French Giants Resort to Patent Trolling While Battistelli Attracts Patent Trolls to Europe

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 1:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Alcatel-Lucent as troll

Summary: While failed French companies such as Technicolor and Alcatel-Lucent turn to trolling — as they have done for years — the French boss of the EPO does everything he can to turn European cities into the Eastern District of Texas, where a combination of broad sanctions (like UPC) and low-quality patents (like European Patents under Battistelli) are envisioned as desirable

PATENT trolls are on the sharp decline in the US, owing to courts more than the US patent office. In Europe, however, the opposite is true and the EPO deserves much of the blame. Its low-quality patents and the push towards the UPC have both attracted trolls. We wrote many articles about that and last night we mentioned PwC’s latest ‘study’ (PwC is paid by Battistelli’s EPO) about trolls. It wants us to think that those ‘poor’ patent law firms are worthy of sympathy because litigation is down in the US. To quote the patent firms’ news site: “In 2016, the number of patent cases filed continued a downward trend from the high point reached in 2013, evidence of a clear shift in direction, while the number of patents granted increased. According to PwC’s recent 2017 Patent Litigation Study, the number of patent cases filed declined to approximately 5,100 cases in 2016, down nine percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, the number of patents granted increased by four percent in 2016 after seeing a rare decline last year.”

“The US seems to be moving in the right direction, whereas here in Europe we have fools like Battistelli trying to attract that same mess the US gets rid of.”But at the same time the numbers grew sharply in Europe. Hence our concern about the EPO and the UPC, which would increase damages from lawsuits whilst relying on low-quality European Patents (without proper oversight by appeal boards). Disaster in the making!

The US seems to be moving in the right direction, whereas here in Europe we have fools like Battistelli trying to attract that same mess the US gets rid of. He wants large German cities to become the equivalent of the Eastern District of Texas.

“We wrote a lot about Alcatel-Lucent in the past because it’s one among several French giants that have fallen and are now ‘liquidating’ by feeding patent trolls.”The French-speaking Benjamin Henrion warned some time ago that Alcatel-Lucent, a French global telecommunications equipment company that’s no longer doing very much, is feeding the patent trolls. We wrote a lot about Alcatel-Lucent in the past because it’s one among several French giants that have fallen and are now ‘liquidating’ by feeding patent trolls. Earlier today we gave Technicolor as another French example of that. This is not good. It’s dangerous to Europe’s edge.

What we have here in Europe right now is such a downright embarrassing patent office where people are pressured to "produce" patents based on quotas rather than quality thresholds. The EPO went as far as allowing patents on genome, spurring all sorts of protests in the streets. Only after intense pressure from the public and from European politicians the EPO finally admitted that it cannot go on anymore and many patents got withdrawn. Earlier this weekend NSAI issued the following statement: “The NSAI congratulates the European Seed Association for leading this battle on behalf of the plant breeders and advocating for a solution to re-establish the balance between patents and plant breeders’ rights,” said Dr Kalyan Goswami, Executive Director, National Seed Association of India. “This decision allows breeders to continue their regular breeding work, based on crossing and selection without worrying about access to genetic diversity and traits produced both biotechnological and conventional breeding process.”

“When will the Organisation also herald withdrawal of all those software patents that should never have been granted and are favoured among patent trolls?”In the title, NSAI is confusing the Office for the Organisation (or Administrative Council); it wasn’t Battistelli’s office that corrected the error. Battistelli was the problem, not the solution. We recently wrote about other such groups which were welcoming the revocation of these patents.

When will the Organisation also herald withdrawal of all those software patents that should never have been granted and are favoured among patent trolls?

The Present Trend of Patent Trolls Paying the Legal Fees of Their Victims Would Discourage Trolling

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 1:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Judge Gilstrap got it wrong again as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) overturned his decision to not grant fees

Rodney Gilstrap

Summary: Lawyers and attorneys can cost millions of dollars and sometimes, as in the case of Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC (RCDI), the bullies are forced to compensate their victims, albeit only after many years of court battles and appeals to the higher courts (like CAFC)

TODAY we are publishing quite a few articles about different aspects or angles through which the USPTO has improved. A gradual improvement or at least a system-wide amelioration can be seen, especially in courts (irrespective of what patent examiners say).

Recently, as in earlier this summer, RCDI made the headlines again. It is a patent troll (of the PAE kind), so calling it “patent-holding company” is rather misleading. We covered it before in relation to Gilstrap’s role and Gilstrap determined that they can avoid paying attorneys’ fees; well, indeed, as we expected all along, the appeals court ruled differently (far from similarly) last month:

The top US patent court has ordered a patent-holding company with a habit of dismissing cases rather than arguing its case in court to pay its opponent’s attorneys’ fees.

A panel of three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overruled (PDF) a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas who allowed Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC (RCDI) to walk away without paying legal fees of the company it had sued, ADS Security.


The appeals panel said Gilstrap’s decision to not deem the case “exceptional” was an abuse of discretion.

The judges held that RCDI’s “willful ignorance” of the prior art should have been considered. Both Rothschild and his lawyer submitted affidavits saying they’d done no analysis of any of the prior art in ADS’ motion, but they continued to possess a “good faith” belief that the patent is valid and infringed.

This was also covered in pro-trolls sites like IAM. We already know that these patent courts in East Texas are a farce and a mess. Thankfully, SCOTUS may have put an end to these. “The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has reversed a district court decision in a patent infringement case involving what constitutes an exceptional case justifying an award of attorneys’ fees under 35 USC Section 285,” said the article. Will Gilstrap’s record on these cases be assessed? He still facilitates a helluva mess, e.g. [1, 2, 3]. Moving cases away from his court may not be enough in tackling injustice.

Being a patent troll, we don’t expect RCDI to thrive anymore. RCDI is one of the worst these days and its patent won a “Stupid Patent” award, as TechDirt recalled a month ago:

Winning the never-coveted “Stupid Patent of the Month” award is no honor. In fact, it sometimes enrages recipients to the point of sueball-throwing. But there is definitely a large amount of schadenfreude to be enjoyed by onlookers — perhaps no more so than in the case of 2015 “SPotM” winner, conspiratorially-monikered Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, LLC (whose limited liability fails to save it).

Rothschild “invented” a method of hooking up a mixing device to the internet to allow consumers to produce custom blends of their own. Prior art should have invalidated it, but didn’t. Instead, the stupid patent allowed Rothschild to go after anyone who allowed users to customize anything over the internet. In one case, Rothschild applied its super-vague patent to a remotely accessible thermostat, arguing this was patent infringement because it allowed users to remotely customize temperatures. To cap off its troll pedigree, Rothschild filed all of its infringement lawsuits in the Eastern Texas District.

Well, the troll lost.

Are courts going to start punishing such patent trolls and bullies (especially when they use bogus patents that they know are bogus) by forcing them to pay their victims’ legal fees? Here are Patently-O‘s thoughts on this case:

In Rothschild, the patentee dismissed its case against ADS after the defendant filed a motion for dismiss on 101 and 102 grounds. The district court found the case non-exceptional. On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit found that the lower court abused its discretion by failing to (a) expressly consider the defendant’s arguments that Rothschild was willful ignorant of the prior art; (b) consider Rothschild’s pattern of litigation practices as part of the totality of circumstances; and (c) consider exceptional fees under Section 285 as separate and distinct from Rule 11 sanctions. Judge Mayer added in his concurrence that the complaint was “frivolous on its face” based upon clear failure under Section 101. (Claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 8,788,090).

It later adds that in “Checkpoint Sys, the district court awarded $6 million in attorney fees following a jury verdict finding that the asserted patent was invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed.”

There are other such cases and Gilstrap is such an utter disaster (and a friend of patent trolls) that we don’t expect him to follow CAFC’s example. Thankfully, TC Heartland will crush him and his court, but what would happen if the victim wasn’t as deep-pocketed as Newegg? It turns out that Mark Lemley intervened:

In another successful appeal by Prof. Mark Lemley, the Federal Circuit has reversed on fees – finding that the E.D. Texas Court (Judge Gilstrap) erred by not awarding fees to the successful defendant Newegg.

Typically, whenever judges get their ruling wrong they get demoted or something, but Gilstrap — being the most famous facilitator of patent trolls — is now allowed to make these decisions about his “business” domain. Incredible!

The above case isn’t the only one of of its kind. There were other such cases recently. Earlier this month, for instance, a software patent/s case also ended up with “patent holder ordered to pay defendant’s legal fees”. It’s a troll we mentioned many times before:

Shipping and Transit, LLC is a company that has spent more than a decade filing patent lawsuits against big businesses, public transport systems, and one-man software companies. Now for the first time, the organization has been ordered to pay the legal fees of one of the companies it sued.

A federal judge has ordered (PDF) Shipping and Transit—formerly known as ArrivalStar, also known as Melvino Technologies—to pay legal fees to Logistics Planning Services (LPS), a Minnesota freight logistics company.

Back in May Patently-O wrote about “Section 285, which of course allows a court in patent cases which are “exceptional” to award fees.”

To quote:

Then Dow moved in the district court for fees. The district court granted them under Section 285, which of course allows a court in patent cases which are “exceptional” to award fees. Nova never argued 285 did not apply, and the CAFC noted that on appeal.

The CAFC affirmed the district court’s findings, and it’s an odd case not likely to recur, so the substance of the panel’s 285 analysis isn’t too revealing.

“The lucky-thing here is that USPTO attorneys are paid government salaries and so the attorney fees added up to only $78k before the district court granted summary judgment against NantKwest,” Patently-O wrote the following month in relation to appeal fees.

Days ago, also in relation to Newegg, it turned out that a part of Acacia (massive patent troll) was also forced to pay its victim. To quote: “In 2010, AdjustaCam LLC filed suit (PDF) in Eastern Texas against dozens of companies, saying that they infringed US Patent No. 5,855,343, which describes a type of movable camera clip.

“AdjustaCam is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation, the biggest public patent-holding company. The AdjustaCam lawsuit included camera makers like Gear Head and Creative Labs, as well as retailers like Amazon, Newegg, K-Mart, Overstock.com, and Wal-Mart.”

Well, it took this long for this troll to compensate its victim, but at least it ended like that.

Might we be seeing more cases and outcomes like the above in the coming year/s? That would certainly be a deterrent against patent trolls.

Record Half for the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) at the End of June, Demonstrating Reform’s Success

Posted in America, Patents at 12:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Reference: Leahy-Smith America Invents Act

Summary: The eliminator of software patents continues to break records in spite of growing opposition to it (from the patent ‘industry’)

THE PATENT MICROCOSM IS TRYING to crush PTAB, a supplant or ‘watchdog’ for USPTO examiners. PTAB helps ensure high patent quality, sometimes by assessing older patents which were not sufficiently scrutinised.

