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04.05.17

Is Bristows UPC Falsifying UK-IPO Quotes or Just Using Informal Words to Lobby for the Unitary Patent (UPC)?

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 8:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bristows LLP and EPO

Summary: The statement from the UK-IPO (the IPO) says nothing like what Bristows attributes to it, raising all sorts of questions about who is steering IPO policies nowadays

What Team UPC and Team Battistelli (EPO management) have in common is that they both lie. A lot! Bristows, for example, is perpetually lying about the stance/views of British people and it's doing this to enrich itself.

“Bristows, for example, is perpetually lying about the stance/views of British people to enrich itself.”Why do they want the UPC so badly? Litigation. Lots and lots of it. Battistelli is like Trump with “See you in court!”

Battistelli is gradually demoting if not demolishing examination, meaning that more patents get granted (even bogus patents), and more litigation is to be expected (except against Battistelli, as he insists that he is immune from prosecution).

“Battistelli is gradually demoting if not demolishing examination, meaning that more patents get granted (even bogus patents), and more litigation is to be expected (except against Battistelli, as he insists that he is immune from prosecution).”The whole idea of patent examination (proper examination!) is, people can’t just baselessly drag other people into court/out-of-court settlements. It requires some sort stamp approving some merit to one’s claim/s; that’s what patents are for. The UPC lobbyists, truly dishonest people (Team UPC) along with Battistelli, have a lot in common except cluelessness on science; they want litigation and money. Money! It has gotten so bad that, as we pointed out this morning, Team UPC ‘took over’ IP Kat and is now using that blog to help Battistelli. Meanwhile, few British firm are trying to sell their stinkin’ services around the UPC, regardless of how much damage such a regime would cause to British businesses that actually produce something.

What really got on our nerves today is this Bristows “news” from Liz Cohen, which is promoted in Twitter as “UK confirms it is “fully on track” to meet UPC timetable” (with quote signs included).

“Are we seeing IPO entryism by Team UPC?”Where does that message come from? Where are those words from? The MIP spin? Those 4 words from unnamed "spokesperson"? Well, nobody said that in a site; there is no way to verify that it isn’t just made up, conjured from memory, or even fabricated. Here, last week, we wrote about that in great detail and someone pointed out something similar in IP Kat comments, demanding an actual link to a statement or a source.

Are we seeing IPO entryism by Team UPC? Where does the quote come from? Is MIP (or Bristows) now spokesperson of IPO?

Well, let’s inspect the original, as there is no source (not even a link) in the post from Bristows and the same goes for MIP, which also used a paywall. We need to be careful with anything that comes from Bristows as we already know their inclination to lie and distort. “Anyone can produce a diff to see what has been updated,” Benjamin Henrion asked this afternoon. So we decided to take a look at what UK-IPO actually says.

The page, as per the Internet Archive, used to say (about patents post-Brexit):

The referendum result has no impact on UK businesses’ ability to apply to the European Patent Office for patent protection.

It will remain possible to obtain patents from the EPO which apply in the UK. Existing European patents covering the UK are also unaffected. British exit from the EU will not affect the current European patent system as governed by the European Patent Convention (EPC).

The UK remains a Signatory State of the Unified Patent Court at present. We will continue to attend and participate in UPC meetings in that capacity. There will be no immediate changes.

After the inane remark from Lucy this became (mind last paragraph):

The referendum result has no impact on UK businesses’ ability to apply to the European Patent Office for patent protection.

It will remain possible to obtain patents from the EPO which apply in the UK. Existing European patents covering the UK are also unaffected. British exit from the EU will not affect the current European patent system as governed by the European Patent Convention (EPC).

The UK remains a Signatory State of the Unified Patent Court at present. On 28 November, the UK government confirmed its intention to proceed with arrangements to ratify the Unified Patent Court.

“The IPO is keen to hear your views about these issues,” it says. Well, it seems to be hearing only from lawyers, not those affected by their actions. And now this is their statement (updated yesterday):

The UK’s exit from the EU will not affect the current European patent system, which is governed by the (non-EU) European Patent Convention. UK businesses can continue to apply to the European Patent Office for patent protection which will include the UK. Existing European patents covering the UK are also unaffected.

While the UK remains a full member of the EU, businesses can continue to apply for and be granted Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs) for patented pharmaceutical and plant protection products using the current SPC system.

Existing UK SPCs granted under that system continue to be valid.

Once the UK leaves the EU, UK businesses will still be able to apply for SPCs in all remaining EU Member States under the existing system.

The government is exploring options for SPC protection in the UK after we leave the EU.

The UK remains a Signatory State of the Unified Patent Court at present. On 28 November, the UK government confirmed its intention to proceed with arrangements to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement.

Preparations for ratification are progressing and we expect to be ready to begin the period of provisional application in the spring.

The UK government has signed the Protocol on Provisional Application and is ready for that to commence to the timetable foreseen by the Preparatory Committee. It is planned that the UPC will open for business in December 2017.

The "Preparatory Committee" is just Team UPC, i.e. a bunch of greedy lobbyists like Bristows. Sounds like entryism and a legitimate cause for anger over scandal/mischief.

“Wittingly or not, Bristows has become an expert in lying, not an expert in UPC matters.”Where does the quote “fully on track” come from? Who said it and when? Will Bristows retract that nonsense? Well, it’s not as though Bristows has much of a reputation to guard. They’re so desperate for the UPC, almost as if the firm would go bankrupt if the UPC does not come to the UK. Wittingly or not, Bristows has become an expert in lying, not an expert in UPC matters. Maybe the employees should change their career to lobbying, as some already have.

Patent Attacks on GNU/Linux Devices, Courtesy of Philips, Ericsson, Microsoft and Its Patent Trolls

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, TomTom at 6:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Now they do this with Azure instead of SUSE, offering selective ‘protection’

“But to the degree that people are going to deploy Linux, we want Suse Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft.”

Steve Ballmer

Summary: The strategy of scattering software patents to patent trolls in order for them to sue one’s competition is becoming ever more popular, and not only Microsoft is using this strategy to ‘tax’ GNU/Linux from many directions while the public fails to notice

LINUX devices (sometimes with GNU in them) are taking over the world. GNU/Linux isn’t just the de facto platform of servers anymore; it’s also a de facto platform in the embedded/devices/gadgets space. But Microsoft is eager to turn that into a Microsoft cash cow, e.g. with patented filesystems of Microsoft and much more. Watch TomTom and what Microsoft did to this modest Dutch company 8 years ago. It didn’t end too well for TomTom, which spent a lot of money on lawyers and ended up settling with Microsoft anyway (paying about half a million dollars and surrendering technically too). To Microsoft, the whole lawsuit was a warning shot, designed to scare other small- or medium-sized companies into paying ‘protection’ money without any questions asked. Even when patents granted by the USPTO are not valid elsewhere (no software patents in Europe).

“To Microsoft, the whole lawsuit was a warning shot, designed to scare other small- or medium-sized companies into paying ‘protection’ money without any questions asked.”Linux devices in the form of Android have become bigger (in the installed base/market share sense) than Windows. It’s still all over the news this week. Does that mean that proprietary software giants are doomed? Well, not if they become patent parasites. The top EPO grantee, Philips, has apparently notified Archos, which makes Android devices, that it wants ‘protection’ money. As a reminder, Philips’ patent assertion people are working by proxy via Intertrust among other tentacles. Here is a new article about the subject:

Dutch Court Rules in Standard Essential Patent Abuse of Dominance Claim

[...]

After Philips notified Archos that it was using Philips’s SEPs, the two parties entered into negotiations. In July 2015, Philips made Archos an offer of EUR 0.7 per product sold that used UMTS and/or LTE functionality. In January 2016, Archos countered with an offer of EUR 0.07 per product.

That does not even take into account trolls of Philips. Months ago we wrote about Ericsson and Microsoft operating via trolls, in an effort at patent stacking against competitors. The companies pretend to be “fair” and “reasonable” by masking the full extent of their tax, typically with the help of trolls.

In this new article from trolls-friendly media, the author calls tax “royalty” and gives the platform to a company that operates various (far more than one) patent trolls. Here is Ericsson’s talking point:

In a guest post for this blog shortly following the announcement, Eric Stasik of Swedish consulting firm Avvika AB, made the argument that in many way Ericsson’s announcement does not represent a big departure from its approach to 4G/LTE. In 2009, for example, Ericsson disclosed that its royalty rate for 4G/LTE devices was expected to be around 1.5% for handsets. In his piece Stasik then crunched the numbers arguing that for the average device the new rate would not be a significant change on the Swedish company’s approach to 4G/LTE but would be higher for the cheapest devices. At the very top end, he suggested, the new rate would represent a significant discount on the current position.

Conveniently enough, Ericsson does not speak about its patent trolls. It sends patents to them and expects them to ‘monetise’ these, to use their euphemism.

Right now at PTAB, one of the trolls of Ericsson is being challenged for attacking the steward of Android, the most widely used operating system that is based on Linux. Patently-O wrote about it this week:

The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc. The patent challenger asked the Federal Circuit to overturn Versata in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Cuozzo. The issue is well known to attorneys involved in the post-grant review of covered-business-method (CBM) patents.

According to the statute, the CBM process begins with a petition and institution decision by the Director. Once instituted, the PTAB holds trial and issues a final decision. The statute indicates that CBM review may be instituted “only for” CBM patents but that the Director’s institution decision “shall be final and nonappealable.”

That’s just the latest example (there are more) of Ericsson siccing patent trolls on Android and Linux. Over the years we have covered more such examples. “The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc of Unwired Planet v. Google,” Mr. Loney wrote and “Dennis Crouch Thinks this Case Is Headed for the Supreme Court,” alleged a proponent of software patents. We have not yet seen PTAB ‘cases’ being escalated so high; we suppose that patent maximalists would like to see PTAB as a whole challenged by the Justices. They have been trying for quite some time. Watch this new guest article which calls PTAB “inter partes review (“IPR”)” something like “proceedings to attack patents” when the reality of the matter is that PTAB does not “attack” anything or anyone. That old spin of law firms attempts to reverse the narrative and cast offense as defense (with words like “kill” and “survive”, where the defendant is the killer and the aggressor is the survivor). As I explained to the site’s administrator (in relation to this guest article), “patents and those who use them attack people/companies; when challenged, the patents are not “attacked”, it’s a defense.”

