and threatening companies, that’s no constructive career. It’s parasitic and it injures the reputation of legitimate companies and legitimate patents. IAM itself doesn’t seem to recognise software patents when it sees them, or hosts those who use an old line (“We don’t rely on any patents that are purely software patents” or “Patents are such emotional things, people have this emotional barrier that they’re paying for nothing”).

“If one makes a living by just passing around patents and threatening companies, that’s no constructive career.”“What licensees are not paying for is solutions,” wrote Florian Müller in response to the above, “normally don’t need to read patent docs to solve software problems.” He later took note of patent trolls as proxies, alluding to the latest from Unwired Planet, which trolls Europe (Microsoft also does it, e.g. Intellectual Ventures). This is not OK. An articles roundup from Jim Lynch put it like this: “Microsoft has long sought to build credibility with the open source community, but it continues to shoot itself in the foot by forcing companies to pay for its Android patents. This has led some in the open source community to remain sour on Microsoft and its business practices.”

Intellectual Ventures is attacking Android too, not just Microsoft (the headline “Microsoft still forces companies to pay for its Android patents” could be expanded to “Microsoft and its patent trolls still force companies to pay for alleged Android patents”).

“It’s parasitic and it injures the reputation of legitimate companies and legitimate patents.”The EFF, in the mean time, speaks about the Venue Act these days (it tackles patent trolls, but not software patents), getting the attention of pro-patents sites like MIP and also patent sceptics like TechDirt. One side says that “US Senators Flake, Gardner and Lee have introduced the Venue Equity and Non-Uniformity Elimination (Venue) Act. The bill aims “to ensure that venue in patents cases is fair and proper”. The latter side says:

Patent reform is a constant legislative topic, even though what passes for reform generally tends to be heavily-watered down by the time it moves out of the House or Senate. One of the most abused areas of patent litigation is venue selection. Small towns in East Texas have become hosts to parasitic lifeforms known as “Non-Practicing Entities” — shell companies whose only product/service is litigation.

Jason Rantanen, guest posting at PatentlyO, suggests eliminating venue shopping might be a compromise parties involved in patent reform might be able to unite behind. Presumably, this means legislators, rather than patent trolls, who aren’t going to be willing to give up the “home field” advantage that easily. The problems with the current venue-shopping system are laid out by Rantanen in this sentence.

We don’t think this would ever be sufficient because patent trolls can endure all sorts of courts. With the UPC, for instance, some time soon they might be able to also troll companies all over Europe with just one legal case in a software patents-friendly German court.

“They used to speak about software patents, but corporate pressure seems to have changed that.”Professor Mark Lemley, an academic who often bemoans patent trolls, has just highlighted this new paper from John Allison, adding: “My latest study shows PAEs almost never win patent suits. Neither do software patentees, practicing or not.”

PAEs is a euphemism for particular types of trolls, such as Unwired Planet above (it’s effectively like a legal firm for Ericsson and it has gone on for years). The paper’s abstract says: “Much of the policy debate over the patent system has focused on the perceived problems with non-practicing entities (NPEs), also called patent trolls. Drawing on a comprehensive data set we built of every patent lawsuit filed in 2008 and 2009 that resulted in a ruling on the merits, we find that the situation is rather more complicated than simply operating companies vs. NPEs. While operating companies fare better in litigation than NPEs overall, breaking NPEs into different categories reveals more complexity. Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) in particular win very few cases. Further, once we remove certain pharmaceutical cases from the mix, no patent plaintiff fares very well. That is particularly true of software, computer, and electronics patents.”

It is still rather worrying that not only the media but academia too (not to mention activism of EFF) focuses so much on patent trolls rather than patent scope. They used to speak about software patents, but corporate pressure seems to have changed that.

