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02.12.17

After Ruinous Kappos (Former IBM) Tenure at USPTO the Big Blue — Along With Front Groups — Muscles Its Way Into US Patent Policy

Posted in IBM, Patents at 2:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IBM also stands for International Bullying Machine, says Florian Müller

IBM logo on media

Summary: IBM’s patent zealots continue to make the company look really ugly and growingly hostile towards software developers, even if they are hiding behind front groups like IPO and David Kappos’ new shell when they lobby for software patenting in the United States

IBM and its former employee David Kappos (still works for them as a lobbyist) have done despicable enough things already — things that are purely and unequivocally detrimental to Free/Open Source software or even software developers in general. How much more foolish are they trying to look? Except when they sue smaller companies using software patents? What happened to Samuel Palmisano's IBM? That was the IBM we could actually support.

“What happened to Samuel Palmisano’s IBM?”“Innovation” is what IBM calls litigation, we must assume, based on tactless tweets like this one. “Innovation fuels economic growth and #patents promote #innovation,” it says.

The other day we showed how IBM is lobbying for software patents along with patent maximalists who conveniently (for their wallets) prop up IPO with its shameless lobbying. The so-called “task” for software patenting is led by IBM staff and attorneys who lobby for software patents are obviously supportive. IBM basically wants to restore software patents (their eligibility) by discrediting the examination process, as in this example that says: “That this question has been asked is itself evidence of how conflated #patent subject matter eligibility and obviousness have become – ugh!”

“IBM basically wants to restore software patents (their eligibility) by discrediting the examination process…”This is also what they pay Kappos to say. They’re pretending there’s some kind of confusion which prevents them from pursuing software patents, which is rather ironic coming from the company that files the lion’s share of application and every year tops the list of USPTO patentees. To IBM, at least as far as patents go, nothing is ever enough!

Here, for example, IBM applauds IBM-led lobbying for software patents, linking to this echo chamber (other sites that are pro-software patents). Manny Schecter (IBM’s patent chief) gives “More applause for IPO’s resolution to amend 35 USC 101 here, though I don’t understand the bit about a cocked hat…”

“To IBM, at least as far as patents go, nothing is ever enough!”He never bothered mentioning that it’s IBM embedded inside IPO doing this. They’re just using it as a front group. IPO, a front group for corporations, tries to write the rules that impact its funders (not the poor, the rich) and Patently-O too dives in with “IPO’s Next Legislative Proposal: 35 U.S.C. 103″. It says: “Following IPO’s recent proposal to effectively eliminate 35 U.S.C. 101, a Patently-O reader (“MM”) proposed the following amendment to 35 U.S.C. 103 for the organization’s consideration” (there’s no stopping IPO, is there?).

Days prior to this, an article by Dennis Crouch helped this lobbying campaign by IBM et al. To quote:

In a newly published whitepaper, the IPO explains its proposed legislative amendment. [PDF: 20170207_ipo-101-tf-proposed-amendments-and-report]

Following an explanation rejected by the Supreme Court in its eligibility doctrine, IPO explains that the traditional subject matter exceptions including abstract ideas and laws of nature were part of the pre-1952 “invention” requirement. That requirement was eliminated in the 1952 Act in a way that, according to the IPO, should have opened the door to broad subject matter jurisprudence. As the organization sees it, the Supreme Court began to go off track in the 1970s – a path revived in recent years.

With this avenue of legal argument rejected by the courts, the IPO sees itself forced to appeal to Congress for a more direct statement of broad subject matter eligibility.

“IPO proposes to rewrite US law in order to make software patents great again,” Benjamin Henrion wrote. Matt Levy wrote a detailed rebuttal to it:

Why IPO Is Wrong About Section 101

It certainly seems that the technology industry is producing better and more exciting products than ever. Virtual reality is becoming, well, a reality; we have drones, self-driving cars, better artificial intelligence, amazing new games, and smarter smartphones. These innovations are all driven by software, even though the landscape for software patents has changed over the last few years due in part to several decisions by the Supreme Court.

This changing landscape has escalated the debate over the role of patents in promoting software innovations. Should we have limits on software patents? Are some “inventions” too abstract to qualify for patent protection? The Supreme Court has answered “yes” to both of those questions.

Bilski v. Kappos, which set the current course for subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101, was decided six years ago. Since then, the Supreme Court has decided two more major cases on patent eligibility, Mayo v. Prometheus and Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank. The U.S. technology sector has, despite a general economic slowdown, done fairly well in that time.

[...]

Looking at the IPO’s proposal in more detail, it’s clear that the language is a smoke screen. This amendment would essentially do away with any limits to software patenting. The “exception” that IPO’s proposal leaves open is so narrow as to be non-existent, at least in the technology sector. It excludes from patent-eligibility only those inventions that “exist solely in the human mind.” With the possible exception of patent applications being transmitted telepathically, any invention that’s written down exists outside the human mind. With all seriousness, anything that involves a computer even minimally would fall outside the exception.

[...]

The bottom line is that there’s no evidence of an actual decline in innovation due to Mayo and subsequent cases. Creating chaos because a few patent lawyers are unhappy is hardly good policy. The reality is that the Federal Circuit is doing a generally good job of interpreting Alice, and we should let the court keep going.

“150+ years of case law have held that abstract ideas and laws of nature cannot be patented,” United for Patent Reform stressed a few days ago. But what would poor IBM sue over if not software? IBM has made cash cows out of practicing companies that are not IBM. In other words, it has become a patent bully and sometimes (in areas where it doesn’t operate, e.g. social media) patent troll. Litigation great again? Is that what they want? If so, then better make IBM bankrupt. The sooner, the better. They’re already heading in that direction, having outsourced many of the valuable jobs and sold large chunks of the business to China (notably Lenovo).

IAM ‘Magazine’ as Megaphone for Chamber of Corporates (CoC), Which Tries Shaming India Into Software Patenting

Posted in Asia, Deception, Patents at 2:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Also a megaphone for patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures

IAM on Intellectual Ventures

Summary: The lobbying against the interests of India (among other countries that reject patent maximalism) as seen in the trolls-funded IAM ‘magazine’

IT IS widely known and globally recognised that software patents are not valid in India. India is actually quite strict about it, unlike the EPO and USPTO.

One item of news that we covered the other night was the Chamber of Corporates' (CoC) 'ratings' for propaganda purposes. They are trying to shame countries that don’t do what US-based mega-corporations want them to do and IAM, not too shockingly, props up this propaganda in the piece “US corporates see mixed IP progress across Southeast Asian markets; TPP may make things worse”. Here is how it starts before it moves on to the Chamber’s so-called ‘ratings’:

IP Bridge CEO Shigeharu Yoshii told this blog in a recent interview that the improving IP infrastructure in the ASEAN countries has given his firm the confidence to pursue numerous IP-centric business opportunities in the region. In fact, the Japanese patent fund published an ‘Asia Strategy’ earlier this week whose first sentence was: “IP Bridge is casting its eyes towards ASEAN”. But the release of the US Chamber of Commerce’s latest IP index suggests that the views of large US corporates about IP developments in south-east Asia over the last year are decidedly mixed, while the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) possible abandonment, in the wake of President Trump’s confirmation of the US’s withdrawal, will not could endanger some of the bright spots.

[...]

If you look only at the Chamber’s ratings for the patent environment, Singapore has remarkably edged ahead of the US due to continued questions about patentability in the latter.

Creative, which is based in Singapore, has become a creative patent troll; the legal chief (Anan Sivananthan) has just quit though. The company was trying to leverage a bunch of old patents because it’s unable to sell anything and in the process it attacked Android OEMs. It won’t be long before Creative’s patents are all expired and the company can just file for bankruptcy; “Dolby Digital AC3 US patent has expired,” Benjamin Henrion wrote the other day about another audio Luddite, saying that “Dolby threatened VLC devs http://is.gd/578wUP http://is.gd/B9jb0t http://is.gd/6mdgeK”

Is this the kind of future India would want to bring upon itself? Certainly not. India thrives in the area of software (many millions of IT workers) because it is safe to develop there, not despite lack of software patenting.

