At the turn of the decade, one piracy release group was making its mark on the Internet like no other in recent times. After releasing countless movies and even opening their own BitTorrent tracker, predictably the IMAGiNE group was soon on the radars of Hollywood and U.S. authorities.
In September 2011 IMAGiNE was dismantled when its U.S-based members were rounded up and arrested. In the months that followed IMAGiNE members were brought to justice and handed some of the harshest copyright infringement sentences on record.
Lower ranking members of the group received 23 months in prison but a sysop, cammer and group leader were hit with jail sentences of 40, 48 and 60 months respectively, the latter being the longest sentence ever in a case of this type.
One of the witnesses to be heard in the IMAGiNE case was Toronto-based anti-piracy group Deluxe. They were hired by the studios to spy on group members and produce an intelligence report on their activities. A copy obtained by TorrentFreak reveals some interesting facts.
Deluxe lists IMAGiNE’s strengths as being able to get a movie online shortly after its theatrical release, ability to provide consistently high audio captures, maintaining a high volume of releases, and their connections to international suppliers.
The following chart shows a league table of release groups between September 2009 and December 2011, a period in which IMAGiNE is said to have been “easily the most significant release group in terms of volume.”
IMAGiNE are said to have been responsible for 41% of all English language movie audio piracy from September 2009 until they were busted in 2011, five times the amount of their closest competitor. The group used a total of 15 video sources between September 2009 and September 2010, and a further 39 between then and the group’s demise in September 2011.
Deluxe obtain some of their evidence by analyzing forensic codes embedded into video and audio of new movies. They note that IMAGiNE successfully removed the codes from seven movie releases including Fast Five and X-Men:First Class. However, Deluxe were able to trace many back to the theater in which they were originally recorded, as the chart below shows.
Interestingly, IMAGiNE themselves were also victims to piracy. Deluxe report that for some pirated movies released online by other groups, every audio track could be traced back to IMAGiNE. Over a single year period IMAGiNE were responsible for 54% of all English language audio tracks examined by Deluxe.
Of course, the raids had an immediate impact.
“The enforcement actions occurred in early September 2011, and there was a decrease of unique pirated English audio sources this month. In fact, September 2011 had the lowest amount of English-language piracy instances in the entire dataset,” Deluxe report.
But the downturn didn’t last.
“However, in the following month, the amount of new English audio sources shot up dramatically, with more English-language release than each of the nine months prior to the enforcement actions. Electronic audio, which is typically higher quality (and more difficult to obtain) continued to be captured and released,” Deluxe reveal.
“October 2011 [the month after the IMAGiNE raids] had more electronic English audio theft than most other months in the dataset. This content was released by many groups including ILLUMINATI, MISTERE, FYA, UnKnOwN and DTRG. Since the enforcement actions against IMAGiNE we have seen several groups with similar release patterns emerge to provide pirated English audio captures.”
“The data implies that the enforcement action towards IMAGiNE impacted the volume of English language audio piracy strongly in September, and other release groups increased their activity in response to IMAGiNE’s departure,” Deluxe add.
The anti-piracy group further notes that audio piracy in December 2011 was down on the same month in the previous year but there was still a high volume of pirated releases in the months following IMAGiNE’s demise. But there was more bad news when Deluxe examined piracy latency – the number of days between a movie being released and subsequently being pirated online.
“The latency period during September 2011, the month of enforcement actions, increased substantially. During the following three months, there was another significant change, with the latency period decreasing substantially.
“This implies that the piracy community re-oriented itself following IMAGiNE’s departure. English language audio was, on average, available online sooner after the theatrical release date than was previously normal when IMAGiNE was active,” Deluxe note.
While the information produced by Deluxe suggests that busting IMAGiNE yielded only short-term success, the report only goes as far as December 2011 and therefore omits the important period starting January 2012 when everything had settled down. We shall have to wait for further information to become available to assess the long term impact the IMAGiNE busts had on movie piracy and whether or not it was worth all the effort.
Source: Busting World’s Biggest Movie Pirates Made Piracy Worse
Interesting op-ed by former DHS head Michael Chertoff on the privacy risks of Google Glass.
Now imagine that millions of Americans walk around each day wearing the equivalent of a drone on their head: a device capable of capturing video and audio recordings of everything that happens around them. And imagine that these devices upload the data to large-scale commercial enterprises that are able to collect the recordings from each and every American and integrate them together to form a minute-by-minute tracking of the activities of millions.
That is almost precisely the vision of the future that lies directly ahead of us. Not, of course, with wearable drones but with wearable Internet-connected equipment. This new technology -- whether in the form of glasses or watches -- may unobtrusively capture video data in real time, store it in the cloud and allow for it to be analyzed.
That is almost precisely the vision of the future that lies directly ahead of us. Not, of course, with wearable drones but with wearable Internet-connected equipment. This new technology -- whether in the form of glasses or watches -- may unobtrusively capture video data in real time, store it in the cloud and allow for it to be analyzed.
It's not unusual for government officials -- the very people we disagree with regarding civil liberties issues -- to agree with us on consumer privacy issues. But don't forget that this person advocated for full-body scanners at airports while on the payroll of a scanner company.
One of the points he makes, that the data collected from Google Glass will become part of Google's vast sensory network, echoes something I've heard Marc Rotenberg at EPIC say: this whole thing would be a lot less scary if the glasses were sold by a company like Brookstone.
The ACLU comments on the essay.
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC) today jointly filed suit against two Los Angeles-area law-enforcement agencies over their failure to produce records related to the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs).
Mounted on squad cars and telephone poles, these sophisticated camera systems read license plates and record the time, date, and location a particular car was encountered. EFF and the ACLU-SC filed requests with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department under the California Public Records Act seeking documents relating to policy and training on ALPRs, as well as a week's worth of ALPR data collected by the agencies in 2012. While the sheriff and police departments produced some materials, they failed to provide documents related to sharing information with other agencies, and neither agency has produced the data collected during the one-week period.
"Location-based information like license plate data can be very revealing," said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "By matching your car to a particular time, date and location — and building a database of that information over time — law enforcement can learn where you work and live, what doctor you go to, which religious services you attend, and who your friends are. The public needs access to data the police actually have collected to be able to make informed decisions about how ALPR systems can and can't be used."
ALPRs can record up to 14,000 plates during a single shift. According to a June 2012 story in LA Weekly, the sheriff and police departments conduct, on average, approximately 22 scans for every one of the 7 million vehicles registered in Los Angeles County. As of June, the departments reportedly logged more than 160 million data points. While the police can use this technology to match license plates against databases to find stolen or wanted cars, the systems currently record and store information on every car, even where there's no reason to think a car is connected to any crime.