Microsoft is Pretending to be a FOSS Company in Order to Secure Government Contracts With Proprietary Software in ‘Open’ Clothing

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 9:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft is now pretending that proprietary SQL Server on GNU/Linux is “open” and reportedly sells it to governments as such

SQL Server loves PRISM

Summary: Microsoft is pulling off a chameleon’s strategy by pretending that its proprietary software stacks are “open” and therefore eligible for integration in public services

PUTTING aside EPO affairs and patents for a moment, we wish to point out some of the latest subversive moves from Microsoft. We cannot just ignore Microsoft when Microsoft isn’t ignoring us, and is constantly attacking us (FOSS) with patents.

“It’s a good way to distract the public and suppress criticism with some corny images of red hearts.”For those who missed it, Microsoft is trying to EEE GNU/Linux servers amid Microsoft layoffs; selfish interests of profit, as noted by some writers [1,2] this morning, nothing whatsoever to do with FOSS (there’s no FOSS aspect to it at all!) are driving these moves. It’s about proprietary software lock-in that won’t be available for another year anyway. It’s a good way to distract the public and suppress criticism with some corny images of red hearts.

Mary Branscombe, a longtime Microsoft booster who occasionally attacks FOSS (see her "free puppy" insults for instance), has just published an article with a loaded headline, “The reasons behind Microsoft’s drive for open source” [3] (there is no such drive, so why explore the “reasons”?). It’s a full load of nonsense, starting with the summary: “Striking the balance between open source and commercial business” (Branscombe again shows us a false dichotomy, where FOSS is antithetical to “commercial business” — whatever that is — probably just proprietary software)

“The problem with Wallen’s article is that it’s based on a false supposition that Microsoft cares about FOSS.”The latest Red Hat profits [4,5,6,7] help disprove the nonsense from Branscombe, but it’s not just Branscombe that’s doing that. Days ago we found literally dozens of puff pieces that openwash Microsoft. These all came from India, where Microsoft is lobbying government against FOSS (remember the EDGI dumping about a decade ago). Microsoft is now planning an Indian FOSS event (see two daily links roundups under “Openwashing” in [1, 2]) and it’s clear that Microsoft tries to fool/lull the Indian government into the notion that Microsoft is a FOSS company, hence eligible for any government contract (lucrative procurement). We need to battle this propaganda or simply be infiltrated by the enemy, which is hurting us the EEE way, not just with patents.

“This is protectionism by deception from Microsoft and those who play along with the PR campaign (or lobbying) are hurting genuine/legitimate FOSS.”A new article from Jack Wallen [8] notes that Microsoft’s “consumer licensing revenue has declined by 34 percent” and goes with the headline “It’s time for Microsoft to open source Windows” (some readers sent it to us after we had found it). The problem with Wallen’s article is that it’s based on a false supposition that Microsoft cares about FOSS. Besides, it wouldn’t work. They turned Windows into spyware (see what Vista 10 became). FOSS licensing would remove all that. If it’s FOSS, people would remove these undesirable features and redistribute without them (true FOSS means they can do exactly that). Microsoft cannot afford to let this happen.

In summary, reject the idea that Microsoft is somehow “open” now. The European Union, the Indian government and even the White House now warm up to FOSS, so Microsoft is pretending to be FOSS. This is protectionism by deception from Microsoft and those who play along with the PR campaign (or lobbying) are hurting genuine/legitimate FOSS.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Does Microsoft Love Linux As Much As It Hates Oracle SQL Databases?

    Given the long wait, the SQL Server 2016 support for Linux servers seems to reflect a business tactic more than any actual love on Microsoft’s part for the open source community.

  2. Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) To Release SQL Server 2016 For Linux In 2017

    It is widely thought that SQL Server on Linux is CEO Satya Nadella’s brainchild, as the company focuses on providing top class service. Furthermore, some have even gone as far as to say that the company’s strategy regarding SQL on Linux exhibits the finest example of going where the money is, if it doesn’t come to you.

  3. The reasons behind Microsoft’s drive for open source

    In other words, SQL Server will come to Linux, but it’s not likely to be a free, open source version.

