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09.06.17

When Patent Maximalists Say ‘Innovation’ is Moving to Asia or China They Mean Litigation Chaos Moves There

Posted in Antitrust, Asia, LG, Patents, Samsung at 6:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The latest ‘revolution’ in China is deeply self-corroding

China flag

Summary: China’s short-term patent policy already backfires by attracting patent parasites (growing at the expense of producing industries)

IT was only days ago that mainstream media relayed the lie (unsupported by facts) that the US loses leadership to China (in the patents sense). All that the US ‘loses’ is patent trolling and other such nuisance. Earlier today we saw this new press release whose headline made it abundantly clear that patents are not about innovation but about “blocking competitors” (their words, i.e. opposite of innovation).

“In Korea (the South), which in principle does not allow patenting of software, there are two massive corporations which dominate the charts (not only in Korea).”As we have been noting here for about a year, China is creating a massive patent bubble; last year alone, for example, over a million patent applications were filed! Yes, over a million! Imagine how rubbish these must be to reach/added up to such a figure!

In Korea (the South), which in principle does not allow patenting of software, there are two massive corporations which dominate the charts (not only in Korea). Those corporations are LG and Samsung (especially the latter). Design patents should generally not be granted; that’s what copyrights and trademarks (or “registered designs”, not patents) are for, but Samsung joins this gold rush anyway, possibly in anticipation of more Apple lawsuits (this matter may soon reach the US Supreme Court). The other day Florian Müller said that the “Korean court denies Qualcomm’s motion to stay execution of KFTC antitrust ruling,” referring to yet another headache that we covered here before. The background:

Last December, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) handed down a decision against Qualcomm that U.S. tech companies welcomed. The following month, the FTC and Apple sued Qualcomm on antitrust grounds in California. In March, it became known that Qualcomm’s refusal to licenses its standard-essential patents (SEPs) on FRAND terms to other chipset makers is one of the various concerns the Korean competition authority has.

Korea is a smart country; unlike China, it’s not being rushed into the patent bubble. It’s not being shamed into patent maximalism, either. Their regulatory agencies have already dealt big blows to US corporations such as Intel (we covered this at the time) and they don’t let bullying become the norm. Also, as we noted here many times before, Korean companies very rarely initiate legal action with patents (unless attacked first). It’s something about their culture.

“Korea is a smart country; unlike China, it’s not being rushed into the patent bubble.”Compare that to China.

“China’s top patent owner Huawei,” as IAM put it the other day, is ‘collecting’ patents right now (from a Japanese company). Here is what IAM predicts:

China’s top patent owner Huawei has continued its third-party acquisition efforts with the recent pick-up of seven US patent grants from Japanese company Hitachi. Several weeks on from that transaction, it doesn’t look like the apparent patent sale was part of a larger deal to settle the US legal tussle between the two companies, which is ongoing in the Eastern District of Texas. Instead it underline’s the Japanese company’s all-of-the-above approach to monetising patents as its business is transformed.

Those unruly patent zealots, as IAM put it in another article, have devolved into a “shouting match” in China:

A somewhat hostile question from an Apple-linked private practice lawyer sparked a heated and, at times, ugly exchange of the sort rarely seen at patent conferences in Beijing this afternoon. Apple and Chinese firm Iwncomm have been battling it out in Chinese courtrooms for more than a year, and attendees at the China Patent Annual Conference, which kicked off today at the China National Convention Center, saw it play out before their eyes.

Iwncomm is far from a household name, even in its native China (where it’s also known as Xi’an Xidian Jietong). But its IP profile has risen significantly since it became the first plaintiff to obtain an SEP-based injunction in China. In a session focused on IP licensing which also featured Apple senior legal counsel Steve Wang, Iwncomm managing director Cao Jun introduced his company and explained his view on why China shouldn’t be afraid to strengthen IP protections.

We have become accustomed to a lot of legal ‘action’ in China, unlike say in Korea or Japan (their courts are tougher on patents). As of this week, IAM calls some of the most horrible patent trolls “PIPCOs” (avoiding the term “troll” like Trump avoids “climate change”). It’s about china again (ZTE) and here is what the business model is compared to:

The PIPCO model is not entirely dead — the success of the likes of InterDigital, Rambus and Finjan show that it can still work for a select few — but it’s clear that most licensing businesses in the future will remain private.

We have been writing quite a bit about Finjan lately. It’ll hopefully perish in the US, but the likes of it seem to have spread eastwards to China.

If China doesn’t recognise just how misguided its patent policy is, not much will be left there other than lawsuits (as opposed to production). This is of course good for patent zealots like IAM and its funding sources, but very bad to productive companies.

“Software Patents Are Evil,” But the Patent Microcosm Keeps Attacking the US Legal System for Disallowing These

Posted in America, Courtroom, Law, Patents at 6:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What’s more evil than software patents are people who constantly attack those who rule against software patents

The Devil

Summary: The reality that software patents are a passing fad in the US is being challenged by those who profit from software patents (hint: they’re not at all developing any software)

EARLIER this week Benjamin Henrion alerted people to the publication of this new article which says “[t]he real enemy is software patents” in relation to an ongoing Facebook controversy. “I hope that Facebook and other multinational companies pool their resources to lobby for an end to software patents,” Henrion added. Here is what the article said:

Software patents are evil, but BSD+Patents is probably not the solution

[...]

Many open source software (OSS) projects led by industry giants use the Apache License 2.0 (henceforth the ASL2.0), compared with the MIT or BSD licenses which also enjoy popularity amongst many other OSS projects. This is the license used by projects in the Apache Software Foundation, but you can use the license without being part of the ASF. TensorFlow and many other important non-ASF projects use this license.

The ASL2.0 has appeal for enterprises for a few reasons. One obvious reason is being a redistribution-friendly, permissive license (like MIT / BSD), so you can include such code in closed source products that you sell. Another reason is that it makes patent grant rights explicit. In other words, the license grants users unrestricted use of any patented IP in the codebase in perpetuity. This patent grant applies transitively to any projects that use or redistribute the project in question.

Having code that is both permissively licensed and patented might seem a bit strange. Some companies may seek patents for IP created in OSS projects to try to protect themselves in future IP litigation . They have no intent of selling or profiting from the patents, but they want the IP distributed in their OSS projects to stay free and commercial friendly.

This is where the ASL2.0′s patent grant is so important; it protects both the OSS authors’ and users’ redistribution rights. Without this, a patent troll could start a lawsuit and potentially force code in an established OSS project to be removed, which would wreak all kinds of havoc on developers and users alike.

In my opinion, software patents are evil because they stifle innovation achieved through incrementalism, and software engineering consists of a lot of this.

[...]

The real enemy is software patents. I feel Facebook’s stance on this is ideological, and it seems unjust to make OSS developers pay the price for software patents’ continued legality in the United States. BSD+Patents may stop certain kinds of patent trolls, but the only real solution is to bring about an end to software patents altogether.

Bottom line is that I agree with the ASF’s stance on the BSD+Patents issue, and I hope that React will change its license. Further, I hope that Facebook and other highly profitable multinational companies pool their resources to lobby for an end to software patents.

We have already included nearly a dozen links about this controversy (BSD+patents) in our daily links. It has been going on for months if not a year (it’s only this summer when the subject resurfaced again and the arguments intensified).

“People like myself, who write software (since age 14 in my case), generally know that software patents are a sham. Software professionals do not want patents.”For the sake of concision, we wish to focus on the patents aspect and generally obsess over the text in bold above (it’s not us who added the bold faces).

People like myself, who write software (since age 14 in my case), generally know that software patents are a sham. Software professionals do not want patents. They need only copyrights. But the patent ‘industry’ profits not from innovation but from litigation; that’s why it keeps pushing for software patenting.

Earlier today we found this new publication from Nick Shipp (Kilburn & Strode LLP). It’s nonsense; this is based on a lie we debunked here before. This Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) decision wasn’t about Alice or software patents. In fact, it wasn’t about software at all. As we said at the time, patent maximalists would attempt to spin the decision as a defeat to Alice. And we were right. These patent maximalists continue to twist this even a month later. From Nick Shipp:

The Federal Circuit’s Visual Memory decision continues to accentuate the need for technical advantages in patent specifications to avoid eligibility issues in the US and could emphasise the advantages of US attorneys drafting more detailed patent specifications. As we explore, these two points could have knock-on positive effects around the world, especially in Europe.

[...]

While it often takes years before changes in practices in US drafting take effect amongst US practitioners and those patent applications finally find their way into Europe, as European practitioners we see the slow shift in US practice post-Alice with a generally warm glow because it should help to mitigate some of the fundamental problems European attorneys face relating to patent eligibility before the EPO. Positively, for patentees, applying these changes in drafting practice should not only improve chances of avoiding Alice rejections in the US but also bring down prosecution costs in Europe, which can only be a good thing.