"Police can and should treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information. They should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime and get a warrant if they need to keep it any longer," ACLU-SC Senior Staff Attorney Peter Bibring says. "They should limit who can access it, who they can share it with and create an oversight system to make sure the limits are followed."
The complaint was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. EFF and the ACLU have asked a judge to issue a writ directing the agencies to hand over all requested records and award appropriate legal fees.
For the full complaint:
Electronic Frontier Foundationjlynch@eff.org
Senior Staff Attorney
ACLU of Southern Californiapbibring@aclu-sc.org
In the 15 years since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) went into effect, bogus copyright and trademark claims and overzealous enforcement bots have misused the system to silence legitimate speech and creative expression online. We collect the most egregious examples of this kind of abuse in our gallery of villains — the Takedown Hall of Shame.
Today we name and shame three new honorees: Kern's Kitchen, meanspirited censors who seek to shut down recipe-sharing; Time Warner Cable, whose idea of entertainment doesn't extend to jokes about its customer service; and Fox, which doesn't mind if its efforts to police the Homeland cause collateral damage.
Louisville-based Kern's Kitchen has asserted a trademark over the term "Derby Pie," a popular Southern dessert made with chocolate and walnuts. For decades, Kern’s has threatened and sued restaurants that include derby pies on the menu and magazines that have the temerity to share “derby pie” recipes, even though the term is widely recognizable as the name of the pie in question.
Now the company behind the most litigious confection in America is going after individual websites that post new recipes for derby pies. In order to exploit the fact that free speech is only as strong as its weakest link, the company has taken its claims upstream to the hosts of those websites, such as Wordpress.com. To its credit, Wordpress did not simply takedown the websites, but worked with users to try to resolve the issue.
To be clear, Kern's Kitchen is asserting a trademark claim on the name itself, and not a copyright claim on the recipe. That's because in the U.S., recipes aren't generally subject to copyright restrictions. As a result, websites are in the clear if they change the name to something outside of Kern's trademark.
Our favorite: Mean Spirited Censorship Pie.
If you live in New York City — or follow anybody on Twitter who lives in New York City — you have probably heard plenty about Time Warner Cable's Customer Service. That's the joke behind the gripe site TWCCustomerService.com, which looks a lot like a Time Warner site but asks: "What Can We Do Worse?"
It seems like everybody gets the joke but Time Warner Cable itself. The company is also exploiting free speech's weak links by going after each of the social media accounts associated with the website, one by one. The site is still alive (and still very funny), but its YouTube account and several of its Twitter accounts have been shut down.
Time Warner Cable should instruct its lawyers to look up the Streisand Effect: the phenomenon by which an attempt to suppress information results in wider dissemination of that information.
Fox owns a TV show called Homeland. It doesn't own the word "homeland," the concept of a homeland, or the many other works that go by the name "Homeland." But it seems no one thought to tell that to Fox's automated copyright enforcement bots that are programmed to send massive takedown notices for fuzzy matches of the word "homeland" all around the web.
And who's the latest dolphin to get caught in Fox's takedown fishing net? None other than science fiction author and EFF Fellow Cory Doctorow, whose recent sequel to his best-selling Little Brother young adult book is called — you guessed it — Homeland. Fox has sent takedown notices to Google (and probably others) for files with names like "Cory Doctorow Homeland novel."
Doctorow's Homeland is available under a Creative Commons license and has spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. But apparently that's not enough to keep it out of the crosshairs of Fox's sloppy takedown notices, and that causes real harm. As Doctorow put it:
The DMCA makes it easy to carelessly censor the Internet, and makes it hard to get redress for this kind of perjurious, depraved indifference.
Well put, Cory. We work on raising the stakes for bogus takedown notices in two major ways: by fighting back in lawsuits like Lenz v. Universal, where we're holding a rightsholder accountable for notices sent in bad faith, and by naming and shaming bad actors like these in the Takedown Hall of Shame.
Since the tragedy in Boston three weeks ago, there has been much talk in the media and political circles about technology that helped capture the suspects, the role of surveillance, and the critical issue of how privacy should be handled in the digital age. Yet the public facts known so far do not call for new governmental surveillance powers or tools. Instead, the investigation supports the conclusion that the government’s current actions did not cross the Fourth Amendment line, and complying would not harm future terrorism investigations.
First, the familiar attempt to throw privacy out the window: The Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg led the way last week, saying that, despite privacy concerns, “our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.” NYPD chief Ray Kelly echoed Bloomberg, saying, "I think the privacy issue has really been taken off the table," in reference to surveillance after the bombings in Boston.
Bloomberg said terrorists “want to take away our freedoms,” yet his solution seems to be the government should take our freedoms away first. This is folly, and the very reduction of privacy and freedom is what could give victory to terrorism.
In an excellent and poignant column immediately after the bombing, security expert Bruce Schneier wrote in The Atlantic about the reaction we all should have: “When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail.” He continued: “there's one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.”
To Schneier’s point, the risk of terrorism is on the decline and has been since the 1970s, according to the Global Terrorism Database. And a report by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) showed the risk of Americans being killed in terrorism attacks that occur worldwide is exceedingly low. Of the 13,288 people killed by terrorist attacks in 2011, 17 were private U.S. citizens—.001 percent. In fact, you are far more likely to be struck by lightning than be killed by a terrorist.
These calls for less privacy also tend to ignore the fact that we’ve already given away a tremendous amount of our privacy since 9/11, despite the relatively low risk of terrorism in comparison to all sorts of other crime and causes of death, and have little additional safety to show for it. The PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, National Security Letters, or others were all implemented with the promise that giving up liberty would increase our safety. The NYPD now has a “Domain Awareness System,” which “allows officers to tap into live video camera feeds, 911 calls, mapped crime statistics, and license plate readers” all at once—with little oversight. And those are just a few of the programs we know about.
While most of these programs are still tremendously secret, the information we do have indicates that they have been abused many times. The NYPD, for instance, has been widely criticized for its post-9/11 pervasive surveillance. Read the Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize winning series for more.
Let’s focus on just two areas that the Boston bombing brought to the forefront.
First, do the facts support a call for increased government surveillance cameras? No, they do not.
There’s certainly been an epidemic of media support for cameras in the aftermath of the Boston attack. We suspect that companies selling cameras are already lining up outside the doors of state and municipal officials hoping to snare some tax dollars from panicky officials.
But as many others have pointed out, it is important to remember, despite the fact that the bombers were surrounded by dozens of cameras, the cameras did not prevent the bombing. This is consistent with what has occurred in other such attacks, including the attacks in the subway in camera-happy London.
