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Calling Genetics and Other Things “Life Sciences” Does Not Turn Nature Into Patentable Science

Posted in America, Australia, Patents at 1:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.
Reference: Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics, Inc. | Wikipedia

Summary: The old riddle about whether naturally-occurring phenomena are patentable or not, in light of some very recent news (the past couple of days)

THE USPTO does not, in general, permit patents on genetics. The EPO has just opposed it, so it can be seen as hanging in the balance (the appeal boards will need to step in and decide).

A few days ago we wrote about life patents (e.g. patents on cancer treatments which aren't even drugs/chemicals). There are many different aspects to “life sciences” (a relatively new term if not buzzwords) and they should be considered in isolation: there’s genetics, there’s medicine, there’s treatment, there’s medical equipment and so on. They’re not the same thing.

Days ago we revisited the scam which Allergan set up with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. IAM, not to our surprise, wrote about it under the “life sciences” banner yesterday. Adam Houldsworth wrote: [via]

Allergan sovereign immunity strategy rejected – Allergan’s effort to make patents relating to its Restasis dry-eye treatment exempt from Patent Trial and Appeal Board cancellation proceedings by transferring them to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe suffered a serious blow last week. The board ruled that the tribe’s sovereign immunity does not extend to inter partes review, and that a Restasis patent should be subject to proceedings initiated by Mylan. This followed months of controversy surrounding the deal, which was seen by some as an attempt to circumvent the patent system and by others as a means of protecting important assets from a problematic administrative proceeding. The St Regis Mohawks have stated they will appeal the PTAB decision.

These are not “assets” but monopolies and PTAB is not “a problematic administrative proceeding.” But remember that this is IAM, a PTAB basher like Watchtroll, Patently-O, Patent Docs and a few other blogs we monitor for their anti-PTAB slant.

Yesterday we saw this blog post from an anti-PTAB site called Anticipat. This company is selling itself as a ‘cure’ to PTAB’s work and it seems to miss the simple fact that if a patent is abstract, then it’s invalid. Full stop. Here’s the latest rant:

We have previously reported that PTAB judges, like Examiners, are measured by a quota-based production system. For PTAB judges, the quota is based on the number of decisions they author. It is no secret that this production system prompts some Examiners and PTAB judges at times to get creative with practices to most easily meet their quotas. Here, we look at some recent decisions that show a pattern of PTAB judges deciding a Section 101 rejection without looking to the remaining pending grounds on appeal.

Why should they? Again, like we said above, if Section 101 applies (e.g. Alice), then it’s over. We understand that many patent trolls and parasites are afraid of PTAB. It undoes the damage caused when patents were granted in a hurry and/or in error.

“Another day of watching Supreme Court opinions to see if Oil States will come out,” wrote one lawyer this week. “Going to be at least another two weeks.”

He’s wasting his time. Oil States will likely be ruled unanimously in favour of PTAB and its much-needed IPRs. The patent system is a lot better now. SCOTUS has already named “trolls” and bemoaned the effect of frivolous patent litigation. It not only gave Alice but also Mayo and Myriad. PTAB actually enforces these; so why would SCOTUS weaken PTAB now?

The situation is a tad different in Australia, probably due to pressure from the likes of CSIRO. The Australian attorney Mark Summerfield is now ranting about medical/clinical trial patents facing an uphill battle. To quote:

From a policy perspective, getting the balance right is particularly important in the case of pharmaceutical products. If it is too difficult to obtain a valid patent, there may be insufficient incentive for companies to invest billions of dollars in new drug development. On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that, one way or another, it is the wider community – either individually, or through taxes in countries where healthcare is substantially subsidised by government – that ultimately pays for that development, through the higher prices charged for patented drugs. Allowing patents to be granted too easily therefore may therefore represent a significant social cost.

Australia’s attitude towards patents on life was already mentioned here over the weekend. Patent Docs, a patent maximalists’ site, wrote about it a short while ago. It’s about Myriad again. To quote:

When the Australian High Court ruled against the patentability of isolated naturally occurring genes in the Myriad decision, a number of commentators believed that the decision would ultimately invalidate claims directed to methods involving the practical application of genes. A recent Federal Court decision, however, has confirmed that claims directed to methods involving the correlation of gene sequences to a particular trait in cattle are patent eligible subject matter in Australia.

Time will tell where the EPO stands on Myriad-type cases. At the moment it looks like there are forces tugging at both directions. Our position on that has always been the same: while we support affordable life-saving drugs and usually generics (access to medicine designed to maximise public health), we aren’t against patents on drugs; what we’re against are attempts to patent life itself, i.e. chromosomes, genome, antibodies, DNA sequences and so on.

There’s No Patent Trolls Problem in Europe, Say Law Firms That Represent and Front for Patent Trolls

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 12:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bristows LLP and EPO

Summary: In an effort to deny the severity and negative impact of patent trolls in Europe, law firms and publishers that represent such trolls once again downplay the Darts-IP report; at the same time they’re attempting to facilitate yet more trolling by manipulating politicians and constructing the UPCA (along with lies, maliciously constructed so as to accomplish the unthinkable)

TECHRIGHTS is approaching its 24,000th blog post, having written a great deal about patent trolls in the US and well over 2,000 articles about EPO scandals. We’re pretty familiar (not by choice) with the USPTO affairs and the connection to patent trolls.

“We’ve long warned that the same thing would happen in Europe if it didn’t abstain from granting software patents.”SUEPO has just highlighted yesterday’s article from an author who spent almost a decade writing about software patents and patent trolls. He’s pretty good at that area. We typically cover USPTO matters in the weekend, but this one relates to the EPO because the trolls epidemic is expanding in Europe, thanks in part to Team Battistelli. To quote the article:

Why the roots of patent trolling may be in the patent office

In recent years, American companies have faced a growing threat from patent assertion entities derisively called “patent trolls.” These often shadowy firms make money by threatening patent lawsuits rather than creating useful products. A recent study suggests that the roots of the patent trolling problem may lie with the US Patent and Trademark office—specifically with patent examiners who fail to thoroughly vet patent applications before approving them.

So-called patent trolls “disproportionately purchase and assert patents that were granted by ‘lenient’ examiners,” write Harvard economist Josh Feng and his co-author Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics in a December paper.

Patent examiners don’t just decide whether or not to approve a patent. They’re also supposed to narrow a patent’s claims to make sure it only covers what the inventor actually invented. But some examiners do a better job of this than others. Feng and Jaravel found that examiners who demand the fewest changes to patent claims account for a disproportionate share of patents that ultimately wind up in patent lawsuits.

And these effects are large: the pair found that patents reviewed by examiners who are one standard deviation more “lenient” than average are 63 percent more likely to be purchased by a patent enforcement entity and 64 percent more likely to be involved in litigation.

The study reinforces earlier research suggesting that the country’s problems with low-quality patents and rampant patent litigation is driven by inadequate scrutiny of patents by patent examiners. It suggests that giving patent examiners better training and more time to scrutinize each patent could improve patent quality and bring down frivolous patent litigation over time.

We’ve long warned that the same thing would happen in Europe if it didn’t abstain from granting software patents. We warned about this long before we covered EPO scandals.

“The UPC, suffice to say, would considerably exacerbate things by giving more leeway to the trolls.”We’re unfortunately entering a phase wherein patent trolls aren’t just a reality in Europe; they’re becoming a lot more common. I heard from some firms in the UK; they’re being threatened by trolls. They phone me. A lot of this isn’t public knowledge and isn’t in the public domain/record because lawsuits — not threats thereof — are what’s visible.

The UPC, suffice to say, would considerably exacerbate things by giving more leeway to the trolls. Firms like Bristows, which promote the UPC in the UK, keep cheering for trolls that operate in the UK. It’s done openly in their blogs, including IP Kat. We wrote about that in past years. Bristows and others like it also sponsor all sorts of publishers in the UK; this means that those publishers too are lobbying for the UPC (albeit it’s disguised as a ‘news’ service). Check who Bristows targets as clients and actively represents. It’s pretty revealing; we urge readers to research this on their own.

Speaking of publishers with their lobbying, see what Ellie Mertens published some hours ago. We already knew that Managing IP was bad (close to Battistelli and promoting the UPC). But to give a platform/puff pieces to Erich Spangenberg is a new low for them. He’s a malicious patent troll looking for a buck through blackmail. He also sent me vague death wishes some months ago (during Christmas).