It has meanwhile emerged, based on another IAM “report”, that the patent office in India makes available a fast lane for the rich (similar to what the EPO does). We were not aware of this and here are the details:

Over the years the Indian Patent Office (IPO) has accumulated a huge backlog of pending patent applications. At present, the IPO is examining patent applications filed between May 2012 and July 2012 – that is, it is at least four years behind. The impact of this delay is clearly reflected in the stagnation in patent filings over the past four to five years and the large number of pending patent applications which have been abandoned by applicants. Until 2016 there was no straightforward way of expediting the examination of patent applications in India, but the patent rules have now been amended to allow this.

Under the amended rules, a request for expedited examination can be filed along with payment of the official fee, which is:

Rs60,000 for large entities;
Rs25,000 for small entities; and
Rs8,000 for individuals and start-ups.

This lack of neutrality in processing of applications means more profit opportunities for the Office and it is utterly ridiculous. Is India copying the very worst aspect of neo-liberal policies in the West? When did this horrible option creep in and why?

Nazi Analogies at the EPO Are the Work of Battistelli, Who Libels Staff Representatives and Judges by Calling Them Nazis and Criminals

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

He even did this in front of politicians, which would typically make him liable (if he didn’t enjoy immunity)

SS EPO

Benoît Battistelli libels his staff in front of French Parliament in March 2016:


Summary: The misplaced accusations of Nazism or sympathy towards Nazism, from the man who is proudly and arrogantly breaking the law, dodging accountability at every turn as though he’s the very autocrat he proclaims to be against

SURVEILLANCE and social control by overt violation of human rights is becoming a hot topic at the EPO because it happens very routinely, even more so (perhaps) after the Dutch government (or High Court) said it would decline to intervene when the EPO breaks the law. The EPO has already been caught illegally spying on visitors, so not only workers in Eponia (enlisted staff, consensually) are impacted by this. The other day the EPO invited some students. Will the EPO’s notorious Investigative Unit be spying on these students too? Will they get to sign some form or waiver consenting to it (keyloggers, hidden cameras and moles)? Well, we already know that even if basic rights of these visitors got infringed, the Dutch (and likely German as well) government would happily provide protection (to the EPO, not to the victims). The EPO is one heck of a crazy place and suicides are better understood by taking this latest comment into account. It received quite a few responses in IP Kat, even one or two rude responses (at least one nasty comment from a person who even insults the depressed and throws habitual snide remarks at my writings).

One person wrote:

Dear colleague,

thanks for your terrible feedback which unfortunately is shared by many EPO staff for the past 36 months. Indeed sick staff (even some under critical chronical sicknesses) are declared fit for work either by administrative staff from DG4 (who have no compentency in OHS) or by external GPs hired at high costs by the EPO and who act unethically (in TH the one acting as external medical advisor is not even registered in the NL to exercise medicine).

Please should you, yourself be in such situation, speak to your staff reps and/or union officials. Have your GP documenting all pressure since the current management methods are nothing else but criminal.

Keep your head up

Resistance to Reporting Rather Than the EPO

Few sites are ‘brave’ enough to report on the EPO because the EPO sends legal threats to those who say the truth about the EPO (not just us). So why attack the few who are willing to take the risk?

We noticed one such ‘attack’ a few days ago. Someone — probably the same person — then took a shot (for the second time) at Techrights, for merely ‘daring’ to use Nazis analogies (Godwin’s Law). These analogies actually come from EPO workers themselves and occasionally from European politicians who use words like “gestapo” (coming from staff). Now look at newspapers from across Europe. These words are being brought up there as well. The EPO is even being compared to “terror”, which is a heinous crime. As the following comment points out, EPO management compares its opposition to Nazis (repeated libel from Battistelli against staff whom he does not like). This is why it’s unreasonable to accuse Techrights alone of bringing up such analogies.

Here is the full comment:

Well fancy that …
And there was stupid me thinking that it was the head honcho at the EPO who was the guy who first started throwing around the Nazi smears like confetti at a wedding.

Maybe you didn’t catch his “star performance” in front of a committee of the French parliament last March ?
There’s a video here:

http://www2.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/autres-commissions/commission-des-affaires-europeennes/secretariat/a-la-une/audition-de-m.-benoit-battistelli-president-de-l-office-europeen-des-brevets

It’s all nicely documented under compte rendu 261:

http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/europe/c-rendus/c0261.asp

And what do we hear there:
Mr. Battistelli slandering staff representatives by falsely accusing them of being involved in the distribution of messages with “Nazi symbols and slogans”.

Lie to your national parliament?
Use your position to publicly slander your subordinates who you are about to dismiss?
Well why not if you happen to have diplomatic immunity?
Isn’t that what it is there for?

And then there was the judge who Battistelli accused of being a Nazi.

It seems to be one of his favorite memes.
Godwin eat your heart out!

I wonder who exactly is lacking all traces of credibility here.

We already covered all the above and we have made local copies of the audio/video. When Battistelli loses his immunity we hope to see those whom he defamed suing him into personal bankruptcy. Battistelli is insane and the only place he belongs in right now is a mental asylum, maybe somewhere like Haar. Megalomania and God Complex are serious conditions and people possessing symptoms of these must not be placed on top of an institution — certainly not an institution that is positioned above the law.

Here is another (more polite) response:

As a Patent Attorney I am shocked and saddened to hear how stressful life is for you and how it is impacting on your health. I am sure that everyone on this blog would agree that your health is more important than anything that is going on at the EPO.

Take care of yourself, and try not to let what is going on around you give you a negative opinion of your own abilities and of yourself. I am glad that you are getting help – but do remember that life and your health is more important than a job.

I do hope things improve.

Latest among these comments show just how bad things have become at the EPO (for workers) and here is another response:

I do hope things improve.

Oh don’t we all.

However things are unlikely to improve until such time as the invertebrate blobs which seem to populate the Administrative Council these days develop something resembling a backbone and grow a pair and finally manage to stand up to the Bully-Boy-in-chief.

Maybe some day it will finally dawn on them that they appointed him and not the other way around.

But excuse me if I don’t hold my breath on that …

Haar is then brought up again, albeit in another thread regarding Battistelli’s alleged violation of the rules. One person said that he “could intervene to prevent such a decision [using] London barristers from Essex Street” (to overcome the law basically). Here is the full comment:

How likely is a legal challenge to the ability of a board of appeal to sit in Haar?
I am sure an enterprising attorney will request a question be submitted to the enlarged board pointing out that under Art. 6 EPC it is required that the EPO be located in Munich (with a branch at the Hague) and under Art. 15, the boards of appeal shall be set up “within” the EPO. Since Haar is not in Munich but “Landkreis München”. If so, what is the betting that the members of the EBA, who presumably are not in favour of moving, would agree that under the EPC, they must be located in the city of Munich rather than be shunted out.

Surely the President could intervene to prevent such a decision relying on the assistance of those London barristers from Essex Street who have come to his aid in the past …

We have already mentioned what Haar is associated with (at least in Germany), so there is something symbolic in Battistelli’s actions. It’s him who should be admitted to some hospital there, as he chronically lies about innocent people, comparing them to Nazis. He sees “Nazis” in everything except himself. He’s insane.

The ‘Trump Effect’

“President Trump has big problems because he seems to have never heard of the separation of powers,” another person wrote about the EPO, which is rogue in the separation of powers sense.