What he fails to note is that this case wasn’t about software; watch how he proceeded to spinning it in regards to the EPO. Despicable!

Nick Shipp wasn’t alone this week. Another patent maximalist did his usual PTAB bashing. It’s almost the only thing he does these days. Here are some of his latest tweets:

  • “patent atty https://www.linkedin.com/in/domenico-ippolito-10b9498/ … beats PTO on ALICE 101 rejection at PTAB for Ebay client, rare feat nowadays: https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2016002985-08-24-2017-1″ (source; “Question is,” I responded to him, “was it a software patent in the first place? Sometimes they are not.”)
  • “PTO withdraws all 103 rejections, continues to rely on 101 bc PTAB will rubber stamp any “abstract idea” rejections https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2016007918-08-24-2017-1″ (source; also covered today by Dennis Crouch, another PTAB basher)
  • “Goldman Sachs learns $ can’t buy #patent happiness, loses on 101 at PTAB like the rest of us 99%ers https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2016007788-08-24-2017-1″ (source)
  • “IBM loses another #patent app decision under 101 at PTAB bc Wikipedia says “crowdsourcing” been around since 1714 https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2016007667-08-23-2017-1 …” (source)

“Another patent maximalist did his usual PTAB bashing.”We could go on and on. PTAB bashing is high on the agenda right now, also in Dennis Crouch’s blog, which has become a PTAB bashing/lobbying blog trying to influence the Supreme Court into ‘abolishing’ PTAB (because there’s a window of opportunity soon). Watch what Crouch published earlier today: Alice bashing too. Will he bash the Supreme Court too when the Supreme Court sides with PTAB? Is Alice still something to be ridiculed more than 3 years since the Supreme Court decided on it?

A few days ago Crouch wrote about USPTO patents, unintentionally revealing that such patents have devolved into a template full of cruft that overwhelms examiners for fast-and-loose grants. “To be clear,” he wrote, “I’m not demonizing patentees who submit lots of references. What I’m working toward is whether the large number of references creates any special difficulty or benefits for the examination process and whether examiners receive any special assistance in considering the large number of references submitted.”

“Will he bash the Supreme Court too when the Supreme Court sides with PTAB? Is Alice still something to be ridiculed more than 3 years since the Supreme Court decided on it?”It’s an old strategy; in examination (in schools) too. Write lots and lots of stuff, especially references (which cannot be conceivably checked exhaustively), then make a rejection (based on the evidence) harder. It’s hard for an examiner to justify rejection without reading every single reference. When there are strict time limits and unrealistic expectations, as is (notoriously) the case in the EPO, what’s an examiner to do? Reject because there are “too many references”?

Incidentally, there is this new article today which says that CAFC is going to deal with the USPTO more directly, not just the patents granted by it but the “expenses of the proceedings…”

“We intend to follow the above developments closely because the patent microcosm is working overtime to subvert the system and undermine all the progress made under Michelle Lee (whom they managed to drive out of Office).”As Managing IP put it this afternoon: “Parties have been asked to brief on the issue of whether Section 145’s “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings” provision authorises an award of the USPTO’s attorneys’ fees, after Federal Circuit ordered a sua sponte rehearing en banc of Nantkwest v Matal” (yes, Matal is still in charge).

We intend to follow the above developments closely because the patent microcosm is working overtime to subvert the system and undermine all the progress made under Michelle Lee (whom they managed to drive out of Office).

Juve Reveals That Ingve Stjerna is the ‘UPC Slayer’ While the EPO Continues to Lobby, Mislead

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ingve book cover

Summary: Dr. Ingve Björn Stjerna is publicly named as the person behind the UPC deadlock; the EPO is meanwhile pretending — as arrogantly as always — that no such deadlock exists and urges people to pretend it’s already a reality

THIS may be news to some (if not many). The main barrier to UPC (other than Brexit) is a complaint from Ingve Stjerna, a longtime watcher and critic of the UPC. For those who don’t know yet, the UPC is a scourge and a curse to Europe. It helps nobody but the litigation ‘industry’ (or those leaning to litigation for profit, notably patent trolls).

“It helps nobody but the litigation ‘industry’ (or those leaning to litigation for profit, notably patent trolls).”This post will not delve into the technicalities of the UPC or the legal impediment to implementation thereof. Instead, assuming many readers already heard the above news, we’ll go through some of the responses.

There is a battle right now; the battle happens — among other places — at the EPO. The litigation microcosm, which we often refer to as “Team UPC” (similar agenda to Team Battistelli), wants to sacrifice the entire continent for a quick buck (or euro). These people lie to the media about it and even hijack the voices of Europeans (individuals and businesses). This isn’t new. They have been doing this for nearly a decade. Battistelli has, at a personal capacity, been doing this since before he was EPO President (Ingve Stjerna covered that at the time and it’s in his latest book).

“Battistelli has, at a personal capacity, been doing this since before he was EPO President (Ingve Stjerna covered that at the time and it’s in his latest book).”Bech-Bruun’s Martin Dræbye Gantzhorn and Emil Bjerrum wrote and published this article earlier this week. It speaks about the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in the US and it strives to expand the scope of patents in Europe. While the EPO and SIPO (China’s, not Croatia’s) move towards granting patents on just everything, in the United States the courts say “No” to a growing number of US patents (a subject we shall cover later tonight in a separate post).

Here is a portion from the new article of Dræbye Gantzhorn and Emil Bjerrum:

A US District Court decision of 4 August 2017 reduced the chances of patenting diagnostic methods. This decision illustrates well the challenges of applying for a patent on medical devices for diagnostic methods in the USA and EU.

[...]

The EPO does not exercise the same restrictive approach of distinguishing an invention from discoveries. Instead, however, the applicant will have to make sure that the invention is not categorised as a diagnostic method, the description of which includes all of the four steps from examination, collection and testing of data to the attribution of the deviation to a particular clinical picture.

So patent maximalists led by Battistelli and Team UPC can simply mis-classify a patent application in an effort to get around the rules. Curiously enough, the judge who is on house ban at the EPO (against the rules) issued a ruling against something akin to the above; it was one of his latest decisions if not last decision. When people do their work properly at the EPO (namely scrutiny of patents) they tend to get punished. Such is the implicit policy of Battistelli: grant or perish.

“So patent maximalists led by Battistelli and Team UPC can simply mis-classify a patent application in an effort to get around the rules.”Now, about the UPC, Team UPC’s Fiona Nicolson (Bristows) would have us believe that there’s progress in the UK. Nothing can happen here (really!) because of Brexit, yet this article that’s promoted by Team UPC is titled “Draft UPC legislation laid in Scottish Parliament”.

I too could have something “laid” in the Scottish Parliament when I visited it 3 years ago; that does not imply anything is going to happen. Almost nobody from Team UPC even bothered mentioning that over a month ago UPC was dropped from the agenda of the English/British Parliament. How come?

Similarly, back when Germany and German politicians with financial stake in the UPC did nefarious things, Team UPC was either silent or lied about it. Bristows in particular did a whole marathon of hogwash. They didn’t want political riggers to get caught.

“Similarly, back when Germany and German politicians with financial stake in the UPC did nefarious things, Team UPC was either silent or lied about it.”Thankfully, Ingve Stjerna explained to the authorities what Team UPC had done. He even went through videos of a 1AM hearing to manually identify faces of a few dozen people among ~600 politicians. The latest article/paper from him explained what happened and it’s truly jaw-dropping that Germany would stoop to such a level; it makes even Volkswagen look honest!

It’s no longer a secret that Ingve Stjerna is the man behind the complaint. SUEPO was exceptionally quick to take note of it. Earlier today, within just hours of this original report, SUEPO took note of Mathieu Klos‏’s article. It’s all about Ingve Stjerna. He first tweeted this in German and later in English too. “Identity revealed,” it said, “author of Constitutional Court case against UPC is Düsseldorf lawyer Ingve Stjerna” (he also tweeted teasers about it, like: “More details about DE constitutional complaint soon on juve.de”)

Ingve Stjerna is a brave man; we already dropped some hints about it (as soon as the complaint had been filed), but now everybody knows.

From the original article: “Lange wurde spekuliert, wer Ende März das Beschwerdeverfahren gegen den UPC-Vertrag beim Bundesverfassungsgericht eingereicht hat. Wie JUVE nun aus Politikkreisen erfuhr, handelt es sich bei dem Beschwerdeführer um den Düsseldorfer Rechtsanwalt Dr. Ingve Stjerna.”