“Most of the post is copy-paste of someone from University College London (where Stephen Jones of CIPA, a Battistelli ‘friend’ and former ‘Kat’], is a Visiting Lecturer).”Anyway, the main thing we wanted to point out is a new post from Annsley Merelle Ward (Bristows), a proponent of software patents (in spite of § 101), trolls, FRAND etc. She put it at IP Kat as usual and patent maximalists are linking to it (presumably because they wish to help her distort the record). She did that last month and she is doing it once again. The troll denialists from Bristows (whose clients include patent trolls) attack the study which highlights patent rolls as a problem in Europe. IAM, which is partly funded by trolls, was happy to boost this. It was also boosted by like-minded patent maximalists in the US and in Germany. Benjamin Henrion told one of them that “as long as small companies cannot defend themselves, there is a problem.”

Most of the post is copy-paste of someone from University College London (where Stephen Jones of CIPA, a Battistelli 'friend' and former 'Kat', is a Visiting Lecturer). Here’s a portion:

First, while it is true that there is some rise in NPE litigation, overall NPEs are responsible for initiating only a small number of patent infringement cases in Europe (around 5%, with a bit more in Germany). This suggests that there is hardly a problem with “abusive” patent litigation.

Second, the study highlights that it may be actually getting harder to monetise patents in Europe. NPEs mostly initiate patent infringement suits against large international telecommunication companies, presumably after prior licensing negotiations have failed. NPEs are also having their patents challenged in invalidity proceedings before courts and opposition proceedings before patent offices, presumably by the same large telecommunication companies. It seems that increase in NPE litigation may be actually attributable to hold-out tactics by large companies.

There are many falsehoods above and it would take a long time to correct them all. But Bristows is happy to put forth this nonsense, calling trolls “NPEs” and adding:

What do readers think? Merpel, herself, has some follow-up questions: Should Europe wait for more data and analysis before taking any action? Or should they look to the US experience and guard against that potential? Does it matter that NPEs target large companies instead of SMEs? Does that somehow neutralize the perceived problem? Is the absolute number of NPE-related patent actions what matters, or is the trend (increase/decrease) in the number of actions more important? Is it correct to suggest that NPE litigation is attributable to “hold out”, or is that an oversimplification of what is really going on/is it fair to call that “hold out”?

So far, the only comments there (or the only ones permitted by Bristows) are in support of the trolls too. IAM has taken note of the source of some of these comments when it said: “We came to a similar conclusion. http://www.iam-media.com/Blog/Detail.aspx?g=84c119aa-7ec3-453b-bb4e-efca499f88a7 … Note comment at the end of the IP Kat piece from Richard Vary – ex-Nokia, now of Bird & Bird.”

“The same Bird & Bird which lobbies for UPC almost as much as Bristows does? Do they even know what a patent troll is and acknowledge such a thing exists?”The same Nokia that conspired with Microsoft to pass loads of patents to patent trolls (as we covered in past years)? The same Bird & Bird which lobbies for UPC almost as much as Bristows does? Do they even know what a patent troll is and acknowledge such a thing exists? Many are proud denialists of such a problem.

The European Patent Office is Buying ‘Alternative Facts’ and Its Annual Report Will be More of the Same

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 11:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Previously on EPO ‘results’:

Summary: Manipulation of facts seems to be standard operational procedure under Battistelli; expect more of the same very shortly (same as above)

The management of the European Patent Office has ruined patent quality in the name of 'production' (production of rubbish maybe). It totally threw aside the very essence of patent examination and turned the Office into a production/assembly line. That won’t end well as that devalues granted patents (European Patents past, present and future). It also alienates stakeholders, the staff, and eventually the public (when the public finds out the collateral effect).

“It also alienates stakeholders, the staff, and eventually the public (when the public finds out the collateral effect).”We kindly remind all readers that the EPO reduced the fees after the patent applications number had dropped. Trying to artificially inflate these numbers? We think so. Yesterday the EPO wrote: “How well did China, the US and Europe perform in 2017 in terms of patenting activities? #EPOresults go public in only three days. Stay tuned!”

They’re naming two countries and a continent. What about Japan? Be ready for a large growth from China (which only ‘exports’ its Mandarin patents that aren’t absolutely rubbish). The US previously (last year) showed considerable declines in applications and Europe was also negative. So all they could really brag about was “China!” (and even with China in the mix the overall/global number was negative).

“The US previously (last year) showed considerable declines in applications and Europe was also negative.”Battistelli has meanwhile done (warning: epo.org link) an Iancu photo op. Remember that the USPTO is now headed by a person from the patent microcosm, born in the Soviet Union, with history of work for Donald Trump which brings rise to suspicions of nepotism.

What we find interesting is yesterday’s reminder from the EPO to play along in “user satisfaction [sic] surveys”…

“If the canteen/office rumours are true and over a thousand examiners are about to get laid off (there aren’t enough applications coming in), then all these millions of euros that Battistelli throws at festivals and alleged ‘bribes’ will be seriously frowned upon.”“Your feedback matters to us,” they said, but history clearly suggests otherwise.

This next bogus study is part of an EPO pattern. Battistelli et al hire a private firm that just shows what they demand, not what it true, then pay the media to repeat the lie ad infinitum. Expect more of that to happen; Battistelli misuses the budget to transform European media into his megaphone (or to keep silent about EPO scandals). This is separate from another survey which they keep advertising and this new PR charade (warning: epo.org link) which was promoted in Twitter yesterday.

It’s a blatant PR stunt and waste of stakeholders’ money/budget: Here’s what it is:

The EPO is pleased to announce a new call for proposals for funding under its Academic Research Programme. Under the programme, grants of up to EUR 100 000 are awarded in respect of selected proposals on patent-related matters. This programme complements the EPO’s long-standing commitment to support research on patent data obtained through its Worldwide Patent Statistical Database (PATSTAT).

100,000 euros may not sound like a lot of money, but that pays an examiner’s salary. If the canteen/office rumours are true and over a thousand examiners are about to get laid off (there aren’t enough applications coming in), then all these millions of euros that Battistelli throws at festivals and alleged ‘bribes’ will be seriously frowned upon. Accountability? Nah. No such thing exists in Battistelli’s French lexicon.

Dr. Thorsten Bausch: Quality of European Patents Going Down, “Likely Caused by the Current EPO Policy Focusing too Much on ‘Production’.”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Corporate/mainstream (non-patent/tech) media is still not covering any of this, with only a few rare exceptions

Thorsten Bausch

Summary: Thorsten Bausch, an attorney who knows the EPO as a stakeholder, bemoans the decline in patent quality and “SUEPO blasts EPO employment proposal” (says another new headline from a patents-centric news site)

THIS morning when we checked Kluwer Patent Blog it was suffering prolonged site downtime (quite routine a problem nowadays). This blog typically amplifies EPO talking points (notably UPC advocacy), but some writers there are exceptions to that. Bausch is the main exception. Bausch’s issues with the EPO are not the same as ours (he’s not a software developer) or the same as examiners’ (his firm profits from litigation and patent maximalism), but there are some common goals/observations among us all; the management of the EPO is undoubtedly out of control and it threatens the very existence of the EPO.

Bausch wrote a very long post as part of a 4-installment series. This time he focused on quality of patents — a subject he tackled several times before in that blog. He says that “trend of quality is downwards, which is most likely caused by the current EPO policy focusing too much on “production”.”

Somebody called “depressed epo staff” then wrote a comment (the only comment there at the moment) and it cited us:

Another outstanding article of yours Mr Bausch. Vielen Dank

The damage done to the EPO by Battistelli and Bergot will be hard one (if not impossible) to redress.

By France Telecom when they finally get rid of the toxic top managers responsible for the debacle, it took years to the new top managerial structure to recover since middle management did not understood the change of culture (from brutal back to normal), hence had difficulties to accept and translate these changes into concrete healthy actions (they were used to follow arbitrary orders blindly and had difficulties to accept that their previous leaders had requested from them illegal, shameful, contra-productive actions).

This is likely to be the very same at EPO.

Currently on Techrights two papers illustrate the current EPO top management’s methods:

The threat letter of Principal Director HR

The publication of the Central Staff Committee censored by PD HR

Out of fear, nearly all EPO middle-managers (no matter the departments they work in) bowed in front of Battistelli and Bergot and followed all obnoxious orders no matter how sick these were (and how damaging these were for the EPO as an organisation).

(Top) managers are recruited not because they are good and have potential to develop, but on the sole assumption that they will follow orders of their superiors without questioning them (mediocracy)

After 6 years of such regime, all is perverted at EPO.

Abnormality has become the norm, words are vergewaltigt on a daily basis and this on all kinds of subjects. EPO staff is in denial, totally exhausted, disoriented, lost. The experienced ones (read elderly ones) are leaving the EPO as soon as possible and are replaced by young, poorly trained and highly pressurized (vi time-limited contracts) new-comers.

The crucial knowledge transfer, upon which the EPO could grow up its competence to the praised level we now deplore has vanished (under Battistelli’s and Bergot), is gone.

The EPO is in real danger Mr Bausch.