“PTAB helps ensure high patent quality, sometimes by assessing older patents which were not sufficiently scrutinised.”PTAB’s good work reached all-time highs earlier this year and these latest figures suggest that this trend continues. “June was the second-busiest month of 2017 for Patent Trial and Appeal Board petition filing,” said a report, “with Halliburton Energy Services the top petitioner.”

“Record half for PTAB filing ends with 206 petitions in June,” says the headline.

Very good!

This will probably mean that the number of patents invalidated by PTAB, based on lack of merit, will continue to grow.

“This will probably mean that the number of patents invalidated by PTAB, based on lack of merit, will continue to grow.”PTAB is not a foe but a friend.

“At Managing IP’s European Life Sciences Forum, Finnegan’s Jennifer Roscetti and Erin Sommers covered issues of patent eligibility in the US and tips for IPR proceedings,” said the above publication. It’s obviously a hot topic. Patent law firms dislike PTAB. Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs) are what drives PTAB and patent maximalists’ blogs try to squash PTAB or at least slow it down. Patently-O does that a lot and the other day it wrote that “the PTAB will get a chance to determine validity under this new construction” on remand. More and more cases are now being sent PTAB’s way and Patently-O can’t quite stop that. As a matter of practice and law, PTAB oughtn’t allow patents to be changed (to avert invalidation); if they need changes in order to survive scrutiny, then they’re bogus and should not exist. But watch what happened: “After receiving substantial criticism for refusing to allow claim amendments during Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs), the USPTO began to to relax its standards somewhat. In this case, however, the Federal Circuit (C.J. Prost) has rejected the PTO’s expanded approach – holding that “the Board did not properly consider the arguments petitioner set forth in its opposition to the patent owner’s motion to amend.””

So basically, they tried to slow down PTAB by demanding detailed (written) responses to appeals (from CAFC); now there’s this…

Be sure that PTAB will come under truly nasty attacks, including attacks on judges. That’s all that the microcosm has got left. It’s losing the plot.

Supreme Court Saves the Day as Latest Statistics Reveal Slump in Patent Litigation (Mostly Trolls) in the Eastern District of Texas

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 11:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Delaware now receives more new paperwork than the Eastern District of Texas and the Supreme Court is poised to reaffirm PTAB’s role some time very soon


Summary: The Supreme Court of the United States relentlessly rules against patent maximalism and is expected to tackle patent quality — not just litigation scope — some time later this year (or next year)

THE Supreme Court (SCOTUS) and the patent office of the United States both show signs of improvement and give us hope. Software patents, for example, are already severely hurt, which is good news for software developers.

Over the past couple of months we patiently watched and took note of various bits of news, including data that served to reaffirm the above-mentioned improvement. People out there may disagree with our tone; they may also not like our views. But numbers tend to speak for themselves.

“People out there may disagree with our tone; they may also not like our views. But numbers tend to speak for themselves.”SCOTUS is taking under its wing a growing number of patent cases. It almost always rules against patent maximalism (5 out of 5 recently). As we recently noted, there is SAS Institute Inc. v Lee and a similar case that’s heading towards SCOTUS. We wrote about it also at the end of last month, long after patent blogs had covered it. “The inter partes review appeal focuses on the procedural question of whether the America Invents Act permits the USPTO to partially institute IPR proceedings – as it has been doing,” Dennis Crouch explained.

The America Invents Act (AIA) and IPRs pertain to PTAB, whose purpose is summarised above. We really need to protect PTAB and if SCOTUS rules in defense of IPRs, then that will be another nail in the coffin of software patents.

SCOTUS has meanwhile worked to weaken software patents from several other angles (other than PTAB). Apart from Alice there is also TC Heartland and some people still obsess over Impression v Lexmark — a very important decision with no direct impact on software patents. Patently-O chose to write about how this decision from May impacts drug imports (probably good for the ordinary ill person) and remarked on TC Heartland in quite a professional way. It was covered here several times before, though we overlooked Dennis Crouch’s initial response to it. In a nutshell, TC Heartland appears to have ‘killed’ the trolls’ rocket docket, the Eastern District of Texas (and thus ‘killed’ quite a few patent trolls which relied on it). According to IAM, which is very extrovert about being pro-trolls, “Unified Patents released its US patent dispute data covering the first half of this year yesterday and it showed that the number of new district court cases came in at 1,914, down 12% on the first half of 2016. RPX also released its own analysis late last week, showing that litigation is at its lowest level since 2008 when the firm started collating data.”

“In a nutshell, TC Heartland appears to have ‘killed’ the trolls’ rocket docket, the Eastern District of Texas…”Very good.

“In other words,” said Patent Progress, “the TC Heartland decision was neither a firework nor a sparkler,” but it did lower the rates of abusive litigation.

At Managing IP, Natalie Rahhal, covered the numbers as follows:

Patent lawsuit filing in US district courts held up in June but plaintiffs have deserted the Eastern District of Texas, with Delaware the top venue. Natalie Rahhal analyses how US patent litigation has changed since TC Heartland, including how NPEs have responded

This is all news from the past few days. It confirms as a reality what we hoped for all along! It’s working! TC Heartland will be mentioned a lot for years to come.

Baker Donelson, which IAM likes to boost, is trying to come up with new tricks.

Another recent article from Patent Progress had said that “After TC Heartland [...] Texas [is] less attractive for patent trolls,” even before the data about it was made available. To quote within broader context:

You hear a lot about patent litigation in district courts. And, over the past several years, the new inter partes review procedure has seen a lot of attention (including last week’s renewed effort to try to kill off the single most effective tool we have for invalidating bad patents.)

You don’t hear that much about the International Trade Commission (ITC). But that might need to change. After TC Heartland made the Eastern District of Texas less attractive for patent trolls, they’re looking for a new place to go, and the ITC might be just the thing they’re looking for.

Also see “And… a court says “You could’ve done what TC Heartland’s Defendant did” — a recent article from Patently-O.

This is all very, very encouraging news.

After TC Heartland we can certainly expect disputes over legitimacy of patent lawsuits that happened in the Eastern District of Texas. “There’s going to be a lot of litigation over whether a defendant who failed to object to venue pre-TC Heartland can raise it now,” Patently-O wrote. “In fact, why not a plaintiff?”

“After TC Heartland we can certainly expect disputes over legitimacy of patent lawsuits that happened in the Eastern District of Texas.”The decision and its impact is truly profound, but a lot of the mainstream media — not to mention its readers — does not find it interesting enough to cover. Maybe it’s assumed that readers would not be interested and would not “click” much (to “consume” ads). When the mainstream media does cover it it tends to get the facts wrong. In fact, it gets some of its ‘facts’ from Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), which is “a well-known Microsoft proxy association” that “lobbied for software patents in Europe in the name of small companies.” Benjamin Henrion noticed and said that.

Shame on the corporate media for quoting Microsoft AstroTurfing groups in relation to a case where Microsoft has high stakes (Microsoft uses trolls for competitive leverage). Some other corporate media, AOL for example, published “Supreme Court Clarifies Venue Rules for Patent Infringement Suits” and did not resort to spin such as “The Supreme Court’s big ruling on ‘patent trolls’ will rock businesses everywhere” (as if it’s bad for everyone, everywhere). Sadly, no matter how often we berate the press, some of the press still quotes Microsoft AstroTurfing groups in relation to a decision that businesses actually celebrate, don’t get “rocked” by. How about the paragraph in which the Microsoft front pretends to represent small developers, quoting “Morgan Reed, president of ACT | The App Association”?

Should they not just quote actual app developers rather than a group pretending to represent them?

Anyway, Natalie Rahhal, writing from New York, framed the above as a “Heartland attack” (like heart attack). Funny twist on the case, eh? It’s no attack but a much-needed blessing. Unless you love blood. Or patent trolls…

Suffice to say, patent trolls in the US are panicking (as does Watchtroll, a site which supports the trolls, not to mention IAM; In “IAM speak” — being a megaphone of patent trolls — suing with patents in the Eastern District of Texas is “extract[ing] value”). No doubt they’ll lobby against this decision, just as they did against Alice (a subject to be covered separately some other day). It’s already dealt with by political means, even though SCOTUS is supposed to be apolitical. To quote Patent Progress:

Tomorrow morning, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet is holding a hearing titled “Examining the Supreme Court’s TC Heartland Decision.” In advance of the hearing, I wanted to take a look at why there’s a special patent venue statute at all, and why the decision in TC Heartland makes sense in light of that history.

As someone put it last month, the decision makes patent lawsuits in Texas acceptable if, for example, the “user’s smartphone is in the Eastern District of Texas,” but not otherwise.

Back in May the decision made it into television. Two months ago (when I was away) PBS covered everything in this programme that the patent microcosm recommended. HBR covered it too and there was this article titled “Why it matters that patent trolls won’t be able to force their cases in Texas” from around the time of the decision. Later on HBO did a programme related to this; See “HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ tackled an issue that’s all too familiar to startups: The threat of frivolous patent litigation” (early June) — an article that’s quoted as saying that “Hollywood is doing its part to bring light to this shady practice, but Washington needs to do more…”

From the article:

The latest episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” took on an issue that is all too familiar to startups across the country — the threat of frivolous patent litigation.

In the show, the startup, Pied Piper, breaks into the Top 500 on the App Store, and almost immediately, the company receives a demand letter stating that it is violating an existing patent. Pied Piper soon discovers that it is being sued not by another well-intentioned startup, but an unscrupulous attorney, or a patent troll. The troll in the show explains that he buys up vague patents at auction and “prints money” suing startups for settlements. Despite the fact that Pied Piper eventually outsmarts the patent troll, the startup ends up paying more in attorney fees than it would have cost to just settle.

This does not directly relate to TC Heartland, but the timing seemed right. “Troll The Tech Patent Trolls”, said one article around the same time, noting that “[s]oftware patents in the last decade have skyrocketed.” (but are no longer potent in the US). This one was definitely about TC Heartland and it alluded to it directly: “A recent court ruling stands to shake up the entire patent-troll sector. Although some declines have been witnessed already, the true nature of this situation has yet to be realized, offering short sellers a rare opportunity to ride stocks to the ground. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that patent suits should be filed in the state where the defendant is incorporated, and not in the location of the plaintiff’s choosing, as was the previous practice. The ruling will bar many patent owners from bringing forth cases in the Eastern District of Texas, a patent-friendly jurisdiction where more than one-third of all infringement lawsuits are now filed. This puts an end to a majority of cases that sought refuge there in order to gain an advantage and claim victory. It’s about time the patent trolls got trolled on.”