“These defensive patent pacts have one major loophole: they’re not effective against trolls.”In light of all this, recall what we wrote yesterday about PAX, which is definitely defensive. This was mentioned here the other day because we expect the facts to be twisted by patent maximalists.

“PAX looks a lot like the OIN (Open Invention Network) but Made By Google IMHO,” Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer wrote. “OIN is focused on Linux rather than Android,” I told him, noting that Oracle in OIN had attacked OIN’s Google. These defensive patent pacts have one major loophole: they’re not effective against trolls. Sometimes they even admit this publicly. Benjamin Henrion joked, “let’s submit those 230K patents for an Alice review,” but many of these patents (from the likes of Samsung and LG) are actually hardware patents, so the Alice test isn’t applicable.

It didn’t take long for pundits like Andrew Orlowski to pick on PAX. Here is what he wrote yesterday:

Samsung, LG and Foxconn are among the founding members of a patent pool for Android phone makers under Google’s benevolent eye. Google hopes the “community-driven clearinghouse” for IP sharing will fend off patent trolls.

Google already operates a non-aggression alliance for Android phone makers called License on Transfer, launched 2014, in which patent holders agree not to use them aggressively against other members after the sale of a patent. The LOT Network is run by ARM’s former head of IP, Ken Seddon. That move was designed to deter NPEs (Non-Practising Entities, aka trolls) from buying up industry-standard patents already in patent pools to collect royalties, and stemmed from Google’s panic purchase of Motorola in 2011 for its IP portfolio.

Microsoft and large Chinese vendors are notable by their absence from PAX.

Well, Microsoft sends the trolls to attack the members behind PAX, so why would Microsoft want to join PAX? Microsoft’s strategy as of late has been to sic trolls on those who are not ‘protected’ by Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] and as we recently showed, Microsoft is already doing that together with Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft’s biggest patent troll (also the world’s biggest patent troll).

“We expect a lot more of these trolls to go after Android OEMs, GNU/Linux distributors, so-called ‘cloud’ hosts like Amazon and their clients.”Yesterday, friends of Intellectual Ventures said that this troll now focuses on “monetising existing portfolio through sales and licences,” taking note of Dominion Harbor and Equitable IP (trolls of the troll of Microsoft). To quote: “Earlier this year IV announced the sale of more than 4,000 former Kodak patents to Dominion Harbor and it has made a number of disposals to other monetisation entities, including Equitable IP. Most if not all of those deals have involved some cash upfront with with IV then receiving a portion of future licensing revenues from the assets.”

We expect a lot more of these trolls to go after Android OEMs, GNU/Linux distributors, so-called ‘cloud’ hosts like Amazon and their clients. It’s the only way for Microsoft to survive now that Vista 10 brings no concrete income, just users’ data (while Windows’ relative market share keeps declining across form factors).

Misleading (or Partial) Information About PTAB, CAFC, Software Patents, and Patent Trolls in EDTX

Posted in America, Deception, Patents at 5:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Law firms are not being frank about the reality of inter partes reviews (IPRs), low success rates of software patents, and biases of courts in East Texas

Robert Kardashian
Robert Kardashian of the Simpson murder case

Summary: New articles about the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), and the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) which neglect to show the full picture, typically for promotional (marketing) purposes

THERE are many sayings about lawyers. Among them:

  • “The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.”
  • “I was half lawyer; I always noticed the loopholes.”
  • “Lawyers were notorious for finding cases in the most unlikely places, especially ones with huge potential damagers awards.”

There are many more. The main point, however, is that whatever lawyers say should be taken with a grain of salt because lawyers work for lawyers (themselves) and sometimes they need to also give a sufficiently compelling impression that they work for clients.

“The main point, however, is that whatever lawyers say should be taken with a grain of salt because lawyers work for lawyers (themselves) and sometimes they need to also give a sufficiently compelling impression that they work for clients.”In the domain of patents, our view of lawyers was largely shaped by what we had read from them. When they don’t manage to embed themselves in articles from actual journalists they write nonsense in their own sites (or “blogs”), sometimes even in journals that target other lawyers and give tips, otherwise simply preach to the choir. There is an utter lack of honest, independent journalism about patent law, as we habitually point out.

Unified Patents, not to be mistaken for Unified Patent Court (UPC), has just taken on some trolls by challenging their patents, i.e. the only things that they have. We covered that earlier this year and patent maximalists now say that Unified Patents filed as many as 64 petitions against patents. The piece, from a law firm, is basically shameless self promotion, but in it there are some interesting numbers:

Petitioner Unified Patents, LLC filed an IPR petition challenging 29 claims of US Pat. No. 8,640,183 owned by Convergent Media Solutions, LLC. Unified’s numerous inter partes review (“IPR”) petitions rarely reach a final written decision, but here the Board issued such a decision and invalidated all of the remaining challenged claims. Unified Patents, LLC. v. Convergent Media Solutions, LLC, IPR2016-00047, Paper 23 (P.T.A.B. March 29, 2017).

[...]

To date, Unified has filed 64 IPR petitions, many of which are still pending or settled before a final decision. Unified typically challenges software and electrical patents, which have an aggregate institution rate of 71% (1931/2724). Unified’s institution rate is much lower at 49% (19/39). Even more notable is the fact that only 8.5% (4/47) of Unified’s completed, no longer pending, IPRs have reached a final written decision. This is much lower than the aggregate rate of 34% (1474/4345) for all patent IPRs.

What they are trying to say is, come to us, we’ll protect your patents from challenges. Sadly for them, however, petitions (IPRs) come from many more directions than Unified Patents and these are typically successful (patent/s invalidated).

“Unified Patents, not to be mistaken for Unified Patent Court (UPC), has just taken on some trolls by challenging their patents, i.e. the only things that they have.”Another law firm, Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz LLP, has just published this piece that promotes the perception software patents have become more potent. Caleb Pollack and Kyle Auteri from this firm use their cherry-picking skills to paint a misleading picture. As one who has been following it closely, this is nonsensical cherry-picking of very old CAFC cases (as old as a year ago and most recent half a year ago). Here is the core argument:

While this is only one panel of three judges out of over 115 judges participating in ex-parte appeals at the PTAB, and it is unclear if the PTAB is more inclined towards finding claims are patent eligible than examiners, it is clear that the chances of overcoming software related rejections have improved since the Federal Circuit decisions in Enfish, Bascom, and McRO, decided in May 12, 2016, June 27, 2016, and September 13, 2016, respectively.

If these law firms were more honest, they would acknowledge that never before, at least in recent decades, were patents on software so hard to defend in court (never mind lenient examination at USPTO).

“Some of the worst (meritless) patent cases go to East Texas and still, in spite of the low quality of patents, the judges rule for the plaintiff, even when the plaintiff makes nothing at all.”Last but not least, here is a new article about the likely fate of East Texas as ‘litigation central’ or ‘rocket docket’. Earlier this week and last week we wrote a great deal about it, but here is more:

On paper, Kraft v. TC Heartland is not a very exciting case. It’s a lawsuit involving artificial sweeteners and the plastic containers they come in. It’s not the kind of case one would expect to make it all the way to the US Supreme Court and have sweeping implications for the future of the US technology industry. But let’s back up.

Kraft makes a product called MiO, a liquid artificial sweetener it calls a “Liquid Water Enhancer.” TC Heartland, a limited-liability company based in Indiana, makes a similar product: the “Refreshe Fruit Punch Drink Enhancer.” Kraft sued TC Heartland in 2014, saying it infringed upon three patents related to the containers the products come in.

[...]

Clearly, the idea here is that patent trolls have some sort of advantage in East Texas. But what is it? Do juries in this court tend to lean toward the plaintiffs? That was a question Justice Anthony Kennedy put to Kraft’s lawyer, William Jay, during the arguments last Monday. He asked whether “generous jury verdicts enter into this, or is that something we shouldn’t think about?”

The courts and the district actually advertise this bias. Is this not any more obvious? Some of the worst (meritless) patent cases go to East Texas and still, in spite of the low quality of patents, the judges rule for the plaintiff, even when the plaintiff makes nothing at all.

IP Kat is Helping Battistelli by Lobbying for the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Spreading Falsehoods

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 4:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Team UPC firms inside IP Kat are doing marketing (for their employers)

Battistelli and Tokarski

Summary: For the third time in less than a week, IP Kat, composed by law firms that stand to gain from the UPC (litigation galore), tries to compel British politicians to ratify and allow devastation to British businesses

THE EPO, in our humble assessment, is actually at risk from the UPC; examiners in particular (not just boards) may be made redundant by it, for reasons we explained twice in the past week. Even EPO insiders — albeit not all of them — agree with us on that. UPC ‘reforms’ aren’t just about a bunch of courts; it’s a systemic overhaul that warps Europe into 'litigation central' at the expense of examinations (judges and juries doing what examiners would otherwise do, at a lower expense to defendants).

“UPC ‘reforms’ aren’t just about a bunch of courts; it’s a systemic overhaul that warps Europe into ‘litigation central’ at the expense of examinations (judges and juries doing what examiners would otherwise do, at a lower expense to defendants).”Thankfully, at least for us in the UK, time is running out for the UPC. Tokarski and Battistelli can say whatever they want (Battistelli just keeps lying about it), but ratification is anything but trivial and it is definitely not inevitable. Today we learned about plans to initiate a demonstration against it, after a petition attracted many signatures, including dozens from CEOs. According to this pro-UPC blog, in the UK “necessary ratification must take place before the next Competitiveness Council meeting on 29th May.”

But with Brexit uncertainties it’s anything but possible/feasible. We don’t expect that to happen. Here is the relevant bit:

Mr Tokarsky explained that everything is ready at technical level. However participating member states need to ratify the Protocol on the provisional application of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court. Mr Tokarsky particularly insisted for the states that already have parliamentary approval to actually ratify the Protocol. He also highlighted that the necessary ratification must take place before the next Competitiveness Council meeting on 29th May. Indeed the UPC requires a minimum of six months to get ready and become operational.

We can be sure that Team UPC will kick into gear and make it seem both possible and desirable to the UK. When they speak of the “UK” they speak only about their employer, typically a law firm that profits from litigation.

“CJEU is a very big barrier here.”Luke McDonagh has tweeted, “UK can participate in #UPC post-Brexit, but will it? What role for CJEU? Darren Smyth gives his informed view…”

Well, for the second time in about a week, Mr. Smyth, having promoted this beast (in UPC echo chamber/lobbying events), does more lobbying at IP Kat. Rhetorical question as headline? Check.