  4. Red Hat Is Now a $2 Billion Open-Source Baby

    Red Hat, which promised a few months ago to hit $2 billion in annual revenue, has done so and now claims to be the world’s first open-source company to reach that milestone. It crossed the $1 billion-a-year line four years ago.

  5. ​Red Hat becomes first $2b open-source company

    Just think: Some people still don’t believe that you can make money from Linux and open-source software. Fools! Red Hat just became the first open-source company to make a cool 2 billion bucks.

  6. Red Hat tops $2 billion in annual revenue
  7. Red Hat annual revenue crosses US$2b for the first time
  8. It’s time for Microsoft to open source Windows

    Imagine a world in which Windows was open source. Jack Wallen believes it is now time for such a reality.

Ongoing Investigations: EPO’s Attacks on the Media

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Erdoğan and EPO
Original photo: Erdoğan by Randam

Summary: 3 parallel investigations underway regarding the muzzling of the media by the European Patent Office (EPO) and top EPO executives including Željko Topić

TECHRIGHTS currently has several strands of exploration into media suppression by the EPO, not only in Munich but also in Germany and abroad (not just us). A lot of people in the media don’t wish to talk about it (the wrath of their boss/es), but gradually we are starting to learn more about several different news channels, newspapers, and portals. Some of this is still work on progress, pending verification of facts.

“Even an editor got contacted, but fortunately these attempts to censor articles (yes, in bulk) about Topić were not successful on this occasion, unlike past occasions.”Having made some telephone calls (with people in Croatia), one should accept that we are not reliant on hearsay. We now know for sure is that Željko Topić is still trying to suppress Croatian media (this isn’t particularly new, as we showed before, but it’s still ongoing). This is exactly the kind of thing we have come to expect from the Battistellites, who are unable to accept any form of criticism (they totally lose their temper and even threaten the media).

While we’re still exploring/researching potential DDOS aspects of it (work in progress) what we can say, based on verification, is that Topić and/or his lawyers (we’re told at least one judge is close to Topić’s latest law firm) are asking Web sites to remove articles. Even an editor got contacted, but fortunately these attempts to censor articles (yes, in bulk) about Topić were not successful on this occasion, unlike past occasions. Can history be rewritten by omission and litigation (again and again)? Is it true that someone was paid to hack? Not sure yet, but this is the subject of an ongoing investigation, which can take weeks (we are not divulging any information which cannot be verified yet).

“People would be absolutely right (or justified) to assume that there is suppression going on in the media, and the EPO has a lot to do with it.”This is only the tip of the iceberg. We know of several other channels in which censorship (or self-censorship) is said to have become commonplace when it comes to EPO scandals. The EPO is still combating information about EPO abuses, by all means possible, as otherwise the Bavarian government will increasingly intervene (if properly informed).

People would be absolutely right (or justified) to assume that there is suppression going on in the media, and the EPO has a lot to do with it. We still don’t know why the BBC spiked a story about the EPO's attack on bloggers (self-censorship of censorship).

FFPE-EPO Says MoU With Battistelli Will “Defend Employment Conditions” (Updated)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Click for larger-sized image

Summary: FFPE-EPO spreads fliers that attempt to frame a submissive memorandum of understanding (MoU) with abusive management as an advantage

FFPE-EPO, a union so soft that even Battistelli can love it, was covered here earlier this month in the following set of articles, sorted chronologically:

  1. In the EPO’s Official Photo Op, “Only One of the Faces is Actually FFPE-EPO”
  2. Further Evidence Suggests and Shows Stronger Evidence That Team Battistelli Uses FFPE-EPO as ‘Yellow Union’ Against SUEPO
  3. “FFPE-EPO Was Set up About 9 Years Ago With Management Encouragement”
  4. Fallout of the FFPE EPO MoU With Battistelli’s Circle
  5. The EPO’s Media Strategy at Work: Union Feuds and Group Fracturing
  6. Caricature of the Day: Recognising FFPE EPO
  7. Union Syndicale Federale Slams FFPE-EPO for Helping Abusive EPO Management by Signing a Malicious, Divisive Document

The letter/flier above is self explanatory and the last link (above) helps explain why FFPE-EPO is misguided if it genuinely believes this kind of MoU will “defend [...] employment conditions.” Union Syndicale Federale almost joked about the ‘benefits’ of this MoU.