“Let this be a lesson to other patent trolls attempting to extort funds from printing industry service providers and OEMs using equipment and software generic to the industry,” Harvey Levenson, Cal Poly Professor Emeritus said in relation to another SCOTUS decision. “The Supreme Court Continues To Take Aim At Patent Trolls,” said the headline in a patent law firms’ platform.

“SCOTUS Slaps Patent Trolls,” said this article which was published almost immediately after the decision had been published. To quote:

In a unanimous decision (TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC), the U.S. Supreme Court gave a kick in the rear to patent trolls. The Verge has this article on the case.

Patent trolls obtain patents not for the purpose of producing an invention or a technology but to license and enforce the patents. In other words, trolls have no plans to actually make the patented product or process; instead, they prefer to lie in wait, letting someone else do the heavy lifting and then suing just as the new creation is about to take off commercially. It is a shakedown process that threatens innovation.

Another piece, “SC [Supreme Court] Ruling Signals New Era for Software Patent Enforcement,” correctly connected software patents to patent trolls.

Going back to Natalie Rahhal and Managing IP, they’re obviously not happy. They front for patent law firms and Managing IP published its third article about the case in a matter of a few days [1, 2, 3]; being a death blow to many patent trolls, it certainly worries them. It also worried Annsley Merelle Ward from Bristows, the friends of patent trolls, as the decision potentially ends/shreds their business with trolls. They were dominating the blog IP Kat around the month of May (as though Bristows almost took over), back when they were writing the majority of ‘articles’, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. To quote Bristows: “So will this be the blow to the much loved (by patentees, anyway) Eastern District of Texas that so many defendants have been dreaming of? Is this a further blow to patent trolls in the US? Will patentees look to other global venues where forum shopping presents more opportunities, for example in Europe and under Article 33 of the UPCA? Or is this just balance returning to forum shopping in the US and it will be business as normal? What do readers think?”

See how they allude to the UPC? They want to make Europe the next Eastern District of Texas. Their friends at IAM, others whose ambition is to have lots and lots of lawsuits, express concern about the case. It would certainly take away a lot of their ‘business’ (litigation). “Historically,” as one person put it, “EDTX often doesn’t consider petitions for change of venue until after discovery is done & defendants have usually spend >$1MM.” That’s money that’s channeled into law firms’ pockets.

Dubbing it the “most significant patent law decision since Alice”, Managing IP also noted: “Filing in the Eastern District of Texas has ground to a halt, one judge has already factored it into an order and IP observers have been busy on social media debating its “seismic” impact – Managing IP collates the best reaction to the Supreme Court’s TC Heartland v Kraft ruling on patent venue” (the figures above serve to confirm this).

The anti-Alice bloggers over at Bilski Blog tried to assess the impact. “That’s against the interests of their own profession,” Henrion remarked. “As it is with software patents and Alice.”

“Patent filings could fall 69% in East Texas after TC Heartland ruling,” WIPR wrote. The headline from WIPR actually makes no sense (suggestive of the writer’s misunderstanding). Filings (not of lawsuits) are done in the US, not in Texas. Either way, these predictions from over a month ago are now better supported by data because, as IAM put it the other day, “post-TC Heartland Delaware overtakes EDTX as top venue for new suits,” based on Unified Patents.

The more SCOTUS intervenes in patent cases, the more the patent microcosm has to worry about. So let’s hope for more.

Trolls-Connected Rovi, TiVo, Hulu and Technicolor Continue to Make Broadcast a Sordid Maze of Software Patents

Posted in America, Patents at 9:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Technicolor logo

Summary: With a lot of lawsuits — some of which connected to notorious patent trolls — it certainly seems like much of the “innovation” in the area of digital broadcast now happens in courtrooms, not laboratories

THE USPTO continues the granting of software patents. They’re not worth much; in fact, many are utterly worthless as no court would take them seriously. But they’re just another number under one’s belt, contributing to the perception of patent might. In the coming weeks we will cover some of these patents and also mention patent battles that we lacked the time to cover earlier this summer (due to absence).

“A high proportion of key players in the patent world are basically charlatans, scammers, and Mafia-like entities which need exposing.”One interesting news from earlier in the summer was the move of Deirdre Leanne from one patent troll, IP Navigation Group (IP Nav), to another, Technicolor [1, 2, 3]. IP Nav quickly became one of the world’s most notorious patent trolls (if not the most fraudulent in the world), but it’s now pretty much defunct as the patent/s it relied on got invalidated.

Arvin Patel, according to the same article, ended up at TiVo, whose patent aggression we wrote about as often as we covered IP Nav (dozens of times each).

“The matter of fact is, this whole territory has become so thoroughly plagued with unethical software patent lawsuits, patent trolls and mischief…”A high proportion of key players in the patent world are basically charlatans, scammers, and Mafia-like entities which need exposing. Not many sites are willing to write about these trolls because some of them, Ray Niro for instance, unmask and then attack critics in courts. It’s enough to scare some people and publishers.

How about Rovi, which is connected to the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, and is competing with TiVo? We wrote about it many times before and Bloomberg recently said that “Hulu Seeks Order It Doesn’t Infringe Rovi Video Patent,” noting the relevance to Alice too:

Moreover, TiVo’s patents are vulnerable to legal challenges after U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, which led to the invalidation of hundreds of software patents for covering ineligible abstract ideas…

TiVo is not just a patent bully but also somewhat of a scammer, based on this report from the end of May. Pay close attention to this:

Hulu LLC has launched a suit against Tivo in California federal court Tuesday, claiming it doesn’t need to renew an expired licensing agreement since three patents covered by the agreement are no longer applicable.

According to a report on Law 360 Hulu claims TiVo continues to assert its patents against Hulu even though they’ve expired or are no longer relevant. Also, Hulu claims TiVo has breached its own obligations under their license agreement by failing to follow through on its promises and good faith obligations and by widely publicising its licenses to Hulu’s competitors, among other things.

TiVo, according to this from four weeks ago, is now “accusing Comcast and its set-top partners Arris and Technicolor of violating a software patent…”

So we go back full circle again; back to Technicolor, which once existed as a “real” company in the area of broadcast.

The matter of fact is, this whole territory has become so thoroughly plagued with unethical software patent lawsuits, patent trolls and mischief that it seems unlikely anyone can compete in the US without getting sued from every direction.

What is more desirable? Innovation or litigation? To lawyers — the latter.

Links 9/7/2017: Wine 2.12, Endless OS 3.2, FreeBSD 11.1 RC2 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 3:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



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    • Fifteen new devices from Technoethical now FSF-certified to respect your freedom

      Last week we happily announced that we awarded Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification to fifteen new devices from Technoethical (formerly Tehnoetic): the TET-N150HGA, the TET-N300, the TET-N300HGA, the TET-N300DB, the TET-N450DB, the TET-BT4, the TET-X200, the TET-X200T, the TET-X200S, the TET-T400, the TET-400S, the TET-T500, the TET-X200DOCK, the TET-T400DOCK, and the TET-D16. While Technoethical is based in Romania, they are able to ship to many countries around the world. The RYF certification mark means that the products meet the FSF’s standards in regard to users’ freedom, control over the product, and privacy.

      This is a vast expansion of the currently available RYF products, more than doubling the present count. Users now have more options than ever when it comes to devices they can trust. We hope to repeat the feat accomplished this week with even more big launches in the future. Technoethical should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished here, and we look forward to seeing even more new hardware from them.

    • FSF Certifies Another Batch Of Old Hardware For Respecting Your Freedom

      The Free Software Foundation has endorsed fifteen “new” devices under their Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification.

    • Shadow Icons Looks Great With All Themes, Install in Ubuntu/Linux Mint

      Shadow icon theme is a new comer for Linux desktop, it looks beautiful with all kind of themes. It is meant to be modern clean and customizable, the primary color of this set most likely bluish and many apps icons are in round shape. So basically this theme is mixture of round and normal (square) shape icons, lets see where this theme will head in the future, it should choose shape what users asks. As creator mentioned this icon theme is his first so please bare any bugs or missing icons. You can report bugs or suggest new icons to include in this set via this link. You can use Unity Tweak Tool, Gnome-tweak-tool to change themes/icons.

    • Obsidian Icon Theme Based On Faenza And It Revives Desktop

      Obsidian icons are based on Faenza icon theme which is around from some years but the development of Faenza is almost stopped, hope creator again give some time to his popular icons. Obisidian-1 icon theme offers icons for panels, toolbars and buttons and colourful squared icons for devices, applications, folder, files and menu items, there are two version included to fit with light or dark themes. It is in active development which means if you find any missing icon or problem with this icon set then you can report it via linked page and hopefully it will be fixed in the next update. Arc theme suite used in the following screenshots and you can use Unity Tweak Tool, Gnome-tweak-tool to change themes/icons.

  • Server

    • Privileged Ports Cause Climate Change

      I’m thirty seven years old, which is like ninety nine in programmer years. I’m old enough to remember the earliest days of the public Internet and the first boutique Internet service providers. My first online account was via one called Internet Access Cincinnati (IAC). It provided dialup modem access to a Sun SparcStation 10 where users could run such venerable old terminal applications as elm (a mail client), emacs, lynx (text-mode web browser), and of course IRC.

      Later they added the ability to dial into a CSLIP (predecessor to PPP) terminal server and connect your own Linux or Trumpet WinSock equipped Windows system directly to the Internet with a real bona-fide IP address.


      This is all probably water under the bridge. Chances are the path forward will be to develop true secure container multi-tenancy and to achieve with containers what should have been achieved by extending the Unix permission model to networking in user space.

      The purpose of this post is to show how small decisions that nobody really thinks about can have dramatic effects on the future evolution of technology (and society). The 1970s decision to use port numbers as an in-band signaling mechanism to implement cross-system security validation might have been, in retrospect, a trillion dollar mistake that pushed the evolution of the Unix platform down a path of significantly greater complexity, resource use, and cost.

      But hey, maybe it’s not a done deal yet. There’s over a dozen Linux distributions and most of them are doing more or less the same things with a slightly different spin. Implementing something like this would be an interesting way for one of them to differentiate. The first step would be to implement networking permissions something like what was discussed above and to propose it as a kernel patch. For backward compatibility you could make it something enabled via a sysctl setting, or maybe a module (if modules can make changes that deep).

  • Kernel Space

    • daxctl() — getting the other half of persistent-memory performance
    • Gaming hardware support

      The driver landed in kernel 4.10. Note that it only supports the PlayStation 3 version of the tablet, as the Wii and XBox 360 versions require receivers that aren’t part of the package. Here, a USB dongle should be provided.