He quotes this from the highest authority about the CJEU in the UK: “Once we have left the EU, the UK Parliament (and, as appropriate, the devolved legislatures) will be free to pass its own legislation.”

“…after spending years wheeling this beastly Trojan horse and publishing bogus job advertisements it would leave them looking like crooks and traitors.”He then repeats a statement from Lucy, who is no longer in her job (she lasted only several months before vanishing).

CJEU is a very big barrier here. David Davis is repeatedly being quoted/cited as saying that the UK would not be subjected to ‘governance’ by CJEU, so that’s an immediate deal-breaking statement/stance for the UPC. Should Team UPC not lay down its weapons and simply acknowledge that it’s over? No, after spending years wheeling this beastly Trojan horse and publishing bogus job advertisements it would leave them looking like crooks and traitors. So instead they try to make their own delusional prophecy come true.

“Saving us the effort, readers of the blog have already beaten us to it with rebuttals.”We are sad to see IP Kat repeatedly being exploited for this kind of lobbying. Battistelli must be very proud of IP Kat these days. His sanctions against IP Kat changed its tune and now we’re being confronted with UPC puff pieces almost every week, sometimes several times per week.

Saving us the effort, readers of the blog have already beaten us to it with rebuttals. Smyth, for example, got caught resorting to that same old shameless spin. “I am massively impressed by the mental gymnastics from the author,” said one commenter. Here is the full comment:

I am massively impressed by the mental gymnastics from the author. I particularly enjoy the part where the sentence from the white paper is quoted:

“The Government has been clear that in leaving the EU we will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the CJEU in the UK.”

Then immediately reinterpreted (and rephrased) to meet the author’s preferred conclusion:

“What it has said is that domestic courts should not be bound by the CJEU.”

Unfortunately, this just doesn’t follow. Nowhere in the statement of the government does it limit the exception to the jurisdiction of the CJEU to “domestic courts”. Rather the statement is that “we will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the CJEU in the UK”. This statement simply isn’t compatible with UK membership of the UPC. Take the very simple example of a UK person or company infringing a unitary patent by actions that are only carried out in the UK. In that case the UK will still very much be under the jurisdiction of the CJEU.

Another comment spoke about CJEU:

That’s too narrow an interpretation. The quote says “… the jurisdiction of the CJEU in the UK”. That means the ability of the CJEU to apply law that has an effect on matters taking place in the UK. In making a decision on for example, a matter of infringement of a European patent in respect the UK, the UPC is absolutely acting as a domestic court and thus the CJEU is exercising jurisdiction in the UK. There is an inconsistency here and the more likely explanation is that the government is in a mess, not that it has a cunning plan.

Another noteworthy comment (not from Team UPC):

Despite the opinion from Gordon and Pascoe, it is still far from certain that the UK and remain in the UPC post-Brexit.

A lynchpin of the Gordon and Pascoe opinion is the conclusion in the following quote.
If the UPC were truly part of the Union legal order, it would already be subject to these obligations without them needing to be spelled out in the Agreement. Whilst Article 1 of the UPCA and Article 71a of the Brussels Regulation designate the UPC as a “court common to a number of Member States”, we do not consider that such secondary legislation is capable of converting the UPC’s fundamental status as an international court into that of a court which is part of the national legal order

However, I have serious doubts about the legitimacy of that conclusion.

The main focus of the CJEU’s Opinion 1/09 was upon the question of supremacy of EU law (and the mechanisms for ensuring that supremacy). The main mechanisms by which supremacy of EU law is enforced in a particular country are membership of the EU and the ability of national courts to make references to the CJEU.

The first of these mechanisms will of course no longer apply to the UK post-Brexit.

The trouble for Gordon and Pascoe is that, if their conclusion is correct, then the second mechanism will disappear as well.

Think about it: how could an “international court” refer questions to the CJEU if that court is not a court common to the EU Member States?

Remember that the ability to refer questions to the CJEU is restricted by Article 267 TFEU to “any court or tribunal of a Member State“.

If I am missing something, then I would be glad to hear what it is. Otherwise, it seems that the UK most definitely cannot participate in the UPC post-Brexit… unless, of course, no one is bothered about compliance of the UPC Agreement with EU law.

This point also provides an answer to Darren’s question regarding how frequently the UPC will refer questions to the CJEU. That is, the ability of UPC to refer questions to the CJEU presupposes that the UPC will be bound by the provisions of Article 267 TFEU. The upshot of this is that the UPC Court of Appeal will have no choice but to refer questions to the CJEU when the decision of the Court hinges upon a provision of EU legislation that has no clear and unambiguous interpretation.

I suspect that references will be very common indeed. This is primarily because I have not met anyone yet who can provide me with definitive answers as to how Article 5(3) of Regulation 1257/2012 will work in practice. To be frank, my view is that anyone who thinks that this will all be clear-cut has obviously not thought things through!

“Dear UK lawyers,” said the following comment, “the reality is that Brexit has thrown you out of a system you hoped to make a lot of money with” (right on the money).

Here is the full comment:

The comment looks interesting and it looks at first sight, indeed quite convincing. The UPC not being a UK court, but an international court, UK can stay in the UPC after Brexit.

The contrary seems true for different reasons:

1) the UPC is strictly reserved to member states of the EU. There is not much which can be said more. Any attempt to change this , for instance by the Administrative Committee amending the UPCA, is doomed to fail as any possible amendments can only have the aim to bring the UPCA in line with an international treaty relating to patents or Union law. Not only the preamble makes reference to Union Law, but as well the Art. 5, 20, 21, 27,31, 32, 84 and 85 (the list does not pretend to be exhaustive) refer directly or indirectly to Union Law. And a non-EU member can participate? Sorry but the time for April’s fool jokes is over.

2) Even if for the sake of argument one could accept that the UPC is not a UK court, its decisions will have a direct impact in UK, once a judgement of the UPC is to be enforced in UK, or a judgement of the local court or the London section of the Central Division will have to be enforced, whether in UK or abroad. Once UK leaves the EU Brussels 1 will not any longer applicable to judgements of the UPC in UK. Up to now, there is nothing to give the impression that this point has been taken seriously by the proponents of the stay of the UK in the UPC post-Brexit.

3) The comparison between EP patents and the UP Patents is not convincing at all. The EPO grants patents, and stops there. The EPC does not say anything else, beside the fact that, in principle, the reasons for nullity in front of a court in a member state of the EPC are the same as the grounds of opposition. The aim of the EPC was never to go any further. The UPC deals with the fate of a patent granted, like presently any other court in a member state of the EPC.

4) That no patentee is obliged to use the UPC is OK as long as there is an opt out possibility, that is for at least 7 years, and then to a maximum of 14 years. After this time any EP patent be it with or without unitary effect will end before the UPC for all member states of the UPC, i.e. for all member states of the EU having ratified. This argument is very weak.

I cannot remember if it was in this blog or in another one, that there was talk of having the cake and eating it.

Dear UK lawyers, the reality is that Brexit has thrown you out of a system you hoped to make a lot of money with. It is sad for you, but unavoidable and any contortions trying to be in with being in are in vain.

“Nice try to claim the UPC is an international court but it is an EU court,” said another comment about this lobbying effort.

Patentees in the Uk owuld only have the choice if the UK government gives it to them. Allowing one section of society to be under the jurisdiction of the EU seems contrary to the government position.

Aside from that, not all patentees are UK citizens so the UK surely cannot allow non-UK-resident patentees the right to obtain UK property rights that are not subject to the jurisdiction of the UK courts?

Nice try to claim the UPC is an international court but it is an EU court, which is why it is under the CJEU. We could try and get round many hurdles by creating ‘international bodies’ in this way, but I doubt it will wash. The EMA for example may be one such body we could do with not leaving.

And in response to that:

It is “under” the CJEU in the same way as the English courts and UK Supreme Court are at present. Are you suggesting that the English Court are EU courts even when deciding on national law. Do you consider the Miller Art 50 judgement to be the work of an “EU” court. Seems a strange catogorisation to me.

“The Brits have been painstakingly building this folly for many years,” said the following (yes, a lot of Team UPC is based in London), “and now someone else on their own side (the British public) has put a bomb under it, at the eleventh hour, just before the grand opening.”

Good.

Reading all of this reminds me of the final scene of “The Bridge On The River Kwai”.

“Madness……just madness!”

The Brits have been painstakingly building this folly for many years and now someone else on their own side (the British public) has put a bomb under it, at the eleventh hour, just before the grand opening.

The last thing anyone needs is for the train to leave the station and make its way on to the bridge….

Here is a claim that CJEU is merely a “red herring both legally and politically.” But how is that so? The situation here is rather simple; can a court that does not even speak English tell a company in Britain (post-Brexit) what to do? That would make as much sense as a Chinese or a US court ordering an injunction inside the UK. Here is the full comment:

The CJEU’s role is mostly a red herring both legally and politically. The UPC clearly cant be issuing remedies to be enforced in EU countries that are contrary to EU law and the CJEU is there to prevent that. Unless an invention relates to the Biotech directive the CJEU will have very little influence on what happens can or cant be done in the UK.

The political angle is also a overplayed- Carswell’s early day motion didn’t get any other backers. What happens to the UK in the UPC will be wrapped up with the big Art 50 deal. When the Art 50 deal is completed -what happens to the UPC isn’t going to be a primary talking point with those that hate the EU.

Carswell is a Conservative who moved to UKIP and left UKIP (he is now an independent). Trying to cast anti-UPC as anti-EU is as dishonest as it gets. I, for example, am against the UPC for practical reasons and I am also pro-EU for practical reasons. One can cogently be both. A lot of UPC foes can say the same about themselves.

“I, for example, am against the UPC for practical reasons and I am also pro-EU for practical reasons.”The one point which is easier to agree on is, UPC will barely be on the agenda in Brexit negotiations. It will likely be abandoned or thrown/fall by the wayside, as much higher priorities exist.