“Ingve Stjerna is a brave man; we already dropped some hints about it (as soon as the complaint had been filed), but now everybody knows.”We wish to caution EPO staff; Team UPC will target the individual, starting personal attacks as part of their lobbying campaign behind the scenes. Team UPC has always been nothing but a collective of thugs and liars. Just like Battistelli. Some of them already tried to compare me to “Daesh” or paint me as some kind of Russian stooge.

In reality, Ingve Stjerna is a friend of EPO examiners in the sense that he can redeem examination from the planned obsolescence/collapse of EPO (to make way for UPC and mass litigation).

Watch closely the behaviour of Team UPC in the coming few days or weeks. “What everybody thought” was the response of one German UPC booster (to the news about Ingve Stjerna).

“Duesseldorf-based Attorney at law Dr. Ingve Stjerna filed appeal against #UPC before German Constitutional Court… as I then speculated,” wrote another UPC booster.

“Watch closely the behaviour of Team UPC in the coming few days or weeks.”A longtime UPC critic, Francisco Moreno‏, said this to me in Spanish: “Sí, hay que ser valiente para poner en riesgo ingresos de tu gremio. No es casualidad que ejerza como abogado independiente (no en despacho)”

It means something like: “Yes, you have to be brave to put at risk your Guild.”

Someone who choose the Twitter handle “UPCtracker” (quite revealing of the bias) said: “This riddle out of the way, time to focus on the substance of the complaint, if any.”

So now starts the nitpicking, which will likely be accompanied by some personal attacks or scandalisation (same tactics used against Michelle Lee, PTAB and others).

“So now starts the nitpicking, which will likely be accompanied by some personal attacks or scandalisation (same tactics used against Michelle Lee, PTAB and others).”Translation of the above tweet, as I responded to UPCtracker, is: “we don’t care if UPC is a series of serious abuses, we just need it to profit from lawsuits!”

Meanwhile, the EPO acts as though it’s business as usual for the UPC. There’s an ongoing event about it in Munich, organised by Managing IP who told me today [1, 2]: “UPC judges: Last we heard – ‘recruitment process postponed’. NB: UPC Advisory & Administrative Committees responsible for appointments. [...] UPC judges: Administrative Committee (and others) established after UPC Agreement Protocol enters into force. Germany’s consent required.”

Nothing is happening any time soon. We wrote about it just over a week ago. There is no Unitary Patent, the UPC may already be a lame duck/dead, but watch what the EPO tweeted today: “What is the procedure for obtaining a #UnitaryPatent from the EPO? This guide explains it…”

“Stop advertising things that don’t exist,” I told them.

“Meanwhile, the EPO acts as though it’s business as usual for the UPC.”Remember when Team UPC advertised job openings for jobs that did not exist and probably never ever will exist? Will the EPO be taking payments for UPC-related services even though the UPC may never exist at all (anywhere)?

Also today the EPO was once again advertising a Margot Fröhlinger event that we mentioned before. “There’s still time to register for the #roadshow with @EPOorg,” it said. Why would anyone want to pay to be lied to by the EPO about the UPC? It beggars belief!

Managing IP‘s coverage from its event the other day said this: “Raimund Lutz says Germany’s Constitutional Court has asked for comments on the UPC lawsuit. #EUPatent2017 # unitary patent”

We wrote about it yesterday (specifically this tweet). UPCtracker (the real name is Thomas Adam by the way) responded with: “Q is: who was asked. If EPO (Mr Lutz’ employer) specifically, could imply structure of BoA relevant for DE constitutional cmplt after all?!”

“By all means notice how, even though great uncertainty looms over the UPC, the EPO and Managing IP (working together in Munich this week) carry on pretending it’s inevitable.”I told him that the “EPO is not a patent office but a lobbying operation that’s exempt from the law and commits crimes” (no accountability, so why not?)

Managing IP mentioned the UPC in another tweet from its event: “Final session: UPC’s ADR Centre & patent arbitration. @ClemensHeusch: CJEU in Huawei said 3rd party decision, so not mediation #EUPATENT2017 pic.twitter.com/lD1tzkjsMp”

By all means notice how, even though great uncertainty looms over the UPC, the EPO and Managing IP (working together in Munich this week) carry on pretending it’s inevitable. As Ingve Stjerna put it earlier this year, “the UPCA’s entry into force is not at all secured.”

Links 6/9/2017: LXC 2.1, Chrome 61, Qbs 1.9

Posted in News Roundup at 3:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • TensorFlow brings machine learning to the masses

    You might think that adopting deep learning or machine learning (ML) techniques means hiring a fleet of cutting edge data scientists with PhDs, but this simply is not true. Creating new deep learning models and theories is hard, but using the existing, popular deep learning models is not rocket science. In fact, a typical IT engineer can learn the basics of ML, including how to integrate and use the well-known ML and deep learning algorithms and techniques, to build an ML solution. In short, a company’s IT engineers can be trained to become ML engineers.

  • Jacquelyn Sussman | Didn’t read the PRP? Penn didn’t either

    The Objectivist | Why Penn needs to seriously consider open-sourcing

    [...]

    Take GitHub as an example: According to the GitHub blog and GrowthHackers, the open-source code repository was founded in 2008 and rose from a $750 million valuation in 2012 to a $2 billion valuation as of 2015 due to its increase in revenues and large user base. Its customers include tech giants Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, all of which rely on this free and public repository to quickly and easily share code and other information.

  • San Francisco May Use Open Source Voting System

    The city of San Francisco’s local government may be the first one to use an open source voting system. If the city manages to complete the process successfully, it will be the first place in the country to use open source voting. It is something that has been considered by many people for years but recently $300,000 has been set aside to study the possibility.

    Elections Director John Arntz has opened discussions with the consulting group Slalom which will create a report about open source voting. It is expected to be completed by January. It is slated to cost $175,000 and focus on what San Francisco might encounter if it chooses to go through with such a system.

  • San Francisco investigates open source voting system
  • Why open source success is increasingly dependent on corporate cash [Ed: Mac Asay puts money before freedom; Because he doesn't grasp the goals of FOSS (not market share)]
  • Nginx goes beyond its server roots and launches its application platform

    Nginx, in its commercial and open source forms, is one of the most popular load balancers, proxies, web and application servers on the internet today. But Nginx Inc, the company behind the project, wants to cast a wider net, especially now that the way developers are writing and deploying their applications is quickly changing. As the company announced at its developer conference in Portland today, it’s launching the Nginx Application Platform to give developers a one-stop platform for developing or modernizing their applications with DevOps, the cloud, containers and microservices in mind.

  • Events

    • Changing the World with the Power of Cognitive Computing [Ed: It is worrying that the output of the Linux Foundation is nowadays supposed 'journalism' that's paid-for PR of sponsors]

      In his keynote at Open Source Summit in Los Angeles, Tanmay Bakshi will talk about how he’s using cognitive and cloud computing to change the world through open source initiatives, including “The Cognitive Story,” which is aimed at augmenting and amplifying human capabilities. Through this project, Bakshi is working to decipher brain wave data through AI and neural networks and provide the ability to communicate to those who cannot communicate naturally.

  • Web Browsers

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Document Foundation Freshens Up LibreOffice

      The Document Foundation last week announced that it was rolling out LibreOffice 5.4.1 Fresh, the first minor upgrade to its LibreOffice 5.4 open source suite of productivity apps introduced earlier this summer. It also announced LibreOffice 5.3.6 Still, representing the sixth release of its LibreOffice 5.3 family originally introduced in January.

      LibreOffice 5.4.1, which represents the “bleeding edge” in terms of features, targets technology enthusiasts and early adopters, the foundation said. LibreOffice 5.3.6 targets more conservative users and is geared toward deployment within enterprises.

    • Solaris to Linux Migration 2017

      Many people have contacted me recently about switching from Solaris (or illumos) to Linux, especially since most of the Solaris kernel team were let go this year (including my former colleagues, I’m sorry to hear). This includes many great engineers who I’m sure will excel in whatever they choose to work on next. They have been asking me about Linux because I’ve worked for years on each platform: Solaris, illumos, and Linux, in all cases full time and as a subject matter expert. I’ve also done some work on BSD, which is another compelling choice, but I’ll discuss that another time. The following is my opinion and not an official guide to any OS.

      Switching from Solaris to Linux has become much easier in the last two years, with Linux developments in ZFS, Zones, and DTrace. I’ve been contributing (out of necessity), including porting my DTraceToolkit tools to Linux, which also work on BSD. What follows are topics that may be of interest to anyone looking to migrate their systems and skillset: scan these to find topics that interest you.