To quote the comment:

President Trump has big problems because he seems to have never heard of the separation of powers- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers .
Also President Benoit Battistelli thinks that separation of powers is superfluous. Mr Maas in Germany and Mr Rutte in The Netherlands, but also
the Administrative Council under charman Chinchilla are doing nothing. The are all complicit in the injustices committed by Battistelli and his goons resulting in
depression and suicides of EPO workers.

http://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/37155

It’s quite inexcusable that given all the above observations Battistelli still has a job at all. This ENA graduate seems to be unfit for integration with other people and it’s a dangerous mix (or cocktail) is when he’s allowed to climb a ladder into a management position. Remember what his predecessor wrote about her reason for leaving.

Boycotts and Divestment by Staff

“Meanwhile,” one reader told us recently, “I have “digested” the bad news from the Netherlands and their cowardly High Council, confirming EPO’s impunity.”

“It is more obvious now,” this reader added, “that the issue will probably never be solved, until something really reaches the breaking point. I have some thought about a possible initiative: The Netherlands now officially with the decision of the HC [High Court], but Germany and other Countries as well by actually not taking any case under scrutiny, confirm that member States do not care for their own citizen whose fundamental and constitutional rights have been violated, repeatedly and intentionally. Now, actions against member States had been already suggested: legal actions, but they also take forever. But there is a possible way to add force to the struggle: a class action of civil disobeyance. Employees and former employees of EPO are required to pay taxes and fees (from TV broadcasting fees to VAT etc.) in both Countries of origin and in the Countries where they reside for work (the seat countries of EPO, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium). Plus, they are also due to notify their residence and notify any income outside the EPO salary, and, last but not least, they are supposed to pay taxes on the pensions they get (and they don’t get any bonus or good will at the termination of service, even in case of dismissal).

“If people from EPO, pensioners and employees still in duty with extra incomes and revenues, have to pay taxes and fees and oblige to notifications of whatever sort to their Countries of origin and, especially, hosting Countries, they could announce an open end strike: they don’t pay taxes to Countries which do not recognize us as Citizens. Fix the legal status and basic, fundamental and constitutional Rights first. Then they can talk. I think this could hurt some [of the] cowardly…”

Not Only EPO Staff Are Committing Suicide; the EPO as a Whole is Committing Institutional Suicide

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The clowns Battistelli has chosen to run the Office with him will be its historic downfall

MoU signed by Bergot

Summary: The leadership of the EPO has managed to receive the support of not even one among thousands polled and frustration is taken out on staff, rather than a stubborn, incompetent, and highly misguided management

THE EPO has already managed to alienate not only its stakeholders (who are the source of income) but also its own workforce (which does all the work). Battistelli, the self-acclaimed leader of the EPO, has received 0% approval rating from both stakeholders and staff. In other words, the EPO moves into a very dark place and everyone can see that apart from Battistelli and the goons whom he appoints to protect him.

According to this new report from IP Watch, there is growing backlash over patent scope at the EPO. TO quote:

The patentability of plants or animals that have been obtained by natural occurrence such as selection and crossing has been a recurrent issue discussed at the European Patent Office (EPO). A recent notice from the European Commission challenged a ruling by the EPO Enlarged Board of Appeal on such patents, prompting yet more discussions in the organisation. In the meantime, all examination and opposition on such patents have been halted at the EPO. Industry is concerned that the EPO ruling might be questioned, and warns of effects on innovation, harm to applicants. Civil society is concerned about a non-transparent process.

So this “civil society” is concerned about the process, but which one of them? There are so many processes that have gone awry under Battistelli — too many for us to list exhaustively here. To be crude, the EPO has become a “clusterfuck” that just issues lots of bad patents by reaching out for old patent applications on the shelf, then faking “production” (while the backlog or “stock” on the shelf lasts, and it won't last for much longer).

“…the EPO moves into a very dark place and everyone can see that apart from Battistelli and the goons whom he appoints to protect him.”“In under a week you’ll be able to ask our experts all about patent families,” the EPO wrote the other day, but that includes even families that are not valid; the EPO ignores the rules anyway. See the above for example. See for example our Wiki page about software patents in Europe as well.

Is the EPO still an examination centre or just a production/assembly line? How long before it’s just a registration office (as insiders already envision)? How long before the job qualifications at the EPO are reduced to just shelving paper and work benefits are reduced to those of an intern (or a temporary worker on short-term contract)? We seem to be gradually heading there, as experienced and competent examiners are being pushed out by unreasonable — sometimes unattainable — “production” goals.

“Is the EPO still an examination centre or just a production/assembly line?”“I’ve received job offer from someone impersonating admin@epo.org,” someone wrote the other day. “Are you interested in mail headers?”

“Even if that was a real job offer,” I told him, “only a fool would accept it.” No salary is worth the amount of pain (and damage to one’s health) that work at the EPO inflicts. We keep hearing stories about nervous breakdowns, physical collapses, people on the verge of suicide, people resorting to drugs, and even suicides, some of which go unreported.

“[W]e do not own that email address so it’s probably spam,” the EPO said. “Please send us the mail header to jobinfo@epo.org. Thanks for the feedback!”

“Lying and chronic lies are the new norm at the Office, or the “alternative facts” — to put it somewhat more politely.”We are aware that demand for jobs at the EPO nosedived. Rather than wait for applications the EPO is now desperately going after people, asking if they are interested in joining. Yet the EPO (Bergot to be specific) carries on lying about this brain drain/recruitment crisis. Lying and chronic lies are the new norm at the Office, or the “alternative facts” — to put it somewhat more politely.

A few days ago we noticed two news reports about the EPO’s new building [1, 2]. These actually focus on construction, not the inhabitants or their occupation/operations. “UK consultant Turner & Townsend (T&T),” one of these reports says, “has been appointed to programme manage the relocation of 1,750 staff to the new office of the European Patent Office (EPO) in the Hague.”

“Will they pretend that a new shiny building somehow makes it OK to abuse staff and break Dutch law?”Is Battistelli’s EPO moving out of the building where workers went as far as jumping out the window due to the EPO’s horrors, which only intensified even further recently (aforementioned raid against a father of three)? Don’t forget to block the windows from being opened (we heard these got bolted down in the existing building, in order to prevent more suicides during office hours).

“Feeling very sorry for them,” one person told me. “Worked as a doctor in similar environments. I believe they are the first who deserve an unconditional basic income, because their work doesn’t add real value to life anyway (which is why they are depressed).”

Will the new building attempt to simply mask or suppress the symptoms, as in the previous building after the suicides epidemic? Will they pretend that a new shiny building somehow makes it OK to abuse staff and break Dutch law? We are often told that journalists have not been entirely sympathetic towards EPO staff because they, journalists, are renowned for their low salaries whereas EPO examiners are renowned if not notorious for generous cheques. Money does not buy happiness and cannot compensate for erosion of human rights however…

Microsoft’s Latest Attack Plan on GNU/Linux Has Become Clearer and It’s Still About Software Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 12:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Whereas in Munich, Microsoft’s allies from Accenture continue to game the media with claims (years in the making now, always in vain) that GNU/Linux is a “failure”

“I’ve heard from Novell sales representatives that Microsoft sales executives have started calling the Suse Linux Enterprise Server coupons “royalty payments”…”

Matt Asay, formerly Novell

Summary: Microsoft’s so-called ‘love’ of GNU/Linux is conditional; Microsoft is willing to just tolerate GNU/Linux and not sue its users/distributors to death (or hefty settlement) as long as they pay Microsoft some royalties

AFTER a bunch of days without a single article (two of my laptops broke down, the connection went bust and other serious issues came up in the course of just 48 hours!) I can finally catch up with a lot of news which I was eager to write about. One might joke that for the past few days I’ve experienced the stress levels of EPO employees.