Cameras were quite helpful, along with other evidence, including eye-witnesses, in identifying the suspects after the fact. But importantly, the footage that identified the suspects didn’t come from government cameras – it came from private ones, volunteered from businesses and individuals, and provided more than enough to identify two people in days.
Why? Private cameras provide an informal check on government misuse. In a case like the Boston Marathon bombing, people wanted to help the government solve the heinous crime. It wasn’t hard for the government to collect terabytes of volunteered information. Yet private entities might be much more reticent to volunteer their photos and videos in the case where the government was overreaching or oppressive. If the authorities still want those private photos and videos, they can seek it through legal process, but allowing people to decide in the first instance when to share their private videos and photos with the government can serve as an important check on governmental overreach.
Finally, unless there is an emergency, private photos and videos usually remain in private hands, even if sometimes publicly available on private websites. Government surveillance footage is increasingly being organized and combined with other government information and used in ways that we often have no knowledge of, much less control over.
One of EFF’s longstanding concerns with untargeted, automatic government collection of information about people is the secondary uses. That is, the government desires to keep, correlate and analyze data about nonsuspect, innocent Americans—whether it’s surveillance cameras in public places, license plate readers or warrantless wiretapping—just in case you fall under criminal suspicion.
Private photos and videos can also be collected and collated, of course, but the systemic governmental systems are more worrisome, and likely create more of a chilling effect on Americans in their exercise of their rights to free speech, than disparate, private photos and videos.
Second example: the police use of cellphone tracking to follow the car hijacked by the Boston suspects. The owner of the car had left his cell phone in it after the hijacking and, with the owner’s permission, the police used it to locate the car.
Once again, no additional police powers were needed. The private citizen, the carjacking victim said he gave the police permission to locate his phone, something that is not surprising given the situation. But even if the police were seeking to locate the suspects' cell phones, this should not have been a problem. Even assuming they did not have enough information initially, once the carjacking victim had contacted the authorities, there was probably cause for a warrant due to the theft of the vehicle and—due to the suspects' confession to the victim—the MIT murder and bombing.
EFF has long been saying that the Fourth Amendment should require the police to get a warrant when tracking cellphones, as well as pushing for legislation that would formalize this. Requiring the government to follow the warrant rules in seeking cell phone locations wouldn’t have hurt the Boston investigation, but it would protect many, many people.
Last year alone, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies requested cell phone data a shocking 1.3 million times. Much of that time, it was location data without a warrant. In emergency situations like Boston it’s important for police to act quickly, but in the course of normal investigations the oversight and limits provided by the warrant requirement are just as paramount.
The capture of the Boston suspect was made possible by old-fashioned police work and the willingness of the public to help in such a trying time. Technology surely assisted in this effort, but it’s important to note where it was and was not helpful, and to ensure that we don’t let the few dramatic situations lead us to downgrade our own privacy in everyday law enforcement situations.
How would you react if you found out that traffic laws made the roads more dangerous for pedestrians? Or if existing building codes led to newly constructed houses becoming less structurally sound? Most people would probably be distressed to find out if regulations meant to serve a certain public good in fact undermined their very purpose.
The rhetoric around copyright and patents has been that they are unquestionably effective at promoting creativity and innovation. If you’ve been following EFF’s work over the years however, you would know that that’s simply untrue. In the U.S., we have seen case after case where new businesses, innovators, researchers, and artists have been silenced or sucked dry in the face of harsh copyright enforcement provisions.
The intellectual property chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) lifts and exports some of the worst parts of the U.S. copyright regime to the rest of the world. Here, we highlight just a few ways that those TPP provisions could debilitate the very people they supposedly meant to benefit: innovators and artists.
The TPP carries provisions that could have the effect of making Internet service and content providers liable for copyright infringement by their users. The leaked draft includes a U.S.-style safe harbor provision that is meant to ensure service providers do not have an obligation to monitor their users’ activities in most instances. The safe harbor provision gives companies a way to protect themselves from legal liability as long as they put in place notice and takedown procedures. However, similar language in U.S. copyright law has not stopped large content owners from bringing lawsuits that, if successful, would require websites and service providers to become copyright cops. This leads to a number of setbacks.
For Internet Service Providers, the cost of implementing a system to oversee all users’ activities and process each takedown notice could be excessive. At the very least, companies would be forced to sink significant resources into legal defenses, and thereby discouraging investment.
Even if they are arguably in compliance with the safe harbor provisions, websites and services that enable platforms for social, user-generated content risk being hit with a copyright infringement suit. For example, Veoh, a web host that made every effort to “play by the rules,” was hit with a massive lawsuit. Several courts have said that Veoh was protected by the safe harbors, but litigation costs still put the company out of business. If replicated abroad, cases such as these can lead to such services becoming overcautious about hosting content, and lead them to take down, filter, or block subjects.
Digital rights management (DRM) software, also known as technological protection measures (TPMs), is code installed on devices to limit the use of content after sale. The supposed purpose is to prevent infringement of the content on the device (such as software, music, books, etc). Despite growing evidence that DRM technologies do much more harm than good, the TPP mandates legal restrictions that can be used to punish innovators and researchers for “circumventing” DRM—even if the circumvention is for a lawful purpose.
DRM can easily be used to support anti-competitive business practices and hamper innovation that builds upon existing technologies. For example, a company can prevent “unauthorized” software or digital content from interoperating with their devices by inserting DRM.
All routine computer functions rely upon the regular creation of temporary copies of programs and files. Temporary copies are files that are automatically copied by computers into their random access memory (“RAM”) during everyday operations, and so temporary copying of data is fundamental to how computing works in general. The TPP has a provision that includes even “temporary reproductions” of copyrighted works without rightsholders’ permission as a potential copyright infringement. This definition is so broad it could be used to penalize and control a wide range of obvious legal activities.
In the U.S., there is a history of entertainment, tech, and other companies relying on this broad definition of a copy to sue independent creators and innovative services out of existence. A computer repair technician was sued for copyright infringement for simply loading a computer program into memory. Motion picture and television companies sued Cablevision, a cable TV provider, over its plans to deploy a “remote DVR” service that would allow its subscribers to record TV programming and play it back whenever they would like. The industry argued that since this service required Cablevision to make copies to save on its servers, it itself was an infringer of copyright. Cablevision prevailed, but only after expensive litigation.
Many countries do not have legal doctrines, such as fair use, that have helped mitigate the negative impact of potential liability for temporary copies. The TPP probably won't require countries to adopt fair use along with the innovation-killing parts of U.S. copyright law.