    • Oracle staff report big layoffs across Solaris, SPARC teams
    • Sun set: Oracle closes down last Sun product lines

      None of this is a real surprise. Oracle had cut former Sun engineers and developers by a thousand employees in January. In Oracle’s most recent SPARC/Solaris roadmap, the next generation Solaris 12 had been replaced by Solaris 11.next and SPARC next — incremental upgrades.

      Former Sun executive Bryan Cantrill reported, based on his conversations with current Solaris team members, that Oracle’s latest layoffs were, “So deep as to be fatal: The core Solaris engineering organization lost on the order of 90 percent of its people, including essentially all management.” James Gosling, Java’s creator, summed it up: “Solaris … got a bullet in the head from Oracle on Friday.”

    • New Oracle Layoffs Probably Signal End of Line for Solaris

      It’s beginning to look like it’s the end of the line for Solaris, the Unix operating system that became part of Oracle’s portfolio when the company acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010. The company is sending out another round of pink slips, mostly affecting hardware and Solaris workers. Although the exact number of employees getting the ax is unknown, most estimates put the figure at somewhere around 2,500. Workers in four states as well as India, are affected. The “pink slips” went out Friday by way of recorded telephone messages. Have a happy Labor Day.

      On Monday, in a blog post called The Sudden Death and Eternal Life of Solaris, former Solaris kernel developer and one time Sun executive, Bryan Cantrill, wrote, “It is a cut so deep as to be fatal: the core Solaris engineering organization lost on the order of 90 percent of its people, including essentially all management.”

  • CMS

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Allegation of Open Source Non-Compliance Leads to Anti-Competitive Practice Lawsuit

      Many of today’s hottest new enterprise technologies – IoT, Healthcare, AI – are centered on open-source technology. The free and open source software movement has moved well out of grassroots into mainstream – and license compliance issues and enforcement have followed.

      Until recently, most instances of open source noncompliance were led by nonprofit entities such as Software Freedom Conservancy, gpl-violations.org or the individual project owners. Compliance disputes were typically resolved without outside government legal processes. However, as open source becomes more widely used, disputes involving private parties have increased.

    • No To “No Hacking” Clauses

      Adding any subjective restriction automatically creates doubt for developers, especially if they are corporate employees. They will need at a minimum to stop and ask their manager what the restriction means in their context, and that in turn is likely to be referred to a legal advisor. Even if the answer is “go ahead” the need to ask permission will be enough to chill use and stifle innovation.

      The OSD tries to to prevent this and promote the granting of permission in advance to use, improve and share software for any purpose. Permission in advance is responsible for the whole open source phenomenon. So OSI won’t let you add a clause to a license that denies it. No matter how cleverly you word it.

  • Programming/Development

    • Qbs 1.9 released

      Qbs (pronounced “Cubes”) is The Qt Company’s latest build tool, which is planned to be the replacement for qmake in the Qt build system. In addition to its use within Qt, for our customers Qbs will also provide faster build times coupled with a rich feature set in order to reduce build engineering complexity and decrease time to market.

    • Qbs 1.9 Released, Still Advancing To Be The Qt6 Build System

      Besides releasing Qt Creator 4.4 today, The Qt Company also announced the release of Qbs 1.9, the Qt Build System.

    • Cast survey: whatever happened to software accountability?

      Cast this year says it has found that 56% of respondents feel the most important languages to master in the next five years are Java and JavaScript, followed by C++ (38%), Python (35%) and SQL (30%).

      Also as a comment on the open source sphere, Stack Overflow and GitHub are not the preferred destinations for learning.

    • Java EE Is Now Available Via GitHub

      Oracle has been looking to divest somewhat from Java and while OpenJDK has been available for the past decade as open-source, Oracle up to now has kept its hands relatively tight around Java EE. But now it looks like all of Java EE is up on GitHub, though as of writing I have yet to find any official announcement from Oracle.

    • The Node.js world is imploding

      A close-knit tech community has fallen into disarray over a debate that started around a Code of Conduct and quickly spiraled into a referendum on diversity initiatives.

      Ashley Williams, an outspoken advocate for diversity in tech and a member of the Node Foundation Board of Directors, the volunteer leadership organization for the popular open source Node.js technology, is being accused of “hateful speech,” “promoting sex and race based prejudice and stereotypes,” and “promoting violence (homicide) towards men,” according to an anonymous Reddit post that rose to the top of the Node subreddit one week ago.

      Williams, her anonymous critics say, is guilty of the very crime she has railed against: making the community, which is made up of more than 1,500 contributors, less inclusive in ways that violate the community’s code of conduct. Her anonymous critic cited her tweets as evidence, including the time someone tweeted a photo of a contest at the security convention DEF CON with the sarcastic caption: “Hacker Jeopardy. Category is ‘Dicks’. Men play. Women give them beers. Why aren’t there more women in security?” and Williams quote-tweeted them with the phrase “kill all men.” This was cited as “Promoting violence (homicide) towards men.”

    • The Forgotten Secret to DevOps Success: Measurement

Leftovers

  • France shares tips for efficient digital services

    To help create exemplary digital services, France’s government modernisation unit (SGMAP) is sharing ten golden principles. These provide the basis for digital services that are efficient and close to their users (citizens).

    Digital government services are not just a web form or a web site, SGMAP writes in its announcement. “It is an experience and a complete journey. It is also the interface between the user and the administration,” SGMAP adds, which is why these services should be easy to use, efficient, and as simple as possible.

    These essential principles are one of the outcomes of the digital services dashboard SGMAP has used since 2012 to monitor user satisfaction for online services. Based on five years of results, the unit has identified success factors and best practices.

  • Science

    • At Toyota, The Automation Is Human-Powered
    • German universities plan for life without Elsevier

      German universities have coped “easily” when cut off from Elsevier journals and do not need to rely on pirate article-sharing sites such as Sci-Hub, according to a negotiator from Germany’s biggest network of research centres.

      Martin Köhler, who has helped to lead negotiations between the Dutch publishing giant and the Helmholtz Association, gave Times Higher Education details of Germany’s strategy to survive “no deal” with Elsevier – shedding some light on whether other countries could take a similar stance.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Another Thing Disappearing From Rural America: Maternal Care

      Maternity care is disappearing from America’s rural counties, and for the 28 million women of reproductive age living in those areas, pregnancy and childbirth are becoming more complicated — and more dangerous. That’s the upshot of a new report from the Rural Health Research Center at the University of Minnesota that examined obstetric services in the nation’s 1,984 rural counties over a 10-year period. In 2004, 45 percent of rural counties had no hospitals with obstetric services; by 2014, that figure had jumped to 54 percent. The decline was greatest in heavily black counties and in states with the strictest eligibility rules for Medicaid.

      The decrease in services has enormous implications for women and families, says Katy B. Kozhimannil, an associate professor in health policy who directs the Minnesota center’s research efforts. Rural areas have higher rates of chronic conditions that make pregnancy more challenging, higher rates of childbirth-related hemorrhages — and higher rates of maternal and infant deaths. And because rural counties tend to be poorer, any efforts to revamp or slash Medicaid could hit rural mothers especially hard. We spoke with Kozhimannil about the new study and the implications for maternal care. (The conversation has been edited and condensed.)

    • Billions are drinking water contaminated with plastic — and US has it the worst, study finds

      If you drink tap water, you’re probably also ingesting potentially dangerous microscopic plastic fibers.

      And you’re not alone: That’s likely the case for billions of people across the world, according to a new study from Orb Media.

      The study, conducted with researchers from the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota, tested 159 tap water samples from five different continents, according to Public Radio International.

    • The ACA is Failing Because It Didn’t Account For Hospital Monopolies in Rural Areas

      The logic behind the design of the Affordable Care Act does not hold up well when faced with the reality of how markets actually work outside cities. ACA exchanges were built on the fundamental idea that competition between regulated private insurance companies would improve quality and hold down prices, but competition is lacking in most rural counties. That’s very unlikely to ever change.

      Because of the way hospital networks and private insurers independently negotiate prices with each other in most of the country, rural hospitals are often de facto monopolies with massive leverage. As a result, only insurers that are also effectively monopolies can hope to negotiate for decent prices to drive out competition. Even increasing insurer competition in these concentrated hospital markets could actually make the cost problem worse.

    • Message to GOP? Planned Parenthood, STD vaccine win top medical award

      For 72 years, the prestigious Lasker Awards in biomedical research and public service have gone to top researchers and leaders “who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of human disease.” The awards are seen as “America’s Nobels” by some and many winners also win Nobels—87 of them, to be exact.

      This year’s winners are no different. But their awarding comes with a hint of a political message.