One can only wish good luck to Mr Campinos who next July will have to clean the pigs’ breakfast inherited from the previous team. If he keeps some of the current top managers responsible at their positions then you can kiss goodbye to any recovery of the EPO, it will only be more of the same with a clear tendency to further decrease of competence due to the departure of the experienced staff.

We would like to note that there’s one single person who comments at Kluwer Patent Blog and makes snide remarks (directed towards us); that person falsely and even repeatedly claims that we do not honour requests to not be cited/quoted (never mind if from a copyright perspective that person is on no ground anyway). Since it’s Kluwer Patent Blog, dominated by Team UPC and catering mostly for lawyers/attorneys (whom we don’t expect to like our views), that’s almost predicable, understandable, and expected. There are things Bausch disagrees with us on, quite unsurprisingly.

Patent quality and the welfare of EPO workers is our priority. Not money (we don’t profit from anything we write, neither directly nor indirectly). Not the financial welfare of a bunch of law firms, that’s for sure…

It has meanwhile emerged that this relatively new site is a regular source of EPO coverage, not just EPO PR (it does that too) but also employment and union matters/conflicts. The latest article is titled “SUEPO blasts EPO employment proposal”; it doesn’t contain any information which is new to us, but nevertheless it’s good to see that material in the (almost) mainstream.

The Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) has blasted recent proposals to the employment framework of the office, arguing that the trust of its staff in its management and administrative council has been lost.

The employment proposals are part of the “extreme” situation at the office, that Union Syndicale Fédérale highlighted in a recent letter.

Brought by EPO president Benoît Battistelli and principal director of human resources, Elodie Bergot, the proposals were criticised by the office’s Central Staff Committee for being “far-reaching”.

Article 53(1)(f) of the proposal would have given the EPO the ability to terminate the service of an employee if the “exigencies of the service require abolition of their post or a reduction in staff”.

However, at the end of February, the proposal was halted and the article was withdrawn.

In a letter to its members, SUEPO said that the original proposal generated “a great turmoil among staff”

In case someone wonders why mainstream media does not cover this (when we say “mainstream” we mean Spiegel, BBC and so on), look back at things we wrote before. They actively suppress even their own writers who wish to cover EPO scandals, possibly because there’s some higher agenda prevalent at the newsroom. Such silence or media blackout is not only detrimental to Europe but also to the Office itself; Team Battistelli has long benefited from media apathy (with few exceptions here and there). Sepp Blatter could only pray and hope for such apathy. Team Battistelli actively bribes and threatens the media, too.

UPC and Beyond: Constitutional Issues Cannot be Brushed Under the Carpet

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EU law

EU law

Summary: Persistent issues associated with Big Litigation’s wet dream (EU Patent, Community Patent, UPC and so on), which is a bunch of firms being sued by patent trolls and dragged into courts that do not even speak their language (need to hire interpreters in another country)

THE EPO no longer mentions the UPC. It has nothing positive to say regarding progress as the UPC is virtually (not officially) dead right now.

“Any impact on the UPC,” Henrion asked Steve Peers after he had posted a relevant new document (copied locally and shown above). “It has similar construction, and the CJEU reserved itself on future validity of such a court, notably its compatibility with EU law.”

Peers (Professor of EU, Human Rights and World Trade Law at the University of Essex) responded: “The CJEU already ruled on an earlier version of the UPC of course, and the final drafting of the UPC treaty tries to take account of that ruling.”

There are, in the mean time, no indications whatsoever that the British government cares about the UPC as it’s not even mentioned anymore (and as we predicted, UPC vanished from the press several days ago). As IP Draughts put it 3 days ago in “Brexit and IP: Prime Minister’s speech”:

Some might think that participating in these bodies without being subject to the jurisdiction of the CJEU is an unrealistic negotiating position, but time will tell.

We’re no longer worried about the UPC because it looks like it’s dead and it would take a miracle to make it technically feasible again. Whether Team UPC reorganises and coordinates the passage of something equally evil (with another euphemistic name) remains to be seen. To ensure it passes this time around call it the “save-the-children, stop-piracy, anti-terror” Patent Court (STCSPATPC). No politician would say no to it. They never read any of the text they sign in approval of anyway…

Links 6/3/2018: Kodi 18 “Leia” Alpha, Systemd 238

Posted in News Roundup at 8:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • What’s fuelling open source adoption in organisations?

    What is behind the recent surge in innovative organisations using open source platforms? DevOps and Linux expert Karel Striegel explains.

    Not long ago, open source software (OSS) was dismissed as a cheap alternative to proprietary software. Today, open source is acknowledged as the future of software for innovative organisations, allowing IT departments to accelerate the process of bringing their ideas to market.

    Even Fortune 500 companies allow open source to drive their organisations by encouraging developers to use OSS to improve software packages constantly while reducing costs.

    Open source is cost-effective because companies save money and lessen technical debt by debugging and improving existing OSS.

  • OSI Celebration at Campus Party Brazil

    The Open Source Initiative (OSI) celebrated its 20th Anniversary at Campus Party Brazil 2018 during the first week of February. Campus Party Brazil is among the largest and most diverse tech events in the world. The eleventh edition of the event received a total of 120,000 attendees, of which 8000 were “campers” (participants who actually camp in tents inside this week long event). Approximately 40% of attendees were women, which is a very high mark for a tech event.

    The OSI was well represented at Campus Party. Patrick Masson, the general manager of the OSI, flew in from New York to meet staff member Nick Vidal and two former OSI Board members who live in Brazil: Bruno Souza, founder of SouJava (the world’s largest Java user group), and Fabio Kon, professor at USP university (the top higher education institution in Latin America).

  • Running for OSI board

    After serving in the board of a few technological Israeli associations, I decided to run as an individual candidate in the OSI board elections which starts today. Hoping to add representation outside of North America and Europe. While my main interest is the licensing work, another goal I wish to achieve is to make OSI more relevant for Open Source people on a daily basis, making it more central for communities.

  • Open source XenServer project is go after crushing crowdcash call

    XCP-ng, the effort to revive an open source version of XenServer, will go ahead after crushing its crowdfunding campaign.

    The project’s Kickstarter sought €6,000 but ended up with €38,531 from crowdfunding contributors. Project founder Olivier Lambert wrote to backers with news that their donations, plus more money from as-yet-un-named sponsors, brought the total fundraising effort to “around 50k€+”.

    The folk behind the project said that’s enough to help them create a first release by March 31st, then figure out “how to update XCP-ng (should be straightforward) but also how to upgrade it.” Also on the team’s to-do list is making it possible to upgrade a XenServer machine to XCP-ng.

  • Open Source: A revolution in technology, business and society

    Free and open source software is far more than just another way to develop code. In fact, the rise of the open source revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we use information to create a better world.

    Traditionally, individuals and organisations would tightly guard their intellectual property, hoarding it and protecting it from outsiders.

    Though it may have initially sprouted from the software development community, open source is now a movement, a philosophy. In this new way of thinking, we emphasise collaboration between brilliant minds, traversing different domains of knowledge, different countries and cultures – to ultimately tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Clang is now used to build Chrome for Windows

        As of Chrome 64, Chrome for Windows is compiled with Clang. We now use Clang to build Chrome for all platforms it runs on: macOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, and Windows. Windows is the platform with the second most Chrome users after Android according to statcounter, which made this switch particularly exciting.

      • Google Finds Clang On Windows To Be Production-Ready For Building Chrome

        While Google has already been using LLVM’s Clang C/C++ compiler to build the release builds of the Chrome web-browser for Linux rather than GCC and has also switched to using Clang on other platforms, this open-source C/C++ compiler has now been able to replace Microsoft’s Visual C/C++ compiler for building Chrome on Windows.

      • Chrome on Windows ditches Microsoft’s compiler, now uses Clang

        Google’s Chrome browser is now built using the Clang compiler on Windows. Previously built using the Microsoft C++ compiler, Google is now using the same compiler for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android, and the switch makes Chrome arguably the first major software project to use Clang on Windows.

        Chrome on macOS and Linux has long been built using the Clang compiler and the LLVM toolchain. The open-source compiler is the compiler of choice on macOS, making it the natural option there, and it’s also a first-class choice for Linux; though the venerable GCC is still the primary compiler choice on Linux, by using Clang instead, Google ensured that it has only one set of compiler quirks and oddities to work with rather than two.

    • Mozilla

      • Updates to Add-on Review Policies

        The Firefox add-ons platform provides developers with a great level of freedom to create amazing features that help make users’ lives easier. We’ve made some significant changes to add-ons over the past year, and would like to make developers aware of some updates to the policies that guide add-ons that are distributed publicly. We regularly review and update our policies in reaction to changes in the add-on ecosystem, and to ensure both developers and users have a safe and enjoyable experience.