Update: Here is the text of the above image:

Why is a MoU good for the EPO, its staff and FFPE?

Submitted by S van der Bijl [illegible] on Mon. 01/02/2016 – 14:24

The FFPE committee members often get questions from colleagues why we are still negotiating or why we favour a memorandum of understanding between EPO and the unions. The question of a memorandum is then soon linked together with developments concerning disciplinary proceedings against certain staff representatives.

I think that that link is wrong and even if a link could be made it should be leading towards the opposite decision namely signing an agreement to avoid further deterioration of the conflict.


Agreements concerning recognition of unions are something very normal in international organisations. The EU commission, the EU council and the EU parliament have such agreements called ’Framework agreements ’ or with the French equivalent term “Accord cadre”. Some coordinated organisations such as Eurocontrol also have such an agreement in place. These agreements come on top of and do not replace the staff committees. It is even explicitly mentioned in these agreements that there shall be no prejudice to the role of the staff committees. The proposal on the table for the EPO also contains such a clause. Nobody can therefore claim in any possible way having been negatively affected by the signing of a framework agreement between a union and the management of the organisation. So it is a perfectly normal situation in a normal organisation to sign an agreement which makes it explicit what the nature is of the relation between a recognised union and the management of the organisation. An agreement also means that both parties arrange the elements necessary for discussing with each other and recognising that the other party is entitled to defend the interests of their members. It means concretely that the organisation provides some basic facilities and that the union agrees to function within a certain legal framework even when it does not agree with decisions that are taken.


If signing an agreement is something perfectly normal in any organisation but not at the EPO what is then so special about the EPO that many people have a problem with it here? Two years ago there were staff representation elections which resulted in the election of a certain number of independent non-affiliated staff reps. For reasons like “too much stress” or “too poisoned atmosphere” these representatives gave up their functions relatively quickly after their election. Soon after these events complaints were launched against representatives from SUEPO and when investigations were launched against these representatives SUEPO tried to use the negotiation process as a means of leverage to make the EPO stop these investigations and ignore the complaints.

The argument was: “you cannot negotiate with a gun to your head”. This argument is flawed. Not all SUEPO representatives were investigated, but only those against whom other colleagues who complained were investigated. There is no reasons to make a link between the two issues and since we do not know the exact nature of the complaints and cannot analyse whether there is enough evidence we cannot make an opinion about these investigations. We only noticed that the disciplinary committee which is a plenary body also containing staffrep nominees ruled unanimously that the accused were guilty. We will leave it therefore up to ATILO in Geneva to take the final decision. It would be incorrect to take a position in this except that we do believe that the investigation guidelines need to be reviewed. We had this opinion already at the moment they were Introduced and had published about that at the time.


The MoU as it is proposed details the rights and obligations of management and unions in the EPO. It recognises the unions right to negotiate employment conditions and to defend the rights of the employees. It grants the union representatives time and means to negotiate and form an opinion, whether positive, negative or partly positive before any proposal goes to the GCC. It also allows a union to put issues on the agenda that the staff need or asked for. The MoU is a gentleman’s agreement, this means there is no court mentioned where the EPO can sue a union or vice versa. Both parties are responsible for making it work and if it doesn’t agreement can also be cancelled by one of the two parties. In principle a respected MoU should lead to a situation where the permanent conflict between unions and management that has been going on since the beginning of EPO in 1973 stops and the EPO enters the 21st century and develops normal relations as other organisations have them too. That does not mean there will never be any conflicts any more or that there won’t be any strikes but it does mean we do not continue destroying our employer’s reputation by a damaging proxy battle in the national media. Is it really such an ideal situation that changes to the Codex are only presented to the GCC very shortly before the meeting and adopted by the council very quickly thereafter? If you like the way things go please continue supporting the status quo. I believe the EPO deserves much better and the MoU opens the door for major improvements in our relations and a better future for the organisation.