    • “An elderly man cried in the waiting room because he just wanted to get back to his bed”

      Sat in the waiting room of Cheltenham Hospital with my Dad I started to google ‘Arriva NHS patient transport’. I had already read all that Hello magazine had to offer, what else was I to do?

      And so, I read to fill the time. I read about the company that many local NHS managers (including here in Gloucestershire) have contracted to provide patient transport. I read with bemusement about their commitments “to the highest quality of care” and about how patients “inspire” them “to achieve excellence”. I laughed to myself about how this failed to tally with my experience. I also started to read alarming numbers of patient testimonies describing being let down by them. About how the most vulnerable were being left for hours with no adequate care.

  • Security

    • security things in Linux v4.13
    • FTC slaps Lenovo on the wrist for selling computers with secret adware

      The FTC said Tuesday that it cannot stop computer makers from selling computers that inject ads into webpages to US consumers. The statement covers Lenovo’s practice of having sold computers pre-installed with the so-called VisualDiscovery adware developed by a company called Superfish. This adware, which was installed on computers without consumers’ knowledge, hijacked encrypted Web sessions that made users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks and shared user browsing data with third parties.

    • Chinese man served nine-month jail sentence for selling VPN software

      In January this year, China announced a 14-month campaign to crack down on VPNs in a bid to tighten online surveillance ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China which opens in October.

    • Chinese software vendor sentenced for helping circumvent online censorship: Report
    • China Imprisons Man for Helping People Access the Internet Past the ‘Great Firewall’
    • Researchers dismiss bid to cast aspersions on Marcus Hutchins

      Well-known British information security researcher Kevin Beaumont has dismissed an article by reporter Brian Krebs about Marcus Hutchins, the Briton who is awaiting trial in the US on charges of writing and distributing the Kronos banking malware, by pointing out that it has nothing to do with the case.

    • Potential security flaw in Estonian ID card chip

      The government of Estonia is investigating a potential security vulnerability affecting the country’s ID cards and digital IDs. Estonia’s public key database has been closed, to minimise the risk of misuse of digital identities.

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Apache Struts Update Patches Critical Vulnerabilities

      Apache Struts is a widely used Java framework that is embedded into many enterprise applications, which means that any vulnerabilities provide a potentially very large attack surface. Today the open-source Struts project announced its 2.5.13 update fixing three vulnerabilities.

    • Hackers lie in wait after penetrating US and Europe power grid networks

      Nation-sponsored hackers have penetrated the operational networks multiple US and European energy companies use to control key parts of the power grid that supplies electricity to hundreds of millions of people, researchers warned Wednesday.

      The incursions detected by security firm Symantec represent a dramatic escalation by a hacking group dubbed Dragonfly, which has been waging attacks against US and European energy companies since at least 2011. In 2014, Symantec reported that Dragonfly was aggressively establishing beachheads in a limited number of target networks, mainly by stealing the user names and passwords used to restrict access to legitimate personnel. Over the past year, the hacking group has managed to compromise dozens of energy firms and, in a handful of cases, install backdoors in the highly sensitive networks the firms use to supply power to the grid.

    • Court Finds FBI’s ‘Malware’ Deployment To Be Perfectly Constitutional

      The US court system has hosted a large number of lively discussions about the tactics used by the FBI in its Playpen child porn investigation. A lot of new ground was broken by the FBI, not all of it good. First, the agency kept a darkweb child porn site running for two weeks after it seized it. It did this to facilitate the distribution of malware designed to uncover information about the computers (and users) accessing the site.

      Adding to the mess was the malware itself. The FBI’s Network Investigative Technique (NIT) was deployed across the US (and across the globe) via a single warrant signed by a magistrate judge in Virginia. Plenty of courts have declared the FBI’s warrant invalid, as the search performed violated Rule 41′s jurisdictional limitations. (Those limitations no longer exist, so chalk up a win for the DOJ.) Many have also called the NIT’s extraction of IP addresses and device-identifying info a search. But very few judges have seen fit to suppress the evidence obtained, either finding no privacy expectations in IP addresses or granting the FBI “good faith.”

  • Defence/Aggression

    • How data analytics companies can foretell riots, Pakistani incursions

      Plans are also being drawn up to introduce e-checking at checkpoints where CCTVs using facial recognition software notify officers real-time in case a criminal match is thrown up.

    • Victory at Last!

      It was bloody and brutal, a true generational struggle, but give them credit. In the end, they won when so many lost.

      James Comey was axed. Sean Spicer went down in a heap of ashes. Anthony Scaramucci crashed and burned instantaneously. Reince Priebus hung on for dear life but was finally canned. Seven months in, Steve Bannon got the old heave-ho and soon after, his minion, Sebastian Gorka, was unceremoniously shoved out the White House door. In a downpour of potential conflicts of interest and scandal, Carl Icahn bowed out. Gary Cohn has reportedly been at the edge of resignation. And so it goes in the Trump administration.

      Except for the generals. Think of them as the last men standing. They did it. They took the high ground in Washington and held it with remarkable panache. Three of them: National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense and retired Marine General John Mattis, and former head of the Department of Homeland Security, now White House Chief of Staff, retired Marine General John Kelly stand alone, except for President Trump’s own family members, at the pinnacle of power in Washington.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • As Irma Intensifies, “You’ve Never Experienced a Hurricane Like This”
    • EPA runs all grants past a political appointee in its PR office

      While the EPA is often portrayed as a massive bureaucracy, about half of its budget goes directly to other organizations through grants. While many of these are focused on cleanups and reducing environmental risks, the agency also funds scientific research into various health and environmental risks. The money for these research grants has historically been allocated based on a combination of scientific merit and environmental concerns.

      All that started to change in August. That’s when the EPA issued a new policy dictating that all grant programs must be run past a political appointee from the EPA’s public affairs office. Now, a new report indicates that this PR specialist is cancelling individual grants.

    • A two-decade crusade by conservative charities fueled Trump’s exit from Paris climate accord

      Myron Ebell stood in bright sunlight as President Trump stepped into the Rose Garden and spoke.

      “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens,” Trump said to rowdy applause, “the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.”

      Ebell was hot, sunburned and very pleased. He was witnessing history that he had helped make.

      For nearly two decades, Ebell has led the Cooler Heads Coalition, an umbrella group of tax-exempt public charities and other nonprofit organizations in the vanguard of efforts to cast doubt on the gravity of climate change and thwart government efforts to address it.

    • Please, please stop sharing spaghetti plots of hurricane models

      Nate Silver, the statistician and editor of FiveThirtyEight, is unquestionably a smart guy with an exceptionally good grasp of numbers and probability. But he’s not a meteorologist. So when he shared a spaghetti plot of models for Hurricane Irma on Tuesday night, I had to shake my head. Just another social mediarologist.

    • Houston hospitals see surge in skin infections in Harvey’s wake

      Over the holiday weekend, doctors saw significant—but not overwhelming—upticks in soggy skin wounds and infections, as well as other ailments linked to Hurricane Harvey clean-up and recovery efforts. Those included respiratory problems, such as mold allergies and pneumonia cases, issues with drug withdrawals in those who lost access to medications during the disaster, and other injuries that include those from electrical shocks.

    • Irma reaches 185 mph, trailing only Allen as strongest Atlantic storm

      We are quickly running out of adjectives to describe the destructive potential of Hurricane Irma. As of 2pm ET on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm’s sustained winds to 185mph. This is near-record speed for a storm in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

    • The weight of Harvey’s floodwater actually made Houston sink a little

      Strong and sturdy as bedrock may seem, it’s possible to pile enough weight onto the Earth’s surface to squish it downward a bit. The planet’s great ice sheets, for example, have done this on a pretty significant scale. Many regions that are now relieved of the ice sheets they hosted during the last ice age are, in fact, still slowly rebounding upward today.

  • Finance

    • Leaked document reveals UK Brexit plan to deter EU immigrants

      Britain will end the free movement of labour immediately after Brexit and introduce restrictions to deter all but highly-skilled EU workers under detailed proposals set out in a Home Office document leaked to the Guardian.

      The 82-page paper, marked as extremely sensitive and dated August 2017, sets out for the first time how Britain intends to approach the politically charged issue of immigration, dramatically refocusing policy to put British workers first.

    • Cryptocurrency transactions to ‘break $1 trillion barrier this year’

      With Ethereum volumes and values soaring, let alone Bitcoin values, it’s no surprise to see a new study suggesting cryptocurrency values are expected to surpass $1 trillion this year, more than 15 times the value they had last year.