One of the main purposes of copyright is to promote the creation of new works by giving authors certain exclusive rights to that work for limited times so that they may profit from them. However, the current standard copyright terms are much too long to be justified by this underlying objective. The international minimum length of copyright protection is life-of-the-author plus 50 years, or 50 years for corporate-authored or unpublished works. TPP would extend these terms even further, setting the minimum term to 70 years after the death of an author, and corporate works to 120 years after the date of creation.
Many academics say that such long copyright terms yield at best minimal increases in compensation for living authors and that there is little evidence to show that they significantly contribute to an author’s incentive to create. Creativity and innovation are only possible by building upon the prior work of others; excessive copyright terms prevent artists and creators from accessing, remixing, and recreating new works out of existing ones. The international standard for copyright terms is already too long, but the TPP would extend it even longer.
As long as a work is restricted by copyright, new creators would be severely restricted in their ability to use those materials legally — or completely unable to do so. Therefore the costs of making new works can become a barrier for creators. In countries where there is more flexible fair use, there may be more legal room to use these works. But still, it remains a murky, risky, and grossly inefficient system.
There are many works where the author of a work is deceased or cannot be located. As a result, getting explicit permission to use these "hostage works" can become ever more expensive or difficult. Creators might end up not making new works for fear of liability, if they use or are inspired by original works that might be protected by copyright.
Policymakers need to stop treating copyright law as a zero-sum game. An effective innovation policy is one that does not entitle an elite group of creative industries at the costly expense of everyone else. It must enable and promote new businesses. The TPP's intellectual property chapter carries provisions that instead threaten to force countries to enact laws that stifle and prevent new innovative services and creative works.
The negative consequences of copyright law can no longer be dismissed as simply a "price" we need to pay to ensure creators get compensated. The U.S. copyright regime is hugely deficient. Trade negotiators need to stop advocating for the worst parts of U.S. copyright law and exporting them around the world as if they are sound regulatory models. It's time to design innovation policy in a manner that pragmatically supports and incentivizes all innovators, big and small.
Take this action and join over 26,000 people to send a message to your elected representatives. Let's call on Congress to demand for the immediate release of the text of the TPP, and make this process become democratic and transparent once and for all.
Co-Authored with Peter Bibring, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called “automated license plate readers” or ALPR, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.
Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when that data is put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And, according to recent research reported in Nature, it’s possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial datapoints (location + time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifier.
To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPR, EFF and the ACLU of Southern California asked LAPD and LASD for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012. After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to this data, both to show just how much data the agencies are collecting and how revealing it can be.
ALPRs are often touted as an easy way to find stolen cars — the system checks a scanned plate against a database of stolen or wanted cars and can instantly identify a hit, allowing officers to set up a sting to recover the car and catch the thief. But even when there’s no match in the database and no reason to think a car is stolen or involved in a crime, police keep the data. According to the LA Weekly, LAPD and LASD together already have collected more than 160 million “data points” (license plates plus time, date, and exact location) in the greater LA area—that’s more than 20 hits for each of the more than 7 million vehicles registered in L.A. County. That’s a ton of data, but it’s not all — law enforcement officers also have access to private databases containing hundreds of millions of plates and their coordinates collected by “repo” men.
Law enforcement agencies claim that ALPR systems are no different from an officer recording license plate, time and location information by hand. They also argue the data doesn’t warrant any privacy protections because we drive our cars around in public. However, as five justices of the Supreme Court recognized last year in US v. Jones, a case involving GPS tracking, the ease of data collection and the low cost of data storage make technological surveillance solutions such as GPS or ALPR very different from techniques used in the past.
Police are open about their desire to record the movements of every car in case it might one day prove valuable. In 2008, LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck (then the agency’s chief of detectives) told GovTech Magazine that ALPRs have “unlimited potential” as an investigative tool. “It’s always going to be great for the black-and-white to be driving down the street and find stolen cars rolling around . . . . But the real value comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles—where they’ve been and what they've been doing—and tie that to crimes that have occurred or that will occur.” But amassing data on the movements of law-abiding residents poses a real threat to privacy, while the benefit to public safety is speculative, at best.
In light of privacy concerns, states including Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have limited the use of ALPRs, and New Hampshire has banned them outright. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a report recognizing that “recording driving habits” could raise First Amendment concerns because cameras could record “vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests.”
But even if ALPRs are permitted, there are still common-sense limits that can allow the public safety benefits of ALPRs while preventing the wholesale tracking of every resident’s movements. Police can and should treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information — they should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime, and should get a warrant to keep it any longer. They should limit who can access it and who they can share it with. And they should put oversight in place to ensure these limits are followed.
Unfortunately, efforts to impose reasonable limits on ALPR tracking in California have failed so far. Last year, legislation that would have limited private and law enforcement retention of ALPR data to 60 days—a limit currently in effect for the California Highway Patrol — and restricted sharing between law enforcement and private companies failed after vigorous opposition from law enforcement. In California, law enforcement agencies remain free to set their own policies on the use and retention of ALPR data, or to have no policy at all.
Some have asked why we would seek public disclosure of the actual license plate data collected by the police—location-based data that we think is private. But we asked specifically for a narrow slice of data — just a week’s worth — to demonstrate how invasive the technology is. Having the data will allow us to see how frequently some plates have been scanned; where and when, specifically, the cops are scanning plates; and just how many plates can be collected in a large metropolitan area over the course of a single week. Actual data will reveal whether ALPRs are deployed primarily in particular areas of Los Angeles and whether some communities might therefore be much more heavily tracked than others. If this data is too private to give a week’s worth to the public to help inform us how the technology is being used, then isn’t it too private to let the police amass years’ worth of data without a warrant?
After the Boston Marathon bombings, many have argued that the government should take advantage of surveillance technology to collect more data rather than less. But we should not so readily give up the very freedoms that terrorists seek to destroy. We should recognize just how revealing ALPR data is and not be afraid to push our police and legislators for sensible limits to protect our basic right to privacy.
EFF and ACLU-SC's legal Complaint
LA Sheriff's Department ALPR Powerpoint Presentation
LA Sheriff's Department - Automated License Plate Reader System Information
LAPD - Automated License Plate Reader User Guide
LA Sheriff's Department - Field Operations Directive
Here is a simple but clever idea. Seed password files with dummy entries that will trigger an alarm when used. That way a site can know when a hacker is trying to decrypt the password file.
Several months ago Megaupload filed a request to dismiss the indictment against it, until the U.S. Government finds a way to properly serve the company.
Megaupload based its request on “Rule 4” of criminal procedure, which requires the authorities to serve a company at an address in the United States. However, since Megaupload is a Hong Kong company, this was and is impossible.
The defense argued that the court can only protect Megaupload’s due process rights by dismissing the case. However, the Government disagreed and asked the court to deny Megaupload’s motion. Among other things the Government claimed that federal rules shouldn’t be interpreted so narrowly.