Links 23/3/2016: Red Hat’s Record Results

Posted in News Roundup at 7:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Why community managers must wade (not dive) into communities

    If you are part of an organization looking to get into the community-support game, you would do well to tread carefully and deliberately. Communities, particularly at the start of your involvement in them, can be delicate and fragile things. Stomping in there with big words and big plans and big brand engagement will cause a lot of damage to the community and its ecosystem, often of the irreparable sort.

  • How our high school replaced IRC with Mattermost

    The Mattermost project was named because the developers wanted to emphasize the importance of communication. And the design provokes a conceptual shift in classroom communications. Unlike email, Mattermost is a convenient virtual meeting room and a central dashboard for our district technology operations. When everyone connects in a transparent conversation stream, collaboration naturally happens in the open. I was incredibly fond of our internal IRC system, but I really love the Mattermost platform. It costs nothing more than a little server space and occasional software update attention. But even better, it serves as the communication hub for our Student Technology Help Desk, and helps our students collaborate during times when they are not together in the same physical space during a given class block.

  • A channel guide to Open Source success

    Much has changed within the storage channel over the past few years. New technologies, especially cloud-computing, have created innovative business models that have transformed not only what channel businesses sell, but the way they sell them too. As a result, many resellers have evolved into service providers in a process that is now fairly well understood.

    However, there is another, lesser-known evolution that is equally important: not only is the channel changing, but so too are customers. This new type of customer is comfortable with cloud technologies and with the increasingly related area of open source operating systems, which they are looking to use in new ways. If channel organisations are to capitalise on these customers then they need to understand how they can add value through open source.

  • Open source software altering telecom operator, vendor space

    The increased focus and adoption of open source software is bolstering telecom operator plans, forcing vendors to rethink strategy

  • Events

    • Event planning tips from the Django Girls Budapest team

      Szilvi Kádár, Daniella Kőrössy, and I are the organizers of Django Girls Budapest, a free workshop that teaches women how to code. We held our first Django Girls workshop in December 2014, and we’re currently planning our fourth event. We’d like to share some bits and pieces of event organizing advice, and we hope you’ll find some useful ideas for your next event.

    • LibrePlanet day two in a nutshell

      We are just forty-eight hours after LibrePlanet 2016 successfully concluded. The second day carried the energy and excitement from Saturday, and attendance remained strong in all sessions.

    • Uganda to host the 7th African Conference on Free and Open Source Software and Digital Commons

      The Government of Uganda through National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) will host the 7th African Conference on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and Digital Commons (IDLELO 7) in August 2016. The conference aims to support uptake of Open Source in Uganda and the region.

      The Ministry of ICT has recently developed a Free Open Source Software (FOSS) Policy to provide guidance on deployment of Open Source Software and the use of Open Standards as a means of accelerating Innovation and local content development.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Google will kill its Chrome app launcher for Windows, Mac, and Linux in July

        Google today announced plans to kill off the Chrome app launcher for Windows, Mac, and Linux in July. The tool, which lets users launch Chrome apps even if the browser is not running, will continue to live on in Chrome OS.

        As you might suspect, the Chrome app launcher was originally ported from Chrome OS. Google first started experimenting with bringing the app launcher to its desktop browser in May 2013. The Chrome app launcher debuted on Windows in July 2013, followed by OS X in December 2013, and finally Linux in July 2014.