    • Linux Foundation Continues Networking Project Expansion

      The days when the Linux Foundation was only focused on Linux as an operating system are now long in the past. In recent years, the Linux Foundation has expanded its Collaborative Projects effort to include a growing list of open-source networking efforts, the most recent one being the Open Security Controller Project.

      The Linux Foundation already is the home to several Software Defined Networking (SDN) efforts including OpenDaylight which developer an open-source controller platform.

    • ‘Big 4′ Accounting Firms Are Experimenting With Blockchain And Bitcoin

      In May 2016, Deloitte’s first blockchain lab was created in Dublin followed by a second hub in New York in January this year and more such announcements are expected. Deloitte joined the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA) and the Hyperledger Project by the Linux Foundation in May 2017.

    • Btrfs RAID 5/6 Support Is “Mostly OK” With Linux 4.12

      I previously reported on Btrfs RAID 5/6 fixes for Linux 4.12 to work on fixing some potentially bad Btrfs RAID 5/6 problems. These changes for Linux 4.12 were enough to elevate the rating of this functionality.

    • POWER Updates Submitted For Linux 4.13

      A variety of POWER architecture updates have been submitted for the Linux 4.13 kernel merge window.

    • Input Updates Submitted For Linux 4.13 Kernel

      Dmitry Torokhov submitted the input subsystem updates today for the Linux 4.13 kernel merge window.

    • Graphics Stack

      • David Airlie Exploring MRT Performance Optimization For RADV

        When comparing differences between the RADV Vulkan driver and the AMDGPU-PRO still-proprietary Vulkan driver, David Airlie has uncovered a new area to explore for potentially getting closer performance out of the open-source driver.

        Airlie has been exploring the performance of MRT, or Multiple Render Targets. MRT is rendering images to multiple render target textures at once and can be used commonly for deferred shading/rendering. Airlie noted some “magic” happening within the AMDGPU-PRO driver and realized it could be a area of performance improvement for not only RADV but also RadeonSI. He explains the technical bits in this mailing list post and these IRC logs.

      • Mesa 17.2 Still Planned For August Release, Feature Freeze In Two Weeks

        Emil Velikov of Collabora has reiterated his release plans for Mesa 17.2 in making it the latest quarterly release to this growing 3D graphics stack.

      • The GSoC Idea

        After the two-part series on the fundamentals of Xwayland, I want to briefly introduce the basic idea for my Google Summer of Code (GSoC) project for X.Org. This means I’ll talk about how Xwayland currently handles the graphic buffers of its applications, why this leads to tearing and how we plan to change that.

        The project has its origin in my work on KWin. In fact there is some connection to my unsuccessful GSoC application from last year on atomic mode setting and layered compositing in KWin. You can read up on these notions and the previous application in some of my older posts, but the relevant part of it to this year’s project is in short the transfer of application graphic buffers directly onto the screen without the Wayland server compositing them into a global scene before that. This can be done by putting the buffers on some overlay planes and let the hardware do the compositing of these planes into a background provided by the compositor or in the simpler case by putting a single buffer of a full screen application directly onto the primary plane.

    • Benchmarks

      • NVIDIA OpenGL vs. Vulkan CPU Core Scaling For Linux Gaming

        At the end of June I posted some Vulkan vs. OpenGL Linux Game CPU Core Scaling using RADV/RadeonSI with a Polaris graphics card. At that time I also carried out some NVIDIA CPU core scaling results in a Vulkan vs. OpenGL manner, but simply forgot to post those numbers until now.

        Due to being preoccupied with other benchmarks, I forgot to post those NVIDIA OpenGL vs. Vulkan CPU core scaling results, but here are those comparison numbers now.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • 6 Interesting Things on KDE Plasma 5.10

        KDE Plasma 5.10 released at May 30th 2017. This article simply summarizes what’s new from Plasma 5.10.1 (06 June), 5.10.2 (13 June), and 5.10.3 (27 June) for beginners and non-KDE users. Here’s what Plasma Desktop would be if you use it on any GNU/Linux distro today.

      • Let There Be Shapes!

        One of the new features of the upcoming Qt 5.10 is the introduction of the shapes plugin to Qt Quick. This allows adding stroked and filled paths composed of lines, quadratic curves, cubic curves, and arcs into Qt Quick scenes. While this has always been possible to achieve via QQuickPaintedItem or the Canvas type, the Shape type provides a genuine first-class Qt Quick item that from the scene graph’s perspective is backed by either actual geometry or a vendor-specific GPU accelerated path rendering approach (namely, GL_NV_path_rendering).

      • KStars 2.7.9 Released for Linux, Mac, Windows, and Android!
    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Codecs and PackageKit in GNOME Software on Ubuntu Artful

        PackageKit is a distribution-agnostic API for managing installed software packages on a system. For irritating reasons, Ubuntu was stuck for a long time on an old version of PackageKit, but we recently managed to remove the blockers and update to a modern version.

        For me, a really positive thing to come out of this is that we are able to remove our Ubuntu specific apt plugin inside GNOME Software. This plugin uses both libapt and aptdaemon to manage package listing, installation, updating and removal. We had to write all this code, it isn’t in the upstream package, and it has been the source of bugs in the past — bugs which wouldn’t have happened if we had been able to use PackageKit. Once this work is all uploaded to Ubuntu, we’ll be sharing the same plugin as most other distributions, meaning that we all benefit from everybody’s fixes.

      • GNOME Calendar to support creation of recurring events very soon

        The first phase of my GSoC project is over, and I have passed the evaluation for the same. Honestly speaking, it has been quite a difficult start for me. Given that I had to deal with ‘libical’, which is sparsely documented, and also evolution-calendar code, which is hard to understand, I have finally found the flow that was needed for this project.

        For the last 2 weeks I have been working on a modification in edit-dialog that allows the user to create recurring events. The creation part has been taken care of successfully but the editing part (editing recurrence-rules of already recurring events) is not complete.

      • Flat-Remix Icons And Gnome Shell Theme For Ubuntu/Linux Mint

        Flat Remix icons and Gnome shell theme are not new, both were initially released back in the 2015 and are still in active development. The icon set fits perfect on all kind of dark and light themes, it is release under GPL V3 license. Flat remix icons is a pretty simple icon theme inspired on material design. It is mostly flat with some shadows, highlights and gradients for some depth and uses a colorful palette with nice contrasts, and it is compatible with almost every desktop environments such as Gnome, Unity, KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, Mate and so on. You can report bugs or suggest new icons to include in this icon set via this link. Flat Remix theme is pretty simple and elegant, it is a material design theme for Gnome Shell. If you find any bugs then report here. You can use Unity Tweak Tool, Gnome-tweak-tool to change themes/icons.

      • [Video] Ubuntu Testing Day – GNOME
  • Distributions

    • ArchLabs 5.0: One of the Best, Gets Even Better

      As team of distro-hoppers (and Arch Linux enthusiasts in particular) we have been spending a lot of this year hopping between three of our favourite distros: Manjaro, OBRevenge, and the new kid on the block – ArchLabs.

      Having discovered ArchLabs from a number of great YouTubers including Sudo Reboot and Linux Quest – we were hooked almost immediately with the amazing level of polish and attention to detail evident throughout ever aspect of the distribution. Using Erik Dubois’ modern and beautiful Sardi icon set as a design reference, every element of ArchLabs ties back to performance, usability, and just plain gorgeous design.

    • Endless OS 3.2 Released, Rebases From GNOME Shell 3.8 To 3.22

      Endless OS 3.2 is now available as the newest feature release for this GNOME-based Linux operating system that ships on the budget-friendly Endless Computers and is also available for free to all users.

      Endless OS 3.2 has a number of underlying system updates including to its Linux kernel and Flatpak. On the UI side, there are big updates to its desktop with the re-basing process from GNOME Shell 3.8 to GNOME Shell 3.22. Moving forward, they intend to re-base their desktop changes much more often to allow for a smoother transition to using the newer GNOME code in their operating system.

    • Endless OS 3.2 released!
    • New Releases

      • Sparky 4.6.1 STB

        There is an update of SparkyLinux stable line 4.6.1-STB “Tyche”.
        This is Sparky edition based on Debian stable 9 “Stretch”.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • Success

        In November 2012 I started running an irregular rebuild of all Mageia packages on x86_64, discarding the built packages, to just detect build breakages.

        At first it was running a few times a month, now once a week, except before releases where I run it twice a week.

    • Red Hat Family

      • CentOS and ARM

        The CentOS distribution has long been a boon to those who want an enterprise-level operating system without an enterprise-level support contract—and the costs that go with it. In keeping with its server orientation, CentOS has been largely focused on x86 systems, but that has been changing over the last few years. Jim Perrin has been with the project since 2004 and his talk at Open Source Summit Japan (OSSJ) described the process of making CentOS available for the ARM server market; he also discussed the status of that project and some plans for the future.

        Perrin is currently with Red Hat and is the maintainer of the CentOS 64-bit ARM (aarch64) build. CentOS is his full-time job; he works on building the community around CentOS as well as on some of the engineering that goes into it. His background is as a system administrator, including stints consulting for the defense and oil industries; with a bit of a grin, he said that he is “regaining a bit of my humanity” through his work at Red Hat on CentOS.

      • Finance

      • Fedora

        • Installing Python3.6.1 in your Fedora24/25
        • PHP version 5.6.31, 7.0.21 and 7.1.7
        • Fedora fonts: The Font Strikes Back

          If you happen to be a person who finds the Linux font rendering to be good enough for your ocular sensors, you are a happy bunny. If you are like me, then it’s only Ubuntu that gives you the right sharpness and contrast, and all other distros be heavily lacking in this space. Fedora, first and foremost, which is why I’ve spent months trying to perfect its layout and reading clarity.

          I ranted about the whole font problem in Linux some time ago, and then we also discussed the use of Ubuntu fonts on top of Fedora a couple of months back in another OCS-Mag article. Now, I want to revisit the topic for a third time, and see if we can somehow improve on Fedora’s stock Gnome look, and the way it draws text on the screen. Let us commence hence forth.

        • Fedora Release Time: Welcome F26

          There was a GO / NO GO meeting earlier in the week and the Fedora 26 RC 1.5 build passed. As a result Fedora 26 will be officially released on Tuesday, July 11th. According to the original schedule, F26 was set to be released on June 6th. It got bumped 5 times during the alpha and beta phases but that pretty much always happens to this distro that is constantly leading the pack with innovation.

          What are the new features? I don’t think the release announcement will be made public until release day but you can check out the changeset. Just be aware there are a ton of normal updates beyond the changeset and I mean… how about that new desktop background? LXQT users will also be happy to have their own Spin now. Don’t forget that Fedora appears to be supporting quite a few arches, some as primary and others as secondary. Not as many as Debian and Gentoo but still. Which arches? aarch64, armhfp, i386, ppc64, ppc64le, and x86_64. I’m only using the later myself.

