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A few months ago, we noted that the FBI had quietly admitted that its primary function was no longer law enforcement (as it was supposed to be), but rather “national security.” Because fighting terrorism is hot. Putting bankers destroying the economy in jail? Not hot. As we noted at the time, the numbers showed that the FBI was putting a huge part of its budget towards “counterterrorism” (potentially doing much more to destroy your civil liberties than the NSA) and its efforts to take down white collar crime was dropping significantly.

A new report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General confirms this finding. It also notes that, despite President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder promising (yeah, I know…) that cracking down on “mortgage fraud” was a top priority, the FBI has actually put it near the bottom of the list of actual priorities. Say one thing, do another. That sounds mighty familiar…

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Comcast has confirmed reports that the company will be acquiring Time Warner Cable in a deal estimated to be worth around $45 billion. With the ink on their NBC acquisition only just dry to the touch, the deal will tack 8 million broadband subscribers onto the company’s existing 22 million broadband customers. Comcast is already the nation’s largest fixed-line broadband company, largest cable TV provider, and third largest fixed-line phone company — and that’s before you include the company’s NBC or other assets. From a geographical perspective the deal makes sense; Time Warner Cable filling in Comcast’s coverage gaps and in particular giving Comcast the prized markets of Los Angeles and New York City, where Time Warner Cable has traditionally under-performed.

The problem is less of market share (the two companies didn’t compete directly) but one of consolidated power…

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We’ve written plenty of times about the importance of the public domain around here, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the public domain has been Disney, a company which has regularly mined the public domain for the stories it then recreates and copyrights. Of course, somewhat depressingly, Disney also has been one of the most extreme players in keeping anything new out of the public domain, as pointed out by Tom Bell’s excellent “mickey mouse curve” showing how Disney has sought to push out the term of copyrights every time Mickey Mouse gets near the public domain.

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The administration wants Snowden back badly enough that it has let this singular aspect cloud its judgement. Obama recently stated he won’t be meeting with Putin, stating Russia’s harboring of Snowden as a factor (rather than Russia’s multiple issues with human rights). Rather than engage in the debate Obama claimed he “welcomed,” the administration is circling the wagons, as evidenced in the petty statement it issued in reference to Rep. Justin Amash’s NSA-defunding amendment. Don’t govern angry, as they say.

There are plenty of people who believe Snowden is a hero. Many others believe the opposite. The problem is the middle ground is pretty much nonexistent. Allowing Snowden to go free would appease the former, but allow him to continue exposing the NSA’s surveillance programs. Locking him up wouldn’t do much either, other than allow the government to avenge its embarrassment. It won’t stop the leaks, however, at least not if Snowden’s “dead man’s switch” works as intended. The Guardian is already in possession of thousands of documents. Capturing Snowden will only hasten their release.

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This show is creating a lot of hooked criminals.

This weekend, New York Times tech journalist Jenna Wortham made a confession that could be used to send her to prison for a year or more. What was the startling criminal admission? She uses someone else’s password to sign into HBO Go to watch “Game of Thrones.”

In the piece headlined, “No TV? No Subscription? No Problem,” Wortham wrote:

[Some friends and I] all had the same plan: to watch the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” But only one person in our group had a cable television subscription to HBO, where it is shown. The rest of us had a crafty workaround.

She says “crafty.” A federal prosecutor might substitute “illegal” there….

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Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

Just a few weeks ago, we had a story about how an awesome looking documentary about comic artists needed to hit up Kickstarter to raise more money solely to purchase licenses to some of the artwork & video clips in the film. Most of the copyright holders let them use the work for free, but a few were demanding payment — often thousands of dollars for a single image or short clip. As we’ve noted, documentary filmmakers are scared to death of relying on fair use, because they don’t want to get sued (and some insurance providers won’t give you insurance if you plan to rely on fair use).

And, now, there’s an even crazier example. Two huge fans of the cult favorite TV show, Arrested Development have made a documentary about the show, talking to a ton of people who created and acted in the show, as well as to a bunch of fans. Given that a new season (via Netflix) is quickly approaching, getting this documentary out would make sense. The film is finished according to the filmmakers. Done done done. So why are they asking Kickstarter for $20,053? Yup, you guessed it. Copyright licensing issues. And this time, it’s really crazy…

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Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

Eric Wisti alerts us a case we hadn’t heard about before. You may recall a few years back how the Bed Intruder song became a huge hit, after the Autotune the News guys took an offbeat TV interview and turned it into a song. They, famously, provided some of the proceeds from that song to the interviewee, Antoine Dodson. Apparently, last year, a radio show called the Bob Rivers show sought to do something similar with an interview with a woman in Oklahoma, who goes by the name Sweet Brown (real name: Kimberly Wilkins), about a fire in her apartment complex. Here’s the original interview…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sweet Brown Has Her Voice Autotuned, Sues ‘iTunes’ And Others For $15 Million”

Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

Like any good debacle, this whole Sim City SNAFU breeds all manner of hostility. The reviews have begun to reflect the incredible amount of frustration at EA’s mis-forecast of their launch-date readiness. Even retailers are poking the bear, so to speak, by offering reminders that past iterations of Sim City don’t have the same problems and are still super fun to play. The calls for boycotts have been getting louder. But let’s be careful not to slip into the land of the silly.

And by silly, I mean launching into a diatribe about how awfully the launch was handled by EA and then concluding that all gamers obviously need a wordily constructed Bill Of Rights…

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Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

As we noted yesterday, President Obama is holding a “Fireside Hangout” via Google Plus today. In a bit of a surprise turn, he took a question about patents and patent reforms, with a specific question about software patents. And, his response was surprising. He admitted that there was a problem, and that there were some companies who were clearly not doing anything other than trying to “extort” money from others. Furthermore, while he pointed to the patent reform bill that passed in 2011, he also admitted that it really only went “halfway” towards reforming the patent system as far as it needed to go. If you click on the video, this takes place around 43:30 in the video….

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Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

We’ve covered the Stephanie Lenz / dancing baby / fair use case for years — but now it looks like there’s finally going to be a trial to consider if Universal Music can be punished for sending a DMCA takedown notice on a video of Lenz’s infant son dancing to 29 seconds of a song by Prince, which Lenz asserts was clearly fair use.

If you haven’t followed the case, it’s been argued back and forth for years. At one point, the court ruled that a copyright holder does need to take fair use into account before sending a DMCA takedown, but that there needs to be “subjective bad faith” by Universal Music in sending the takedown. In other words, Lenz (and the EFF, who is representing her) needs to show, effectively, that Universal knew that it was sending bogus takedowns. The EFF has argued that willful blindness by Universal meant that it had knowledge (amusingly, using precedents in copyright cases in the other direction, where copyright holders argue that willful blindness can be infringement)….

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