“The marketing/slogan was similar 10 years ago and we are beginning to see what Microsoft was plotting with this whole Azure “Microsoft loves [GNU/]Linux” façade.”Last week’s most popular article was this one about Microsoft's latest PR twist — a claim that balkanisation of Free/Libre Open Source software (“safe” and “unsafe”) is somehow benign and even desirable. A lot of the corporate press played along [1, 2] (Googlebombing “microsoft troll” as we noted here before). The latter, for example, is a highly misleading headline (“10,000 Microsoft patents free of charge”) because they pay Microsoft, otherwise Microsoft’s trolls can go after them. Notice the name of the programme, “IP Advantage”. If it sounds familiar, it should; these are same words that were used back in the Novell days. There was even a domain named along those likes. The marketing/slogan was similar 10 years ago and we are beginning to see what Microsoft was plotting with this whole Azure “Microsoft loves [GNU/]Linux” façade. It’s not too hard to see what really happens here and it’s probably not a coincidence or a side-effect but something that Microsoft’s strategists came up with. This is how they try to leverage software patents to ‘milk’ Free software.

“No other company pushes the envelope on IP value creation quite like Microsoft,” said Microsoft’s friends at IAM. “Yesterday the software giant was at it again with the announcement of a new level of patent protection for its cloud business through the launch of the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme.”

“So Microsoft is now looking for new ways to tax, using patents, the technology which is taking over (and isn’t Microsoft’s).”Watch how these mesmorised writers from IAM spin Microsoft’s passive-aggressive patent tactics. These tactics show that Microsoft has not changed. Only the marketing got tweaked a little. To quote more: “Microsoft’s recent value creation drive comes at a time when one of its traditionally strong IP areas — licensing fees — are on the decline; thanks, in large part, to a slumping smartphone market.”

So Microsoft is now looking for new ways to tax, using patents, the technology which is taking over (and isn’t Microsoft’s). Michael Loney too missed/lost sight of the Microsoft plot. He acts like a courier of Microsoft. “In an interview,” he wrote, “Erich Andersen explains Microsoft’s new programme to protect customers against IP litigation related to cloud computing, including making 10,000 patents available and pledging to Azure customers that if it transfers patents to non-practising entities they cannot be asserted against them” (like those entities that are operated by or are connected to Microsoft).

Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer after his promotion (showing increased focus on patents, not products, a couple of years ago), is promoting “Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme,” but let it be clear that this is just the latest Microsoft assault on GNU/Linux and Free software. Anyone who believes otherwise is just refusing to see the obvious; or maybe we just failed to explain this clearly enough last week. We expect to say more about it in the near and distant future. Wait for trolls like Intellectual Ventures to go after hosts (or their customers) that are not Microsoft-’protected’.

Links 12/2/2017: Microsoft-Connected ‘Study’ on Munich, Chromebooks are Spreading

Posted in News Roundup at 4:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • How I became a project team leader in open source

    As an idealistic young university undergraduate I hung around with the nerds in the computer science department. I was studying arts and, later, business, but somehow I recognized even then that these were my people. I’m forever grateful to a young man (his name was Michael, as so many people in my story are) who introduced me first to IRC and, gradually, to Linux, Google (the lesser known search engine at the time), HTML, and the wonders of open source. He and I were the first people I knew to use USB storage drives, and oh how we loved explaining what they were to the curious in the campus computer lab.

  • Sandstorm is returning to its community roots

    Most people know Sandstorm as an open source, community-driven project aiming to enable self-hosting of cloud services and to make it possible for open source web apps to compete with today’s cloud services.

  • AT&T open sourced the heart of their network
  • OPNFV Nearing Commercial Deployment

    It also signals a stage where the OPNFV Project’s software platform could be ready for commercial deployment — dates for which the organization is not setting directly. “We’ll defer to the vendors on that,” says Heather Kirksey, OPNFV director. But she expects to start collecting deployment data this year. Queries to a couple of the involved vendors have not yet produced responses, but stay tuned.

  • ‘Night in the Woods’ Improving Games by Open Sourcing Code

    Game software developer Jon Manning has created a very well-done 60-second promo for his upcoming talk at the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco, Feb 27-March 3, 2017 – Making Night-in-the-Woods Better with Open Source.

  • Lessons from a brief career in open source

    I wasn’t making much headway in the cybersecurity field or in computer forensics. However, I did notice that many postings used words like “Linux” and “open source.” I thought that might be a better path to take. So, I enrolled in several free, online courses to improve my skills and to build my credentials. You can find free courses at Cybrary.it, edX.org, and others. I have since been certified in Linux, Java, HTML, e-marketing, Google Analytics, and even FEMA emergency response.

  • FOSS February: A month to celebrate open source

    Open source remains a competitive means of distribution—one that delivers exceptional software to new and devoted users. Despite this, open source, its methodologies, practices, code, and the communities behind them, can be overlooked or misunderstood if they are inadequately communicated. As a professional in tech marketing in the open source space, I often find that my conversations begin by highlighting the key takeaways of open source before I can begin to graze the surface of product-specific impact.

    Open source software has come a long way over the past several years, primarily due to the contributions of active open source communities. Still, convincing an enterprise’s influencers, IT leaders, and developers of the merits of open source remains a challenge in certain spaces. While it is important that organizations take an honest, objective look at the total cost of ownership of any solution, open source or commercial, it became clear to me that impressions of open source were not always reflective of the extraordinary work and talent that can be found in the space.

  • Intel open sources deep learning with BigDL for Apache Spark
  • Intel, Cloudera open source tech unleashes power of artificial intelligence workloads

    Intel and data management company Cloudera have jointly launched a solution aimed at speeding up the process of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads.

  • Wyatt Emmerich: State should lean on open source software to save money, reduce brain drain
  • Open source code could save money, spur tech growth [Ed: as above]

    Mississippi spends $250 million a year on software to run its government. Much of this software is proprietary code with big national companies. We get locked in to the software. Switching becomes impossible. Steep price increases follow. Taxpayers lose.

    Garrett proposes a better way. Working with our university computer departments, the Legislature should create a Center for Collaborative Software Development. A portion of our state IT spending should be set aside to support this. Student teams could design and compete for state software contracts using open source under university supervision. The winners could go on to found successful software companies based in Mississippi.

  • Inclusive Development gets open source tools from IBM

    IBM is embarking on a new era of open source accessibility by releasing tooling, samples and design patterns to help streamline the development of inclusive web and mobile applications.

    They have recently released two new projects on the developerWorks/open community, AccProbe and Va11yS, to help alleviate accessibility roadblocks during the agile development process, strengthen the user experience by adhering to industry standards, and reduce costs by ensuring accessibility is done right from the beginning.

  • Business applications: the next hurdle for open source adoption

    Is open source finally overcoming the long-held reservations that still persist among some non-technical executives, and even a sizeable number of business technology professionals?

    According to Matthew Lee, regional manager for Africa at SUSE, the German-based, multinational, open-source software company, the answer is both yes – and no.

    “There is no question that open source has become mainstream in many areas. It has more than proven itself in the infrastructure space after hanging around on the periphery of the enterprise providing non-critical functions such as firewalls and Web servers. Now it is starting to move up the enterprise stack but it still faces a significant challenge when it comes to business applications,” he said.

  • Circulate on Fridays: Farming from shipping containers and open source

    Get all your circular economy relevant reading and viewing in one place every weekend with Circulate on Fridays. Today, we’re focusing on open source, the potential impact of a new EU circular economy finance platform, and why the future of farming is in shipping containers!

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Struggling for Relevance: Is Mozilla Really Killing Off Firefox? [Ed: Misleading and inane headline; does not say FirefoxOS]

        Mozilla has announced that it is abandoning its efforts to develop a new operating system for smartphones and other connected devices. The decision to shut down the connected devices division will affect about 50 Firefox employees, including Ari Jaaksi, the senior vice president who had headed the initiative.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • New Benchmarks Show Big Increases in Spark Graph Processing

      Companies focused on Big Data have remained very focused on Apache Spark, an open source data analytics cluster computing framework originally developed in the AMPLab at UC Berkeley. According to Apache, Spark can run programs up to 100 times faster than Hadoop MapReduce in memory, and ten times faster on disk. When crunching large data sets, those are big performance differences.