      • How to Write CSS That Works in Every Browser, Even the Old Ones

        Let me walk you through how exactly to write CSS that works in every browser at the same time, even the old ones. By using these techniques, you can start using the latest and greatest CSS today — including CSS Grid — without leaving any of your users behind. Along the way, you’ll learn the advanced features of Can I Use, how to do vertical centering in two lines of code, the secrets to mastering Feature Queries, and much more.

      • Firefox 59 Beta 14 DevEdition Testday Results

        Friday 2nd of March we held 59.0b14 DevEdition testday.

      • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 33
      • WebRender newsletter #15

        I was in Toronto (where a large part of the gfx team is) last week and we used this time to make plans on various unresolved questions regarding WebRender in Gecko. One of them is how to integrate APZ with the asynchronous scene building infrastructure I have been working on for the past few weeks. Another one is how to separate rendering different parts of the browser window (for example the web content and the UI) and take advantage of APIs provided by some platforms (direct composition, core animation, etc.) to let the window manager help alleviating the cost of compositing some surfaces and improve power usage. We also talked about ways to improve pixel snapping. With these technical questions out of the way the rest of the week -just like the weeks before that- revolved around the usual stabilization and bug fixing work.

      • This Week In Servo 106

        Windows nightlies no longer crash on startup! Sorry about the long delay in reverting the change that originally triggered the crash.

        In the last week, we merged 70 PRs in the Servo organization’s repositories.

  • Databases

    • PostgreSQL 10: a Great New Version for a Great Database

      PostgreSQL has long claimed to be the most advanced open-source relational database. For those of us who have been using it for a significant amount of time, there’s no doubt that this is true; PostgreSQL has consistently demonstrated its ability to handle high loads and complex queries while providing a rich set of features and rock-solid stability.

      But for all of the amazing functionality that PostgreSQL offers, there have long been gaps and holes. I’ve been in meetings with consulting clients who currently use Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server and are thinking about using PostgreSQL, who ask me about topics like partitioning or query parallelization. And for years, I’ve been forced to say to them, “Um, that’s true. PostgreSQL’s functionality in that area is still fairly weak.”

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Java EE renamed ‘Jakarta EE’ after Big Red brand spat

      The open source version of Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) has been renamed Jakarta EE to satisfy Oracle’s desire to control the “Java” brand.

      The renaming became necessary after Oracle moved Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation, a shift it hoped would see developers become more engaged with the project.

    • Good-bye JEE, hello Jakarta EE

      Remember when Oracle bought Sun? The one thing that seemed to make sense about this deal was Oracle’s acquisition of Java. Almost 10 years later, Oracle gave up on Java Enterprise Edition (JEE), aka J2EE, and started spinning Java’s still-popular enterprise middleware platform to the Eclipse Foundation. Now, under the aegis of the Eclipse Foundation, JEE has been renamed to Jakarta EE.

      Why? Because Oracle was never successful in monetizing Java. In large part, this was because of Sun and then Oracle’s failed attempts to steer the Java Community.

      As Oracle’s server-side Java evangelist, David Delabassee, admitted in August 2017: “We believe that moving Java EE technologies including reference implementations and test compatibility kit to an open source foundation may be the right next step, in order to adopt more agile processes, implement more flexible licensing, and change the governance process.”


      If Jakarta sounds familiar, it’s because it is not the first time that name has been applied to a JEE server. From 1999 to 2011, the Apache Software Foundation ran Apache Jakarta, which covered all of Apache’s open-source Java efforts.

    • LibreOffice Will (Finally) Use Native GTK Dialogs on Linux

      The next major release of LibreOffice will use native GTK3 dialogs on Linux desktops.

      “Wait —LibreOffice doesn’t already use GTK dialogs?!” you might be asking. It was certainly my own first reaction when I opened an e-mail about the news in our tip inbox this morning (btw – thanks Dee!)

      Admittedly I do not use LibreOffice properly. Like, at all. Nothing against the suite itself — it’s rather marvellous — it’s just that the only writing I tend to do takes place inside a WordPress editor.

  • CMS

    • The Best Open Source Content Management Systems

      One of the most important elements new website owners fail to give enough consideration to is in selecting the right open source content management system (CMS) for their website. Obviously some websites are put together without the inclusion of a full CMS. Yet those websites used in enterprise environments are almost always employing some kind of CMS for easy content handling. Continue reading for my recommended best CMS options.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Open Source Code Flaws [Ed: Sonatype 'study' (FUD). Does proprietary software have flaws? Can they be fixed? Does it have back doors? Can they be closed?
      Oh, wait, it's just a marketing stunt from Sonatype, isn't it?]
    • SAS is on the brink of generation change

      As for open source, as mentioned above, SAS interoperates with it, mostly through Viya. However, dealing the lack of perception about SAS and ML, SAS should start contributing to open source.

  • BSD

    • John Carmack Goes On Coding Retreat With OpenBSD

      While id Software founder John Carmack has been known for his open-source and Linux interests over the years and even working on Utah GLX back in the day, he just wrapped up a self-driven “programming retreat” where he was using OpenBSD.

      These days Carmack is mostly accustomed to using Windows and Visual Studio, but decided to take a week long holiday where he was experimenting with C++ neural network implementations and doing all of his work strictly from a base OpenBSD operating system.


    • Fight for software freedom continues, FSF says

      The Free Software Foundation’s future is looking bright according to its Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report. The report outlines efforts and accomplishments by the free “as in freedom” software advocacy group over the previous year, from activism to awards and growth in membership and infrastructure.

      With individual contributions to the non-profit totalling more than $1 million and additional funding from earned revenue, investments, interest and others, the organization was able to cleanly cover all operating expenses while setting over $56,000 aside, with a reported 81 percent of funds supporting the GNU project, free software and its other endeavors. An evaluation of the FSF’s financial health, accountability and transparency alongside over 8,000 other non-profits by Charity Navigator earned the FSF a top four-star rating.

      “[Charity Navigator] chose us, out of 8,000 charities, for their all-purpose list of “10 Charities Worth Watching,” demonstrating significant progress toward making user freedom an issue of general, widespread importance,” foundation executive director John Sullivan wrote in the opening letter of the report. “These accolades reflect the hard work of our small, dedicated team, and show that supporters are right to invest their dollars and time in the FSF.”

  • Licensing/Legal

    • License Scanning and Compliance for FOSS Projects: A Free Publication

      According to Winslow, “any project that implements license scanning and compliance should aim to make it sustainable” and should set realistic goals to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of options and issues that may arise.

      Winslow also explains how using tools, such as FOSSology for license scanning and Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX) to help package scan results into meaningful reports, can help projects succeed in compliance efforts.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Portable Guitar Amp – Is That A Linux In Your Pocket?

        When it comes to music production and audio engineering, Linux isn’t the most common choice. This isn’t for lack of decent tools or other typical open source usability issues: Ardour as a highly capable, feature-rich digital audio workstation, the JACK Audio Connection Kit for powerful audio routing, and distributions like Ubuntu Studio packing all the essentials nicely together, offer a great starting point as home recording setup. To add variation to your guitar or bass arrangement on top of that, guitarix is a virtual amp that has a wide selection of standard guitar effects. So when [Arnout] felt that his actual guitar amp’s features were too limiting, he decided to build himself a portable, Linux-based amp.

      • Customising a $30 IP Camera For Fun

        WiFi cameras like many other devices these days come equipped with some sort of Linux subsystem. This makes the life of a tinkerer easier and you know what that means. [Tomas C] saw an opportunity to mod his Xiaomi Dafang IP camera which comes configured to work only with proprietary apps and cloud.

      • Love Open Source but Hate People? Get OpenKobold

        [Tadas Ustinavičius] writes in to tell us of his latest project, which combines his two great loves of open source and annoying people: OpenKobold. Named after the German mythical spirit that haunts people’s homes, this tiny device is fully open source (hardware and software) and ready to torment your friends and family for up to a year on a CR1220 battery.

  • Programming/Development

    • Getting started with Python for data science

      Whether you’re a budding data science enthusiast with a math or computer science background or an expert in an unrelated field, the possibilities data science offers are within your reach. And you don’t need expensive, highly specialized enterprise software—the open source tools discussed in this article are all you need to get started.

      Python, its machine-learning and data science libraries (pandas, Keras, TensorFlow, scikit-learn, SciPy, NumPy, etc.), and its extensive list of visualization libraries (Matplotlib, pyplot, Plotly, etc.) are excellent FOSS tools for beginners and experts alike. Easy to learn, popular enough to offer community support, and armed with the latest emerging techniques and algorithms developed for data science, these comprise one of the best toolsets you can acquire when starting out.