    • Debian Family

      • How to install Debian+LXDE on ANY Android Tablet

        Running a linux distro on android devices is a hot topic these days, and why not? After all, android is already based on linux kernel, but a pretty much locked-down and dumbed-down version of it. The OEM doesn’t give you root and in most cases, not even an open source bootloader and/or kernel. That way, its good for maybe the most average user who doesn’t care about the OS and just want to use their phones. But for a power user, that’s not enough.

      • Derivatives

        • Not So Fast, Slick or Why Did it Take Devuan Two Years to Replace Systemd?

          Recently, a guy asked me two questions: If it is so easy to uninstall and switch init systems why did it take devuan 2 years to figure it out? Why are so many struggling to make something so easy work?

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu Desktop Weekly Update: July 7, 2017
          • Ubuntu Server Development Summary – 07 Jul 2017
          • Canonical’s support for Kubernetes 1.7 on Ubuntu released

            The official Ubuntu install of Kubernetes is first to deliver the new Kubernetes 1.7 release with full enterprise support.

            This is a Canonical distribution of pure-upstream Kubernetes, designed for ease of deployment and operations on public clouds and on-premise on bare metal, VMware, or OpenStack. The Canonical distribution osf Kubernetes is also easy to spin up on developer laptops using LXD containers for component isolation and distributed system simulation.

          • OpenStack in a Snap

            OpenStack is complex and many of the community members are working hard to make the deployment and operation of OpenStack easier. Much of this time is focused on tools such as Ansible, Puppet, Kolla, Juju, Triple-O, Chef (to name a few). But what if we step down a level and also make the package experience easier?

          • Say Goodbye to LightDM, GNOME’s GDM Login Manager Now Default in Ubuntu 17.10

            Canonical’s transition to the GNOME desktop environment for the upcoming Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark) operating system, due for release later this year on October 19, 2017, continues with yet another major change.

            The company behind the popular Linux-based operating system for desktops, servers, cloud, and IoT (Internet of Things) revealed last month its plans to replace the eye-candy LightDM login manager, which it used until now on numerous Ubuntu releases by default, with GNOME’s GDM (GNOME Display Manager).

          • Ubuntu 17.10 to Have Hardware-Accelerated Video Playback on AMD, Nvidia GPUs Too

            Canonical is working to improve the user experience of its popular Ubuntu Linux operating system, and it looks like they are making quite some progress on the hardware-accelerated video playback for Intel GPUs on Ubuntu 17.10.

          • Some Extra Game Tests Showing AMDGPU+RadeonSI Improvements Since Ubuntu 17.04

            In yesterday’s Windows 10 Radeon Software vs. Ubuntu 17.04 + Linux 4.12 + Mesa 17.2-dev comparison I tested both Ubuntu 17.04 out-of-the-box and then upgraded it to the Linux 4.12 kernel and Mesa 17.2-dev. Here are some complementary tests I did with a larger set of Linux games.

            These results show the stock Linux 4.10 + Mesa 17.0.3 performance of Ubuntu 17.04 compared to the same system upgraded to Linux 4.12 + Mesa 17.2-dev for showing the bleeding-edge Linux gaming experience.

          • Ubuntu 17.10 Still Working Towards Video Acceleration, Unity 7 Woes

            Will Cooke of Canonical has shared another weekly status update for the work going into the GNOME desktop for Ubuntu 17.10 and their other efforts this cycle.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Guest Post: Cornelius Kölbel on end to end encryption

    Your Data is at risk. And thus, is your personal life and your company’s values. By using your own cloud storage like ownCloud you can avoid hackers, trade espionage, and rogue governments getting your data. Your data is under your control.

    But depending on where your storage is located some risks still remain. The connection to your ownCloud installation in the hosted datacenter is TLS protected. All data are encrypted on their transport to the datacenter. But within the datacenter your data is plain text.

    You are using ownClouds integrated encryption? You even have the full disk encrypted using LUKS or similar methods? This is fine but only protects you from certain attacks like stealing the sole hard disk. But if the attacker gains access to the very location where the actual encryption takes place, the encryption is useless, since this location also contains the encryption key! Thus, if the attacker has access to the datacenter or – more likely – is a rogue or bribed employee of the datacenter the attacker can get physical access to your encryption key and finally to your data.

  • George Hotz wants to help everyone hack their cars

    A user pairs the Panda hardware with Chfr, a dashcam app previously developed by Comma.ai that lets car owners record and review their drives. If the Panda is paired with Chffr, users can record all the sensor data from their cars. If the car has sensors — Hotz recommends any 2005 or newer luxury car and other vehicles produced beginning in 2010 — then users will be able to see all kinds of data. Users can get simple information like the speed and more complex data like the RPM of the engine, how much gas is in the tank, what the suspension is doing, whether the anti-lock brakes are on, and even how hard the driver hit the brakes.

  • Events

    • Jono Bacon: Open Community Conference: Updates, CFP, Webinar, and Prizes

      A little while back I announced that I am starting a new conference called the Open Community Conference in conjunction with my friends at the Linux Foundation.

    • Speaking at Open Source Bridge’17

      Recently, I got a chance to speak at Open Source Bridge conference which was held in Portland, Oregon!

      I spoke about Outreachy and my open source work. OSB conference was much more than just a ‘conference’. More than content in the talks, it had meaning. I am referring to the amazing keynote session by Nicole Sanchez on Tech Reform. She explained wonderfully the need of the hour, i.e Diversity inclusion is not just ‘inclusion’. Focus should be on what comes after the inclusion, Growth.

    • Library announces free programs

      Photo Editing 101.” Today we learn about the basics of editing digital photos, using the GNU Image Manipulation Program (a free, open-source program much like Photoshop). Students will learn how to open image files, crop and color correct photos and save them as specific formats.

    • NEW IN WEST SEATTLE: WS Linux User Group
  • Databases

    • MySQL infrastructure testing automation at GitHub

      Our MySQL infrastructure is a critical component to GitHub. MySQL serves GitHub.com, GitHub’s API, authentication and more. Every git request touches MySQL in some way. We are tasked with keeping the data available, and maintaining its integrity. Even while our MySQL clusters serve traffic, we need to be able to perform tasks such as heavy duty cleanups, ad-hoc updates, online schema migrations, cluster topology refactoring, pooling and load balancing and more. We have the infrastructure to automate away such operations; in this post we share a few examples of how we build trust in our infrastructure through continuous testing. It is essentially how we sleep well at night.

  • Funding

    • A Call to Arms: Supporting Matrix!

      TL;DR: if you like Matrix (and especially if you’re building stuff on it), please support us via Patreon or Liberapay to keep the core team able to work on it full-time, otherwise the project is going to be seriously impacted. And if you’re a company who is invested in Matrix (e.g. itching for Dendrite), please get in touch ASAP if you’d like to sponsor core development work from the team. And if you’re a philanthropic billionaire who believes in our ideals of decentralisation, encryption, and open communication as a basic human right – we’d love to hear from you too O:-)

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD 11.1 RC2 Released

      FreeBSD developers have announced the second release candidate of the upcoming FreeBSD 11.1.

      FreeBSD 11.1 changes since the previous release candidate include VM subsystem fixes, a gpart issue with systems using an SD card as the primary driver, some network fixes, the ena driver has been added, and various other fixes/alterations.

    • [REVISED] FreeBSD 11.1-RC2 Now Available

    • Touch Typing

      My favorite tool is GNU Typist. It’s a small command line tool which can help anyone learn touch typing in a few days. Remember that the package name is gtypist.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Best Product Entry: Open Source Internet of Dosimeter

        Has entered a cool project into the Best Product portion of this year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s called an Open Source IoT Dosimeter. It has a Geiger tube for detecting radiation levels along with Internet connectivity and a host of other goodies.

  • Programming/Development

    • An introduction to asynchronous Python

      In his PyCon 2017 talk, Miguel Grinberg wanted to introduce asynchronous programming with Python to complete beginners. There is a lot of talk about asynchronous Python, especially with the advent of the asyncio module, but there are multiple ways to create asynchronous Python programs, many of which have been available for quite some time. In the talk, Grinberg took something of a step back from the intricacies of those solutions to look at what asynchronous processing means at a higher level.

      He started by noting that while he does a lot of work on the Flask Python-based web microframework, this talk would not be about Flask. He did write the Flask Mega-Tutorial (and a book on Flask), but he would be trying to mention it less than ten times during the talk—a feat that he managed admirably. He has also developed a Python server for Socket.IO that started out as something for “that framework”, but has since “taken on a life of its own”.

    • Npm Password Resets Show Developers Need Better Security Practices

      Thousands of developers who publish JavaScript packages in the npm repository have had their passwords reset since May because their login credentials were too weak or had been publicly exposed. The affected accounts were in control of tens of thousands of Node.js modules that, in turn, were direct or indirect dependencies for half of the entire npm ecosystem.

    • A Continuous Testing Crash Course for Software Testers

      Now, software testers are facing increasingly complex applications, delivered at dramatically accelerated paces—and they’re expected to deliver trustworthy go/no-go decisions at the new speed of modern business. More of the same won’t get us there. We need to transform the testing process as deliberately and markedly as we’ve transformed the development process.


  • Getting rid of carpool lanes could double travel times

    To determine the impact on the city’s drivers, Benjamin Olken, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and colleagues queried Google Maps for real-time driving-speed data before and after the new policy went into effect. Following the policy lift, travel delays, defined as the time it takes to travel 1 kilometer, increased by 46% in the morning and almost 90% in the evening, the team reports today in Science.

  • AMC To Charge Cable Customers $5 More To Avoid Advertisements

    We’ve discussed ad nauseum how, as the Internet video revolution accelerates, the cable and broadcast industry’s response has predominantly been to double down on bad ideas in the false belief that they can nurse a dying cash cow indefinitely. Netflix nibbling away at your subscriber totals? Continue to glibly impose bi-annual rate hikes. Amazon Prime Video eroding your customer base? How about we edit programs to be shorter so more ads can be shoveled into every viewing hour? By and large, the cable industry’s response to the cord cutting threat has been to do more of the things that forced annoyed consumers to leave.

  • How the Qatar Crisis Shook Up the World’s Supply of Helium

    Helium has two special abilities. It is extremely light, and it can get extremely cold without freezing.

    Largely for these reasons, the element is needed to use or make all sorts of things: semiconductors, rocket fuel, computer hard drives, the Large Hadron Collider, magnets in MRI machines, airships, scuba tanks, arc welding, anything that needs to be super cold, and of course, balloons.