      The race is also on to speed up Spark-driven workloads. Now, Diablo Technologies and Inspur Systems have announced the release of benchmark data showcasing the benefits of the Memory1 solution for Apache Spark workloads. By increasing the cluster memory size with Memory1, Diablo and Inspur claim they were able to cut processing times for graph analytics by half or more.

  • Databases

    • MariaDB North American Roadshow Supports Accelerating Adoption of Open Source Relational Databases in the Enterprise
    • Leaders in Data Management and Open Source Innovation to Gather in Boston for Postgres Vision 2017
    • RethinkDB joins The Linux Foundation

      When the company behind RethinkDB shut down last year, a group of former employees and members of the community formed an interim leadership team and began devising a plan to perpetuate the RethinkDB open-source software project by transitioning it to a community-driven endeavor. Today’s announcement by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) marks the culmination of that effort. The CNCF purchased the rights to the RethinkDB source code and contributed it to The Linux Foundation under the permissive ASLv2 license.

    • The liberation of RethinkDB

      There was just one small hiccup with RethinkDB, though it felt forgivable at the time: RethinkDB is open source, but licensed under the AGPL. Whatever your own feelings for the AGPL, it is indisputable that its vagueness coupled with its rarity and its total lack of judicial precedent makes risk-averse lawyers very nervous (especially in companies that have substantial intellectual property to protect) — to the point that it’s not uncommon for companies to ban the use of AGPL-licensed software entirely. This makes the AGPL anti-collaborative, and worse, it’s often the point: when companies license software under the AGPL that they also make available commercially (that is, under a license palatable to the enterprise), they are exhibiting the corporate open source anti-pattern of dual-licensing for profit. (Viz.: Oracle’s infamous relicensing of BerkeleyDB as AGPL.)

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • HackerOne Professional, Free for Open Source Projects

      For some time now I have been working with HackerOne to help them shape and grow their hacker community. It has been a pleasure working with the team: they are doing great work, have fantastic leadership (including my friend, Mårten Mickos), are seeing consistent growth, and recently closed a $40 million round of funding. It is all systems go.

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • grep-3.0 released [stable]
    • grep-2.28 released

      This is to announce grep-2.28, a stable release. Thank you especially to Paul Eggert and Norihiro Tanaka for all of their improvements, both in the grep repository and via gnulib.

    • The GNU C Library version 2.25 is now available
    • Meet the GNU Health team at SCALE15x !
    • Looking for Work after 25 Years of Octave

      TL;DR: Reflecting on the last 25 of Octave, it’s been a great experience. I would love to continue as the Octave BDFL but I also need to find a way to pay the bills.

      It’s hard to believe that almost 25 years have passed since I started the Octave project. It’s been a great experience. I’ve met many interesting and talented people along the way. I’m grateful for everyone[1] who has made Octave the successful project that it is today. There is no way that the project would be as successful as it is without their many contributions.

      As I’ve said many times, I thought the project would last a year or two. I never intended for it to be a career, but now it is hard to imagine doing anything else. There are still many projects I would like to tackle. I want to continue refactoring the interpreter so that it is easier to understand, simpler to work with, and more reliable. I want to improve the performance of the interpreter and make the GUI more useful. I’d love to be able to devote my full attention and energy to these projects for as long as I am able.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Luxembourg University sponsors open source developers

      “We have been using Debian in our HPC infrastructure since 2007 which has grown to 100 servers and more than 500 computing nodes”, says HPC staff member Hyacinthe Cartiaux. The department is part of the Grid5000 initiative which is also mainly based on Debian.

      “We want to extend the lifespan of the Debian releases to at least 5 years in order to provide a stable and safe environment for our researchers”, system administrator Cartiaux says. In February 2016, the department began sponsoring Freexian, a French company that partners with well-known contributors in the free software community to offer long term support. This includes both individual developers and companies specialised in free and open source.

    • France updates IT project evaluation tool Mareva

      The IT project management solution was first made available in 2005, by ADAE, the precursor to DINSIC. Support for free and open source software was added sometime after August 2007, when Mareva supported its use in OpenOffice. In 2014, it switched to support LibreOffice, a much more rapidly developing open source office suite.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Three new FOSS umbrella organizations in Europe

      Last year, three new umbrella organizations for free and open-source software (and hardware) projects emerged in Europe. Their aim is to cater to the needs of the community by providing a legal entity for projects to join, leaving the projects free to focus on technical and community tasks. These organizations (Public Software CIC, [The Commons Conservancy], and the Center for the Cultivation of Technology) will take on the overhead of actually running a legal entity themselves.

      Among other services, they offer to handle donations, accounting, grants, legal compliance, or even complex governance for the projects that join them. In my opinion (and, seemingly, theirs) such services are useful to these kinds of projects; some of the options that these three organizations bring to the table are quite interesting and inventive.

    • The Linux Foundation Offers Free Open Source Licensing Course: “Compliance Basics for Developers”

      Open Source has grown from a mere idea to a philosophy that drives some of the most crucial innovations around the world. The concept of reviewing code made by others, introducing your own changes, and then distributing the code back to the community creates a feedback loop that helps individual developers accomplish much more as a community than what they can do alone.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • A new open source dataset links human motion and language

        Researchers have created a large, open source database to support the development of robot activities based on natural language input. The new KIT Motion-Language Dataset will help to unify and standardize research linking human motion and natural language, as presented in an article in Big Data, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Big Data website until March 9, 2017.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • AtCore: Printing with threads

        When connect to a 3d printer with your compuer you are really just connecting to a serial device. There are some commads you can send it in the form G# and M# commands . These commands do all kinds of stuff every thing from homing the axises to feeding filment and moving the head around. When you slice your model and generate that gcode file you are making generating basicly a long list of comamnds for the printer to follow. The gcode files are plain text and have to be sent out thru a serial device to the printer. Its not complicated to parse the file you just send a command and wait for the printer to return a message indicated its finished the comamnd and then send the next command. We have had this working for some time using a QEventLoop and a while to keep the loop going until the printer is ready for a new command. This was working wonderfully Untill we realized that we were having some blocking problems when printing. After some discussion tomaz , patrick and I decided the best way to fix this is for us to split the printing to its own thread so it can no longer block other parts by hyjacking the main event loop while printing.

  • Programming/Development

    • RSPIRV: Google’s Rust Implementation Of SPIR-V

      Google developers have been working on a number of open-source projects in the Vulkan space and one of their latest is SPIR-V processing with Rust.

      RSPIRV is another project under the Google umbrella on GitHub. RSPIRV is a Rust implementation of SPIR-V module processing functionalities. SPIR-V, of course, being the intermediate representation/language used by Vulkan as well as OpenCL 2.1+ and can also be used in OpenGL.

    • Optimize PHP with finely tuned IT resources and settings

      More than 90% of PHP-based websites still use PHP version 5. Of those websites, less than one quarter run the latest supported version, PHP 5.6. Despite the release of PHP 7 in December 2015, which has been documented and benchmarked as up to two times faster than PHP 5.6, the adoption rate is only around 3% among websites that use the language. The first step — before optimizing PHP using the following tips — is to upgrade to version 7.

    • Node for Java Developers

      The biggest audience for my Node.js workshops, courses and books (especially when I’m teaching live) is Java developers. You see, it used to be that Java was the only language professional software developers/engineers had to know. Not anymore. Node.js as well as other languages like Go, Elixir, Python, Clojure, dictate a polyglot environment in which the best tool for the job is picked.