EPO Scandals the Focus of Bavarian Parliament Tomorrow

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gabi Schmidt
Gabi Schmidt has been fighting for EPO workers and she can be contacted at gabi.schmidt@fw-landtag.de

Summary: The untenable, unacceptable state of affairs at the EPO is becoming the subject of more frequent political debates

“The EP-office [EPO] is reducing staff representation,” one comment said yesterday, “and increases the number of employees per line manager (“large directorates”, “super-clusters”). [...] In a combination not a good idea, according to a study. The study compares companies in different countries, presence of staff representation, education levels of employees, and how many employees per manager are present. Result: high education and internal promotions lead to the employees working independently without the need of much supervision, thus needing less managers. This effect gets lost though, if no effective staff representation is present.”

Coat of arms of BavariaBavarian Parliament will discuss the EPO situation tomorrow, as we noted earlier this week. We, in the mean time, are preparing for the release of new documents about the EPO. Due to some important news in the US, notably cases such as TC Heartland, we have lacked sufficient time to cover the EPO so far this week. Documents can still be anonymously sent for us to study and write about.

For Autism Awareness Month, Microsoft Spreads More Delusional Views About Autism, Claiming “Disability is a Strength” (Which Really Reflects Themselves)

Posted in Microsoft at 3:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New Guest Article By Yuval Levental

Summary: Microsoft’s initiative for autistic people is simply a hiring program for typical Microsoft jobs

On April 3, the Director of Inclusive Hiring and Accessibility at Microsoft wrote that because most people with autism were unemployed or underemployed, a “large pool” of talented people were missing out on being able to contribute at work. However, from the known results of their program, only 10 of 700 resumes were successful.

“However, from the known results of their program, only 10 of 700 resumes were successful.”This is not a large number or percentage at all. Does he really think that “alternative hiring processes” could significantly reduce the need for millions of dollars that organizations like Autism Speaks and SFARI spend every year to fund medical research for autism, which can even affect basic living skills?

He only reminds people that Microsoft’s initiative for autistic people is simply a hiring program for typical Microsoft jobs, not an alternative set of careers where people with autism face expectations tailored to their needs. They then offer a virtual career fair for autistics. Of course, the applicants will still need to discuss the positions with them, and even come up with ideas as to how to be hireable.

“They really like to wrongly portray their initiative as more than an alternative hiring process, but this statement really describes their software and company practices really well, just not in the way that they think it does.”Because many autistics only engage in an “engage in an endless acquisition of facts”, this would not help those autistics very much. There is also the issue that some autistics will benefit from a real-world career fair specialized for them, as they will feel more connected to a real-world atmosphere which usually doesn’t glitch.

The article ends by saying “At Microsoft, we see disability as a strength.” They really like to wrongly portray their initiative as more than an alternative hiring process, but this statement really describes their software and company practices really well, just not in the way that they think it does.

Links 5/4/2017: Open Networking Summit 2017, GNOME Twitch 0.4.0, Fedora 26 Alpha

Posted in News Roundup at 3:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Automation is Becoming a Necessity, is Puppet the Only Answer?

    A microcosm of today’s world includes building cars via robots, self driving vehicles, etc. No matter the task, it appears the number one goal is to automate it as much as possible. The technology landscape is no different. DevOps engineers are asked to automate as many tasks as possible in the current environment. This benefits both the engineer and the corporation. As an engineer, there are a lot of choices to complete a particular task at your disposal, but which automation tools are leading the way?

    Probably not surprising, Puppet and Chef tend to garner the largest overall numbers. That has been the case when the data was originally analyzed, and it continues to this day. However, the more important piece is, are they growing? In both cases, the answer is no. Puppet has seen a decline of nearly 10% over the last six quarters, while Chef has seen an increase of about 7% over that same time period. In a nutshell, they both garner large demand, but they have remained fairly stagnant.

  • Adobe Releases Source Han Serif, Pan-CJK Typeface
  • Google’s New Font Honors Ancient Type Traditions
  • Google’s new font is a beautiful typeface for East Asian languages
  • Open source routing project gets a vital technology infusion

    Open source networking proponents have uncorked an updated routing protocol project designed to give white box, virtualized environments of all sizes fast and reliable communications.

    The project, now called the Free Range Routing (FRR) offers a full-on IP routing protocol suite for Linux/Unix platforms and includes protocol daemons for BGP, IS-IS, LDP, OSPF, PIM, and RIP. The FRR groupsays that the technology’s integration with the native Linux/Unix IP networking stacksmakes it applicable to a wide variety of applications from connectinghosts/virtual machines/containers to the network, advertising network services, LAN switching and routing, Internet access routers, and Internet peering.

  • Mastodon.social is an open-source Twitter competitor that’s growing like crazy

    Eugen Rochko was annoyed with Twitter. The company had made a series of changes that he thought eroded the value of the service: limiting how big third-party applications could grow, for example, and implementing an algorithm-driven timeline that made Twitter feel uncomfortably similar to Facebook. Most people in Rochko’s situation fired off an angry tweet or two and moved on. Rochko set about rebuilding Twitter from scratch.

  • Bye, Twitter. All the cool kids are migrating to Mastodon.

    Mastodon is a type of free and open source software (FOSS) known as “GNU social.” That means Jack Dorsey doesn’t own it, and there is no board pressing Rochko to monetize user data or resign.

  • Genomics: using open-source technology to battle cancer
  • After a Year of Work, Collabora Releases Libnice 0.1.14 with More Improvements

    Collabora’s Mark Filion informs Softpedia today about the release of the libnice 0.1.14 library, an open-source implementation of IETF’s ICE (Interactive Connectivity Establishment) standard on Linux-based operating systems.

    For those unfamiliar with ICE, it’s a key component of the well-known WebRTC standard. The announcement was made public by Collabora Multimedia Lead Olivier Crête, which is also the maintainer of the libnice NAT (Network Address Translation) traversal library used by numerous WebRTC implementations. These include OpenWebRTC, Janus, and Kurento.

  • Events

    • High Performance Logging with Apache BookKeeper

      Apache BookKeeper is a high-performance and low-latency cloud storage service, originally designed for write ahead logging. Since its original development, BookKeeper has been expanded and is now used by companies including Twitter, Yahoo, Salesforce, Huawei, and EMC.

      In their presentation at the recent Vault conference, Venkateswararao Jujjuri (JV) from Salesforce and Sijie Guo from Twitter provided an overview of Apache BookKeeper and showed some production use cases. In this interview, they provide some additional implementation details.

  • CMS

    • Fae is a new open-source content management system based on Rails

      INE, a San Francisco- and Portland-based brand agency, is open sourcing the content management system (CMS) it has developed in-house to build sites for brands like Anchor Brewing, Kimpton Residences at Seafire, Prūf Cultivar (“Elevated Cannabis”) and others.

      It’s no secret that there is already a plethora of other CMS systems on the market and that it’s hard to stand out in this crowded field. FINE, however, believes that Fae, as this new CMS engine is called, stands out for a couple of reasons — largely because of its focus on being lightweight and highly customizable. And because FINE has been using it to build its own customers’ sites, it should also be pretty battle-hardened at this point.

    • April Open Source CMS Forecast: TYPO3 CMS 8, Drupal & More

      With April ahead of us, the ever-evolving open source CMS scene is preparing itself for yet more action.

      Last month, Joomla and SilverStripe took steps towards releasing new versions, DNN Software unveiled some new Test Drive pages, while WordPress patched an array of security issues.

  • Funding

  • BSD

  • Public Services/Government

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Mouser Boosts Open Source Lineup with DFRobot, Globally Distributes Plug-and-Play Sensors Series

        Mouser Electronics, Inc., the New Product Introduction (NPI) leader that empowers innovation, announces a global distribution agreement with DFRobot, a leading robotics and open source hardware provider. The agreement brings DFRobot’s robotics and maker-focused products to Mouser’s growing open source lineup.

        [...]

        The Gravity Arduino Starter Kit is a plug-and-play electronics toolkit that helps beginners easily learn how to work with sensors and the Arduino platform. The kit includes a DFRduino UNO R3 microcontroller, which functions exactly the same as Arduino UNO, and 12 popular Gravity components and sensors. The Gravity 27-Piece Sensor Kit for Arduino offers a robust selection of sensors that are fully compatible with the Arduino platform. The kit features a bundle of the most popular DFRobot Gravity sensors, including those for light, CO2, sound, touch, and distance, plus an accelerometer and a relay module. Both the Starter Kit and Sensor Kit use the IO Expansion Shield for connecting sensors to the Arduino board.

      • Cheap Arm Project: Affordable, Open Source DIY Robotics

        When someone creates a new GitHub repository for a project that could help people around the world extend the reach of their limbs, I get a lump in my throat. The YouTube description of this open source hardware/software project describes the project in much better ways than I ever could.

  • Programming/Development

    • 5 cool C/C++ app dev tools

      As compelling as new languages like Rust are for building systems, C and C++ remain fundamental for writing applications that run close to the metal, despite the waxing and waning of their usage statistics.

      What’s more, the culture of tools for C/C++ development remains deep and fruitful. Here are five C-related projects — compilers, libraries, and support tools — that caught our eye recently, whether for bolstering existing projects or starting new ones.

Leftovers

  • The alarming inside story of a failed Google acquisition, and an employee who was hospitalized

    While the man’s health recovered, his job at Google did not. After taking a couple of months’ leave, he requested a transfer to a less physically demanding role within the team or elsewhere at Google X. Instead, he was sent back out into the field, essentially demoted, sources say, and eventually pushed out of the company.

  • 6 terrible tech managers—and how to succeed despite them

    Management guru and author Peter Drucker said that “only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

  • Hardware

    • It’s not the end of SPARC chips yet
    • Five Reasons to Switch to Flash Storage

      By now you have heard your peers raving about flash storage. But perhaps you have not made the switch from your enterprise HDD storage solution yet, because of nagging questions you may have, about the cost of flash storage or its technical capabilities. Well here is a quick look at five compelling reasons why you should switch your enterprise storage from HDD to flash.

  • Security

    • New Regulations Appear To Authorize Chinese Law Enforcement To Hack Into Computers Anywhere In The World

      A recurrent theme here on Techdirt has been the way in which the West has ceded the moral high ground in so many areas involving the tech world. For example, in 2010, we noted that the US had really lost the right to point fingers over Internet censorship. The moral high ground on surveillance went in 2013 for people, and in 2014 for economic espionage. Meanwhile, the UK has been shown to be as bad as the most disreputable police states in its long-running blanket surveillance of all its citizens.