  • SaaS/Big Data

    • GoDaddy Offers Amazon-like Cloud Services, Based on OpenStack

      Small business domain host GoDaddy is famous for its racy commercials and its long history of servicing domains, but now it is entering the cloud business and placing its bets on OpenStack. The company has expanded its hosting services to offer Cloud Servers and Bitnami-powered Cloud Applications. The new offerings are designed to help the individual developers, tech entrepreneurs and IT professionals to quickly build, test and scale cloud solutions.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • CMS

  • Pseudo-/Semi-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • FreeNAS 9.10 Open-Source Storage Operating System Adds USB 3.0 & Skylake Support

      Jordan Hubbard from the FreeNAS project, an open-source initiative to create a powerful, free, secure, and reliable NAS (Network-attached storage) operating system based on BSD technologies, announced the release of FreeNAS 9.10.

      FreeNAS 9.10 is the tenth maintenance release in the current stable 9.x series of the project, thus bringing the latest security patches from upstream, support for new devices, as well as several under-the-hood updates. As expected, FreeNAS 9.10 has been rebased on the latest FreeBSD 10.3 RC3 (Release Candidate) release.


  • Public Services/Government

    • Polish eGovernment strategy advocates open source

      Poland’s new eGovernment strategy recommends that publicly financed software should use an open architecture, and consider publication under an open source licence. The eGovernment strategy twice emphasises the use of open source, for a new system of public registers and for a eInvoicing system that interoperates with a national document management system.

    • EC and EP use open source for software development

      The European Commission and the European Parliament generally use open source tools and methods for software development, concludes the EU-FOSSA project, following a review of 15 ongoing projects. The institutions’ project management tools make room for agile, collaborative development cycles.

  • Programming

    • Swift programming language update introduces Linux support

      Almost two years after its launch and four months since it was open sourced, Swift 2.2 has been released by Apple. The update is a major one because it now runs on Linux. Officially, Swift runs on Ubuntu 14.04 and Ubuntu 15.10 but it won’t be long until it unofficially arrives on other distros such as Arch and Manjaro via the Arch User Repository (or AUR).


  • Science

    • UK Government Forbids Publicly-Funded Scientists And Academics From Giving Advice It Disagrees With

      That might sound reasonable, especially the last part about not being able to lobby for more funding. It is aimed mainly at organizations that receive government grants, but many academics believe that it is so loosely worded that it will also apply to them, and will prevent them from pushing for new regulations in any circumstances. Even if that is not the UK government’s intention, the mere existence of the policy is bound to have a chilling effect on the academics, since few will want to run the risk of having their grants taken away by inadvertently breaking the new rules.

  • Apple

  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • WATCH: President Obama in Cuba: “I Have Come to Bury the Last Remnant of the Cold War”

      On the final day of his historic trip to Cuba, President Obama addressed the Cuban people. “The United States and Cuba are like two brothers that’ve been estranged for many years,” Obama said. “We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans. Cuba was in part built by slaves who were brought from Africa … Like the United States, Cuba can trace her heritage to both slaves and slave owners.”

  • Transparency Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Donald Trump bewilderingly denies that climate change poses a serious risk

      Republican presidential candidates haven’t exactly set a high bar for their understanding of climate science during the 2016 race so far. However, front-runner Donald Trump wins the prize for the most confounding denial of global warming expressed by a major party’s presidential candidate to date.

  • Finance

  • Censorship

  • Privacy

    • Silk Road 2.0 Right-Hand Man Pleads Guilty

      The second iteration of the Silk Road drug marketplace was shuttered in November 2014, almost exactly a year after it opened. Now, 17 months later, the right hand man of that website has accepted a plea agreement in a district court in the Western District of Washington.

      Brian Farrell has formally admitted to being “DoctorClu,” a staff member of Silk Road 2.0 who provided customer and technical support, approved vendors, and promoted other employees, according to a court document filed earlier this month.