    • Morocco’s First Open Source ERP Uses Java EE 7!
    • Hazelcast’s Parallel Streaming Engine Targets Java/Big Data Programmers

      In-memory data grid (IMDG) specialist Hazelcast Inc. yesterday launched a new distributed processing engine for Big Data streams. The open-source, Apache 2-licenced Hazelcast Jet is designed to process data in parallel across nodes, enabling data-intensive applications to operate in near real-time.

    • On new zlib breaking perl
    • anytime 0.2.1

Leftovers

  • Private Eye hits highest circulation in 55-year history ‘which is quite something given that print is meant to be dead’

    Private Eye hit its biggest ever print circulation in the second half of 2016 – up 9 per cent year on year, according to ABC.

    The title has also revealed that the 2016 Christmas issue achieved the biggest sale in the title’s 55-year history, 287,334 copies.

  • Science

    • Hijacking bacteria to kill cancer

      Scientists have recruited modified bacteria to help fight cancer, which successfully infiltrated tumors and activated the immune system to kill malignant cells, a new study reports. Tumors size decreased below detectable limits in 11 out of 20 mice that received injections of a strain of bacteria designed to be innocuous, yet able to effectively suppress the growth of cancerous masses. Despite the fact that Salmonella strains have been harnessed to deliver different types of therapeutic agents, these strategies often require multiple injections of microbes, and relapse is common. In search of a better method, Jin Hai Zheng and colleagues used attenuated Salmonella typhimurium bacteria as “Trojan horses,” which infiltrated the low-oxygen environments found within tumors and secreted an immune response-triggering signal – from a protein named FlaB, involved in the locomotion of the marine microbe Vibrio vulnificus — that stimulated the cancer-eliminating activities of protective macrophages. The FlaB-expressing bacteria was proven to be nontoxic, and importantly, didn’t invade non-cancerous tissue in rodents. After three days post-administration, the numbers of bacteria inside tumors were 10,000-fold greater than those found in vital organs. What’s more, the combination of Salmonella and FlaB synergistically shrank tumors, prolonged survival and also prevented metastasis in a mouse model of human colon cancer. While mice receiving non-FlaB producing microorganisms displayed some reductions in cancer burden, their tumor masses tended to regrow. The authors speculate that its good safety profile makes the engineered bacteria a promising potential anticancer strategy.

  • Security

    • Newly discovered flaw undermines HTTPS connections for almost 1,000 sites

      Encrypted connections established by at least 949 of the top 1 million websites are leaking potentially sensitive data because of a recently discovered software vulnerability in appliances that stabilize and secure Internet traffic, a security researcher said Thursday.

    • Introducing Capsule8: Container-Aware, Real-time Threat Protection for Linux
    • Docker Secures Container Secrets in Datacenter Update

      Docker releases updated versions of its open-source and commercial container platforms, adding new security features to help safeguard privileged access information.

      Docker is advancing its open-source container engine as well as its commercially supported Docker Datacenter platform with enhanced capabilities designed to help safeguard container secrets.

    • After Linux; Mirai Botnet is Available for Windows

      Antivirus firms Dr.Web’s researchers have identified a new variant of Mirai bot, the infamous IoT malware. This new variant is capable of targeting Windows systems and can take on more ports than its Linux version. Dr.Web researchers have dubbed the new version as Trojan.Mirai.1.

    • Windows Trojan hacks into embedded devices to install Mirai
    • ​Google Project Zero: How we cracked Samsung’s DoD- and NSA-certified Knox

      Google’s Project Zero hackers have detailed several high-severity flaws that undermined a core defense in Samsung’s Knox platform that protects Galaxy handsets in the enterprise.

      Since launching Knox in 2013, the platform has been certified for internal use by UK and US government departments, including the US DoD and NSA. Given these certifications, defense-in-depth mechanisms should be rock solid.

    • Mirai Botnet Spreads With Help From Infected Windows Computers
    • Lovely. Now someone’s ported IoT-menacing Mirai to Windows boxes

      The Mirai malware that hijacked hundreds of thousands of IoT gadgets, routers and other devices is now capable of infecting Windows systems.

    • Finding Ticketbleed

      Ticketbleed (CVE-2016-9244) is a software vulnerability in the TLS stack of certain F5 products that allows a remote attacker to extract up to 31 bytes of uninitialized memory at a time, which can contain any kind of random sensitive information, like in Heartbleed.

    • Cybersecurity firms pilloried by GCHQ technical director over “witchcraft”

      “we are allowing massively incentivised companies to define the public perception of the problem”.

    • Wire’s independent security review

      Ever since Wire launched end-to-end encryption and open sourced its apps one question has consistently popped up: “Is there an independent security review available?” Well, there is now!

      Kudelski Security and X41 D-Sec published a joint review of Wire’s encrypted messaging protocol implementation. They found it to have “high security, thanks to state-of-the-art cryptographic protocols and algorithms, and software engineering practices mitigating the risk of software bugs.”

    • Practical Steps for Protecting IoT Devices

      The security of IoT devices is a high priority these days, as attackers can use Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to target them and wreak havoc on a system.

      “Due to the sheer volume of unconnected devices, it can take hours and often days to mitigate such an attack,” says Adam Englander, who is a Senior Engineer of the LaunchKey product at iovation.

    • IoT Cybersecurity Alliance Will Collaborate on Standards, Education

      A new IoT Cybersecurity Alliance formed by AT&T, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec, and Trustonic promises to help solve one of the most critical elements of the Internet of Things (IoT) — security. The group says its goal is to work on IoT security standards as well as raise awareness about the topic.

      There are numerous IoT-related associations working to promote different segments of IoT and streamline the fragmentation that exists in the industry. However, this is the first group to focus solely on security. AT&T, which was an early advocate for IoT, said it has seen a 3,198 percent increase in attackers scanning for vulnerabilities in IoT devices.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Capsule8 Launches Linux-Based Container Security Platform

      Cybersecurity startup Capsule8 this week announced that it has raised US$2.5 million to launch the industry’s first container-aware, real-time threat protection platform designed to protect legacy and next-generation Linux infrastructures from existing and potential attacks.

      CEO John Viega, CTO Dino Dai Zovi and Chief Scientist Brandon Edwards, all veteran hackers, cofounded the firm. They raised seed funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, as well as individual investors Shandul Shah of Index Ventures and ClearSky’s Jay Leek.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • NYT: Unlike Russian Wars, US Wars ‘Promote Freedom and Democracy’

      A rough look at the actions in question since Putin has been in office reveals this outrage to be, at best, misplaced. One tally by Airwars, a Western nonprofit, puts the total number of Syrian civilians killed by Russia since it entered the war in September 2015 at just over 4,000, or 0.8–0.4 percent of the 500,000 to 1 million civilians who died due to George W. Bush’s unilateral invasion of Iraq in 2003. Add to this the thousands of other civilians killed in other theaters of the “War on Terror” under the Bush and Obama administrations, including Afghanistan, Libya and Syria itself, and the idea of pointing to respect for civilian lives as something that elevates the United States above Russia seems a little absurd.

      But the addition of stifling dissent and allegedly killing journalists takes Russia over the line into Bad Guy territory, the Times suggests—ignoring the US’s own harsh punishment for whistleblowers, infiltration of dissident groups and bombing of foreign journalists. Not to mention the US’s sprawling, unprecedented incarceration system, or its unmatched institutional racism–all human right abuses leveled at home.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

      Proposals for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies have been developed in haste by legal officials, The Register has learned.

      The proposed Act is an attempt to ban reporting of future big data leaks.

      The government has received recommendations for a “future-proofed” new Espionage Act that would put leaking and whistleblowing in the same category as spying for foreign powers.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Welcome to the Madhouse: Scientist says Trump could destroy the world

      A WORLD-leading scientist has warned Donald Trump may signal the end of the world — and Australia could be first to face the catastrophic consequences.

      Michael Mann claims Mr Trump’s relationship to “post-truth” politics and “alternative facts” is much more than just embarrassing for the US and has the potential to destroy civilisation.