      The UK’s most recent move to cast off any pretense that it is morally superior to other “lesser” nations is the Investigatory Powers Act, which formalizes all the powers its intelligence services have been secretly using for years. One of the most intrusive of those is the power to carry out what is quaintly termed “equipment interference” — hacking — anywhere in the world.

    • Blockchain for IoT Extends Beyond Ensuring Security

      Blockchain, the technology that made Bitcoin possible, has been getting a lot of attention in the IoT world, often because of its role in security. However, experts and practitioners said the potential of blockchain for IoT is deeper and broader than just keeping the bad guys out.

      Ian Hughes, analyst of IoT at 451 Research, sees a role for blockchain that goes deeper, enabling authentication of devices — especially when they are connected infrequently, as the case might be with, say, agricultural systems that may shut down for large parts of the year. Having a blockchain distributed ledger can provide a tidy way to account for and recognize the return of long-lost network participants as trusted members.

    • Cilium Project Aims to Improve Container Networking Security

      Wendlandt left VMware in March 2016 to become a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, where he remained until December. In January 2017, Wendlandt officially moved over to his new startup, known as Covalent, which is still in its stealth mode, though it is now clear what the company is focused on.

      At the Kubecon/Cloud Native Con EU event in Germany last week, Wendlandt was staffing the booth for an open-source networking project called Cilium, which is being backed by his new startup Covalent.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Montreal researcher helped convict one of gang behind Linux botnet

      The Montreal branch of a security company is patting itself on the back for being among the resources used by the FBI to help convict a Russian for his role in creating and spreading the Linux-based Ebury botnet.

      Alexis Dorais-Joncas, security intelligence team lead at the Montreal malware lab of ESET, said work done by researcher Marc-Étienne Léveillé contributed to the evidence mounted by the FBI which led to the guilty plea last week of Maxim Senakh to conspiring to violate the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and to commit wire fraud. In exchange for the plea nine other charges were dropped.

    • A study of security vulnerabilities on Docker Hub

      Over 80% of the latest versions of official images contained at least on high severity vulnerability!

    • Open Letter to the Free Software Community (2 Apr 2017)

      As a technical update, we are currently working on a Libreboot port to the X220. Leah and Swift are investigating ways to disable the ME on Sandybridge hardware, which potentially means more modern Intel hardware may be supported. Additionally, Paul Kocialkowski has been working on supporting several new Chromebooks with ARM chips; these ports will also be available in an upcoming release.

    • Diskless true SSH honeypot using Alpine Linux
    • Camera-equipped sex toy manufacturer ignores multiple warnings about horrible, gaping security vulnerability

      Pen Test Partners repeatedly warned Svakom of the vulnerability over a period of three months. Having received no reply to date, they’ve gone public.

    • California Looks to Compel IoT Security

      There is a bill going through committee in the state of California which, if passed, would require a minium level of security for Internet of Things devices and then some. California SB 327 Information privacy: connected devices in its original form calls for connected device manufacturers to secure their devices, protect the information they collect or store, indicate when they are collecting it, get user approval before doing so, and be proactive in informing users of security updates

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The changing security dynamic in the Red Sea

      Israel appears to be in acceptance of an increased Saudi role in the Red Sea, which means that it is not perceived as a security threat, even in the long term, by Tel Aviv.

      As such, the expected transfer of the islands is revealing a number of regional dynamics. The most vivid example of which is the new perceived strategic role of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is expanding its role in the horn of Africa, especially with the recent conclusion of a deal with Djibouti to build a military base on its territory.

    • Trump’s Foreign Policy Incoherence

      President Trump’s emerging foreign policy is one of contradictions and chaos, caught up in a combination of old establishment orthodoxies and some fresh recognition of reality but without any strong strategic thinker capable of separating one from the other and leading the administration in a thoughtful direction.

    • Stop treating former CIA chief Michael Hayden as an arbiter of truth

      On the subject of Donald Trump and his relationship with intelligence agencies, there’s one commentator you are bound to see quoted more than anyone else: Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief and CIA director under George W. Bush.

      It doesn’t matter what cable channel you prefer (CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News), what talk show you watch (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher), or website you read (The New York Times, Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal), Hayden is everywhere, commenting on the day’s news, while inevitably being portrayed as Mr. Reasonable: a post-partisan straight shooter who will tell you How It Really Works.

      But members of the media who play along with this fantasyland portrayal of Hayden should be embarrassed. Hayden has a long history of making misleading and outright false statements, and by the estimation of many lawyers, likely committed countless felonies during the Bush administration. It is something of a wonder that someone responsible for so many reprehensible acts is now considered a totally above-the-fray, honest commentator on all issues intelligence.

    • Does it Matter Who Pulls the Trigger in the Drone Wars?

      We’re allowing a mindset of “anything Trump does is wrong” coupled with lightening-speed historical revisionism for the Obama era to sustain the same mistakes in the war on terror that have fueled Islamic terrorism for the past 15 years.

    • White House Meeting With Egypt’s Tyrant Highlights Key Trump Effect: Unmasking U.S. Policy

      Krugman believes — or at least wants his Democratic followers to believe — that supporting and praising savage despotism in Egypt is a new development that only happens in “Trump’s America.” The Washington Post’s neoconservative columnist Jackson Diehl this morning encouraged Post readers to believe in the same fairy tale, complaining in his column about the “ugly scene” of a “love-in” between Trump and “the most repressive dictator in Egypt’s modern history.”

      What neither Krugman nor Diehl ever once mentions — either because they’re unaware of it or want to conceal it from their readers — is that the U.S. has been supporting, funding, and arming the Sisi tyranny for years under the Obama administration. In March 2015, as Sisi’s human rights abuses intensified, Obama personally told the Egyptian tyrant in a call the good news that he was lifting a ban “on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits” and — in the words of the White House — “also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt.”

      [...]

      Trump’s support for Sisi, a true monster, deserves all the condemnation it gets. But anyone who depicts any of this as something new or aberrational for the U.S. — Krugman: “Another morning in Trump’s America” — is either ignorant or dishonest. Embracing the world’s worst tyrants is and has long been a key prong of U.S. foreign policy. Trump, through a combination of ineptitude and a willingness to openly endorse authoritarianism, just makes all of this less hidden, less deniable.

      And that’s the reason so many in Washington — who never met a pro-U.S. dictator they weren’t willing to arm and fund — are so upset by all this. Sisi isn’t someone you invite over to your house for dinner; he’s someone you send money and weapons to in secret after you give your pretty speeches in front of American flags about human rights and freedom. What Trump is violating is not any Washington principles or ethics but Washington propaganda tactics.

    • Trump Meets Egypt’s el-Sisi, Amid Wave of Repression, Jailings & Extrajudicial Killings in Egypt

      President Trump is to meet with Egyptian President General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the White House today, even as el-Sisi faces widespread criticism for human rights abuses in Egypt. Human rights organizations say Sisi and his security forces have arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians and have committed torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The Trump administration has indicated it will not bring up the human rights abuses during today’s meeting. For more, we go to Cairo, Egypt, to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

    • Spanish navy ship illegally enters UK waters in Gibraltar after Brexit war threat, says government

      A Spanish ship has illegally entered Gibraltar’s territorial waters, the government has said.

      The news comes amid increasing tensions between the UK and Spain over the sovereignty of the British Overseas Territory.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Britain will not push Ecuador to evict Julian Assange

      The British government will not use the election result in Ecuador to renew efforts to evict Julian Assange from his Knightsbridge bolthole, Fairfax Media has learnt.

      Instead it is relying on Sweden and Ecuador to persuade the Wikileaks editor to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has stayed under asylum for four and a half years.

      [...]

      A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “This is an issue for Sweden and Ecuador. We encourage both countries to find a solution to the situation involving Julian Assange”.

      Swedish prosecutors interviewed Assange at the embassy late last year, and they are now reviewing the transcript to determine whether to continue their investigation of a rape allegation from 2010 against him.

    • DOJ Refuses FOIA Request On Emails, Claiming ‘Personal Privacy’

      We’ve talked in the past about how government FOIA officers seem to really love exemption b(5) which covers “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” But, in my experience, I’ve seen a ton of the next exemption: the b(6) exemption, often called the “privacy exemption.” Officially, the law (5 USC 552(b)(6)), says only that “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

      That seems like a perfectly reasonable exemption. Even if it is part of a government discussion, we don’t want the government revealing medical files or something of a similar nature. But, over the years, this has gotten abused in weird ways, such as the time a FOIA officer used b(6) to redact Beyonce’s name in a FOIA request about Beyonce. Really.

      However, now I think we’ve seen the b(6) exemption to end all b(6) exemptions. This came to investigative reporter David Sirota, who filed a FOIA request to find out about emails between Makan Delrahim and employees of the DOJ’s antitrust division. This is potentially useful info, because Delrahim was just nominated to head that very division. But, more importantly, Delrahim has been a powerful lobbyist for Anthem who tried to help it get its merger with Cigna approved — an effort that just recently failed in court, but may have another chance with Delrahim in a position of power.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘Mother’ Ganges becomes a legal person

      A court in India has recognised two of the country’s holiest rivers, Himalayan glaciers, lakes and forests as “living entities” in an effort to protect them from environmental degradation.

    • As Seas Around Mar-a-Lago Rise, Trump’s Cuts Could Damage Local Climate Work [Ed: cross-posted now]

      If the most prominent resident of Palm Beach County has his way, Sea Grant would cease to exist. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget seeks to eliminate the $73 million program, along with more than $177 million worth of other initiatives within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, many aimed at protecting communities from climate impacts. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is among the vulnerable.

      Climate change isn’t a nebulous threat for Palm Beach County, Florida, where sea creatures swim through driveways during seasonal king tides that flood low-lying streets. For years, the county has worked to address the problem by mapping flood risk, upgrading coastal storm protections and creating a regional climate action plan with three other counties. Later this year, local officials hope to host a sea level workshop by Thomas Ruppert, an attorney with the National Sea Grant College Program.

      But if the most prominent resident of Palm Beach County has his way, Sea Grant would cease to exist. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget seeks to eliminate the $73 million program, along with more than $177 million worth of other initiatives within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, many aimed at protecting communities from climate impacts.

    • El Salvador becomes first country to ban metals mining

      Legislators in El Salvador made history Wednesday, passing a bill to ban all metallic mining activities in the country.

      The results of the much-anticipated vote were unanimous: 69 in favor, none against, and no abstentions. Fifteen of the country’s 84 lawmakers did not show up for the vote.