  • Science

    • [Old] Locking Science Open with Decentralized Scientific Archives
    • Trump Administration Chooses New CDC Director

      Although she has led her state’s public health department, Fitzgerald does not have a background in scientific research, STAT reports, which is “a major function of the agency she has been nominated to lead.”

    • Sorry Veep, America already leads the world in space by a large margin

      If President Donald Trump has had one consistent message about space exploration both during his campaign and presidency, it’s that America is doing badly in space. About a year ago during a campaign stop in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump said, “Look what’s happened with our whole history of space and leadership. Look what’s going on, folks. We’re like a third-world nation.”

      As Vice President Mike Pence has assumed duties over space policy, he has made a respectable effort to tour NASA and Air Force facilities around the country. But during these visits, he’s also reiterated this Debbie Downer message. When he delivered a speech Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, Pence said that under the Trump administration, America will lead in space “once again” no less than eight times.

      The subtext here is that America has fallen far behind in space—and that it needs strong leadership to get back on its feet. While there are definitely significant problems with US space policy—starting with the lack of a clear direction for human spaceflight and the funding to support those goals—no other nation can come close to the United States in space. Moreover, because of the long lead times baked into aerospace development, almost every “accomplishment” that demonstrates American leadership in space during the next 3.5 years will have started long before President Trump took office.

    • Scientists revisit a strange result from one of the Soviet Venus landers

      Venus’ atmosphere is rightfully famous for a combination of being stunningly hot and containing sulfuric acid. Those conditions, not surprisingly, have ensured that every bit of hardware we’ve sent through said atmosphere has had an extremely short lifespan.

      But at least one of those pieces of hardware—the Soviet Union’s VeGa-2 probe—sent back some data that’s hard to explain, a hint of an unstable atmosphere. Now, a pair of scientists is suggesting that the oddity can be explained by an equally odd feature of the atmosphere: it’s a supercritical fluid where different chemicals partially separate at different altitudes.

    • Creationist sues national parks, now gets to take rocks from Grand Canyon

      “Alternative facts” aren’t new. Young-Earth creationist groups like Answers in Genesis believe the Earth is no more than 6,000 years old despite actual mountains of evidence to the contrary, and they’ve been playing the “alternative facts” card for years. In lieu of conceding incontrovertible geological evidence, they sidestep it by saying, “Well, we just look at those facts differently.”

      Nowhere is this more apparent than the Grand Canyon, which young-Earth creationist groups have long been enamored with. A long geologic record (spanning almost 2 billion years, in total) is on display in the layers of the Grand Canyon thanks to the work of the Colorado River. But many creationists instead assert that the canyon’s rocks—in addition to the spectacular erosion that reveals them—are actually the product of the Biblical “great flood” several thousand years ago.

  • Security

    • Linux Malware on the Rise: A Look at Recent Threats [Ed: Stop citing WatchGuard. It's a Microsoft ally from Seattle that's trying to make Linux look bad.]
    • Hackers {sic} Are Targeting Nuclear Facilities, Homeland Security Dept. and F.B.I. Say

      Since May, hackers {sic} have been penetrating the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power stations and other energy facilities, as well as manufacturing plants in the United States and other countries.


      The fake résumés were Microsoft Word documents that were laced with malicious code. Once the recipients clicked on those documents, attackers could steal their credentials and proceed to other machines on a network.

    • FBI-DHS “amber” alert warns energy industry of attacks on nuke plant operators

      The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have issued a joint report providing details of malware attacks targeting employees of companies that operate nuclear power plants in the US, including the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, The New York Times reports. The attacks have been taking place since May, as detailed in the report issued by federal officials last week and sent out to industry.

      The “amber” alert to industry—the second-highest level of severity for these types of reports from the FBI and DHS—noted that the attacks had been focused on employees’ personal computers but had not managed to jump to control systems. Administrative computers and reactor control systems in most cases are operated separately, and the control networks are generally “air-gapped”—kept disconnected from networks that attach to the Internet.

    • India ranks 23rd among 165 nations in cyber security index

      India is ranked a high 23rd out of 165 nations in a global index that measures the commitment of nations across the world to cyber security. The second Global Cyber security Index (GCI), released by the UN telecommunications agency International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said only about half of all countries have a cyber security strategy or are in the process of developing one and urged more countries to consider national policies to protect against cyber crime.

    • Researchers Crack 1024-bit RSA Encryption in GnuPG Crypto Library
    • Wildcard Certificates Coming January 2018

      Let’s Encrypt will begin issuing wildcard certificates in January of 2018. Wildcard certificates are a commonly requested feature and we understand that there are some use cases where they make HTTPS deployment easier. Our hope is that offering wildcards will help to accelerate the Web’s progress towards 100% HTTPS.

      Let’s Encrypt is currently securing 47 million domains via our fully automated DV certificate issuance and management API. This has contributed heavily to the Web going from 40% to 58% encrypted page loads since Let’s Encrypt’s service became available in December 2015. If you’re excited about wildcard availability and our mission to get to a 100% encrypted Web, we ask that you contribute to our summer fundraising campaign.

    • Ripples from Stack Clash

      In one sense, the Stack Clash vulnerability that was announced on June 19 has not had a huge impact: thus far, at least, there have been few (if any) stories of active exploits in the wild. At other levels, though, this would appear to be an important vulnerability, in that it has raised a number of questions about how the community handles security issues and what can be expected in the future. The indications, unfortunately, are not all positive.

    • CIA programs to steal your SSH credentials (BothanSpy and Gyrfalcon)
  • Defence/Aggression

    • A Sino-Indian armed conflict: Why China can bark but can’t bite

      Since there are signs of the US backing off from its position of the global leader, China is eyeing that role. But for that it needs to shed the image of a bellicose dictatorship and an unreliable trader. That’s why China is increasingly presenting itself as a responsible power to the world.

    • Indian Navy outgunned 1 to 4 as China steps up presence in Indian Ocean

      The Indian Navy has sighted over a dozen PLA-N warships, submarines and intelligence-gathering vessels in the Indian Ocean in the last few months.

    • Cholera Spreads as War and Poverty Batter Yemen

      The Yemeni farm laborer was picking crops in a hot field when the call came. His children, all seven of them, had fallen gravely ill.

      Some were vomiting, others had diarrhea, and all were listless, indicating that they had fallen victim to the latest disaster to afflict this impoverished corner of the Arabian Peninsula: one of the worst outbreaks of cholera infection in recent times.

      The laborer, Abdulla Siraa, set about frantically trying to raise money to treat the children — $240, or about six times what he typically earns in a month — and raced as fast as he could on the 30 miles home over roads virtually destroyed in Yemen’s civil war.

      “I spent the whole journey reciting Quranic verses and praying for the survival of my children,” he said.
      Continue reading the main story

      But when he arrived, he learned that his 4-year-old daughter, Ghadeer, had already died, after hours of calling out for him, though the rest of his children would survive.

      For much of the world, cholera, a bacterial infection spread by water contaminated with feces, has been relegated to the history books. In the 19th century, it claimed tens of millions of lives across the world, mainly through dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Construction costs are falling for renewable and natural gas plants

      Numbers from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reflect the extent of renewable energy development in the US over the past several years. Construction costs per kilowatt for solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric projects have fallen, in some cases steeply, since 2013, and natural gas generators are also getting cheaper to build despite getting more expensive year-over-year from 2013 to 2014. Only petroleum liquid generators have shown an increase in cost per kilowatt between 2013 and 2015.

    • G20: One Against 19 On Climate Change; Affordable Antimicrobials, Vaccines Planned

      The G20 governments against some odds passed a joint communique today, but had to accept differences on climate and in one point also on free trade. The US delegation remained firm in their decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and continue to support conventional energy resources, instead of renewable ones. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her press conference explained that there was a clear division in the climate chapter of the G20 2017 Declaration.

  • Finance

    • Amazon threatened to kill its Whole Foods deal if the grocer started a bidding war

      Whole Foods came back with a counterproposal of $45 a share, which got Amazon to increase its offer to $42. But Amazon’s bankers from Goldman Sachs then “stressed several times” that the increase to $42 represented Amazon’s “best and final offer.”

      Amazon’s bankers “also made it clear again … that Amazon.com would disengage from its efforts to acquire the Company and pursue other alternatives and initiatives if the $42.00 per share price were not accepted,” the filing said, “and that Amazon.com expected that the Company would not approach other potential bidders while the Company was negotiating with Amazon.com.”

      Amazon also threatened it would walk away if the talks leaked to the press, which they did not.

      Translation: $42 or nada.

    • UK to lose global influence after Brexit – Lord Hague

      Brexit will damage Britain’s ability to influence world events, former foreign secretary Lord Hague has warned.
      He told a House of Lords committee it was “logical” that the UK would lose foreign policy influence in both Brussels and Washington.
      And British ministers would have to work harder if they wanted to lead action in global trouble spots.
      Lord Hague’s successor at the Foreign Office, Boris Johnson, says Brexit will free the UK to play a more global role.
      But Lord Hague, who supported remaining in the EU, said: “If you are less influential in crafting the overall approach of the EU you end up with less influence in the rest of the world.”

    • Week in Review: Brexit debate moves on, but May is stuck in the past

      One of the most beneficial aspects of the election is that a degree of realism has been injected into the Brexit debate. A no-deal outcome, which was for a while there starting to look like the most likely one, has now been all-but ruled out, even if Brexit ministers still pay lip service to it. It’s also understood pretty much across the board that any comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU will take a lot longer than the two years of Article 50 – especially once you lose the first three months to a pointless election and the final six to votes in Westminster and Brussels.

    • I put up tuition fees. It’s now clear they have to be scrapped

      Tuition fees of £9,250 and rising won’t survive. Nor do they deserve to. The only question is whether they are abolished entirely or whether cross-party support can be built to keep fees to between £1,000 and £3,000, as per their introduction 13 years ago.


      Tony Blair followed, with his mantra “education, education, education”. But he really meant “schools, schools, schools”, which were the political priority of Middle England. When the vice-chancellors realised that they were not New Labour favourites, they agitated hard for fees higher than the modest £1,000 at which they were introduced in 1998. As Blair’s head of policy, I was on the receiving end, and persuaded him that he should forge a new settlement for university funding – copying the Australian scheme of part-payment by students on a sliding scale to reflect cost and benefit, with repayments made only after graduation through the tax system, with no interest. That way, concerns about access for poorer students could be met, while providing a vital new source of income for the universities.