    • Tor Project says it can quickly catch spying code

      The Tor Project is fortifying its software so that it can quickly detect if its network is tampered with for surveillance purposes, a top developer for the volunteer project wrote on Monday.

      There are worries that Tor could either be technically subverted or subject to court orders, which could force the project to turn over critical information that would undermine its security, similar to the standoff between Apple and the U.S. Department of Justice.

      Tor developers are now designing the system in such a way that many people can verify if code has been changed and “eliminate single points of failure,” wrote Mike Perry, lead developer of the Tor Browser, on Monday.

    • Apple v. FBI: What Just Happened?
    • Icloak Stik

      Anyone who values anonymity can benefit.

    • Tor Project Hardens Privacy Features, Points to Apple vs. the FBI

      There continue to be many people around the globe who want to be able to use the web and messaging systems anonymously, despite the fact that some people want to end Internet anonymity altogether. Typically, the anonymous crowd turns to common tools that can keep their tracks private, and one of the most common tools of all is Tor, an open source tool used all around the world.

      Even as Apple continues to make headlines as it squares off with the FBI over privacy issues, Mike Perry, lead developer of the Tor Browser, wrote in a blog post that Tor developers are hardening the Tor system in such a way that people can verify if code has been changed and “eliminate single points of failure.” “Even if a government or a criminal obtains our cryptographic keys, our distributed network and its users would be able to detect this fact and report it to us as a security issue,” Perry wrote.

    • Idaho mom who sued Obama over illegal surveillance loses at appellate court

      The Idaho mother who sued President Barack Obama over alleged unconstitutional telephone metadata collection has lost again in court. Anna Smith had her initial case dismissed in 2014, and this week her appeal met a similar fate.

      On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Smith, finding that her case was now moot in light of the new changes to the now-expired Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

    • Ninth Circuit Tosses Challenge to NSA Spying

      Anna Smith, a nurse and mother of two, sued President Barack Obama and other high-ranking government officials in June 2013, upon the exposure of a program that collected metadata from every American’s phone records.

    • NSA is not ‘intentionally looking’ for Americans, says agency’s privacy officer [Ed: Rebecca Richards is a liar. NSA hired her to lie to media. Job title: “privacy and civil liberties and privacy”]
    • Before We Even Know The Details, Politicians Rush To Blame Encryption For Brussels Attacks

      You may remember that, right after the Paris attacks late last year, politicians rushed in to demonize encryption as the culprit, and to demand backdooring encryption before the blood was even dry. Of course, it later turned out that there was no evidence that they used encryption at all, but rather it appears that they communicated by unencrypted means. Just yesterday, we noted that the press was still insisting encryption was used, and using the lack of any evidence as evidence for the fact they must have used encryption (hint: that’s not how encryption works…).

    • Appeals court: NSA surveillance case partly moot
    • Appeals court partly dismisses NSA surveillance case as moot

      A three-judge federal appeals panel has partly dismissed an Idaho woman’s lawsuit over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records as moot.

      Nurse Anna J. Smith sued the government in 2013, arguing that the agency’s collection of call records violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

    • British Spy Agency GCHQ Moves Fast to Prevent Mass Energy Hack Attack

      The UK intelligence agency GCHQ has stepped in to prevent a massive hack attack on Britain’s energy networks after discovering so-called “smart meters” – designed to replace 53 million gas and electricity meters can be easily hacked.

    • GCHQ steps into protect smart meters against hackers [Ed: still distracting from GCHQ offense]
  • Civil Rights

    • Bernie Sanders Spoke Up for Suffering Palestinians, but Few in Broadcast Media Covered It

      As leading presidential candidates spoke at the Washington gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), promising support and a crackdown on boycotts of Israel, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made a dissenting speech in Salt Lake City, where he spoke up for suffering Palestinians. It received little broadcast media attention.

      As Sanders trails Clinton in delegate count, his campaign has effectively been discounted by major media.