      The result “makes tiny El Salvador the unlikely hero in a global movement to put the brakes on a modern day ‘gold rush’,” MiningWatch Canada wrote in a statement Thursday. The Central American nation is the first country in the world to ban mining for gold and other metals, according to the industry watchdog group.

  • Finance

    • Bernie Sanders Just Introduced His Free College Tuition Plan

      President Donald Trump doesn’t appear willing nor interested in addressing astronomical student debt levels, which long since crested above $1 trillion.

    • German president attacks ‘irresponsible’ Brexit campaign

      Germany’s president has launched a scathing attack on the politicians leading the UK out of the European Union, quoting the former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine’s warning that Britain is facing its greatest ever loss of sovereignty.

      In an outspoken speech to the European parliament, his first as president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier told MEPs that the Brexiters would be unable to deliver on their promise to “take back control”.

      “It is wrong to say, in my conviction, that in this world a single European country standing alone and without the EU can make its voice heard or assert its economic interests. Quite to the contrary,” the former German foreign secretary told MEPs in Strasbourg.

    • Brexit Off to Rocky Start With Rumors of War Over Gibraltar

      War with Spain was not on the ballot paper when Britons went to the polls in last year’s referendum and voted to withdraw from the European Union.

      But Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to rule out the prospect of military action to defend the British enclave of Gibraltar on Monday, after a former leader of her Conservative Party seemed to suggest that might be necessary to keep Spain from demanding the territory’s return as part of the deal to allow the United Kingdom to trade freely with remaining E.U. members.

      Speaking on Sunday, Michael Howard, who is now a member of the House of Lords, suggested that if Spain tried to assert sovereignty over the outpost, the British prime minister could emulate her predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, who used force to keep control of another Spanish-speaking nation, Argentina, from seizing another British enclave, the Falklands.

    • The Filth of Lucre: Trump’s Presidency

      The American people should rise in condemnation, scorn, ridicule, at what has happened to its government and leadership. Super-wealth has become a political factor in guiding and planning policy, carrying a vision of destruction to the pillars of a democratic society in fulfillment of class interests and selfish contempt for the needs of others. America has never witnessed barbarism of such proportions before, a single-minded obsession with riches, which has been translated into power in a self-enclosed process of capital accumulation via the nymphomaniacal pursuit of opportunity, profit, possessiveness.

    • Bloomberg’s Hit Job on Venezuela – and Me

      The reporter, Christine Jenkins, asked if I knew President Maduro or could explain what he found of value in my writing. I said that I thought he probably was referring to my discussion in Killing the Host of a September 2014 Harvard Business Review article by William Lazonick, “Profits without Prosperity,” calculating that for the decade 2003-2012, the 449 companies publicly listed in the S&P 500 index spent only 9% of their earnings on new capital investment. They used 54% to buy back their own stock, and 37% to pay dividends. I told the reporter that I thought the President’s point was that the financial sector was not financing capital formation and employment to increase output.

      I told her that I had not followed Venezuela’s economy closely in recent years. I did say that I had discussed how Argentina and Greece were subjected to austerity as a result of foreign debt, and my belief that no sovereign nation should be obliged to impose austerity on its population to pay foreign bondholders. That has indeed been the problem confronting Latin America for decades, and is a central theme of all my books since Super Imperialism in 1972.

      And to cap matters, of course, U.S. foreign policy has mobilized the World Bank and IMF to back creditor interests, foreign investment and privatization – while isolating countries from Cuba through Venezuela (and now Greece) to demonstrate that neoliberal diplomacy will make such a country a pariah if it makes a serious attempt to oppose austerity and financialization.

    • Why Does SEC Chair Piwowar Shield Overpaid CEOs?

      President Donald Trump named Michael Piwowar as acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission shortly after his inauguration. Piwowar, one of the SEC’s five commissioners since 2013, quickly flexed his acting chair muscles – on one of the agency’s most high-profile recent decisions.

      Back in August 2015, an SEC commissioner majority had approved a long-awaited set of regulations for enforcing an innovative 2010 Dodd-Frank Act provision on corporate pay disparities. The provision requires corporations to annually disclose the ratio between their CEO and median worker compensation.

    • Filling in the Magic Asterisk: The Republican Tax Reform Proposal

      For years Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wowed the Washington pundit class by pushing his balanced budget proposals. Not only did he outline a plan for taxes and spending that balanced the budget and paid down the debt, he actually got the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the proposal, verifying his claims.

      As a practical matter, there was considerably less in these proposals than claimed. On the spending side, Speaker Ryan told CBO to assume a spending path for the domestically discretionary side of the budget that essentially eliminated the federal government by 2050.

      [...]

      As it stands, the deduction effectively means that the federal government is picking up a substantial portion of the state and local income tax paid by upper-middle income people. If they are in the 40 percent tax bracket and they pay $10,000 in state income taxes, the federal government gives them back $4,000 of this money. It might be much harder to raise $10,000 in state taxes from these people if they had no offset from the federal government.

    • Up to 100,000 UK jobs at risk as Merkel and Juncker ally warns on euro clearing

      The future of an estimated 100,000 jobs has been plunged into doubt after a close political ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned that a prized sector in the City of London must relocate to EU soil after Brexit.

      Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right European people’s party – the largest political group in the European parliament, to which both the German chancellor and the commission president belong – told reporters that euro-denominated clearing could no longer be undertaken in the City when the UK leaves the EU.

      “EU citizens decide on their own money,” Weber said during a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday. “When the UK is leaving the European Union it is not thinkable that at the end the whole euro business is managed in London. This is an external place, this is not an EU place any more. The euro business should be managed on EU soil.”

    • Brexit: Theresa May’s timeline for EU talks are unrealistic, warns Germany’s foreign minister

      Germany’s Foreign Minister has cast doubt on Theresa May’s insistence that both a Brexit divorce deal and new free trade agreement with the EU can be completed by 2019.

      In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Sigmar Gabriel said new trade relations would be “a laborious endeavour”, suggesting the UK may have to settle for simply getting “as far as we can” in the two years allowed for talks.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • How to resist Trump 101: Harvard students launch new course for activists

      Students at the University of Harvard have created a four-week course to teach activists how to resist Donald Trump.

      The course, which is open to people across the country and the world, offers four in-person and-live streamed sessions.

      Sessions include talks on “how to mobilise and organise our communities” and “how to sustain the resistance long-term”.

    • Trump’s Changing Trust, Annotated

      A new document shows that President Trump can take money from his companies at any time through the eponymous trust that holds his businesses.

      That’s one new detail about the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust included in an updated version of the trust’s certification document, the original of which was first obtained by ProPublica in January. A new version of that document was released by the federal government last week. The new document says that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and longtime attorney Allen Weisselberg must “distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever they deem fit.

    • Trump Can Pull Money From His Businesses Whenever He Wants — Without Ever Telling Us

      When President Donald Trump placed his businesses in a trust upon entering the White House, he put his sons in charge and claimed to distance himself from his sprawling empire. “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say, ‘Oh you did a good job,’” Trump said at a Jan. 11 press conference. Trump’s lawyer explained that the president “was completely isolating himself from his business interests.”

      The setup has long been slammed as insufficient, far short of the full divestment that many ethics experts say is needed to avoid conflicts of interest. A small phrase buried deep in a set of recently released letters between the Trump Organization and the government shows just how little separation there actually is.

      Trump can draw money from his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.

    • Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives

      So Michael Flynn, who was Donald Trump’s national security adviser before he got busted talking out of school to Russia’s ambassador, has reportedly offered to testify in exchange for immunity.

      For seemingly the 100th time, social media is exploding. This is it! The big reveal!

      Perhaps it will come off just the way people are expecting. Perhaps Flynn will get a deal, walk into the House or the Senate surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers, and unspool the whole sordid conspiracy.

      He will explain that Donald Trump, compromised by ancient deals with Russian mobsters, and perhaps even blackmailed by an unspeakable KGB sex tape, made a secret deal. He’ll say Trump agreed to downplay the obvious benefits of an armed proxy war in Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia in exchange for Vladimir Putin’s help in stealing the emails of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and John Podesta.

    • Jamie Dimon on Trump: On a plane, you root for the pilot

      Jamie Dimon admitted he received “a lot of complaints” after agreeing to join President Trump’s CEO advisory council.

      But the JPMorgan CEO made it sound like a no-brainer, explaining he just wants America to do well.

      “When you get on the airplane, you better be rooting for the success of the pilot,” Dimon told Yahoo Finance during a town hall event on Tuesday.

      “I am a patriot. I will do what I can to help the United States of America; that includes helping whoever is president,” he said.

    • Professor Seeks Proof of U.S. Influence on Al-Jazeera

      A Northwestern professor sued the State Department, demanding that it respond to her requests for documents about its purported aim of influencing Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the U.S. and its wars in the Middle East via American university satellite campuses.

      Dr. Jacqueline Stevens is a professor of political science at Northwestern University and director of its Deportation Research Clinic.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Canadian Customs See Comics As A Red Flag For Paedophiles – CBLDF Talks Censorship at Wondercon

      This is a tricky time for comics and cartoonists. The worldwide political landscape might be giving artists a lot of inspiration, but the threat of censorship is more real than ever.

      That’s why the CBLDF panel “State of Censorship 2017” was such an interesting event. CBLDF editorial director Betsy Gomez gave the audience a crash course on the 1st amendment (even reading it to the audience at the start of the panel), modern censorship, saying it’s been a particularly rough couple of years, and talked about why comics are targeted so frequently.

      “Any book that is banned opens the door to more banning, and comics are especially vulnerable because of the pictures.” That’s right, the pictures, half of the reason people read comics instead of novels in the first place, make them a target.

    • Political Correctness Isn’t About Censorship — It’s About Decency

      Not Steven. Not Stephen. Certainly not Steveareno.

      It’s a preference. My preference. My choice. And if people want to be in my good graces, they’ll comply with my wishes.

      There’s nothing strange or unreasonable about this. We do it all the time – usually when we’re being introduced to someone.