    • A glimpse into R counterculture

      After many readers expressed their indignation, Milley wrote a follow-up blog post on the SAS website, which took on a considerably more diplomatic tone. She defended SAS as software that can be valued for its “support, reliability, and validation.” Recent history, however, has made it much more difficult to conflate proprietary software with reliability or functionality.

      R certainly presents a powerful case study in how an open source language has rendered long-dominant proprietary software, such as SAS, largely irrelevant. Although it is difficult to quantify the size of R’s user base, one interesting metric of popularity is its use in academic journal articles. In that court, R surpassed SAS in 2015. Additionally, although it is merely anecdotal, it is amusing to note a thread from 2017 on the Statistics subreddit, in which the original poster wonders why SAS is still around in substantial numbers. To paraphrase the prevailing response, companies still buy SAS because it’s what they have always used in the past and change is hard! Or as Woodrow Wilson put it, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

      In contrast, there are developers and data science professionals who don’t want to make any concessions to functionality. They want the optimal tools for their analyses, even if it means having to dig through Stack Overflow every now and then. For them, there is R. It started as a statistical computing environment, but it’s had so many additions that it can now be classified as a general-purpose language.

    • 15 Most Popular Programming Languages Among Female Programmers

      It’s a known fact that there is a lack of gender diversity in the tech industry. While the companies and independent organizations are working to promote an open and inclusive environment, a lot of work needs to be done. However, a recent report from HackerRank suggests that things are slowly changing and the gender gap is slowly shrinking.

      Named Women in Tech 2018, this report is based on the response from more than 14,000 professional developers. Out of them, about 2,000 were female. Before digging up and finding the most popular programming languages among female programmers, let me tell you some encouraging facts about the ongoing change.


  • Google Search Could Get A Major “Material Design” Overhaul

    Google might be preparing a big visual change for its most popular product, Google Search. The company is testing a revamped version of Search which was spotted by a vigilant netizen who posted the screenshot on Reddit.

  • Science

    • Gene editing method produces perfect pluripotent stem cell twins

      Researchers led by Dr. Knut Woltjen report a new gene editing method that can modify a single DNA base in the human genome with absolute precision. The technique, which is described in Nature Communications, is unique in that it guides the cell’s own repair mechanisms by design, providing pairs of genetically matched cells for studying disease-related mutations.

      Single mutations in DNA, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms—or SNPs for short—are the most common type of variation in the human genome. More than 10 million SNPs are known, many of which are associated with ailments such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes. In order to understand the role of SNPs in hereditary disease, scientists at Kyoto University’s Center for iPS cell Research and Application (CiRA) create induced pluripotent stem cells from patient donors.

    • Comparison shows value of DNA barcoding in selecting nanoparticles

      The first direct comparison of in vitro and in vivo screening techniques for identifying nanoparticles that may be used to transport therapeutic molecules into cells shows that testing in lab dishes isn’t much help in predicting which nanoparticles will successfully enter the cells of living animals.

      The new study demonstrated the advantages of an in vivo DNA barcoding technique, which attaches small snippets of DNA to different lipid-based nanoparticles that are then injected into living animals; more than a hundred nanoparticles can be tested in a single animal. DNA sequencing techniques are then used to identify which nanoparticles enter the cells of specific organs, making the particles candidates for transporting gene therapies to treat such killers as heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Hardware

    • U.S. security panel deals major blow to Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm

      The U.S. government on Sunday ordered Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) to delay its March 6 shareholder meeting, a highly unusual request that will allow time for a national security review of the deal, but that also cast new doubt on Singapore-based Broadcom Ltd’s (AVGO.O) $117-billion bid for its U.S. semiconductor peer.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The Price They Pay

      The burden of high drug costs weighs most heavily on the sickest Americans.

      Drug makers have raised prices on treatments for life-threatening or chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer. In turn, insurers have shifted more of those costs onto consumers. Saddled with high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that expose them to a drug’s rising list price, many people are paying thousands of dollars a month merely to survive.

      For more than a year, President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress have promised to take action on high drug prices, but despite a flurry of proposals, little has changed.

      These are the stories of Americans living daily with the reality of high-cost drugs. And there are millions of others just like them.

    • A Look At The Role Of Governments, Universities, Science In Health Innovation & Access

      Intellectual property rights, particularly patents, are considered by some as being a barrier in access to medicines despite being a stimulus for innovation. At a recent symposium co-organised by the World Health Organization, World Trade Organization and World Intellectual Property Organization, speakers also talked about the role of science, governments, and universities in health innovation and access, and how to address challenges such as secondary patents.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Ethereum responds to eclipse attacks described by research trio

      What is an “eclipse” attack? Amy Castor, who follows Bitcoin and Ethereum, walked readers in Bitcoin Magazine through this type of attack.

      “An eclipse attack is a network-level attack on a blockchain, where an attacker essentially takes control of the peer-to-peer network, obscuring a node’s view of the blockchain.”

      Catalin Cimpanu, security news editor for Bleeping Computer: “Eclipse attacks are network-level attacks carried out by other nodes by hoarding and monopolizing the victim’s peer-to-peer connection slots, keeping the node in an isolated network.”

      Meanwhile, here are some definitions of Ethereum. It is an open software platform based on blockchain technology.

    • 4G LTE Loopholes Invite Unwanted Phone And Location Tracking, Fake Emergency Alerts

      In a new paper, the researchers at Purdue University and the University of Iowa have discovered vulnerabilities in three procedures of the LTE protocol.

      The loopholes could be exploited to launch 10 new attacks, such as location tracking, intercepting calls and texts, making devices offline, etc. With the help of authentication relay attacks, an evil mind can connect to a network without credentials and impersonate a user. A situation of an artificial emergency can be created by issuing fake threat alerts, similar to the recent missile launch alerts in Hawai.

    • Compromised Guest Account

      Some of the workstations I run are sometimes used by multiple people. Having multiple people share an account is bad for security so having a guest account for guest access is convenient.

      If a system doesn’t allow logins over the Internet then a strong password is not needed for the guest account.

      If such a system later allows logins over the Internet then hostile parties can try to guess the password. This happens even if you don’t use the default port for ssh.

    • Security researchers’ warning over Linux feature used in biggest ever DDoS attack on Github [Ed: Crappy corporate media blames on Linux something which is neither Linux nor GNU. “Memcached is free and open-source software, licensed under the Revised BSD license. Memcached runs on Unix-like operating systems and on Microsoft Windows” -Wikipedia]

      The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack targeting Github last week, which at its peak involved 1.3 terabits per second (Tbps) of traffic, has been attributed to the exploitation of a feature that was never intended to be exposed to the internet

      The eight-minute attack last Wednesday was more than twice the next-largest ever recorded DDoS attack. It took advantage of the Memcached feature of Linux in an attack described as “memcached amplification”.

      In these attacks, hackers inundate servers with small UDP-based packets. These are designed in a way so that they look like they were created by the target of the attack.

      Akamai helped GitHub fend off the attack. The company explained that Memcached techniques “can have an amplification factor of over 50,000, meaning a 203 byte request results in a 100 megabyte response.

    • Secure memcached server to avoid DDoS amplification attacks
    • Intel MKTME Support Being Prepped For The Linux Kernel: Total Memory Encryption

      Intel developers are working on bringing transparent memory encryption support to the Linux kernel that works in conjunction with upcoming Intel platforms.

    • Open Source Security Podcast: Episode 86 – What happens when 23 thousand certificates leak?
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?

      More than seven weeks after a devastating report from the media watch group FAIR, top executives and prime-time anchors at MSNBC still refuse to discuss how the network’s obsession with Russia has thrown minimal journalistic standards out the window.

      FAIR’s study, “MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen,” documented a picture of extreme journalistic malfeasance at MSNBC:

      — “An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017. And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen.”

      — “Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Court Hands Jason Leopold A Partial Victory In Case Involving Sealed Dockets And Electronic Surveillance

      A half-decade’s worth of litigation by “FOIA terrorist” Jason Leopold is finally bearing fruit. The petition, filed in 2013 to peel back a few layers of opacity from the Feds’ favorite court (DC District Court), has been partially granted by Chief Judge Beryl Howell. (h/t Mike Scarcella)

      Nearly two years ago, substantial progress was made when Judge Howell ordered the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) to examine sealed dockets (of which there are many — the DC circuit is home to hundreds of dockets rendered invisible by government requests for secrecy) and to start unsealing anything that wasn’t related to ongoing investigations.

      The government fought back, but as the lengthy opinion [PDF] shows, there was much more cooperation between the USAO and Leopold than one would expect, given the government’s antipathy towards him goes so far the Pentagon once offered Leopold a stack of documents in exchange for him promising to never file another FOIA request.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Arizona Utility Opts for Solar and Storage to Meet Peak Demand

      Solar photovoltaic panels in the desert near Phoenix may seem unremarkable. After all, the southwestern United States offers some of the best solar conditions in North America.