      Sitting in an office at the University of Sydney Business School ahead of his sold-out talk this week, the Penn State professor says one only has to look at the city’s record January temperatures for proof of how dangerous the President’s attitude is.

    • Huw Parkinson: Trumpocalypse Now (with Malcolm Turnbull)

      Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is sent deep into the jungle of the United States of America to try and smooth things over with newly elected President Donald Trump and quickly discovers how things get… “confused out there”. Huw Parkinson explores this harrowing tale.

  • Finance

    • May’s Brexit Law Faces Lords Challenge After Passing Lower House

      U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faces a fresh challenge to a law allowing her to trigger Brexit after the opposition Labour Party said it’ll propose eight amendments when the legislation is debated in the House of Lords later this month.

      Labour peers will seek to enshrine in the law a parliamentary vote on May’s final deal with her European counterparts on the terms of the country’s departure from the EU, the party said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. While the government pledged to grant such a vote during the bill’s passage through the House of Commons, it hasn’t detailed it in the bill. Seven other amendments would cover a range of other matters, from Britain’s membership of Euratom, a nuclear cooperation agreement, to the rights of EU citizens resident in Britain.

    • Donald Trump calls NSA at 3am to clear doubt on US economy

      The US President called National Security Advisor Mike Flynn at 3am seeking clarity on what a rising or falling currency actually means for the US economy.

    • Let’s dump CETA once and for all!

      On 15 February, the European Parliament will decide whether to ratify the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA). In choosing to back this agreement, MEPs would allow its partial implementation and would open the door for the next steps of the legislative process, which could lead to its complete and definitive implementation. On the other hand, rejecting it would be a death-blow for the agreement, just as it was for ACTA in July 2012. Beyond the unacceptable procedure of its elaboration, CETA is a grave threat to our liberties and fundamental rights. Therefore, La Quadrature du Net calls upon MEPs to oppose it strongly.

    • Please Write to Your MEPs About Next Week’s Critical – and Final – CETA Vote

      Next Wednesday, the European Parliament will have its final vote on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA. If you were hoping to influence your UK MP on this, it’s too late: last week, the government sneaked through a vote on CETA without anyone noticing. It passed, of course, but given the absence of real democracy – or an opposition party – in the UK, that’s no surprise.

    • Labour’s Failure and Institutional Analysis

      Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit in Parliament is as culpable as Harriet Harman’s failure to oppose welfare cuts. It will haunt Labour just as much. The job of opposition is to oppose. We currently have a more right wing government than I imagined the UK would ever see in my lifetime, and it is riding a tide of racist populism in England and Wales, barked on by a far right media whose ownership and world view is ever more concentrated. This is no time to drop the duty of resistance.

      Corbyn’s view of the EU is ambivalent. Both major English and Welsh parties are led by people who are at least highly sympathetic to Brexit. That is a democratic failure when 47 per cent of the English and Welsh voters supported the EU.

      The problem with the EU as a cause is that it is supported by some extremely unpleasant people. Straw (father and son), Mandelson, Osborne. The EU has nobody given media coverage to speak for it in the UK that is not amongst the most despised members of the political class. And in criticising Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit, I find myself echoing Blairites, which is uncomfortable.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Obama’s Lost Army

      The question of why—why the president and his team failed to activate the most powerful political weapon in their arsenal—has long been one of the great mysteries of the Obama era. Now, thanks to previously unpublished emails and memos obtained by the New Republic—some from the John Podesta archive released by WikiLeaks, and others made available by Obama insiders—it’s possible for the first time to see the full contours of why Movement 2.0 failed, and what could have been.

    • Saudis foot tab at Trump hotel

      A lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia paid for a room at Donald Trump’s Washington hotel after Inauguration Day, marking the first publicly known payment on behalf of a foreign government to a Trump property since he became president.

      Qorvis MSLGroup, a communications firm that lobbies for the Saudis, has been organizing veterans and other activists to come to Washington to urge Congress to repeal the law letting 9/11 victims’ families sue the kingdom. Between 20 and 40 veterans, with the assistance of the advocacy group NMLB, stayed at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in December and January.

    • Lift A Rock – Find Creepy Crawlies

      Where does Trump find these crackpots? He’s invited a guy who has fought against every reasonable attempt by government to preserve the environment for later generations to take over the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This isn’t about Free Speech, having an opinion, etc. It’s about propagandizing harm to the environment.

      See also Myron Ebell: Paris Agreement ‘a dead end’ where this guy spouts lies about going to renewable energy being a burden on the economy. He even denies China is busy adopting renewable energy. That’s absolute crap. China is the world’s biggest producer of renewable energy and they are intent on taking a serious dent out of fossil fuel usage.

    • Spread it on Reddit

      On December 23, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was given an unexpected early Christmas present: a conspiracy theory accusing her of deliberately allowing Islamic State terrorists to operate in Europe so that she could unleash an “EU Army” against fellow EU member states.

      The story was a flimsy fake, and failed to penetrate beyond a handful of conspiracy and disinformation sites. It is nonetheless worth studying, as it illustrates the methods which far-right commentators are using to spread disinformation ahead of this year’s German and French elections, especially on Reddit.

    • Trump vexed by challenges, scale of government

      The new president’s allies say he has been surprised that government can’t be run like his business.

    • President Trump’s White House Reaching New Lows In Accountability And Transparency

      It’s still very early in the Trump presidency, but so far, things aren’t looking good. Overt and implicit threats to freedom of speech continue to linger in the air. Recent comments suggest Trump will look to roll back the few measures taken over the last few years to curb asset forfeiture abuse. Wording in one of President Trump’s first presidential statements suggests the administration is going to value “law and order” over citizens’ rights. Then there’s the travel ban, which is being contested in federal courts.

      We’re now seeing a rollback of the few transparency and accountability objectives the supposed-Most Transparent President Ever managed to accomplish over eight years of generally making things worse on both fronts.

      This follows Trump’s secrecy during his presidential campaign, where he shrugged off over four decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns. He’s made it clear on multiple occasions — while standing in front of a memorial to dead CIA operatives and during his Black History Month speech — that he does not trust the media. But the actions taken during the first few weeks of his presidency suggest he also does not trust the general public.

    • In a first, Wikipedia has deemed the Daily Mail too “unreliable” to be used as a citation
    • Wikipedia editors ban Daily Mail as source
    • Daily Mail branded “fake news” by Wikipedia
    • Daily Mail Hits Back At Wikipedia After It Bans Tabloid As Source, Calling It Unreliable
    • Wikipedia’s Daily Mail Ban Is a Welcome Rebuke to Terrible Journalism
    • Prepare your popcorn: Wikipedia deems the Daily Mail unreliable
    • Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source
    • Can’t Judge Fake News in the Dark

      This isn’t about Trump. It’s about judging the media, whoever and whatever they report on. It is about reading critically when so much out there is just simply inaccurate. Not maybe inaccurate, pure dead solid perfect stupid. So don’t call me a nazi.

      Step One is to note if the story you’re reading/seeing is all or mostly unsourced, or anonymously sourced. Red flag.

    • On Iran, SPLC’s ‘Extremist’ Is NPR’s ‘Expert’

      Last week, the Trump administration began ratcheting up hostilities with Iran, nominally in response to a ballistic missile test in late January. NPR (2/2/17) dutifully reported Trump’s announcement of new sanctions on Iran, framing the issue as the Trump White House responding to an Iranian “provocation” in regards to Iran’s agreement with the UN, rather than simply executing long-held plans. A follow-up explainer by international correspondent Peter Kenyon (2/3/17) would muddy the waters further and use an incredibly dodgy source to do so.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Merkel to Testify Before German Parliament Panel Probing NSA

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to testify before a German parliamentary panel investigating U.S. intelligence activities in the country.