    • The Insanity of Self-Censorship: Climate Change, Politics, and Fear-Based Decision-Making

      Climate change has a long list of known human health consequences, not the least of which is a set of adverse impacts on mental health. As more and more people are directly affected by destructive floods, heat waves, drought, deadly storms and other extreme weather events – all worsened by increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide – experts predict a steep rise in mental and social disorders: anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, increased suicide rates, and outbreaks of violence. Hardest hit will be children, the poor, the elderly, and those with existing mental health problems: collectively, this amounts to about half the US population! Worse, the consensus seems to be that the mental health profession is unprepared to handle these challenges.

    • Vladimir Putin Defends China’s Internet Censorship

      Vladimir Putin has defended China’s online censorship, declaring that the internet cannot be a place of excessive “quasi-freedom,” Russian news agency Interfax has reported.

      “We should not criticize what China is doing,” the Russian president said when a blogger asked whether Moscow should follow or condemn Beijing’s strict regulations online. “That’s 1.5 billion people. Go ahead and try to govern them for a bit.”

      China’s so-called ‘Great Firewall’ of measures, which restricts users from accessing websites such as Facebook and YouTube, is one of the most prohibitive national internet policies in the world. Authorities have also announced a crackdown, to be implemented over the next year, on users who disguise their Internet Provider address in order to circumvent the wall.

    • Russia Is Trying to Copy China’s Approach to Internet Censorship

      When you hear the words Russia and internet, you probably think of Kremlin-backed hacking. But the internet is also a powerful tool for Putin’s opposition. Last month, the internet helped spark Russia’s largest anti-government protests in five years. Russia responded by blocking access to webpages that promoted demonstrations.

      This is part of a larger story. Just a few years ago, Russians had a mostly free internet. Now, Russian authorities would like to imitate China’s model of internet control. They are unlikely to succeed. The Kremlin will find that once you give people internet freedom, it’s not so easy to completely take it away.

    • Censorship

      Censorship is long proclaimed as one of the worst moral crimes against the press or the people’s voice.

    • News Corp chief: Orwellian algorithms of Google and Facebook put us on ‘slippery slope of censorship’

      The chief executive of News Corp, parent company of The Sun and Times Newspapers, has warned that digital algorithms at Facebook and Google have “left us perched on the edge of the slippery slope of censorship”.

      His comments follow an investigation by The Times that revealed how programmatic advertising has led to adverts from reputable brands appearing alongside extremist online content and porn.

    • Censorship reaction

      As some of you may have seen in last week’s issue, a response was written to my column. Matt Gaffney wrote about his own paper getting silenced and spoke about how I am owed an apology. I personally do not think Mr. Gaffney’s and my situations related to each other; I also don’t think I am owed some kind of apology. All I want is for classes and professors to be open to adult discussion rather than treating the students like kids.

    • Facebook shouldn’t facilitate censorship in Pakistan

      In March, the rulers of Pakistan stepped up a campaign against blasphemy, frightening news from an Islamic nation where insulting the official religion is a capital crime.

      From an American perspective, this would merely be another, distant nation’s horror — if it weren’t for one aspect of the story.

      As part of the crackdown, Pakistani leaders have asked executives of Facebook and Twitter to help them help root out people who post blasphemous material on social media sites from anywhere in the world.

      In response, Facebook said in mid-March that it planned to send a team to Pakistan to discuss the government’s request. Really?

    • Art censorship in Tryon?

      I recently found out that a toboggan named “Pussy Cat Hat” was removed from a downtown window display. The nice mannequin display by Tryon Arts and Crafts School was representing Tie-One-On. I find it astonishing that a town like Tryon would allow a piece of art to be censored! Art is meant to be a free thinking world! If someone had an issue with it that does not automatically dictate its merit. Only a fool would think that. Some of the greatest art in history evokes emotions. Good or bad. Duh!

    • Inequality in the Trump Era, Scientific Censorship, Singing the Blues in St. Louis
    • In the Trump Era, Income Inequality Viewed Through the Lens of White House Wealth
    • Women’s Studies program condemns censorship
    • From darkness to the spotlight…
    • AAUP-UNH and UNH LU-AAUP statement on UNH censorship of SHARPP exhibit
    • ‘There’s an avalanche heading towards us in terms of censorship’

      Campaigner Paul Moon says the right to be offended comes with the right to free speech.

    • Plaza Theatre to show ‘The Red Pill’ amid controversy, censorship concerns
    • The Economist makes 2 valid points with latest Amos Yee article
    • Let’s not rest on our laurels when it comes to rule of law

      Take, for example, the judgment passed in the United States granting Amos Yee asylum on the basis that he was prosecuted on the pretext of silencing his political opinions (Blogger Amos Yee granted asylum in the US; March 25, online).

      While it is not my prerogative to comment on the judgment’s validity, it is vital to note that with relevance to the rule of law, such comments are a deviation from our rulings, creating a risk of conflict between societies.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Canadian Prosecutors Cut Loose 35 Mafia Suspects Rather Than Turn Over Info On Stingray Devices

      At least in that case, law enforcement still ended up with a few convictions — albeit on charges lower than what it had hoped to obtain going in.

      Cell tower spoofers are resulting in a lot of contradictory law enforcement behavior. Cops say they don’t want to turn over info on Stingrays to public records requesters for “public safety” reasons, claiming it could compromise methods and techniques and allow criminals to stay out of their reach. They make the same claims in court when refusing to turn over information to defendants, which results in freshly-caught criminals being put back on the streets — something that certainly doesn’t make the public any safer.

    • Trump signs law allowing ISPs to sell your browsing history

      President Donald Trump quietly signed a law Monday preventing privacy rules that were passed last year from coming into effect which prevented internet providers from selling their browsing data.

      A spokeswoman for the White House confirmed the signing.

      The repeal of the rules was been met with controversy and anger from privacy and rights groups, for fear that internet providers, like Comcast and Verizon, would be able to gather and sell data about your browsing history to marketers and other companies, including information on where customers are, as well as other information about customers, such as financial or health status, and what people shop and search for.

    • A Coalition Condemns the Trump Proposal to Require Noncitizens to Disclose Passwords to Enter the US

      The undersigned coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations, trade associations, and experts in security, technology, and the law expresses deep concern about the comments made by Secretary John Kelly at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on February 7, 2017, suggesting the Department of Homeland Security could require noncitizens to provide the passwords to their social media accounts as a condition of entering the country.

    • AT&T, Comcast & Verizon Pretend They Didn’t Just Pay Congress To Sell You Out On Privacy

      Large ISPs like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast spent a significant part of Friday trying to convince the press and public that they didn’t just screw consumers over on privacy (if you’ve been napping: they did). With the vote on killing FCC broadband privacy protections barely in the books, ISP lobbyists and lawyers penned a number of editorials and blog posts breathlessly professing their tireless dedication to privacy, and insisting that worries about the rules’ repeal are little more than “misinformation.”

      All of these posts, in lock step, tried to effectively make three key arguments: that the FTC will rush in to protect consumers in the wake of the FCC rules being repealed (not happening), ISPs don’t really collect much data on you anyway (patently untrue), and that ISPs’ lengthy, existing privacy policies and history of consumer respect mean consumers have nothing to worry about (feel free to pause here and laugh).

    • An Update on Verizon’s AppFlash: Pre-Installed Spyware Is Still Spyware

      Verizon recently rolled out a new pilot project to pre-install on customers’ devices an app launcher/search tool that, we believe, is really just spyware. This software, called AppFlash, is preloaded on a new model of LG device—the LG K20 V—rather than in all of their Android line as we previously reported. The software allows Verizon and its partners to track the apps you have downloaded and then sell ads to you across the Internet based what those apps say about you, like which bank you use and whether you’ve downloaded a fertility app.

    • Trump Signs Bill to Roll Back Privacy Rules into Law

      A measure to roll back crucial privacy protections has crossed the finish line, and Internet users are worse off for it.

      Despite massive backlash from the American people, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law a resolution that repeals the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to protect consumers from privacy invasions by their Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable.

      The rules—which codified and expanded on existing online privacy protections—were passed by the FCC in October of last year and set to go into effect later this year. They would have kept ISPs from selling customers’ data and using new invasive ways to track and deliver targeted ads to customers. Additionally, the rules would have required those companies to protect customers’ data against hackers.

    • Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy From Your Internet Service Provider

      We pay our monthly Internet bill to be able to access the Internet. We don’t pay it to give our Internet service provider (ISP) a chance to collect and sell our private data to make more money. This was apparently lost on congressional Republicans as they voted to strip their constituents of their privacy. Even though our elected representatives have failed us, there are technical measures we can take to protect our privacy from ISPs.

      Bear in mind that these measures aren’t a replacement for the privacy rules that were repealed or would protect our privacy completely, but they will certainly help.

    • Trump is reportedly going to demand foreigners share their phone passwords to get into the US

      A new round of possible vetting procedures is being examined by White House officials in the US, according to the Wall Street Journal, and they’re not going to make anyone happy.

      After limiting the size of electronic devices that travelers headed to the US from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa can carry on an airplane, the Trump administration is now considering extending a new set of limitation to most foreigners, even if they are only headed to the US for a short visit.

      In fact, the new rules could apply to the majority of visitors to the US, including those from countries in western Europe, Japan, and Australia that are currently enrolled in America’s more convenient visa waiver program.

    • The Bill of Rights at the Border: Fourth Amendment Limits on Searching Your Data and Devices

      More than 325,000 people enter the United States via airports every day, with hundreds of thousands more crossing by land at the borders. Not only is that a lot of people, it’s also a lot of computers, smartphones, and tablets riding along in our pockets, bags, and trunks. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment protections we enjoy inside the U.S. for our devices aren’t always as strong when we’re crossing borders—and the Department of Homeland Security takes advantage of it. On the other hand, the border is not a Constitution-free zone. What are the limits to how and how much customs and immigrations officials can access our data?

      To help answer those questions, we’re offering the second in our series of posts on the Constitution at the border, focusing this time on the Fourth Amendment. For Part 1 on the First Amendment, click here.

    • One Million Badgers

      This week—for the first time ever—Privacy Badger has surpassed one million users. Privacy Badger is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera that automatically blocks hidden third-party trackers that would otherwise follow you around the web and spy on your browsing habits.

      Third-party tracking—that is, when advertisers and websites track your browsing activity across the web without your knowledge, control, or consent—is an alarmingly widespread practice in online advertising. Privacy Badger spots and then blocks third-party domains that seem to be tracking your browsing habits (e.g. by setting cookies that could be used for tracking, or by fingerprinting your browser). If the same third-party domain appears to be tracking you on three or more different websites, Privacy Badger will conclude that the third party domain is a tracker and block future connections to it.