      But a recently announced 65 megawatt (MW) project is making news by coupling solar PV with battery energy storage, a first for utility Arizona Public Service, which solicited proposals in 2017 for generation sources to provide electricity during peak demand hours.

      Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that the solar-plus-storage bid beat out other generation sources, including multiple proposals for natural gas plants. (The utility has an agreement with an existing natural gas-fired plant for a total of 570 MW for the summers of 2020 through 2026.)

  • Finance

    • Chinese Investors Bet on Latin America for Next Tech Gold Rush

      Two years ago, Tang Xin had never set foot in Mexico and didn’t know a word of Spanish. While his grasp of the language hasn’t improved much since then, he has built one of the country’s hottest apps.

      Noticias Aguila, which translates as News Eagle, now has 20 million users and became the No. 1 news app in Google Play’s Mexico store late last year, according to App Annie. That has come as Tang and his development team remain based in Shenzhen, the Chinese technology hub just across the border from Hong Kong.

    • Analysis Finds TISA’s Benefits Are ‘Insignificant’, Points Out That Costs Of Deregulation Are Completely Ignored

      Back in 2014, Techdirt first wrote about TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement, another massive international trade deal that was being negotiated behind closed doors with no public scrutiny. Its central aim was to establish a common regulatory framework for services globally. But in doing so, it would circumscribe the ability of governments to bring in their own national laws, since many options would be forbidden by the agreement. For key areas, then, TISA would impose globally-agreed standards for services, with little freedom to diverge, whatever the local populace or democratically-elected politicians might think or want.

      During 21 rounds of talks, good progress was made on agreeing what should be in TISA, and it seemed that a final text was quite near. But with the election of Donald Trump, everything went quiet, as TISA negotiators waited to find out what his views on the deal would be. Since then, not much has happened, although TISA’s supporters are doubtless hoping that negotiations can be picked up again at some point.

    • Paypal Files Patent for Expedited Cryptocurrency Transaction System

      A recent patent filing reveals that Paypal might be considering expanding its exposure to the cryptocurrency ecosystem with a new system for speedy transactions. We shouldn’t however expect a Paypal Lightning Network or anything close to that any time soon. There is currently a global race to file patents for everything crypto or “blockchain” related and the company might just be strengthening its portfolio for future patent battles.

    • Meet the robot lending a cyber-hand to Cornwall’s cauliflower harvest [Ed: Replacing what's left of farmers/farming]

      Harvesting a cauliflower is not as simple as it looks.

      First it must be deemed firm, compact and white, before being gently prised from its main stem to prevent bruising, and plucked with a few outer leaves still attached to protect the head.

      So when scientists were looking for a robotic helper capable of taking on Britain’s brassica crop, they chose to mimic a tried and tested tool – the human hand.

    • Prof Hrdy: When Inventions Kill Jobs

      Prof. Hrdy has an interesting new blog post to accompany her paper titled Technological Un/employment. Her work focuses on the intersection between jobs and intellectual property – looking both historically and toward the future of automation. “[T]he impact of technology on employment has historically been “skill-biased”—demand for high skills workers rises; demand for low skill workers falls.”

    • Technological Un/employment

      The conventional wisdom is that intellectual property is good for innovation and good for jobs. But this is not quite right. In reality, a significant subset of the innovations protected by intellectual property, from self-service kiosks to self-driving cars, are labor saving, and in many cases also labor displacing innovations—meaning they drastically reduce the need for paid human labor. Therefore, to the extent intellectual property is successful at incentivizing innovation, intellectual property actually contributes to job loss. More specifically, intellectual property contributes to what this article terms “technological un/employment”—the simultaneous creation and elimination of jobs resulting from technological change. The normative question is what to do about this. Commentators like Bill Gates suggest using the tax system to slow down the pace of automation and provide aide to displaced workers. But this article yields another surprising insight: intellectual property law itself can be designed to effectuate similar goals, either alone or, more likely, in coordination with the tax system. At the least, intellectual property is guaranteed to play a prominent role in society’s current technological un/employment moment, both as part of the problem and as part of the solution.

    • Intellectual Property and Jobs

      During the 2016 presidential race, an op ed in the New York Times by Jacob S. Hacker, a professor of political science at Yale, and Paul Pierson, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, asserted that “blue states” that support Democratic candidates, like New York, California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, are “generally doing better” in an economic sense than “red states” that support Republican candidates, like Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, and (in some election cycles) Ohio. The gist of their argument is that conservatives cannot honestly claim that “red states dominate” on economic indicators like wealth, job growth, and education, when the research suggests the opposite. “If you compare averages,” they write, “blue states are substantially richer (even adjusting for cost of living) and their residents are better educated. Companies there do more research and development and produce more patents. Students score better on tests of basic science-oriented skills like math.”

      I am not here to argue over whether blue states do better than red states economically. What I do want to point out is how professors Hacker and Pierson use intellectual property – and in particular patents – in making their argument. Blue states, they write, “produce more patents” than red states. Indeed, “few of the cities that do the most research or advanced manufacturing or that produce the most patents are in red states.” How, they ask rhetorically, can conservatives say red states are doing better when most patents are generated in California? FN1

      Hacker and Pierson’s reasoning, which is quite common, goes like this. Patents are an indicator of innovation. Innovation is linked to economic prosperity. Therefore, patents – maybe even all forms of intellectual property – are linked to economic prosperity.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • ‘Trump, Inc.’ Podcast Extra: The Trump Organization Ordered Golf Course Markers With the Presidential Seal. That May Be Illegal.

      President Donald Trump loves putting his name on everything from ties to steaks to water — and, of course, his buildings. But now the Trump Organization appears to be borrowing a brand even more powerful than the gilded Trump moniker: the presidential seal.

      In recent weeks, the Trump Organization has ordered the manufacture of new tee markers for golf courses that are emblazoned with the seal of the president of the United States. Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime.

    • Putin’s Electoral Manifesto

      Putin claimed that Russia’s full parity with the United States in strategic weaponry has been restored. His blunt message to the United States to abandon its 16-year attempt to achieve a first strike capability and sit down for arms control talks drew the immediate attention of world media, even if the initial reading was confused.

    • The Six Stages of Trump’s Resistance

      In the grand scheme of his many legal and regulatory conflicts, President Donald Trump’s spats with state regulators over damaged wetlands and excess water use at his New Jersey golf courses seem almost trivial. Trump ultimately was fined $147,000 — less than he banks from a couple of new memberships at the two private country clubs where he was cited for breaking state law. Both disputes were resolved during his presidential campaign and went unnoticed in the press.

      Yet, as small as the sum was for a man like Trump, these two episodes are telling, not just because his resistance to oversight seems so disproportionate to the underlying allegations, but also because they provide a revealing anatomy of the five primary stages of Trump response. They could be summarized as Delay, Dissemble, Shift Blame, Haggle and Get Personally Involved. (The elements can be used in any order, more than once.) Often, there’s a sixth stage, too: Offer a job to one of the key players on the opposing side. Trump deployed those tactics again and again in his titanic real estate battles in New York, and his mega-dollar fights over casinos in New Jersey, according to Wayne Barrett’s biography, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Palestinians in Gaza protest Facebook censorship

      Dozens of Palestinian journalists on Monday staged a demonstration outside the UN’s Gaza City office to protest Facebook’s practice of unilaterally blocking Palestinian Facebook accounts.

      Demonstrators held banners aloft, reading, “Facebook is complicit in [Israel’s] crimes” and “Facebook favors the [Israeli] occupation”.

      According to Salama Maarouf, a spokesman for Hamas (which remains in de facto control of the Gaza Strip), Facebook blocked roughly 200 Palestinian accounts last year — and 100 more since the start of 2018 — “on phony pretexts”.

    • European Union demands Google, Facebook step up Internet censorship

      In a new attack on free speech, the European Union (EU) is calling on major social media and Internet firms including Facebook, Twitter and Google to automatically and immediately censor online material.

      On March 1, the EU Commission called on companies and EU states to ensure “the detection and removal of illegal content through reactive (so called ‘notice and action’) or proactive measures.” It also identified a vast amount of material targeted for censorship. According to the Commission, its recommendations apply to all forms of “content ranging from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.”

    • EU Commission Says Social Media Companies Must Take Down ‘Terrorist Content’ Within One Hour

      Once social media companies and websites began acquiescing to EU Commission demands for content takedown, the end result was obvious. Whatever was already in place would continually be ratcheted up. And every time companies failed to do the impossible, the EU Commission would appear on their virtual doorsteps, demanding they be faster and more proactive.

      Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft all agreed to remove hate speech and other targeted content within 24 hours, following a long bitching session from EU regulators about how long it took these companies to comply with takedown orders. As Tim Geigner pointed out late last year, the only thing tech companies gained from this acquiescence was a reason to engage in proactive censorship.

    • Chinese president Xi Jinping bans words ‘Animal Farm,’ ‘disagree,’ ‘I oppose,’ among others

      It seems the next generation of youth in China won’t be hearing of George Orwell’s famed “Animal Farm” anytime soon — at least online — according to California-based bilingual news website China Digital Times last Feb. 26. Censorship authorities started their work on limiting online discussion by banning a multitude of terms and words from the Chinese microblogging site Weibo — and the list is almost endless.

      The censorship move comes after Chinese state media released on Feb 25 a list of amendments to the Chinese constitution, which are to be carried out at the National People’s Congress Session in Beijing today. Among the 21 proposed amendments is the eradication of the current two-term limit of China’s presidents and vice presidents.

    • Blunt Measures on Speech Serve No One: The Story of the San Diego City Beat

      It’s no secret: Social media has changed the way that we access news. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans report getting at least some of their news on social media. Another study suggests that globally, for those under 45, online news is now as important as television news. But thanks to platforms’ ever-changing algorithms, content policies, and moderation practices, news outlets face significant barriers to reaching online readers.

      San Diego CityBeat’s recent experience offers a sad case in point. CityBeat is an alt-weekly focusing on news, music, and culture. Founded in 2002, the publication has a print circulation of 44,000 and is best known for its independence and no-holds barred treatment of public officials and demo tapes. The site is also known for its quirky—and, it turns out, controversial—headlines.

    • Wall Street Journal Explains Why SESTA Is A Terrible Idea And Is Unnecessary

      Here’s a bit of a surprise. The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial board has come out vehemently against SESTA. The reason this is surprising is that much of the push for SESTA has been a fairly obvious attack on internet companies, especially Google, by trying to undermine CDA 230. And the Wall Street Journal has spent years attacking Google at every opportunity.

      But, this time, the editorial gets the story right — highlighting that the effort is clearly being driven by anti-Google animus, even though it will create all sorts of other problems (problems that Google can mostly survive easily). However, the most important part of the editorial details why SESTA is not actually needed. Throughout the process, the backers of the bill always point to Backpage.com as the reason the bill is necessary. As we pointed out, when the bill was first released, nearly every quote from Senators backing it mentioned how it was necessary to take down Backpage.

    • Fake news and censorship

      Many media analysts have rightly identified the dangers posed by “fake news,” but often overlook what the phenomenon means for journalists themselves. Not only has the term become a shorthand way to malign an entire industry; autocrats are invoking it as an excuse to jail reporters and justify censorship, often on trumped-up charges of supporting terrorism.

      Around the world, the number of honest journalists jailed for publishing fake or fictitious news is at an all-time high of at least 21. As non-democratic leaders increasingly use the “fake news” backlash to clamp down on independent media, that number is likely to climb.

      The United States, once a world leader in defending free speech, has retreated from this role. President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirades about “fake news” have given autocratic regimes an example by which to justify their own media crackdowns. In December, China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper posted tweets and a Facebook post welcoming Trump’s fake news mantra, noting that it “speaks to a larger truth about Western media.” This followed the Egyptian government’s praise for the Trump administration in February 2017, when the country’s foreign ministry criticized Western journalists for their coverage of global terrorism.

    • Anti-censorship bill for student journalists awaits Washington governor’s signature
    • LIVE: Offensive? Censorship? Inxeba in court over X18 rating
    • South Africa returns to apartheid-era censorship with the banning of Inxeba
    • High Court drops porn rating on Inxeba
    • South Africa returns to apartheid-era censorship with the ‘banning’ of Inxeba

      Censorship, one of the insidious strategies used by the apartheid government, has made an ominous comeback in South Africa with the recent X18 classification of the award-winning film Inxeba (The Wound). In South Africa the film can now only be shown in locations licensed to screen adult entertainment.

      The apartheid government tried to maintain its power over a racially segregated South African population through controlling the media. This included censoring films – initially international and then also local ones. The Publications Control Board had the power to ban a film outright, demand scenes be cut or, bizarrely, to restrict the screening of a film to certain (usually white only) audiences.

    • Censorship is illegal in India, says ‘S Durga’ director at first screening

      Censorship in India is illegal and yet a majority of India endorses it. Director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan from Kerala made this rather-startling revelation at the first screening of his controversial “S Durga” in Kolkata.

      Before the screening on Monday, Sasidharan spoke about his film’s longdrawn censorship battle at a seminar attended by Chitrabani director Father PJ Joseph and various other film scholars. A qualified lawyer, Sasidharan gave up practice in 2006. But thanks to his acumen in the field, he knew his film would eventually win the case though he himself didn’t participate as a lawyer. But the legal tussle left him exhausted—emotionally, physically and financially. “My film was made on a budget of Rs 10 lakh-Rs 12 lakh. But the ministry must spent more than that to fight me. A fight for censorship can’t be an individual’s battle. People should feel they have the right to see a film uncut,” he said during a seminar on censorship, moderated by Someswar Bhowmik, director at St Xavier’s College’s Educational Multimedia Research Centre.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Tough Talk On Transatlantic Privacy, Once Again

      The EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, ahead of her US visit announced “a tough tone” on remaining gaps in the implementation of the privacy shield, the arrangement that allows to transfers of data of EU citizens to the United States. Speaking before the EU Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE), Jourova said while she had heard the privacy shield was not a priority of the US administration, “it will be a priority, if we make clear that we will suspend the system if it doesn’t work,” adding, “My patience is coming to an end.”

    • Today: UN Human Rights Council To Hear Rapporteur’s Report On Government Surveillance Online

      The United Nations Human Rights Council today (6 March) is expected to hear a report on government surveillance to be presented by the UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy. The report calls for the urgent development of a comprehensive legal framework on privacy and surveillance in cyberspace.

      On the agenda is presentation of a report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, addressing the issue of oversight of government surveillance.

      “There is no question that the global community needs to undertake urgent action … by developing a clear and comprehensive legal framework on privacy and surveillance in cyberspace, to operationalise the respect of this right, domestically and across borders,” the rapporteur’s report states.

    • Tor Mumbai meetup

      On 20th January, we had a Tor meetup in Mumbai. Hasgeek organized the event, with OML providing the meeting space. I noticed the announcement over Twitter, and made sure that I registered for the event. Two contributors from the core team, Sukhbir Singh and Antonela Debiasi, were present at the event.

    • Government Warned Legal Action Coming if Immigration Exemption Enacted

      Formal legal action has been launched against the UK Government today over the inclusion of a specific clause in the new Data Protection Bill which means at least three million people across the country would be unable to find out what personal data the Home Office or other related organisations hold on them under a clause the government claims is needed for ‘effective immigration control’.

      Lawyers from Leigh Day, who are acting on behalf of the3million ‐ the largest grassroots organisation of EU citizens living in the UK ‐ and the Open Rights Group (ORG) ‐ the UK’s only digital campaigning organisation working to protect the rights to privacy and free speech online ‐ have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd outlining their concerns and asking for the clause to be removed from the bill.

    • The Data Protection Bill’s Immigration Exemption must go

      The government has introduced a sweeping “immigration exemption” in Schedule 2, Paragraph 4. The exemption will remove your right to data protection if it is likely to prejudice “effective immigration control” or the “investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control”. What it won’t do is ensure effective immigration control.

      This immigration exemption will ensure that the Government will not need to face up to its mistakes. Currently, according to the Government’s Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, mistakes and administrative errors are involved in 1 out of 10 immigration cases.

      What’s it like to one of those 1 in 10? You can ask any one of the hundred EU citizens, living in the UK entirely legally, who were sent letters demanding they leave or risk deportation in August last year.

    • Tencent CEO Urges ID Link for Hong Kong and Chinese Citizens

      Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chairman Ma Huateng called on the Chinese government to introduce an ID system that would link multiple sets of travel documents with a mobile phone as part of a plan to boost regional trade between Hong Kong and the mainland.

      China’s second-richest man said new technology systems and laws could let Hong Kong residents make electronic payments and cross the border more easily. Ma was speaking at a press conference in Beijing before the country’s legislative council convenes in the capital to set the year’s agenda. He was joined by fellow tech billionaires such as Baidu Inc. founder Robin Li, who expressed a willingness to list their companies’ shares in China.

      “It’s still very complicated and we’d need to make it work with the customs systems but from a technology point of view we can do it,” Ma said. “We have been talking to the chief executive in Hong Kong for quite some time about a number of these issues, including the electronic ID.”