    • From Safety to Savings, Blockchain Technology Will Disrupt the Food Scene

      Behold the blockchain. The disruptive new technology promises to make traditional paper ledger-based transactions obsolete, replaced by digital ledgers. Headlines appear every day heralding how blockchain technology will revolutionize financial services markets, which remain burdened by unwieldy paper trails and costly proprietary software applications. But blockchain technology will also have a transformative impact on the food industry and many other industries. From cost savings to removal of intermediaries to more efficient and precise tracking of contamination, the food business will derive many benefits from blockchain.

    • Court battle over one driver’s pay could have big impact on “gig economy”

      The first big trial over worker rights in the “gig economy” begins today, and it could answer fundamental questions about how workers in the digital age should be treated, as well as what kinds of benefits, breaks, and pay they’re entitled to.

      The case that’s beginning right now doesn’t have a big-name, deep-pocketed defendant like Uber. Rather, the case is the lesser-known Lawson v. Grubhub. Plaintiff Raef Lawson sued Grubhub in 2015, claiming he wasn’t properly paid for his work while driving around delivering food for Grubhub. If Lawson was an employee, he’d be eligible for benefits like insurance, unemployment, and reimbursement for expenses like gas and phone bills. He’d have to be paid at least minimum wage and get state-mandated breaks. Lawson was fired from Grubhub because, the company said, he didn’t adequately respond to delivery requests.

    • High-profile “gig economy” trial turns on a part-time actor’s job woes

      The first trial over the status of workers in the “gig economy”—or one worker, anyhow—has begun here. The sole question to be decided is this: during the few months Raef Lawson drove for food-delivery company GrubHub, beginning in late 2015, was he an employee or an independent contractor?

      It’s an intensive, deep dive into one tiny slice of the new breed of apps that make up the gig economy. And if Lawson is successful, the industry could be more vulnerable to other, similar litigation.

    • NAFTA Second Round Ends With Unspecified “Important” Progress, Single Consolidated Text

      Ministers from Mexico, Canada and the United States concluded the second weeklong round of negotiations for an updated North American Free Trade Agreement in the past four weeks, and claimed progress on “important” issues and the shaping of a text with some 24 chapters. But the government officials offered no specifics to the public.

      “Today, we mark the conclusion of the second round of this historic negotiation,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a closing statement of the NAFTA talks held in Mexico City. “I am pleased to report that we have found mutual agreement on many important issues.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The Appalling Pottingers

      The Pottingers. A key cog in the evil ways of the British establishment, down the centuries. Understanding the history of this family gives an essential glimpse into just how the British establishment really works.

    • Ditching Watchdog, Betsy DeVos Signals ‘Open Season to Defraud’ Student Borrowers

      Calling the move “outrageous and deeply troubling,” consumer advocates and opponents of skyrocketing student debt spoke out Tuesday against the Trump administration’s decision to end the working relationship between the Department of Education and the government watchdog tasked with helping oversee the federal student loan program and protect borrowers.

      At the direction of Congress, under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, the Department of Education has shared information with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) since 2011 in order to provide assistance to borrowers with complaints about Federal student loans. But the Department, now run by Secretary Betsy DeVos, informed the Bureau in a letter last week that it was ending the relationship.

    • Ofcom and Diversity: lies, lawyers and whatever next? (Part 2)

      We have seen some of what Ofcom said at its diversity stakeholders meeting. What Ofcom didn’t tell the meeting, and no one had spotted, was that Ofcom had specifically excluded Article 14 Diversity from its Consultation on the Draft BBC Operating Framework. Ofcom had hidden this exclusion away in footnote 66 to paragraph 4.123 in the consultation document.

    • Trump gets millions from golf members. CEOs and lobbyists get access to president
  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Save Craig Murray

      I am being sued for libel in the High Court in England by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of the Daily Mail Online. Mr Wallis Simons is demanding £40,000 in damages and the High Court has approved over £100,000 in costs for Mark Lewis, Mr Wallis Simons’ lawyer. I may become liable for all of this should I lose the case, and furthermore I have no money to pay for my defence. I am currently a defendant in person. This case has the potential to bankrupt me and blight the lives of my wife and children. I have specifically been threatened by Mr Lewis with bankruptcy.

      [...]

      It is my view that English libel law remains an international disgrace, a device by which the wealthy and those with wealthy backers, and only they, can stifle freedom of speech. Contempt of Court laws – with a penalty of two years imprisonment – even prevent poor defendants like me from putting their case openly before the public in order to appeal for a public defence fund. I am extremely limited in what I can tell you.

    • Dahlia Penna – Red Monkey Collective – Is censorship the only way to stop toxicity?

      Toxicity in online multiplayer video games remains a big problem. There’s no shortage of stories about streamers being harassed, and there’s very few folk who have partaken in online gaming that won’t have witnessed, or even taken part in flaming teammates or opposition.

      There’s a fine line between jesting and just being insufferably vile in chat. The existence of a veil of anonymity that come with hiding behind a Twitch username, or a gamer-tag can turn gamers into horrible specimen. But is there a feasible solution? Is censorship the only true solution?

      Red Monkey Collective, a talent and brand management agency have contributed two guest pieces surrounding the issue of censorship in gaming and esports.

    • Corporate America silenced researchers before. Now they’re doing it again

      The extensive corporate funding for ostensibly “independent” research is well-known. Scandals about the degree to which the imprimatur of august Washington DC institutions is for sale have made headlines periodically in past years. In Lynn’s case, we have its corollary: a researcher who questions those funders, and is silenced.

    • New leak: Estonian Presidency ignored doubts by 6 Member States about the legality of censorship machine plans

      But the Estonian presidency didn’t care: They launched their proposals without waiting for the legal service to answer the questions – and without adequately addressing most of the specific concerns put forward.

    • Beijing’s Bold New Censorship

      Authoritarians, in China and elsewhere, normally have preferred to dress their authoritarianism up in pretty clothes. Lenin called the version of dictatorship he invented in 1921 “democratic centralism,” but it became clear, especially after Stalin and Mao inherited the system, that centralism, not democracy, was the point. More recent examples of prettifying include “The Republic of Zimbabwe,” “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” and several others. What would be wrong with plainer labels? The Authoritarian State of Zimbabwe? The Shining Dictatorship of Korea? That dictators avoid candidly describing their regimes shows that, at least in their use of words, they acknowledge the superiority of freedom and democracy.

      Such pretenses have been useful to autocracies not just internationally but within their regimes as well, for domestic control. In 1979, I did a series of interviews with groups of Chinese writers and literary editors as part of a research project. This was only a few years after Mao had died, the government had arranged the interviews, and the atmosphere was stiff. The interviewees knew that others in their group were observing them. I was struck by how often, one after another, they used the phrase “in my personal view,” only to follow it with anodyne statements like, “Deng’s policy of The Four Modernizations is best for the development of Chinese socialism.” Why did they say “in my personal view”? Perhaps so that, in case they did say something wrong, they could not be accused of misleading a foreigner about state policy. More likely, though, I think it was to conform to the regime’s fiction that Chinese intellectuals were all free to express their individual views—even though the expressed views were boilerplate. The regime’s unvarying message to writers and editors was, “You are entirely free to agree with us,” and they were obliging.

    • Staring down censorship

      This was an unprecedented move of academic censorship in China. It is common practice that foreign scholars excise ‘sensitive’ information from their work published in Chinese on the mainland. This protects Chinese citizens associated with a particular piece of research and also guards against the possibility of visa denials for subsequent visits by scholars. However, the CQ censoring raised the stakes as this actively targeted the work of China scholars in English published outside China. The academic community reacted swiftly with stinging criticism. It criticised the CUP for its failure to stand up for academic freedom. This backlash worked and within three days the CQ reinstated the banned content in China.

      Defending the ban, an editorial in the Global Times, the mouthpiece of the government, termed the ban a “matter of principle” and asked the “West” to fall in line with Chinese laws to do business with the vast Chinese market. It also stated that academic freedom is a western value.

    • Censorship Is a Slippery Slope, Dangerous to the Free
    • Fight against fake news pretext to censorship, says media group

      An international media advocacy group says the war against fake news must be fought by the strengthening of journalistic standards and not censorship.

      This follows the move by the government to go after what it calls fake news.

      Last week, Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said the proposed registration of online portals could help curb the spread of slander and fake news.

      Salleh said his ministry would work with the home ministry to monitor the sites and if any online portals were found to have flouted the rules, action could be taken under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Act or the Sedition Act.

    • Mozilla and the Washington Post Are Reinventing Online Comments

      Digital journalism has revolutionized how we engage with the news, from the lightning speed at which it’s delivered to different formats on offer.

      But the comments section beneath that journalism? It’s… broken. Trolls, harassment, enmity and abuse undermine meaningful discussion and push many people away. Many major newsrooms are removing their comments. Many new sites are launching without them.