Two weeks ago Megaupload renewed its request and the defunct file-hosting company noted that the Government was trying to change the law in its favor. The lawyers cited a letter to the Advisory Committee on the Criminal Rules where the DoJ made suggestions that would directly influence the Megaupload case.
Among other things the letter suggested an amendment to the law so that it would no longer be a requirement to serve a foreign company in the United States. Megaupload’s lawyers used the letter to point out to the court that the Government knew very well that it was not playing by the rules.
This week the U.S. Government replied to the motion, stating that Megaupload misrepresents the facts.
The Government explains that the DoJ’s letter begins with “a bedrock principle of criminal law, one that applies equally to both organizations and natural persons,” citing the following passage:
“When a person located abroad violates the laws of the United States, that person may be held criminally liable despite the fact that the person has never set foot in the United States.”
In other words, every person and company in the world should comply with U.S. law. The Government explains that some companies including Megaupload are exploiting “Rule 4” to remain unaccountable. However, the Government tells the court that the suggestion to improve the law doesn’t mean that Megaupload can’t be prosecuted.
“The Department never concedes, as Megaupload wrongly claims, that a proper interpretation of Rule 4 would bar the company’s prosecution,” the Government tells the court in its most recent filing.
In addition to this clarification the Government further references an additional legal precedent which shows that foreign companies without an address in the United States can be criminally prosecuted.
The Government’s response ends with a “warning” that dismissing the indictment against Megaupload, even temporarily, may mean the end of the case.
“Such dismissal, even without prejudice, would harm (perhaps fatally) the government’s ability to fully prosecute serious criminal conduct of the corporate defendant Megaupload, the ability of victims to obtain justice, and the public’s interest in resolving this case efficiently,” the Government writes.
With the sentence above the Government suggests that the entire case against Megaupload could collapse, putting a lot of weight on the decision of District Court Judge Liam O’Grady, and perhaps not unintentionally.
Under this pressure the Judge now has to decide whether or not Megaupload should be dismissed from the indictment. If that’s the case, Megaupload plans to give users access to the files that were seized, and it will also free up funds for a proper defense.
Source: U.S. Government Fears End of Megaupload Case
Last month Swedish prosecutor Henry Olin announced that following a lengthy investigation, Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm had been charged in connection to his alleged hacking of an IT company affiliated with the government.
Recent information suggests that Gottfrid intends to plead “not guilty” to claims that between January 2010 and April 2012 he and his co-conspirators accessed confidential tax records and data on the systems of Logica, an IT company working with Sweden’s tax authorities.
Gottfrid and his alleged accomplices will now go on trial starting May 20 but in the meantime additional information has been emerging via Niklas Femerstrand, a researcher, hacker, political activist and friend of Gottfrid.
Late last month, Femerstrand published translated transcripts of Gottfrid’s interrogation over several days between September 2012 and March 2013. Further information is now coming to light.
“This investigation, it has gone on since this spring and we have have quite a lot of material that we’ve been looking at. There are clear indications in this material that shows that you were involved. Do you know of this breach of Logica?” an interrogator asked Gottfrid last year.
“No comments!” responded Gottfrid. The interview was terminated after Gottfrid refused to admit knowing individuals referred to as ‘MG’ and ‘KS’ and answered “no comment” to pretty much everything. A follow up interview in which the Pirate Bay founder was asked if he knew “CS” was ended after achieving the same result.
An interview in March 2013 found Gottfrid marginally more compliant. In amongst an overwhelming number of “no comments” he admitted working as a freelance consultant and running an outsourcing company during his time in Cambodia.
Gottfrid also admitted to owning two computers, a desktop and a Macbook, that were found in his Cambodia apartment. He said the computers were used as servers, not by him personally, and were accessed via the Internet by individuals he admitted knowing and meeting.
“These people then, who have accessed [the servers]. Do you want to say something about them?” the interrogator asked.
Gottfrid responded “No…[..] because I fear for my own life.”
Later discussion turned to a 16GB TrueCrypt container found on one of the computers which appears to be a reference to material downloaded by the alleged hackers from Logica’s systems. Also present were log files listing the computer’s connections to Logica.
“In your computer, there are a number of different log files, the connections you have done to Logica… or that’s in your computer against Logica systems, what were these log files from?” the interrogator asked.
“Probably from those who used the computer. Either locally or, more likely remotely,” Gottfrid responded.
What followed was a discussion about various characters. According to earlier statements made by the prosecutor, some of those arrested in the case have Pirate Bay connections.
It appears that the previously arrested ‘MG’ was found in possession of chat logs with various nicknames listed. Gottfrid admitted to using “Anakata” and prosecutors suggested that he also used “tLt”. Gottfrid wouldn’t be drawn, but admitted that “Anakata” is a well known name.
“For example diROX asks TiAMO [Pirate Bay co-founder] where is Anakata? So he responds Cambodia, that’s correct isn’t it?” the interrogator questions.
What follows are lengthy logs read out by the prosecutor where “diROX” and “tLt” discuss cracking databases and gaining access to information.
“I also have complete dumps of amongst others the bailiff registry, only that is 12 Gb haha, got hold of the table of contents, it’s a little easier to find fun things then,” the interrogator read out, quoting “tLt”.
“I… just want to comment that bailiff records are public documents,” Gottfrid responded.
In November “MG” was interrogated again but refused to have a lawyer present. After being shown chatlogs he told his interrogators that “tLt” was Gottfrid Svartholm.
Evidence also gathered from MG included forensics on his cellphone which revealed tools for cracking WiFi networks. Text documents within them contained the exact same login credentials used to access Logica’s servers. The same data was found on his Ubuntu One cloud storage account. MG later went on to admit that he had used the name “diROX” online.
MG denied that he’d downloaded any data through the tax intrusions but admitted carrying out queries on his friends. The interrogator asked ‘MG’ if those friends are members of the “Hells Angels” – MG said that was possible.
What followed next was an exchange where MG implied he was scared for his safety so couldn’t say anything more. His interrogators suggested things were still going to look bad for him with his ‘friends’ whether he cooperated or not. MG’s lawyer stepped in and put an end to the approach.
It’s also been revealed that the alleged hackers gained access to systems via an account belonging to a movie industry lawyer. Monique Wadsted of the MAQS lawfirm was used extensively by the entertainment industries in the original Pirate Bay trial. For those who’ve seen the movie TPB AFK, she is the lady for whom Peter Sunde held open the door.
Wadsted had an account on a system called Infotorg, a provider of online information about private individuals, companies, properties and vehicles. Wadsted’s account was allegedly modified by the attackers to become a super-user account which enabled the download of large amounts of data. Traffic to that account was traced to IP addresses belonging to ISPs in Cambodia and Sweden.