      A new cap was set at £3,000, but the intention was that fees would vary between £1,000 and £3,000, depending on the cost and benefit of the individual course. I expected that this would enhance student choice while making students more demanding and universities more responsive. Virtually none of this happened. The vice-chancellors formed a cartel and charged £3,000 for almost every course. Students continued to choose universities and courses mostly based on where they could get in with their A-level grades. The quality of university teaching remained patchy, and often got worse as lecturers focused on their research ratings – upon which research funding was based – while neglecting their students who had no choice but to pay. Many students never see a professor from one month to the next, and are required to produce far less work than they did at school.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Ivanka Trump briefly takes father’s seat at G20 summit

      Ivanka Trump briefly took her father’s seat at a G20 Summit session on Saturday, sitting next to world leaders including British Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    • Facebook’s success threatens each of us individually and the nation as a whole

      In most cases, advertisers use Facebook’s data and targeting resources for somewhat benign purposes — growing a customer base, selling a product, increasing awareness of a service. But the Trump presidential campaign clearly demonstrated how these tools can be used for social and political manipulation.

    • Does Jared Kushner Even Know Anything About the Countries He’s Supposed to Be Doing Diplomacy With?
    • Why journalism is shifting away from ‘objectivity’

      As press watchers and members of the media wrestle with the president’s rhetoric, some have begun to question a central tenet of modern journalism: striving to be objective and nonpartisan, conveying the news of the day with calm gravitas. But Mr. Trump is not the only disrupter in media; his presidency coincides with fast-paced changes in society and technology that are also reshaping journalism.

    • White House could use AT&T/Time Warner deal as “leverage” against CNN

      Separately, The Daily Caller wrote today that Trump doesn’t want the merger to be approved unless CNN President Jeff Zucker is fired. The conservative news website attributed the information to “a source familiar with President Trump’s thinking.”

      Zucker told the New York Times that the pending merger has not affected his journalistic or management decisions.

    • Are these the ones insulting you? Putin asks Trump pointing at journalists

      It appeared as if Putin was sympathetic and he was perceived to be defending Trump against attacks from the media.

    • Trump team insisted on smaller Putin meeting to avoid leaks: report

      President Trump’s team at the G-20 insisted on limiting the number of people present at his Friday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid leaks and multiple accounts of the event, according to the New York Times.

      The Russians reportedly wanted to bring several staff members to the meeting. But Trump aides insisted on keeping the meeting small to prevent any potential leaks from the highly anticipated meeting.

      The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment on the report.

    • Trump Handed Putin a Stunning Victory

      President Donald Trump needed to accomplish two things this week during his visits to Poland and the G-20 Summit in Hamburg. First, he needed to reassure America’s allies that he was committed to collective defense and the core set of values and principles that bind us together. Second, he needed to demonstrate that he understands that the greatest threat to that alliance, those values, and our security is the Kremlin.

    • Trump’s mistake in his meeting with Putin

      The first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg was notable for the attention given to Donald Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin and the ferocity of the day’s protests.

      It would be nice to think that the protesters were particularly irked by the sight of two autocratic, media-hating leaders with dodgy business connections getting together. Sadly, the Trump-Putin meeting is a sideshow as far as the anti-globalization movement is concerned. They object to the whole idea of the G20, seeing the summit as the epitome of a global system based on a rapacious economic model and run by unaccountable elites.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Tom Steiger: A strange attitude concerning press censorship

      I’ve been storing a truckload of my deceased parents’ stuff. This summer, after several moves and even more years, I decided to go through it and make the hard decisions about getting rid of (at least) some of it.

      In one box was a clear plastic bag with newspapers in it. Tribune-Stars, haphazardly folded, but with a similarity; they were the D section of the Sunday Trib containing my essays. My mother was saving my essays. I’d discovered a treasure trove. Until 2007ish I didn’t save my Tribune-Star essays, so these have been termed “Mom’s archive” and I’ve been digitizing them and (re)publishing them on my personal blog.


      Ninety-one percent of students agreed that “people should be able to express unpopular opinions.” And those who more frequently consume news and actively engage with news through social media demonstrate stronger support for First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, the report does not include data on how many students regularly consumed and engaged with news sources. Based on my experience with my students, I would guess the proportion to be small. Of those who said they engaged “often” the smartphone was their overwhelming source for their news.

    • China’s Newest Censorship Methods on Display

      July, more than most other months, is loaded with politically sensitive anniversaries that keep Communist Party of China (CPC) censors and security forces on their toes.

      First comes the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer from British to Chinese rule. Then there is July 5, marking the 2009 ethnic violence in the Xinjiang region that sparked an unprecedented crackdown on its mostly Muslim Uyghur population. The very next day, July 6, is the Dalai Lama’s birthday, and July 9 is the second anniversary of a sweeping repressive action against China’s human rights lawyers. Finally there is July 20, the date in 1999 when the CPC banned the popular spiritual practice Falun Gong and began a massive — and often violent — campaign to eradicate it.

      This year, the anniversaries overlap with other news stories that Beijing likely wants to quash, including an international uproar surrounding democracy activist Liu Xiaobo’s belated release on medical parole with terminal cancer, and a campaign by exiled tycoon Guo Wengui to publicize corruption allegations involving top Chinese leaders.

    • The Great Firewall Of China Grows Stronger As China Forces App Stores To Remove VPNs
    • Glenn Greenwald: CNN Engaged In ‘Corporate Bullying And Creepy Censorship’ On Pro-Trump Reddit Story

      CNN is still licking their wounds after a rather disastrous couple of weeks, where a shoddy Russia-Trump story led to three staffers resigning, a Project Veritas investigation exposed that the network’s producers peddled the Russia story for ratings, and what came off as a wholly inappropriate veiled threat against an anonymous Reddit user who created a Trump WWE video, which the president tweeted before the Fourth of July Holiday. The video shows Trump beating up WWE’s Vince McMahon, whose face has been superimposed with the CNN logo. The media went apoplectic as an attack against the press; it wasn’t. This spurred the network’s reporters to find the user and pretty much threaten to dox him if he continues to post things CNN doesn’t like. Yet, before we get to that, let’s revisit the Russia-Trump story that had to be retracted, along with The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald torching the media for their repeated trip ups in covering this story.

    • How anti-choice zealots cry censorship whenever they are challenged

      If you’ve made a habit of either watching Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight or following the anti-abortion groups that frequently appear on the program, then you’ve heard allegations that these organizations — and the anti-choice misinformation they spread — are being censored by any number of media platforms.

      Most recently, Lila Rose, founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, appeared on the June 26 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight and claimed that Twitter was censoring Live Action’s ads. Beyond alleging that Twitter was biased against the anti-abortion group, Rose also conveniently mentioned that Live Action had a $40,000 fundraising goal to meet within the week. Mere hours after Rose’s appearance, Live Action’s homepage carried a large ad decrying Twitter’s censorship and begging for donations to meet the fundraising deadline. By June 30, the organization had reached its fundraising goal and was asking supporters to continue donating in order to “guarantee” it could continue working “to expose the abortion industry.”

    • Bob Murray Demands John Oliver Be Silenced… While HBO Moves Case To Federal Court

      We’ve been covering just how silly coal boss Bob Murray’s SLAPP lawsuit against John Oliver is, and things keep getting sillier. Late last week, Murray’s lawyers dug themselves in even deeper, asking for a gag order on Oliver and HBO (first reported by Betsy Woodruff at the Daily Beast). Specifically, they filed for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to gag Oliver. They even admit that it’s a “gag order” on Oliver and HBO. This kind of prior restraint is not supposed to be allowed under the First Amendment, but Murray’s lawyers already have shown some fairly wacky legal theories, so it doesn’t seem likely that “what the law says” is going to stop them from asking for ridiculous things.

      The document specifically requests that the defendants in the case be barred from re-broadcasting Oliver’s hilarious report (which already has 6.6 million views and counting) and also that he be stopped from “publicly discussing the substance of this litigation.” Of course, Oliver himself has already said on his show that, on the advice of HBO’s lawyers, he won’t be discussing the case until it’s over, so this request is even more bizarre. But it’s also silly legally. The First Amendment doesn’t allow for a gag order to prevent someone from discussing a case. That’s blatant prior restraint, and in the immortal words of Walter Sobchak, “the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.”


      Sure. The courts have noted that defamation isn’t protected by the First Amendment, but this gag order request is not asking for a blocking of just defamatory statements (hell, they barely identify any potentially defamatory statements amidst all the hand waving). They’re literally asking for a gag order on discussing the case itself. The case itself is not defamatory. You can’t silence a defendant from talking about the fact that you stupidly sued him. That’s not what the Supreme Court is saying. Indeed, the two citations that Murray’s lawyers point to from the Supreme Court notably do not support injunctions against speech. They merely note that defamation is not protected speech. But plenty of other cases explicitly make it clear that injunctions on speech should not be granted because of prior restraint. In Near v. Minnesota, the court said that a law granting injunctions on defamation was unconstitutional. In Bantam Books v. Sullivan the court famously said that “[a]ny system of prior restraints of expression comes to this Court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.”

    • Lipstick Under My Burkha: Democratic country shouldn’t have censorship, says Alankrita Srivastava responding to Pahlaj Nihalani
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Judge Says Twitter Can Move Forward With First Amendment Lawsuit Over NSL Reporting Limitations

      Twitter’s First Amendment lawsuit against the government for limitations on National Security Letter reporting will be allowed to continue. This is good news for Twitter — and the general public — although it’s somewhat disheartening to see things have only moved this far in the three years since the lawsuit was filed.

      Reporting on NSLs is limited to “bands.” A social media service receiving three NSLs has to report it as “0-499.” The same goes for a service that receives 300 NSLs over the same period. Twitter is fighting to have these “bands” removed, in order to more accurately report the number of NSLs it receives.

    • Gov’t Intercepted Millions Of Conversations In Single Drug Investigation, Netted Zero Convictions

      This detail, contained in the US Courts’ latest wiretap report, shows how much the government can get with a single wiretap order. Using assertions of “training and expertise,” US drug warriors intercepted millions of phone calls, ringing up a $335,000 third-party phone bill in the process.

      But hey, the Drug War can’t be won without casting a wide dragnet. Drug conspiracies are vast and far-reaching, often leading law enforcement to bigger fish further down the line. Or so the affidavit assertions say…

    • G20 Reaches Agreement Against Terrorism, Appears To Target Encryption

      At the G20 meeting in Hamburg today, the German hosts chose a retreat over the fight against terrorism as a warm-up, before turning to the controversial topics of free trade and climate change. Governments were very much in agreement when it comes to one thing: Internet platform providers must do more to fight radicalization and the use of the internet by terrorists.

    • Aadhaar has reduced India to a ‘concentration camp’: Petitioners

      A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice J. Chelameshwar and also comprising Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha asked the petitioners to mention it before the CJI court. The apex court on Friday allowed the petitioners challenging the making of Aadhaar as mandatory, to mention it before the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for the Constitution bench to hear the matter.