      Instead, newsrooms are directing interaction and engagement to social media. As a result, tools are limited, giant corporations control the data, and news organizations cannot build a direct relationship with their audience.

      At Mozilla, we’re not giving up on online comments. We believe that engaging readers and building community around the news strengthens not just journalism, but also open society. We believe comments are a fundamental part of the decentralized web.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • UK Police Test Facial Recognition Tech At Carnival, Rack Up 35 Bogus ‘Hits’ And One Wrongful Arrest

      UK law enforcement has proudly been using facial recognition for tech for a few years now. As is the case with any new law enforcement tech advancement, it’s being deployed as broadly as possible with as little oversight as agencies can get away with.

      As of 2015, UK law enforcement had 18 million faces stashed away in its databases. Presumably, the database did not contain 18 million criminals and their mugshots. Concerns were raised but waved away with promises to put policies in place at some point in the future and with grandiose claims of 100% reliability. The latter, naturally, came from the police inspector who headed the facial recognition department. Caveat: this had only been tested on a limited set using “clear images.”

    • Facebook’s Claimed Reach in the U.S Is Larger Than Census Figures, Analyst Finds

      Facebook ’s FB +0.49% measurement metrics face scrutiny again after a research analyst found the social network’s advertising platform claims to reach millions more users among specific age groups in the U.S. than the official census data show reside in the country.

      Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser found Facebook’s Ad Manager claims to reach a potential audience of 41 million 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., whereas census data, most recently updated with a population estimate in 2016, indicates there are only 31 million people of that age group.

      Similarly, among the 25- to-34-year-old age group, another key demographic for advertisers, Facebook’s potential reach estimate is also out of whack with census data. Facebook claims its platform can reach 60 million people in the U.S. in that category, while the census figure is 45 million.

    • UK’s Terrorism Law Reviewer Says Tech Companies Shouldn’t Offer Encryption To Anonymous Users

      Once again, someone’s suggesting the best way to combat the spread of terrorist-related communications online is to make the tech companies do it, have them foot the bill, and do it all without being legislated into submission or making impudent comments like “That’s not how any of this works.”

      Traveling beyond the groundwork of “necessary hashtags” and constant threats to bludgeon tech companies into mandatory, worldwide speech policing, the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism laws — former key terrorism prosecutor Max Hill QC — suggests the better route lies not through legislation, but through some sort of tech wizardry.

    • Two History-making Israelis Suing New York-based Verint Systems in Patent Case

      Two Israeli researchers are mired in a litigation with Verint Systems, alleging that the New York-based company infringed on their patents. In 2003 the two researchers, Elad Barkan and Prof. Eli Biham, were the first to show that calls made on secured GSM cellular telephone networks could be eavesdropped on.

      If successful, their claim might bring them tens of millions of dollars.

      In 2003, Barkan was a doctoral student at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. His adviser, Prof. Eli Biham, became the first person in the world, despite many previous attempts by others, to break into a GSM cellular network. The two developed a way to intercept calls and eavesdrop on them.

    • DSEI: A supermarket for state surveillance and border wars

      As borders are increasingly militarised and their operation privatised, migration, more than ever before, is also an anti-militarist struggle.

    • Facebook reveals how WhatsApp will make money

      The app has recently introduced tools for smaller businesses that let them receive messages from customers and send them updates. The new features, available for testing, are currently free, but could be paid-for in the future, WhatsApp revealed.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • The DOJ illegally obtained the identities of donors to a legal defense fund I started 5 years ago. Here’s why I’m suing them now and felt strongly motivated to become a plaintiff.

      However, as exhibits and attachments, they included old screenshots of @FreeBarrett_’s Twitter feed, and the WePay legal defense fundraising page which I created in September 2012. I’m personally aggrieved and offended that they were monitoring and capturing all of this activity in the first place. I am shocked that these screenshots of sites which I set up, some of which I don’t recall ever appearing within filings in the earlier derivative case, have still been retained for so long. I wonder, does the FBI/DOJ also “collect [and store] it all” — the declared approach of former NSA chief Keith Alexander?

    • Dancing With the Devil

      Dystopia is finally here, but we seem to have our sides mixed up as of late.

      We live in a time when Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation move forward with labeling anti-fascists groups as domestic terrorist organizations while removing white supremacists groups from those very same lists. The militarization of police has resumed, while the United States continues to wage its imperial wars across the planet regardless of the fact that climate change has begun to ravage our world. Every conceivable method of shoring up the police state that began to take definitive shape under the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama is once again being implemented.

      But what do “progressive” and liberal news sites harp on about? It’s all about Russia, sheet cake, Melania Trump’s post-hurricane footwear, and the threat of a shadowy villainous phantom that has been set loose on an unsuspecting humanity. But that evil is not the growing threat of a resurgent far right. Oh, no. To them, that evil is its exact opposite: a collection of disparate groups collectively known as “antifa”.

    • ‘This Is About Basic Decency’: Obama Denounces Trump as DACA Decision Sparks Nationwide Protest

      As former President Barack Obama slammed President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Tuesday, thousands of undocumented immigrants and allies took to the streets in protest, including dozens arrested at a dramatic protest outside Trump Tower in New York City.

    • No, the next wave of extremists won’t be greens

      Sometimes, the best way to get a picture of an ideology is by looking at where its adherents draw their boundaries.

      In that context, Jamie Bartlett’s recent piece in Foreign Policy – “The next wave of extremists will be green” provides some very helpful context in allowing us to understand the dogma of followers of what Anthony Barnett calls “the CBCs” – that is, Clinton, Bush, Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clinton.

      Bartlett is a director – and the longest standing staff member ­– of the centrist think tank Demos, which has had significant power over that corner of the British establishment for more than a decade.

      In his piece, Bartlett scours the globe in his search for evidence his claim (though he doesn’t claim to be the first to make it) that environmentalists will follow in the footsteps of Al Qaeda, and then Islamic State, as the next great, unpredicted, terrorist threat.

      The evidence he presents for this claim consists of, first, repeating – and lending a veneer of liberal authority to – the defamatory and racist claims of a right wing tabloid smear campaign; second, conflating vandalism and violence, as though destroying machines which are killing people is on the same moral plane as owning them; and, finally, one pressure cooker bomb in Brazil once.

    • Trump’s Trial Balloons – Preludes to Authoritarianism

      Like a 2-year-old child during the anal stage of development, Trump is constantly experimenting with the boundaries of his control. As parents everywhere know, children who are not mindfully guided during this stage can become little dictators.

      Accordingly, Trump has internalized his experiences as an unchecked serial sexual harasser and all around corrupt individual as part and parcel of his authoritarian personality and governance technique.

      In America 2017, Trump can get away with virtually anything and retain his seat at the Oval Office. He knows all too well that there is a predominantly white, racist, misogynist, militant, and extremely wealthy capitalist core of Americans that will support him regardless of his tantrums, lies and aggressions.

    • ‘This Is Evil’: Immigrant Rights Advocates Blast Trump’s Decision to End DACA

      “[President Donald] Trump has already embraced white supremacy, defended it, and institutionalized it in the White House. Ending DACA—which exposes young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. to deportation—is but an extension of this effort,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s national office.

    • Trump Fulfills White Supremacist Agenda With Decision to End DACA

      Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director of United We Dream said in response:

      “We are outraged by Trump’s decision to end DACA.

      “With this move, Trump is fulfilling a sick white supremacist scheme to terrorize young people of color. But make no mistake – we will not be pushed into the shadows by these racist politicians. This is our home and we are here to stay.

    • Rohingyas cannot return to Burma without citizenship documents, says NSA

      Burma will not allow those Rohingyas who have recently fled the country to return unless they can show proof of Burmese citizenship, said National Security Advisor Thaung Tun today.

      Speaking at a press conference in Naypyidaw, Thaung Tun referred to the exodus of more than 120,000 Rohingyas who have sought refuge in Bangladesh in the wake of militant attacks on Burmese border police posts on 25 August and a subsequent military campaign to root out those responsible. Estimates suggest that around 400 people have been killed in the past two weeks in northwestern Arakan State.

    • Here Are the 10 State Attorneys General Who Went After 800,000 Dreamers

      People have different reasons for getting involved in public service. For some, it’s an ephemeral pull that manifested as early as a race for fourth grade class president. For others, it’s to serve the poor and the voiceless. Some come at it on behalf of tax cuts or a small government mindset, some with a patriotic bent, determined to defend the country’s national security.

      Still others hope to one day have the opportunity to deport a whole bunch of young people who were brought into the country as little kids.