Also of interest to those who followed the original Pirate Bay trial is the type of data that was accessed during the hacks. Searches were carried out on a wide range of individuals from an actor to a representative of a space project, but they were also conducted on Gottfrid himself, controversial ISP PRQ and various police cars. Interestingly a search was also conducted on Jim Keyzer, an IT forensics police officer who later transferred to Warner Bros., a plaintiff in the trial.
What is clear from even the small amount of information revealed so far (thanks again to Niklas Femerstrand) is that this is an incredibly complicated case that any court or jury will do well to keep up with. Whether it will stride confidently to its conclusion or collapse under its own complexity remains to be seen. We will know more later in May.
Source: MPAA Lawyer’s Computer Account Used in Pirate Bay Founder Hacking Case
With nearly 30 million streaming subscribers in the U.S. alone, Netflix is one the major providers of online video entertainment.
That’s quite an achievement, especially when taking into consideration that streaming Hollywood blockbusters was virtually impossible half a decade ago.
Furthermore, with the rise of these legal options people have less incentive to search for pirated copies on file-sharing sites – two years ago we noted that Netflix was killing (unauthorized) BitTorrent traffic. Now Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos reports he has some evidence to back up this claim.
In a recent interview with Stuff, Sarandos notes that BitTorrent traffic dips every time the video provider opens up shop in a new location.
“One of the things is we get ISPs to publicise their connection speeds – and when we launch in a territory the BitTorrent traffic drops as the Netflix traffic grows. So I think people do want a great experience and they want access – people are mostly honest.”
In other words, many people who previously pirated movies via BitTorrent stop doing so when Netflix becomes available. Choice is also the key to solving the piracy problem according to the Netflix CCO.
“The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options,” Sarandos says.
It’s not rocket science and quite logical to most, but still there are many parts of the world where movie and TV streaming options are rather limited. Even in the United States some releases are held back or delayed to save old business models.
According to Sarandos this has to change – people want to consume Hollywood content and need legal options to do so.
“One of the side effects of growth of content is an expectation to have access to it. You can’t use the Internet as a marketing vehicle and then not as a delivery vehicle,” he says.
There’s still a lot can be done to improve the current situation. Since the launch of Netflix’s streaming service in 2008, BitTorrent traffic has continued to rise in the United States, but it’s indicative that Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated titles of all time.
After all, HBO is not making it easy for people to access the show and Netflix is unable to buy it.
Of course, there are many reasons why people pirate and there will always be freeloaders who simply can’t or won’t pay. But this is no reason to offend those who have the right intentions.
Making content available may not make piracy disappear, but at the very minimum it gives the millions of people who want to pay a place to spend their money.
Source: Netflix Says It’s ‘Killing’ BitTorrent Traffic
Our government collects a lot of information about us. Tax records, legal records, license records, records of government services received-- it's all in databases that are increasingly linked and correlated. Still, there's a lot of personal information the government can't collect. Either they're prohibited by law from asking without probable cause and a judicial order, or they simply have no cost-effective way to collect it. But the government has figured out how to get around the laws, and collect personal data that has been historically denied to them: ask corporate America for it.
It's no secret that we're monitored continuously on the Internet. Some of the company names you know, such as Google and Facebook. Others hide in the background as you move about the Internet. There are browser plugins that show you who is tracking you. One Atlantic editor found 105 companies tracking him during one 36-hour period. Add data from your cell phone (who you talk to, your location), your credit cards (what you buy, from whom you buy it), and the dozens of other times you interact with a computer daily, we live in a surveillance state beyond the dreams of Orwell.
It's all corporate data, compiled and correlated, bought and sold. And increasingly, the government is doing the buying. Some of this is collected using National Security Letters (NSLs). These give the government the ability to demand an enormous amount of personal data about people for very speculative reasons, with neither probable cause nor judicial oversight. Data on these secretive orders is obviously scant, but we know that the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of them in the past decade -- for reasons that go far beyond terrorism.
NSLs aren't the only way the government can get at corporate data. Sometimes they simply purchase it, just as any other company might. Sometimes they can get it for free, from corporations that want to stay on the government's good side.
CISPA, a bill currently wending its way through Congress, codifies this sort of practice even further. If signed into law, CISPA will allow the government to collect all sorts of personal data from corporations, without any oversight at all, and will protect corporations from lawsuits based on their handing over that data. Without hyperbole, it's been called the death of the 4th Amendment. Right now, it's mainly the FBI and the NSA who are getting this data, but -- all sorts of government agencies have administrative subpoena power.
Data on this scale has all sorts of applications. From finding tax cheaters by comparing data brokers' estimates of income and net worth with what's reported on tax returns, to compiling a list of gun owners from Web browsing habits, instant messaging conversations, and locations -- did you have your iPhone turned on when you visited a gun store? -- the possibilities are endless.
Government photograph databases form the basis of any police facial recognition system. They're not very good today, but they'll only get better. But the government no longer needs to collect photographs. Experiments demonstrate that the Facebook database of tagged photographs is surprisingly effective at identifying people. As more places follow Disney's lead in fingerprinting people at its theme parks, the government will be able to use that to identify people as well.
In a few years, the whole notion of a government-issued ID will seem quaint. Among facial recognition, the unique signature from your smart phone, the RFID chips in your clothing and other items you own, and whatever new technologies that will broadcast your identity, no one will have to ask to see ID. When you walk into a store, they'll already know who you are. When you interact with a policeman, she'll already have your personal information displayed on her Internet-enabled glasses.
Soon, governments won't have to bother collecting personal data. We're willingly giving it to a vast network of for-profit data collectors, and they're more than happy to pass it on to the government without our knowledge or consent.
This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.
FinFisher (also called FinSpy) is a commercially sold spyware package that is used by governments world-wide, including the U.S. There's a new report that has a bunch of new information:
Our new findings include:
We have identified FinFisher Command & Control servers in 11 new Countries. Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Panama, Lithuania, Macedonia, South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Austria.
Taken together with our previous research, we can now assert that FinFisher Command & Control servers are currently active, or have been present, in 36 countries.
We have also identified a FinSpy sample that appears to be specifically targeting Malay language speakers, masquerading as a document discussing Malaysia’s upcoming 2013 General Elections.
We identify instances where FinSpy makes use of Mozilla’s Trademark and Code. The latest Malay-language sample masquerades as Mozilla Firefox in both file properties and in manifest. This behavior is similar to samples discussed in some of our previous reports, including a demo copy of the product, and samples targeting Bahraini activists.
Mozilla has sent them a cease and desist letter for using their name and code.