    • The Pentagon Says It Will Start Encrypting Soldiers’ Emails Next Year

      But now the Defense Information Systems Agency or DISA, the Pentagon’s branch that oversees email, says it will finally start using STARTTLS within the year, according to a letter from DISA.

    • Apparently my smartphone is telling everyone exactly where I am right now. Should I care?

      You don’t have to be on image-sharing app Snapchat to have heard about its controversial new “Snap Map”, which shows users their friends’ locations in near-real time, and disconcerting detail. Picture cheery cartoon avatars identified in not just suburbs, not even just streets, but at specific addresses.

    • There are already police visors with built-in face recognition and fugitive spotting

      Police already have access to visors with built-in face recognition and fugitive spotting. The technology was in prototype stage a few years ago, and was successfully tested when police officers walked into dark cinemas full of people and got so-called People of Interest highlighted directly onto their field of vision. The future is approaching fast, and it’s not all shiny happy rainbow unicorns.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Why Protecting The Free Press Requires Protecting Trump’s Tweets

      Sunday morning I made the mistake of checking Twitter first thing upon waking up. As if just a quick check of Twitter would ever be possible during this administration… It definitely wasn’t this past weekend, because waiting for me in my Twitter stream was Trump’s tweet of the meme he found on Reddit showing him physically beating the crap out of a personified CNN.

      But that’s not what waylaid me. What gave me pause were all the people demanding it be reported to Twitter for violating its terms of service. The fact that so many people thought that was a good idea worries me, because the expectation that when bad speech happens someone will make it go away is not a healthy one. My concern inspired a tweet storm, which has now been turned into this post.

      I don’t write any of this to defend the tweet: it was odious, unpresidential, and betrays an animus towards the press that is terrifying to see in any government official – and especially the Chief Executive of the United States of America. But inappropriate, disgraceful, and disturbing though it is, it was still just speech, and calls to suppress speech are always alarming regardless of who is asking for it to be suppressed or why.

    • Appeals Court Tells Lower Court (For The Second Time) To Stop Coddling An Abusive Ex-Deputy

      Obviously, Smith liked throwing his weight around. And he had plenty of it, according to the decision’s footnotes: 6′ 3″ and 270 pounds — all of it apparently deployed to show these arrestees who was in “control” of the situation.

      Sentencing guidelines called for 33-41 months imprisonment. The court considered some mitigating effects (community work, difficult childhood) and those calling for the harsher end of the sentencing spectrum (assaulting juveniles at a detention facility, “unaddressed anger issues,” lying to investigators). For reasons not adequately explained, the district court sentenced Smith to less than half the minimum: 14 months.

      Both parties appealed. In retrospect, Smith may have been better off letting the sentence ride. The Appeals Court sent the case back with instructions to either explain its downward sentencing departure better or to apply a sentence within the guidelines. It pointed out the lower court said Smith was unlikely to reoffend but did not show its homework as to why it had chosen to depart so drastically from the guidelines.

      The lower court took another look at the case and… arrived at the same exact sentence. The court considered the time the officer had served as well as some steps he had taken to reintegrate himself into the real world again. It also pointed to the officer’s statement as a proper expression of remorse for his wrongdoing. The Appeals Court notes the second sentencing attempt is basically a word-for-word replay of the first. It also notes Smith’s “remorseful” statement mainly discussed how difficult things were for him rather than for his victims.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • AT&T Claims Forced Arbitration Isn’t Forced… Because You Can Choose Not To Have Broadband

      For years, AT&T worked tirelessly to erode its customers’ legal rights, using mouse print in its terms of service preventing consumers from participating in lawsuits against the company. Instead, customers were forced into binding arbitration, where arbitrators employed by the companies under fire unsurprisingly rule in their employer’s favor a huge percentage of the time. Initially, the lower courts derided this anti-consumer behavior for what it was, critics highlighting that however brutally-flawed the class action system can be, binding arbitration in many ways made things worse.

    • UK ISP, Three, doesn’t care about net neutrality and will let you pay for zero-rated, unlimited Netflix

      Three Mobile’s Go Binge plan offers unlimited Netflix, and violates net neutrality

    • Cable TV companies can charge higher prices thanks to new court ruling

      The cable TV industry has won a big victory against rate regulation via a court decision that will make it harder for cities and towns to impose price controls on pay-TV service.

      Today’s ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a June 2015 decision by the Federal Communications Commission that helped cable companies avoid local rate regulation. The FCC, under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, ruled that cable TV providers face “effective competition” nationwide, mainly because of the widespread availability of satellite TV service from DirecTV and Dish.

  • DRM

    • Leaders needed for International Day Against DRM (July 9, 2017)

      In the last year, we’ve seen cracks appearing in the foundation of the DRM status quo.

      Of course, the companies that profit from Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) are still trying to expand the system of law and technology that weakens our security and curtails our rights, in an effort to prop up their exploitative business models.

    • Tim Berners-Lee approves Web DRM, but W3C member organizations have two weeks to appeal

      Yesterday Tim Berners-Lee, the chief arbiter of Web standards, approved the controversial proposed Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) standard for the Web, Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).

    • Tim Berners-Lee Sells Out His Creation: Officially Supports DRM In HTML

      For years now, we’ve discussed the various problems with the push (led by the MPAA, but with some help from Netflix) to officially add DRM to the HTML 5 standard. Now, some will quibble with even that description, as supporters of this proposal insist that it’s not actually adding DRM, but rather this “Encrypted Media Extensions” (EME) is merely just a system by which DRM might be implemented, but that’s a bunch of semantic hogwash. EME is bringing DRM directly into HTML and killing the dream of a truly open internet. Instead, we get a functionally broken internet. Despite widespread protests and concerns about this, W3C boss (and inventor of the Web), Tim Berners-Lee, has signed off on the proposal. Of course, given the years of criticism over this, that signoff has come with a long and detailed defense of the decision… along with a tiny opening to stop it.

      There are many issues underlying this decision, but there are two key ones that we want to discuss here: whether EME is necessary at all and whether or not the W3C should have included a special protection for security researchers.

    • The W3C has overruled members’ objections and will publish its DRM for videos

      The final vote was more controversial than any in W3C history. As the months ticked by afterward without a decision from W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, one W3C member proposed an even more modest compromise: a promise by W3C members not to sue security researchers who revealed defects in DRM that exposed users to privacy breaches. This was immediately rejected by Netflix and the CEO of the W3C and all discussion on it halted.

    • Disposition of Comments for Encrypted Media Extensions and Director’s decision

      After consideration of the issues, the Director reached a decision that the EME specification should move to W3C Recommendation. [...]

    • A DRM standard has been approved for the web, and security researchers are worried

      Doctorow calls out a few specific points that have come up in the five-year-long debate over whether this standard should be approved. One is that there’s no protection for security researchers — in the US, breaking DRM, even for otherwise legal purposes, can be a crime, and the fact that EME doesn’t do anything about that keeps security researchers exposed to prosecution.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Larry Page Ordered to Answer Questions in Uber Lawsuit

      Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Page was ordered to submit to questioning by Uber Technologies Inc. in his company’s lawsuit over trade secrets for self-driving car technology.

    • Copyrights

      • There Is An Easy Answer To Whether Machines Should Get Copyright Rights And It Comes Down To Copyright’s Purpose

        As the march of progress of robotics and artificial intelligence continues on, it seems that questions of the effects of this progress will only increase in number and intensity. Some of these questions are very good. What effect will AI have on employment? What safeguards should be put in place to neuter AI and robotics and keep humankind the masters in this relationship? These are questions soon to break through the topsoil of science fiction and into the sunlight of reality and we should all be prepared with answers to them.

      • House Appropriation Committee Demolishes Hollywood’s Excuses For Moving Copyright Office Out Of Library Of Congress

        As we’ve discussed there’s this stupid big fight going on these days, in which some in Congress — mainly at the urging of the legacy entertainment industry — are looking to move the Copyright Office out of its historical home in the Library of Congress. The first proposal to sort of (but not completely) do that, involved just making the head of the Copyright Office a Presidential appointment position, rather than (as now) appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The main reason that various members of Congress put forth in support of this change was that this would magically give the Copyright Office the freedom to modernize. Of course, there are few facts to support this argument. We broke the story about serious incompetence at the Copyright Office in managing its own modernization efforts, and there was also plenty of evidence that the current Librarian of Congress was successfully moving forward with a thorough modernization plan.

      • Study: Dutch Piracy Rates In Free Fall Due Mostly To The Availability Of Legal Alternatives

        The claim that the best way to combat content piracy is to offer good legal alternatives and make them widely available isn’t exactly breaking new ground. Case studies made out of several nations’ piracy rates, such as in Australia and Norway, demonstrate the severe impact creating good digital marketplace alternatives to piracy can have. Techdirt’s think tank arm, the Copia Institute, produced the definitive report highlighting this in multiple countries nearly two years ago.

        And, yet, the copyright industries and their mouthpiece organizations typically choose to beat the punishment drum instead, going the route of litigation against pirates that ultimately ends up being a PR nightmare, or instead going the route of wholesale censorship on the internet that is equal parts ineffective and alarming to those of us that think such censorship ought to have a high bar to hurdle in order to be implemented. It’s with that in mind that any new example that simply offering legal alternatives is a better route is useful to highlight.

      • Court Orders Advertisers to Freeze Revenue of ‘Pirate’ Sites

        A federal court in Florida has granted a preliminary injunction against more than two dozen relatively small pirate sites. The order allows the media conglomerate ABS-CBN to seize the associated domain names. In addition, advertising networks including Google Adsense and MGID are instructed to freeze their funds.

      • Online Pirates Have No Constitutional Right to Internet Access, BMG Says

        Internet subscribers who are caught downloading pirated content have no constitutional right to Internet access, BMG says. The music rights group is countering a defense ISP Cox Communications submitted to the Supreme Court, arguing that the cited ruling doesn’t apply here.

      • Pirate Bay Re-enters List of 100 Most Popular Sites on the Internet

        The Pirate Bay has slowly but steadily returned to its former glory. After more than three years, the deviant torrent site has regained a spot among the 100 most-visited sites on the Internet. While many of the site’s users may cheer at the news, there’s also a dark side to the recent resurgence.


        Many other indexers rely on TPB for their content, which is something not everyone realizes.

      • Pirate Site Admin Must Pay 13 Million Euros – If Anyone Can Find Him

        Following seven years of legal problems and several court cases, the operator of a defunct warez site has been ordered to pay 13 million euros to movie studios and companies including Microsoft. He also faces a year in jail but with his whereabouts unknown, it seems unlikely that Disney and friends will get a Hollywood ending.

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