    • Virtru’s new API brings encryption tech built by ex-NSA engineer to third-party developers [Ed: Virtru sounds like a dangerous joke to me not just because of the NSA connections but also the partnership with Microsoft (which is notorious for giving NSA back doors to everything, inc. crypto). Avoid.

      Virtru co-founder Will Ackerly developed the company’s underlying encryption technology while he was working as an engineer at the NSA, so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about the subject. The company has been delivering encryption products for email and files in transit for several years now, mainly through a partnership with Google GMail and Microsoft Office 365. Today, it announced it was opening up that technology to third party developers through the Virtru Data Protection Platform.

    • Data consents: lets get granular

      Consent is one of the six lawful bases that justify the processing of personal data. To be adequate, consent must be a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the individual’s wishes by a statement or clear affirmative action – granular is the word the regulators use. It is not silence or a pre-ticked opt-in box. It is not a blanket acceptance of a set of terms and conditions that include privacy provisions. It can be ‘by electronic means’ – it could be a motion such as a swipe across a screen. But, where special category data (sensitive data such as health data) are processed and explicit consent is needed, this will be by way of a written statement.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • How the NSA and CIA Use Porn for Black Ops

      An internal NSA newsletter recently published by The Intercept records how the US government used pornography to debilitate and humiliate prisoners during the Iraq War. This is the latest in a string of revelations showing that the CIA and NSA regularly employ pornography as a tool in covert operations.

      The latest release from the Snowden cache describes how the NSA used pornography to debase and abuse Iraqi prisoners. An article from the NSA’s internal newsletter SID Today details how Marines brought in laptops, CDs, phones and hard drives belonging to detainees. The previously-secret document was written by an NSA volunteer working for the Iraq Survey Group, a joint CIA-DIA mission in Baghdad.

    • Is It Constitutional to Lock Up Immigrants Indefinitely?

      Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a class action lawsuit challenging the federal government’s practice of jailing immigrants for months or years while they litigate their deportation cases. The ACLU had argued that neither the immigration laws nor the Constitution permit such detention unless a judge determines, at a hearing, that the immigrant will pose a danger or flight risk if released.

      In a 5-to-3 decision (Justice Kagan was recused), the court overturned a 2015 ruling from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that required the government to give immigrants a custody hearing after six months of imprisonment. But in doing so the court only addressed one of the two arguments advanced by the ACLU. It rejected the ACLU’s claim that the immigration laws require hearings. But the ACLU had also asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the Constitution permitted lengthy imprisonment without hearings, and on that question, the court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit to address first.

    • The East Mississippi Correctional Facility Is ‘Hell on Earth’

      At the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, where Mississippi sends some of the most seriously mentally ill people in the state prison system, even the most troubled patients are routinely ignored and the worst cases of self-harm are treated with certain neglect. The conditions at EMCF have cost some prisoners their limbs, their eyesight, and even their lives.

      In 2013, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and prisoner rights attorney Elizabeth Alexander filed a class-action complaint on behalf of all the prisoners held at EMCF. As the case heated up, the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP joined as co-counsel, providing major staffing and support. Despite years of attempts by Mississippi to derail the lawsuit before our clients even saw the inside of the courtroom, the case will finally proceed to trial Monday.

      The lawsuit against EMCF describes horrific conditions at the facility: rampant violence, including by staff against prisoners; solitary confinement used to excess, with particular harm to prisoners with mental illnesses; and filthy cells and showers that lack functional toilets or lights. It also sheds light on a dysfunctional medical and mental healthcare delivery system that puts patients at risk of serious injury and has contributed to deaths in custody.

    • After Controversial Traffic Stop, Police Chief Says He Won’t Release Recordings To ‘Anti-Police’ Requesters

      The Chesterfield County Police Department is willing to violate your rights. If it’s not your Fourth Amendment rights, it’ll be your First. And this is fine with the department’s chief, who’s gone on record as a supporter of rights violations.

    • Two Governments That Remained Silent — and Three Women Who Refuse to Be Quiet

      At a D.C. event, survivors of a Mexican drug cartel massacre, triggered by a botched DEA operation, tell their story.

    • Welcome to the baton ball

      As well as flogging sniper rifles, shotguns, batons and handcuffs, the exhibition promotes cyber-spying firms that have been accused of helping repressive governments. Exhibitors include Gamma Group, which offers “strategic communications intelligence (network-based interception)”. The Bahraini security services used Gamma Group software to hack phones and computers of pro-democracy activists and lawyers (Eye 1373).

      Another exhibitor, Grey Heron Technologies, has strong links with Hacking Team, the notorious Milan-based surveillance company. At the fair Grey Heron will be selling “state-of-the-art software for legal surveillance of digital devices”. It gives a Milan address and its chief marketing officer is former Hacking Team spokesman Eric Rabe.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • After Chat With Ethics Lawyers, FCC Boss Declines NRA Gun Award For Killing Net Neutrality

      Last month you might recall that the NRA gave FCC boss Ajit Pai the Charleton Heston Award for Courage for his decision to dismantle popular net neutrality rules. The tone-deaf celebration was a pretty hollow attention seeking move, but was also an ouroboros of blistering idiocy. One, the NRA appears oblivious to the fact that net neutrality rules would have helped it as well, since the entire point is to ensure the internet is a level playing field for all competitors and voices. Net neutrality protects free speech (even speech you don’t agree with), something you’d think the folks at the NRA would be able to appreciate.

      Two, there’s simply nothing courageous about teaming up with Comcast to screw over the public and the nation’s small businesses and startups. Pai’s decision is widely derided as the dumbest decision in the history of modern tech policy. And while ISPs like to frame net neutrality as partisan to sow division and prevent meaningful rules, surveys repeatedly indicate the rules had broad bipartisan support.

      It didn’t take long for ethics experts to point out that the award and the NRA’s gift to Pai (a Kentucky long rifle) was over $200 and therefore violated ethics rules and lobbying restrictions:

    • The Decentralized Internet Is Here, With Some Glitches

      “The best entrepreneurs, developers, and investors have become wary of building on top of centralized platforms,” Chris Dixon, a partner with investor Andreessen Horowitz wrote last month, in a kind of manifesto for a more decentralized internet. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web has similar concerns. Graphite Docs and some other early DApps are far from perfect, but show there’s something to the hype. A life less dependent on cloud giants is possible, if not yet easy.

  • DRM

    • MPAA Opposes Several Filmmaker Associations Request For Expanded Circumvention Exemptions

      Over the past few weeks, we’ve mentioned in a couple of posts that the Copyright Office is currently taking public commentary for changes to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention exemptions provisions. While we’ve thus far limited our posts to the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment’s bid to have those exemptions extended to preserving online video games and the ESA’s nonsensical rebuttal, that isn’t the only request for expanded exemptions being logged. A group of filmmaker associations put in a request last year for anti-circumvention exemptions to be extended to filmmakers so that they can break the DRM on Blu-ray films in order to make use of clips in new works. At issue is the fact that these filmmakers are able to make use of clips in these new works thanks to fair use but cannot readily get at them due to the DRM on the films themselves.

    • Wireless Carriers, Hardware Companies Use Flimsy IOT Security To Justify Attacks On Right To Repair Laws

      A few years ago, anger at John Deere’s draconian tractor DRM birthed a grassroots tech movement. The company’s lockdown on “unauthorized repairs” turned countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists, after DRM and the company’s EULA prohibited the lion-share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned. These restrictions only worked to drive up costs for owners, who faced either paying significantly more money for “authorized” repair, or toying around with pirated firmware just to ensure the products they owned actually worked.

      The John Deere fiasco resulted in the push for a new “right to repair” law in Nebraska. This push then quickly spread to multiple other states, driven in part by consumer repair monopolization efforts by other companies including Apple, Sony and Microsoft. Lobbyists for these companies quickly got to work trying to claim that by allowing consumers to repair products they own (or take them to third-party repair shops) they were endangering public safety. Apple went so far as to argue that if Nebraska passed such a law, it would become a dangerous “mecca for hackers” and other ne’er do wells.

      Wary of public backlash, many of these companies refuse to speak on the record regarding their attacks on consumer rights and repair competition. But they continue to lobby intensely behind the scenes all the same. The latest example comes courtesy of the “The Security Innovation Center,” a new lobbying and policy vehicle backed by hardware vendors and wireless carriers. The group issued a new “study” this week that tries to use the understandable concerns over flimsy IOT security to fuel their attacks on right to repair laws.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • OfflineBay: A Pirate Bay Alternative That Works Without Internet

        The Pirate Bay, known as TPB for short, is a known name trying to preserve the existence of torrent indexing sites. But TPB doesn’t run all the time flawlessly. However, it has shown persistence while withstanding against the pressure in the past. But, it can be any day TPB can face a downtime, possibly because the feds want so.

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