      The inquiry was launched a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of secret U.S. eavesdropping programs in 2013. The panel is investigating alleged eavesdropping in Germany by the U.S. National Security Agency and its relationship with German counterparts.

    • Ex-CIA analyst: Pentagon has files that ‘completely vindicate’ NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake

      Former CIA analyst Pat Eddington is suing the Department of Defense over a 2010 case in which a former National Security Agency employee was charged with espionage after speaking to a reporter with the Baltimore Sun. Thomas Drake faced charges in 2010 after speaking with the reporter about an intelligence program that he believed was a violation of Americans’ civil liberties.

    • Former CIA Analyst Sues Defense Department to Vindicate NSA Whistleblowers

      In 2010, Thomas Drake, a former senior employee at the National Security Agency, was charged with espionage for speaking to a reporter from the Baltimore Sun about a bloated, dysfunctional intelligence program he believed would violate Americans’ privacy. The case against him eventually fell apart, and he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor, but his career in the NSA was over.

      Though Drake was largely vindicated, the central question he raised about technology and privacy has never been resolved. Almost seven years have passed now, but Pat Eddington, a former CIA analyst, is still trying to prove that Drake was right.

    • Court Says Microsoft Can Sue Government Over First Amendment-Violating Gag Orders
    • Ohio Arsonist Gets Busted By His Own Pacemaker

      When we talk about pacemakers here at Techdirt, the focus is usually on how the devices have paper-mache grade security, allowing anybody to assassinate the cardiac-challenged with relative ease. In fact we’ve reached the point where the FTC had to recently issue its first ever warning against a pacemaker vendor when it announced that hackers could comprmise pacemakers made by St. Jude Medical, sending “commands to the implanted device, which could result in rapid battery depletion and/or administration of inappropriate pacing or shocks.”

      But your pacemaker may just betray you in other ways, too. In Ohio a man was indicted this week on arson and insurance fraud charges after his Pacemaker data contradicted the story he was telling authorities. When the man’s home burned down on September 19, Middletown resident Ross Compton told authorities he quickly packed some belongings in a suitcase and some bags, broke a window with his cane, and quickly fled through the window before carrying his belongings back to the car. The man also acknowledged at the time that he had a pacemaker.

    • DHS Secretary Says Agency Is Planning On Demanding Foreigners’ Social Media Account Passwords

      Last summer, the DHS started asking visitors to the US to supply their social media handles. It was all on a strictly voluntary basis, of course. But that doesn’t mean some immigrants and visa seekers didn’t do exactly as they were asked, either due to a language barrier or figuring that turning down this request might harm their chances of entering the country.

      Six months later, the DHS made it more official, unofficially. An “optional” section in the DHS’s online visa application process asked for account info for multiple social media platforms, including (strangely) Github and JustPasteIt. Again, officials assured everyone this was optional and the information was to be used to assess the threat levels of incoming foreigners. Again, the DHS probably harvested a fair amount of information despite the optional nature of the request. Like any cop asking if you’d “mind if they look around the car a little bit,” the request carried unspoken threats that things might be a bit more difficult if the request was denied.

    • Fake Intelligence

      Here’s a recent interview I did for RT UK’s flagship news programme, Going Underground with Afshin Rattansi, about the whole fake news, fake intelligence allegations swirling around President Trump’ administration at the moment…

    • UK Train Operators Plan To Charge Passengers Using Their Biometrics

      At least Bluetooth signals have the virtue of operating quite quickly, and from a certain distance. It’s hard to see how fingerprints or iris scans will be so slick in practice. As we’ve noted before, there are serious problems with getting fingerprint scans for the general public to work on a large scale, and those difficulties are likely to be exacerbated when people are in a hurry to catch a train.

      Iris scans typically require the subject to stand on a certain spot and to keep still while their eye is checked. As anyone who has been through some airports around the world knows, iris scans often take several attempts to recognize someone, and may fail altogether, which requires a manual check elsewhere. In the context of a busy station, this seems a recipe for disaster.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Secretive anti-subversion police units are no way to combat Britain’s far right

      Of course I wanted to cheer when I heard the news that the government is paying M&C Saatchi to combat hate campaigners, along with an anti-subversion unit targeting violent rightwingers as part of a £60m budget to fight extremism. I wanted to cheer but didn’t. Does this sort of advertising work? Has it been tested?

      I have always thought the government and police have a blind spot when it comes to rightwing ideologues and their followers. However, having spent years as an environmental activist and Green party politician – part of a movement that is still on the receiving end of repressive police tactics – I’ve learned the value of being clear about definitions. As a democrat and advocate of civil rights for all, I don’t want people being locked up for having vile opinions, or any kind of thought crime.

    • U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Suspension of Immigration Executive Order

      We are pleased with today’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the District Court of Washington’s suspension of the U.S. Executive Order on immigration.

    • Trump Says There’s ‘No Reason’ To Scale Back Asset Forfeiture; Threatens Career Of Senator Backing Forfeiture Reform

      Here comes some more law and order, courtesy of our new law and order President. President Trump met with a group of sheriffs on Tuesday and offered to start rolling back civil asset forfeiture reforms. Apparently, it’s time to reset the clock on forfeiture, bringing us back to a time when the process wasn’t so heavily-criticized. But Trump’s not offering to curb abuse. He just fails to see why so many people think it’s a bad idea.

    • Confirmed: TSA’s Behavioral Detection Program Is Useless, Biased, And Based On Junk Science

      Thanks to FOIA requests (and lawsuits), the ACLU has gathered enough documents to provide a comprehensive report [PDF] on the worthlessness of the TSA’s “Behavioral Detection” program. Meant to give the agency a better way of proactively thwarting acts of terrorism, the program instead opts for lazy profiling, dubious readings of behavioral cues, and junk science.

    • UK Police Spy On Journalists At Small Town Paper, Gather One Million Minutes Worth Of Call Data

      The UK’s top spy agencies have been known to place journalists under surveillance. Leaked Snowden documents showed GCHQ collected emails from news organizations such as the New York Times, BBC, and Washington Post. More accusations of spying were raised by UK journalists, detailing what appeared to be a clear abuse of the country’s anti-terror laws — laws particularly prone to exploitation thanks to generous loopholes and a minimum of oversight.

      It wasn’t just spy agencies doing the spying. In the case of the UK journalists, it was also local law enforcement digging through their emails and phone calls in hopes of identifying sources and leakers. More evidence of police surveillance of journalists has come to light, as reported by the Associated Press. Once again, it’s law enforcement looking to uncover sources and whistleblowers, rather than terrorists or criminals.

    • Trump Issues Executive Orders To Make A Safe Nation Safe And Protect Cops Who Don’t Need Protection

      More Executive Orders have been issued by Donald Trump. The latest skew heavily in favor of Trump’s recent conversational partners: members of law enforcement.

      Earlier this week in a meeting with several sheriffs, Trump voiced his support for asset forfeiture and made an off-hand comment about ruining the careers of legislators engaged in reform efforts. Great fun was had by all… mostly Trump and perhaps a sheriff or two.

      One order does nothing more than what large bureaucracies do best: institute task forces. Trump’s task force is charged with “crime reduction and public safety.” The DOJ will head this up and ask for cooperation from local law enforcement agencies. The public safety priorities are definitely Trump’s, though.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • KYLIE trade mark battle spinning around

        The dispute began back in April 2015 when Kylie Jenner (a member of the Kardashian family) attempted to register KYLIE in the USA for advertising and endorsement services.

        Kylie Minogue opposed the application. It is rare for oppositions to be quoted in the press, but the description of Jenner as a “secondary reality television personality” has been repeated in almost every report of the dispute.

    • Copyrights

      • The top US copyright plaintiffs since 2015 revealed

        The Central District of California and Southern District of New York are the top districts for US copyright litigation since 2009, a Lex Machina report reveals. In the past year, textile pattern litigation has increased greatly, while file-sharing cases have dropped

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