    • Minister explains Rudd’s ‘necessary hashtags’ after week of confusion

      The Home Office has clarified what Amber Rudd meant when she suggested the government would hire people who “understand the necessary hashtags” as part of the government’s fight against extremist material online.

      Prompted by a parliamentary question from Labour MP Louise Haigh, Home Office undersecretary Sarah Newton MP said: “The home secretary was referring to image hashing, the process of detecting the recurrence an image or video online.

      “Hashing has proved effective in the removal of images of child sexual exploitation and has been used by a number of organisations including the Internet Watch Foundation and Interpol.”

    • Your website on the Tor network

      We are very proud to announce a unique service which enables any website to have a presence on the Tor network.

      Hosting a website on the Tor network has previously been very challenging, requiring changes to both infrastructure and the site itself.

      Dogsbody Technology Ltd. are now offering a turn-key solution to this problem, allowing almost any website to be placed on the Tor network without requiring expensive redevelopment.

    • AIG taps into consumer fears with new cybersecurity product

      Consumers now share loads of personal data on websites and apps and store photos and sensitive information in cloud platforms.

    • President Trump just signed off on killing your Internet privacy protections
    • Trump move to kill privacy rules opposed by 72% of Republicans, survey says

      But ordinary Americans aren’t split on the issue, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov survey that found 72 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats opposed the rollback.

    • President Trump Signs Internet Privacy Repeal Into Law

      President Trump has signed a bill which repeals Internet privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission. Internet service providers are now free to spy on their customers’ browsing activities in order to generate targeted advertising. Predictably, many users are considering counter-measures.

    • Lawmakers propose law requiring warrants to search electronics at US border

      There’s a big area in the US where the Constitution doesn’t apply, at least when the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is concerned. It’s called the US border, or port of entry. In that area, you and your electronic devices, whether you’re coming or going to the US, can be searched without reason.

    • Bill would stop warrantless border device searches of US citizens

      A new bipartisan bill would prevent Americans’ electronic devices from being searched at the border without a warrant, a response to an increase in such electronic searches.

    • There’s Nowhere to Hide on the Internet
    • Encryption Policy and Freedom of the Press

      Unlike twenty years ago, today surveillance is ubiquitous, and the need for encryption is no longer felt by a seldom few. Encryption has become necessary for even the most basic exchange of information given that most Americans share “nearly every aspect of their lives ­– from the mundane to the intimate” over the Internet, as stated in a recent Supreme Court opinion.

    • Without privacy, you lose the ability to form your identity
    • Facebook’s Whatsapp Is Getting Into Digital Payments in India

      It’s chosen to kick off that maiden effort in India, a market dominated by Alibaba-backed digital payments leader Paytm but where WhatsApp’s 200 million users outnumber any other country.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Ethiopian maid filmed falling from seventh floor ‘trying to escape Kuwaiti employer wanting to kill her’

      “The lady put me in the bathroom and was about to kill me in the bathroom without anybody finding out, she would have thrown my body out like rubbish, so instead of staying there I went to save myself and then I fell,”

    • Child trafficking in UK hits record high, figures show

      Number of child victims referred rise by 30 per cent in a year, with biggest surge among British children and youngsters from countries affected by conflict

    • Eyewitness to a Title IX Witch Trial

      Still, the history of purification rituals is a pretty squalid one. Heading down this path once again requires a lot of historical amnesia from everyone involved. That college campuses should be where history goes to be forgotten is depressing on all levels, not least when it comes to the future of higher education — and freedoms of every stripe.

    • UK’s need for post-Brexit trade deals will trump human rights concerns

      Theresa May’s argument that it is better to engage with unsavoury foreign governments who abuse human rights than “stand on the sidelines, sniping” has been made by British politicians since the days of South Africa’s white minority apartheid regime. Critics find it no more convincing today than it was then.

      May said her visit on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia, which the UN has accused of possible war crimes in Yemen, and this week’s courtesy call by the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, on the boastfully murderous regime of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines were in line with her philosophy of furthering the “British national interest”.

    • The Supreme Court Decision to Protect People with Intellectually Disability from Execution Was Long Overdue

      The high court’s decision protecting people with intellectual disabilities comes too late for my executed client.

      In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the government could no longer execute people with an intellectual disability, then called “mental retardation,” because the practice violated the Eighth Amendment. Texas skirted the ruling by creating wholly unscientific criteria to determine intellectual disability, based on, of all things, the fictional character Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. A new ruling last week by the court in Moore v. Texas should put an end to that and other unscientific measures states have used to execute people with intellectual disabilities.

      This is a victory. But as with many victories in modern Supreme Court jurisprudence, they come after many defeats that saw a great human toll.

      I think of my executed client, Robert Ladd. He had an IQ of 67, and had been identified by the Texas Youth Commission as “fairly obviously” intellectually disabled. As he awaited execution in 2015, he still had hope. He knew our Supreme Court petition showing he was intellectually disabled would succeed. I could see hope in Robert’s eyes, as we said goodbye through the death-house bars. Robert was right. The Supreme Court would see the light. Just too late for Robert.

    • China Fails to Protect Students with Disabilities from Discrimination

      On February 23, 2017 the Chinese government released an updated version of the Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities that still leaves students with disabilities vulnerable to discrimination.

      The amendments are promoted by the government as improving and protecting the rights of interests of disabled students. China hadn’t updated the regulations since 1994 despite ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, which states persons with disabilities have the right to inclusive education and be able to go to regular schools with students without disabilities.

    • China’s new rules on education for people with disabilities still fall short, says NGO

      China has released revised regulations on education for people with disabilities. However, despite positive changes to guaranteeing education for persons with disabilities, they still fall short in critical areas, says Maya Wang, a researcher at New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch.

    • China: New Rules for Students with Disabilities Inadequate

      New Chinese government regulations encourage mainstream education for students with disabilities, but do not provide adequate pathways for achieving that aim, Human Rights Watch said today. On February 23, 2017, the Chinese government released long-awaited Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities to replace the out-of-date 1994 regulations.

    • A farewell to democracy?

      With the decline of these values as a backdrop, leaders such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, and Marine Le Pen in France, appear to have chosen as a reference the autocratic drift which Vladimir Putin has termed “illiberal democracy”.

    • The EU is the real protector of national identities

      I am writing this note from a holiday in Austria, just as my adoptive home – I moved to England many years ago as a young adult – has formally decided to hand in Article 50. It is interesting reading the German and Austrian press, and seeing the news from here. From the Kronen Zeitung (an Austrian tabloid) to the ever-serious Frankfurter Allgemeine, the tone is factual and calm. They are largely commenting on “higher things,” like what will happen to Europeans in Britain, and whether Britain has an independent judiciary and can be relied on to protect the rights of minorities in the future. Most importantly, the impression from this corner of its press is that Europeans really believe in Europe. It is not a transactional matter for them. It has a real existence for them as perhaps it never had for many in England.

      There seems to be a wide German consensus that May cannot cherry pick, that the separation terms must be agreed on first, and that Brexit will be about Europe’s future unity. There was a frosty reception to May’s mentioning security 11 times in her letter. And the German-language newspapers emphasize that showing emotions is not the way to go. There is a job to be done untangling Britain, and it must be done professionally and in such a way that the unity, indeed the concept of Europe, is only minimally damaged.

    • The Bloodstained Rise of Global Populism

      In 2016, something extraordinary happened in the politics of diverse countries around the world. With surprising speed and simultaneity, a new generation of populist leaders emerged from the margins of nominally democratic nations to win power. In doing so, they gave voice, often in virulent fashion, to public concerns about the social costs of globalization.

      Even in societies as disparate as the affluent United States and the impoverished Philippines, similarly violent strains of populist rhetoric carried two unlikely candidates from the political margins to the presidency. On opposite sides of the Pacific, these outsider campaigns were framed by lurid calls for violence and even murder.

      As his insurgent crusade gained momentum, billionaire Donald Trump moved beyond his repeated promises to fight Islamic terror with torture and brutal bombing by also advocating the murder of women and children. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he told Fox News. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

    • Connecticut Lawmakers Vote To Give Police Drones With Guns

      Connecticut’s legislature has managed to back into legalizing law enforcement use of weaponized drones. In writing a new drone law, lawmakers banned the use of weaponized drones, but made an exception for police. It’s not a case of “Hey, let’s give the cops weaponized drones!” as much as it is a case of not wanting law enforcement to be unable to have that option.

    • Omidyar network gives $100 million to boost journalism and fight hate speech

      One of the first contributions, $4.5 million, will go to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Washington-based group behind last year’s Panama Papers investigation, which revealed offshore businesses and shell corporations, some of which were used for purposes such as tax evasion.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Inventor of World Wide Web Receives ACM A.M. Turing Award

      ACM named Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford, the recipient of the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award. Berners-Lee was cited for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale. Considered one of the most influential computing innovations in history, the World Wide Web is the primary tool used by billions of people every day to communicate, access information, engage in commerce, and perform many other important activities.

    • Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee slams UK and US net plans
  • DRM

    • Unesco Says Adding DRM To HTML Is A Very Bad Idea

      For years now, we’ve written about the years-long effort, led by the MPAA and others, to put DRM directly into the standard for HTML5 (via “Encrypted Media Extensions” or EME) which continues to move forward with Tim Berners-Lee acting as if there’s nothing that can be done about it. It appears that not everyone agrees. Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has come out strongly against adding DRM to HTML5 in a letter sent to Tim Berners-Lee (found via Boing Boing).

    • Unesco warns the World Wide Web Consortium that DRM is incompatible with free expression

      Unesco’s Frank La Rue has published a letter to Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium, warning him of the grave free-speech consequences of making DRM for the web without ensuring that lawful activity that requires bypassing it is also protected.

      Unesco is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; tasked with “contributing to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Deep Dive Into Why The Copyright Office Belongs In The Library Of Congress

        There’s a lot more in the piece as well, including some discussion on the new Librarian of Congress effectively firing the Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante. I wrote the piece before also finding out about the massive failed IT project under Pallante, which provided an even greater rationale for the firing… and (importantly) much, much bigger reasons to have Congress reject this plan to effectively give more autonomy to the Copyright Office and to remove the oversight of the Librarian of Congress.

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