The ongoing legal fight, in which a bunch of US tech and internet companies — namely Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn — are suing the US government, claiming a First Amendment right to publish some details on the number of requests they get from the NSA under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, as well as the number of users impacted by those requests, is getting ever weirder. The government had filed its response back at the end of September. And, you might notice, large portions of it are totally redacted. For example, here is page 13 of the document (though, numbered page 8):
Posts by Techdirt
I’m always amazed when lawyers send clearly bogus DMCA notices. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out that doing so ends badly. I’m doubly surprised, however, when it comes from big companies that should know better. And, I’m quadruple surprised when one of these companies that should know better sends a completely bogus DMCA notice to a company that absolutely understands why the notice is bogus, and is also in a position to make the world know all about a company’s bogus DMCA notice. That’s what we have here. You see, this morning, Office Depot decided to send a DMCA to Reddit.
Yes, to Reddit….
Unfortunately, I have no link on this one, because someone sent me a copy of an article that is either not online or only behind a paywall somewhere, but at a recent AIPLA (American Intellectual Property Law Assocation) meeting, Judge Randall Rader, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which handles all patent appeals, apparently complained about “vague language” in the most recent update to patent law, the America Invents Act, to have the US Patent Office’s (USPTO) Patent and Trademark Appeal Board (PTAB) review more patents to dump bad ones. The recently proposed patent reform bill from Rep. Bob Goodlatte would expand this program. Now, anyone who recognizes the importance of getting rid of bad patents, knowing how bad patents can make the overall problem worse, should support this. But, not Judge Randall Rader. He compares it to genocide.
Oh, the hilarity that is the phrase “criminal justice system.” Talk to any defense attorney andthey’ll tell you how the deck is stacked against defendants and defense lawyers. The ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” has become little more than a disclaimer tacked onto cop-centered reality shows. Defendants are guilty until the jury is somehow tricked by the defense into handing down a “not guilty” verdict. A lot of effort goes towards dissuading defendants from even making it this far, as prosecutors will present worst-case scenarios comprised of every violation conceivable in order to get an agreement to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
The prevailing perception that the person charged is guilty, with the only answer yet to be determined is how guilty, makes defending arrestees an uphill battle. Judge (former judge) Elizabeth Coker took this uphill battle, increased the grade to 85 degrees, covered it with a sheet of ice and sprinkled it with a 50/50 blend of Teflon and motor oil.
While there’s plenty of attention being paid to Lavabit’s temporary re-opening for the sake of letting people export their accounts, a much more interesting issue is the recent development in the legal case. Lavabit has filed its latest brief, and there are some interesting discussions about the details of the case. From my reading, Lavabit makes a very strong argument that the government has no right to demand the production of Lavabit’s private SSL keys, as it’s an overreach way beyond what traditional wiretapping laws allow. Lawyer Orin Kerr’s analysis argues that Lavabit’s case is weak, mainly arguing that the federal government can subpoena whatever the hell they want, and just because it conflicts with your business model: too bad. Lavabit argues that complying with the government’s order is oppressive because it would effectively mean it would be committing fraud on all its customers…
Maryland Tops Off Awful Cyberbullying Law With Direct Line To Facebook To Remove Content ‘Without Societal Value’By Techdirt
We saw Nova Scotia deliver the worst in cyberbullying laws (Canadian edition) earlier this year. Like most bad cyberbullying legislation, this one was prompted by the suicide of a teen. It’s too tempting for legislators to rush into action with no real idea on how to solve the problem, much less mitigate it, and the attendant public uproar contributes nothing in terms of clear thinking or common sense.
As a result, laws like Nova Scotia’s get passed — laws that rely on purely subjective measures. If someone feels offended, they can press charges, utilizing a non-adversarial process that allows the accuser to present his or her case directly to a judge, who then decides whether or not it’s actually cyberbullying. This opens the accused up to civil proceedings, criminal charges and a chance of being banned not just from social media but from the internet entirely, along with being banned from using electronic devices — like a phone….
It’s been known for quite some time that the feds were desperately trying to hunt down the folks behind Silk Road, the somewhat infamous “dark web” e-commerce site, accessible only via Tor, which was famous mainly for selling drugs in a slightly anonymous fashion. Of course, when the news came out recently that the FBI had used malware to reveal Tor Browser users, many believed that this was part of an attempt to track down Silk Road, and that seems increasingly likely after the FBI announced this morning that it has arrested Silk Road’s owner, Ross William Ulbricht, who went by the moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts” online. Turns out that Ulbricht was based in San Francisco and was arrested at the public library, of all places….
How did we get to the point where activities conducted on someone’s private property can somehow fall under the jurisdiction of a public school? The short version is this: concerns aboutactual criminal activity on school grounds led to tighter controls being built into policies. A few school shootings upped the ante and provoked disproportionate reactions from several legislators. And just in case no one felt the new weapon and violence policies erected to prevent the unpreventable weren’t being taken seriously enough, the government “helpfully” tied these new rules to federal funding.
“Playing it safe” just isn’t good enough anymore. Every administrator is compelled to err on the (uber-ridiculous) side of caution because to do otherwise might result in angry parents, or worse, the loss of federal funding. Anything that bears a slight resemblance to a gun is treated as the real thing — a weapon powerful enough to kill someone — even if that “weapon” is a Pop Tart, four fingers and a thumb or drawn on a piece of paper.
The illogical extremes seen in these earlier incidents has been surpassed by Larkspur Middle School of the Virginia Beach School District….
As an American with First Amendment rights, you’d probably assume that a “Free Speech Zone” would look something like this:
The blue on that map should represent areas where you can exercise your right to free speech. Unfortunately, for many college students, their “Free Speech Zone” shrinks considerably when on campus. One out of every six major colleges have designated “Free Speech Zones” where students are “permitted” to “enjoy” this Constitutional right, and even then there are restrictions. In these colleges, exercising your right to free speech means asking permission at least a couple of days in advance as well as having the administration “approve” your speech.
The latest example of confined and controlled speech comes to us courtesy of Modesto Junior College. As FIRE.org reports, a student found his exercise of free speech shut down on one of the worst days of the year for a college to assert its negative attitude towards the First Amendment.
Village People Singer Wants To Ban The Group From Singing YMCA After Claiming He’s Regained The CopyrightBy Techdirt
We’ve written many times about the issue of termination rights in copyright. Under the Copyright Act that went into effect in 1978, artists have a “termination right” to basically take back their copyright from whomever they assigned it to, 35 years after the works were created. Artists cannot contract that right away. It’s inalienable. Of course, it’s 2013, and as you may have noticed, that’s 35 years after 1978. There are a variety of legal fights going on, as copyright holders (generally large gatekeeper companies) are fighting to stop the termination rights. One of the first key cases on this involved The Village People’s Victor Willis, who initially scored an initial victory last year. Of course, the legal fight went on. The NY Times, however, is reporting that Willis himself is now claiming victory, but the details are lacking, and the lawyer for the record labels denies Willis’ claim, noting that there’s still an appeal to be heard.
That said, what struck me as more interesting — but no less troubling — is the gleeful manner in which it appears Willis is preparing to use his new copyright powers (if he actually gets them) to make the current version of The Village People stop performing the band’s classic songs….