    • Clinton Attacks Israeli Boycott Movement in AIPAC Speech
    • My too intimate relations with the TSA: James Bovard

      The Transportation Security Administration finally obeyed a 2011 federal court order March 3 and issued a 157 page Federal Register notice justifying its controversial full-body scanners and other checkpoint procedures. TSA’s notice ignored the fact that the “nudie” scanners are utterly unreliable; TSA failed to detect 95% of weapons and mock bombs that Inspector General testers smuggled past them last year while the agency continues to mislead the public about its heavy-handed treatment of travelers.

      The Federal Register notice is full of soothing pablum about how travelers have no reason to fear the TSA, declaring that “passengers can obtain information before they leave for the airport on what items are prohibited.” But it neglects to mention that TSA can invoke ludicrous pretexts to treat innocent travelers as suspicious terrorist suspects.

      Flying home from Portland, Ore., on Thanksgiving morning, I had a too-close encounter with TSA agents that spurred me to file a Freedom of Information Act request. On March 5, I finally received a bevy of TSA documents and video footage with a grope-by-grope timeline.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • Silicon Valley Rides Obama’s Coattails Into Cuba

      President Barack Obama is in Cuba, and Silicon Valley is tagging along for the ride.

      Executives from several technology companies are traveling with the U.S. president on his goodwill tour or introducing new business initiatives focused on the island—or both. Among the companies joining the Cuba parade this week are Google parent Alphabet Inc., Airbnb Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., Priceline Group Inc., Stripe Inc., and Xerox Corp.

  • DRM

    • Anti-DRM activists go to W3C meeting to protest Digital Restrictions Management in Web standards

      The protest began outside the W3C office and continued with a march past Google’s Cambridge office, to Microsoft’s office nearby. The companies are both supporters of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), the proposal to enshrine DRM in Web standards. The protest included free software users and developers, including Richard Stallman and Chris Webber, the maintainer of the GNU MediaGoblin decentralized publishing platform. A small number of protesters split from the group to enter the W3C meeting, then were ejected by police.

      DRM in Web standards would make it cheaper and more politically acceptable to impose restrictions on users, opening the floodgates to a new wave of DRM throughout the Web, with all the vulnerabilities, surveillance and curtailed freedom that DRM entails.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Court Dismisses Dumb Trademark Suit Between Dairy And Fishing Tackle Companies

        Part of the fun of covering the sort of silly trademark disputes that we do here at Techdirt is seeing just how far companies, most often large companies, will go in trying to apply protectionist habits where they don’t belong. This typically manifests itself in the key marketplace aspect of trademark law, where the brands in question are to be competing for customers who might become confused for an infringement to have occurred. Too often this aspect of the law appears to go ignored in claims of infringement, or else the concept of competitive marketplaces is stretched to the point of absurdity. As I said, this is often times amusing to us, because we’re strange.

    • Copyrights

      • Man Faces Prison Sentence For Circumventing UK Pirate Site Blockade

        A UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has charged a man for operating several proxy sites and services that allowed UK Internet users to bypass local pirate site blockades. In a first of its kind prosecution, the Bakersfield resident is charged with several fraud offenses and one count of converting and/or transferring criminal property.

      • Prenda’s Paul Hansmeier Continues To Win Enemies, Influence Legislators With His ADA Trolling, Hiding Of Assets

        Everyone behind the failed clown school that was Prenda Law deserves what’s happening to Paul Hansmeier. Unfortunately, it appears Hansmeier is taking the most damage from the fallout of Prenda’s disastrous copyright trolling… or at least he’s the one doing most of his suffering in public.

        Of course, it’s his own fault. Rather than get out of the trolling business, Hansmeier doubled down. He swapped porn stars for wheelchairs, pursuing small businesses for Americans with Disabilities Acts violations. Fronting as a public interest, Hansmeier’s “Disabilities Support Alliance” is every bit the serial litigant Prenda was.

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