      For 10 Republican attorneys general across the country, that dream is finally coming true.

      In June, the 10 of them, joined by one Republican governor, threatened to sue President Donald Trump’s administration unless it ended DACA by Tuesday, September 5. And so, on Tuesday, Trump announced he would wind down the program. (He might not really do it, but that’s a different story.)

      So just who are the elected officials who decided to take on the “Dreamers”?

      DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program that gave 800,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children temporary relief from deportation. In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General Jeff Sessions partially rescinded the June 2012 Obama memorandum that created the program, announcing that applications would not be accepted going forward. Existing DACA participants whose eligibility expires between now and March 5 have until October 5 to apply for renewal, and DHS will adjudicate on a case-by-case basis applications that were received as of Tuesday.

    • From Apple to Y Combinator—tech sector denounces new “Dreamers” plan

      Leading technology-sector bosses denounced President Donald Trump’s move Tuesday to end a program that had prevented the deportation of so-called “Dreamers,” people who illegally came to the US as children.

      Apple chief Tim Cook told employees in an e-mail that “We issue an urgent plea for our leaders in Washington to protect the Dreamers so their futures can never be put at risk in this way again.” Cook has tweeted that 250 people who are Dreamers work for Apple.

    • IOC President Tosses Shade At Including eSports In Olympics Over Concerns About Violence And Doping

      You will recall that a few weeks back we discussed the Paris Olympic Committee’s open attitude towards looking at eSports for inclusion in the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games. This refreshing stance from an Olympic committee was a welcome step in the eSports trend, although it came with no promises taht we would actually see eSports in Paris seven years from now. The IOC, as always, would have the final say, and we all knew the massive headwind eSports would face with the grandpappy Olympic committee: eSports aren’t real sports. Hell, I’m sure many advocates for competitive gaming were already gearing up to fight that fight.

    • Canadian Cops Belatedly Asking For Authorization To Deploy Stingray Devices They’ve Been Using For Years

      The Calgary Police join the rest of the nation’s police forces in the officially un-admitted to use of Stingray devices. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the only agency to actually hold a press briefing to announce its use of the controversial devices. All other admissions have been dragged out of agencies, either through court filings or through public records requests.

      Perhaps sensing the government’s regulators might have a problem with a bunch of unregulated signals, Canadian law enforcement agencies are obtaining “just in case” authorization, even as they state there’s nothing legally preventing them from deploying the devices without the Innovation, Science and Economic Development agency’s (Canada’s FCC equivalent) approval.

    • As a general rule, body cam footage across US is not a public record

      The California Legislature missed the September deadline to approve pending legislation that would have made police body cam footage a public record. The bill’s failure keeps the Golden State largely in line with the rest of the nation.

      The California measure, backed by the California News Publishers Association and opposed by law enforcement, would have set a uniform, statewide policy to make footage publicly available. Because of the bill’s demise, California’s police agencies are free to set their own guidelines. Some are open-access friendly and others are not.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Senate Democrats fight FCC plan to lower America’s broadband standards

      Senate Democrats are fighting a Federal Communications Commission proposal that could lower America’s broadband standards by redefining what counts as broadband Internet access.

      Under standards imposed during the Obama administration, the FCC says that all Americans should have access to home Internet service offering speeds of at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, as well as access to mobile Internet. When the FCC makes its annual judgment of whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans quickly enough, the commission thus analyzes whether all parts of the country have both fast home Internet and mobile service.

    • Large ISP & Silicon Valley CEOs Were Too Afraid To Publicly Testify On Net Neutrality

      While ISP lobbyists are pushing the government to kill net neutrality protections, they’re also pushing hard for a new net neutrality law. Why? With our current historically-dysfunctional and cash-compromised Congress, large ISPs like AT&T and Comcast know that their lawyers and lobbyists will be the ones writing the law — if it gets passed at all. The end result will be a law ISPs will profess “puts the debate to bed,” but which contains so many loopholes as to be effectively meaningless when it comes to protecting consumers and competition.

    • Google Fiber shut off customer’s service because she owed 12 cents

      One day last month, Kansas City resident Victoria Tane’s Google Fiber Internet service stopped working.

      It turned out that Google Fiber cut off her Internet access because she owed 12 cents after an odd series of events involving an unused e-mail address, automated customer account systems, and a sales tax increase. Google Fiber quickly restored her connection and forgave the 12-cent balance after she called customer service, but the incident highlights a problem that Google Fiber may need to fix in order to prevent other customers from losing service over similarly trivial amounts.

    • FCC makes net neutrality complaints public, but too late to stop repeal

      The Federal Communications Commission last week released more than 13,000 pages of net neutrality complaints filed by consumers against their Internet service providers. But the big document release came just one day before the deadline for the public to comment on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal the net neutrality rules.

      The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request in May in an attempt to get all of the net neutrality complaints received by the FCC since the rules took effect in 2015. The group also sought details on the resolution of each complaint, including ISPs’ responses to each consumer.

    • Apple Throws Its Support Behind Net Neutrality. Sort Of.

      While large Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook are often credited for being “net neutrality supporters” in the media, their actual support of the concept is often incredibly flimsy. Though it’s quick to claim otherwise, Google hasn’t really supported net neutrality since around 2010 or so, progressively walking back its dedication as it pushed into the fixed and wireless broadband sectors. Similarly Facebook often says all the right things, but internationally has been repeatedly accused of trampling the open internet in its quest to dominate developing nation advertising markets.

      We’re also now seeing similar behavior from companies like Netflix, which aggressively supported net neutrality when the streaming company was a scrappy upstart, but has since walked back its support now that it’s an international video juggernaut. While these companies still occasionally pay lip service to the concept of net neutrality via their joint policy organizations, these are often token gestures — leaving consumers, consumer advocates and smaller companies and startups alone and under-funded in the quest to maintain something vaguely resembling an open and level internet playing field.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Gender Analytics: Using Litigation Data to Evaluate Law Firm Diversity

      The analysis began with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”), a specialized court focused on patent validity. The analysis shows that patent litigation is dominated by male attorneys. Of the top 100 law firms, 55 have less than 10% female attorneys on cases, and 8 firms have never had a single female attorney work on their PTAB AIA-Trial cases. On average, attorney appearances are only 12% female. When representing patent owners, the percentage of female attorneys drops further to 9.8%.

    • Trademarks

      • A trademark by any other colour: Cheerios™ and colour trademark requirements

        Individual colours have been recognised as protectable trademarks by the Supreme Court since 1994. The first colour that the Supreme Court deemed to be capable of functioning as a trademark was a green-gold shade that Qualitex used on its dry cleaning press pads. When Qualitex’s competitor started using the same shade, Qualitex sued.

    • Copyrights

      • Spotify Finally Realizes That Streaming Isn’t Reproduction Or Distribution

        Hold on tight: we’re going to get down into the weeds a bit on a copyright issue. In early 2016, we wrote about the “insanity of music licensing” as it related to streaming music, and Spotify in particular. This was in response to a series of class action lawsuits filed against Spotify by songwriters, claiming a failure to properly license so-called “mechanical rights.” As I noted at the time, I talked the case over with a large number of copyright lawyers — and many were left scratching their heads regarding what the lawsuit was actually about. Spotify, of course, is famous because it’s a licensed music streaming service. That’s it’s whole thing. But, as we discussed, part of the problem is that there are a ridiculous number of different possible licenses out there — many of which were designed for different types of technologies, and, when it comes to internet services, some people seem to assume that the services need to license roughly “all of them.”

      • Sci-Hub Faces $4.8 Million Piracy Damages and ISP Blocking [iophk: "that court has no jurisdiction over the matter"]

        Sci-Hub, which is regularly referred to as the “Pirate Bay of science,” faces another setback in a US federal court. After the site’s operator failed to respond, the American Chemical Society now requests a default judgment of $4.8 million for alleged copyright infringement. In addition, the publisher wants a broad injunction which would require search engines and ISPs to block the site.

      • Facebook Offers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Music Rights

        The latest discussions will ensure Facebook members can upload video with songs just as it’s rolling out Watch, a new hub for video, and funding the production of original series. Facebook is attempting to attract billions of dollars in additional advertising revenue and challenge YouTube as the largest site for advertising-supported video on the web.

      • Facebook is offering the music industry millions to let its users upload songs in videos

        Facebook is gearing up to battle YouTube to be the top destination for music videos and other content containing copyright-protected songs, according to a report from Bloomberg. The company is reportedly offering music publishers hundreds of millions of dollars to retain the rights to music featured in videos uploaded by users and page owners. It’s a way to, at least initially, stave off the concerns of the copyright holders who must tirelessly work through Facebook to get the content taken down.

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