Here's my previous post on the spyware.
Tomorrow, the Justice Department will brief the Senate Judiciary staff on the prosecution of the late activist and Internet pioneer Aaron Swartz, who died in January. Swartz has become a lasting symbol for how the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) can be twisted by authorities to mete out draconian punishments and turn millions of Internet users into criminals.
Previously, Sen. John Cornyn asked pointed questions to Attorney General Eric Holder about the case in an oversight hearing of the Justice Department (DOJ). Thursday’s briefing will be an opportunity for the Judiciary Committee to ask more detailed questions and follow up on answers that Holder promised the Senators.
The briefing is closed to the public, but here are some questions we’d like to see asked:
1) At last month's hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy asked Attorney General Holder whether the department would consider prohibiting CFAA prosecutions based solely on Terms of Service (ToS) violations. Holder replied "that is something we can look at."
Has the DOJ looked into changing its current policy to ensure prosecutions based solely on ToS violations don’t happen in the future? Have any official internal reviews been conducted to identify other prosecutions based on this dangerous legal theory? Would the DOJ support legislation to update the CFAA to clarify that ToS violations aren’t a crime?
2) At last month’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Cornyn asked Holder, “On what basis did the US Attorney in Massachusetts conclude that her office’s conduct was ‘appropriate?’” Attorney General Holder said that the prosecutors “were talked to; the US attorneys were talked to.”
Did the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office or the Justice Department itself conduct an official internal review of its handling of the Aaron Swartz case? What were the findings? Has it learned any lessons?
3) “[Senators] John Cornyn and Al Franken both wrote to DOJ earlier this year asking for information about the department's actions in the Swartz case,” Politico reported. Has DOJ answered those letters and will it release them publicly?
4) Does Holder stand by his comment made in the Senate Judiciary hearing that charging Swartz with 35 years and then offering a plea agreement of 3 months was a “good use of prosecutorial discretion”? Can he provide further justification for that view?
5) Former and current members of the Justice Department have complained that the media kept repeating that Aaron faced up to 35 years in prison, when, in fact, he would have ultimately faced much less time, given his circumstances.
Does the Justice Department believe the media is quoting an inaccurate number? And if so, why did DOJ include it in their July 2011 press release announcing Aaron’s indictment?
6) At the last briefing it was reported that “Some congressional staffers left the briefing with the impression that prosecutors believed they needed to convict Swartz of a felony that would put him in jail for a short sentence in order to justify bringing the charges in the first place, according to two aides with knowledge of the briefing.” Was this impression true? And if it was true, what was the basis for the prosecutors’ belief?
7) It was also reported that the Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto “demonstrated Swartz's malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.” Do you consider this manifesto to be expression protected by the First Amendment? While public records show Aaron distributed this manifesto, do you have proof that he wrote it?
8) Aaron Swartz previously mass-downloaded academic articles from Westlaw, a legal database, to conduct a study about sources of funding for scientific research and did not release them to the public. Besides the manifesto that was written years prior to the MIT incident and does not specifically mention JSTOR, do you have any evidence that Aaron was planning on releasing the JSTOR documents to the public?
9) Is the DOJ Inspector General aware of, or has the DOJ acted on, a letter filed by Swartz’s former attorney with the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility complaining that the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office a) delayed the disclosure of emails relevant to the investigation and b) pressured Swartz to plead guilty with threats of inflated prison time?
Together with the Digital Media Law Project, we filed an amicus brief today in federal court in Massachusetts. We are urging the court to ensure that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides protection for victims of abusive takedown notices—specifically, that the DMCA requires copyright owners to consider fair use before sending takedowns.
The takedown procedure of the DMCA provides a quick, cheap, extrajudicial way to get speech removed from the internet. As we’ve written many, many times before, this makes it a tempting tool for those who wish to remove speech they happen to dislike. To prevent such abuse, Section 512(f) of the DMCA provides victims of wrongful takedowns with a remedy, allowing them to file a lawsuit for misrepresentation under the DMCA.
This latest Section 512(f) case out of Massachusetts has a curious history. It began as an online battle between two bloggers—doula Gina Crosley-Corcoran and OB/GYN Dr. Amy Tuteur—about the safety of home birth. After an exchange of critical posts, Crosley-Corcoran posted a photo of herself making a well-known, finger-related gesture to Tuteur and writing: “I don’t want to leave you without something you can take back to your blog and obsess over, so here’s a picture of me.” Tuteur responded with a post of her own that included the photo with some commentary (the photo is now removed from this post)—a clear case of fair use.
Crosley-Corcoran then sent a DMCA takedown notice to the host of Tuteur’s blog, alleging copyright infringement of the finger photo. After Tuteur changed hosts, Crosley-Corcoran sent another takedown notice to the new host. According to Tuteur, this second notice was sent after Crosley-Corcoran’s attorney admitted that there was no valid copyright claim. And on her blog, Crosley-Corcoran wrote that she would be prepared to settle the matter if Tuteur would “agree to stop personally attacking me.” As others have also concluded, the chain of events suggests that Crosley-Corcoran was using the DMCA to silence a critic.
Tuteur responded by filing a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts asserting a DMCA Section 512(f) claim. On its own initiative, the court issued an order to show cause suggesting that it “seriously questions” whether Tuteur has stated a viable Section 512(f) claim. The core of the court’s concern is that the fair use is an affirmative defense—the judge questioned whether the DMCA requires the sender of a takedown notice to consider fair use.
This is an important question. If the DMCA did not require copyright owners to consider fair use, it would be an open invitation for private censorship. For example, an author could send a takedown notice to remove a critical book review based on just a few quoted words. Fortunately, other courts that have considered this issue have found that the DMCA does require consideration of fair use. For example, in Lenz v. Universal, where EFF represents the plaintiff, the court ruled that content owners must consider fair use before sending takedowns.
The case of Tuteur v. Crosley-Corcoran is not about the relative merits of these blogger’s views about childbirth. Rather, it is about the alleged misuse of the DMCA to silence a critic and the crucial legal issue of whether the DMCA requires senders of takedown notices to consider fair use. Today we urge the court to reach the right result and ensure that the DMCA protects free expression.
Today, the White House announced that Michael Froman is the nominee to be the new U.S. Trade Representative. The U.S. Trade Rep is the office in charge of negotiating all trade agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and the upcoming US-EU trade agreement. This office has therefore been a fundamental player in the game of international copyright policy laundering.
Froman has served under the Obama administration as Assistant to the US President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs. Prior to that, he was the managing director of Citigroup, one of the banking giants that was bailed out of bankruptcy in 2008. For the past four years, he has been heavily involved in the White House’s trade agenda, and credited with finalizing trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama — all of which contain the same heavy-handed copyright policies found in ACTA and the TPP.
You can sign our petition to the new nominee, urging him to end the secret copyright agenda that leads to those unbalanced laws.
Hollywood and Big Content groups like the MPAA, RIAA, and IFPI have convinced the US Trade Rep to push for increasingly restrictive copyright provisions in trade instruments and for years copyright enforcement around the world has grown more expansive and restrictive. A major force in this trend has been a practice called policy laundering. This is when unpopular policies that wouldn't normally survive public oversight are cycled through international negotiations that aren't subject to the same level of democratic oversight as national lawmaking systems.
In the same way, abusive copyright rules that echo the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) are copied and pasted from trade agreement to trade agreement. Since no single governing body regulates these policies, these agreements become a moving target that raises global standards of copyright enforcement while avoiding accountability.
The copyright industries take advantage of this secretive process, and continue to lobby the U.S. Trade Rep to export DMCA-like provisions around the world. This disproportionately impacts other nations that do not have the same fair use protections that exist in the U.S. The DMCA is controversial even domestically, facing reform efforts in light of countless harmful effects on Internet users, mobile phone users, security researchers, students, the blind, and others. It’s deeply problematic if it comes to be treated as an international standard of copyright enforcement.
There have been a handful of cases where trade negotiations have been transparent. In 2001 for example, the U.S. Trade Rep released the draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), calling it an "unprecedented effort to make international trade and its economic and social benefits more understandable to the public." Legislators, civil society groups, academics and the public had the opportunity to examine, analyze, and propose alternative language. The deal, however, ultimately did not get concluded.
U.S. Trade Rep Ron Kirk has hinted that the blame for its incompletion lies with the fact that they officially released the draft text to the public. In other words, he was saying that the only way to negotiate these trade deals is to skirt democratic oversight. Their rejection of transparency was echoed again this morning at a meeting between civil society groups and the U.S. trade office regarding the upcoming U.S.-EU trade agreement. Knowledge Ecology International Director Jamie Love reported that the U.S. trade office again stated that it is incapable of having a transparent process to negotiate international agreements.
In a few short weeks, there will be a Congressional confirmation hearing for nominee Michael Froman, where members of the Senate Finance Committee, including Ron Wyden, will have an opportunity to ask him questions about his trade policy objectives.
Our petition to the new USTR asks for an end to this secrecy. The letter requests the nominee to commit to a list of guidelines, that upon taking office he will make trade negotiations transparent and democratic going forward. Otherwise, we demand that he take “intellectual property” issues off the table. Without public input, there is no chance for these trade agreements to uphold the interest of the public, and for its provisions to recognize and respect the free and open Internet.
Image Credit: Michael Froman - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0
Max Abrahms has two sensible essays.
Probably the ultimate in security theater: Williams-Sonoma stops selling pressure cookers "out of respect." They say it's temporary. (I bought a Williams-Sonoma pressure cooker last Christmas; I wonder if I'm now on a list.)
A tragedy: Sunil Tripathi, whom Reddit and other sites wrongly identified as one of the bombers, was found dead in the Providence River. I hope it's not a suicide.
And worst of all, New York Mayor Bloomberg scares me more than the terrorists ever could:
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country's interpretation of the Constitution will "have to change" to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.
"The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry," Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. "But we live in a complex world where you're going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change."
"The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry," Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. "But we live in a complex world where you're going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change."
Terrorism's effectiveness doesn't come from the terrorist acts; it comes from our reactions to it. We need leaders who aren't terrorized.
Edited to add (4/29): Only indirectly related, but the Kentucky Derby is banning "removable lens cameras" for security reasons.
Edited to add (4/29): And a totally unscientific CNN opinion poll: 57% say no to: "Is it justifiable to violate certain civil liberties in the name of national security?"
Edited to add (4/29): It seems that Sunil Tripathi died well before the Boston bombing. So while his family was certainly affected by the false accusations, he wasn't.
Edited to add (4/29): On the difference between mass murder and terrorism:
What the United States means by terrorist violence is, in large part, "public violence some weirdo had the gall to carry out using a weapon other than a gun."
The United States and ten governments from around the Pacific are meeting yet again to hash out the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) on May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. The TPP is one of the worst global threats to the Internet since ACTA. Since the negotiations have been secretive from the beginning, we mainly know what's in the current version of this trade agreement because of a leaked draft [PDF] from February 2011. Based upon that text, some other leaked notes, and the undemocratic nature of the entire process, we have every reason to be alarmed about the copyright enforcement provisions contained in this multinational trade deal.
The TPP is likely to export some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law to Pacific Rim countries: a broad ban on breaking digital locks on devices and creative works (even for legal purposes), a minimum copyright term of the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years (the current international norm is the lifetime plus fifty years), privatization of enforcement for copyright infringement, ruinous statutory damages with no proof of actual harm, and government seizures of computers and equipment involved in alleged infringement. Moreover, the TPP is worse than U.S. copyright rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protection. Adding insult to injury, the TPP's temporary copies provision will likely create chilling effects on how people and companies behave online and their basic ability to use and create on the Web.
The stated goal of the TPP is to unite the Pacific Rim countries by harmonizing tariffs and trade rules between them, but in reality, it's much more than that. The "intellectual property" chapter in this massive trade agreement will likely force changes to copyright and patent rules in each of the signatory countries. Accepting these new rules will not just re-write national laws, but will also restrict the possibility for countries to introduce more balanced copyright laws in the future. This strategy may end up harming other countries' more proportionate laws such as Chile, where a judicial order is required for ISPs to be held liable for copyright infringement and take down content. Such systems better protect users and intermediaries from disproportionate or censorship-driven takedowns. If the final TPP text forces countries to adopt a privatized notice and takedown regime, this could imply the end of the Chilean system. It would also undermine canada's notice and notice regime.
The content industry can and will continue to buy and lie to get their way to get laws that protects their interests, and what they want more than anything is for us to remain passively ignorant. They did it with SOPA, ACTA, and now it's TPP [ESP]. It's going to be a challenge to defeat these policies, but we can do it. The TPP is slated for conclusion this October, but our goal is to get the worst of these copyright provisions out of it. The way to fight back is to show that we will not put up with this: to demand an open transparent process that allows everyone, including experts from civil society members, to analyze, question, and probe any initiatives to regulate the Internet. The secrecy must be stopped once and for all.
Below is our infographic highlighting the most problematic aspects of TPP. Please spread the word about how this agreement will impact you and your country. Right-click and save the image for the PNG file, or you can download the PDF version below. Remix it, build upon it, and get the word out. Let's protect and defend the Internet from this secret trade deal.