Service Providers, Remix Artists, Filmmakers, and Public Interest Groups Support EFF in Dancing Baby Case
In Lenz v. Universal Music Group – aka the dancing baby case – EFF and co-counsel Keker & Van Nest, LLP have waged a long battle on behalf of homemaker Stephanie Lenz to ensure that Internet users have protection from unfounded claims of copyright infringement. Today, a broad array of third parties joined the fray, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have their support.
In case you haven’t been following the latest, the case is now on appeal at the Ninth Circuit. A variety of issues have been raised, but the key questions are whether a content owner has to form a good faith belief that a use is not a fair use before sending a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); whether that belief as to the law has to be reasonable; and the kinds of damages that are available if the sender fails to do so. We filed our opening brief on these issues last week.
Several companies and organization have now submitted amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs weighing on these questions. One comes from a collection of online service providers (OSPs) that host user-generated content: Automattic (Wordpress), Google, Twitter, and Tumblr. The second comes from the Organization for Transformative Works, Public Knowledge, and the International Documentary Association, represented by the Stanford Fair Use Project.
Both briefs explain that unfounded allegations of copyright infringement have real and dangerous consequence for fair use and lawful speech. Pointing to numerous specific examples, they document persistent abuse of the notice and takedown process. These examples include:
- Major networks sending takedowns targeting McCain-Palin campaign videos (that made clear fair use of news excepts) just weeks before the presidential election
- A poet sending takedowns to remove blog posts that criticized his online enforcement efforts
- A medical training service that forged customer testimonials sending a takedown targeting screenshots that exposed the scam
- A manufacturer of electronic voting machines sending takedown notices to suppress criticism of the machines.
These improper takedowns, the amici stress, impose a variety of burdens on services providers, remix artists, and rights-holders as well. For example, ordinary bloggers, vidders, and other artists don’t have easy access to lawyers to help them get their content restored, much less hold a rightsholder accountable for taking it down in the first place.
Both also explain that DMCA, properly interpreted, is designed to deter this abuse of the notice-and-takedown system. In particular, they note, the statute requires the sender of a takedown notice to affirm that the use is not “authorized by law.” They argue, as we did, that “authorized by law” must be intended to include “authorized by the fair use doctrine.”
Universal Music and groups supporting it (including the MPAA and the RIAA) insist that it’s too hard for them to consider fair use before sending a takedown notice. They argue that because some fair use determinations are challenging, they should never be required to include a fair use consideration in their takedown procedures.. The consequences of this position are startling: copyright owners could takedown unquestioned fair uses – like product reviews, mash-ups, or academic lectures – without facing any consequences.
The brief submitted by OTW, PK, and IDA explains that, despite Universal’s insistence that fair use is just too hard, there are many straightforward cases. In fact, there are literally millions of easily identifiable examples of fair use (e.g. quotations in book reviews, academic criticism, and clips used for parody). And courts have frequently found fair use defenses to be obviously valid.
The OSPs agree, and also explain that the DMCA not only requires rightsholders to consider whether a use is fair, it also requires rightsholders to form legally reasonable beliefs based on that consideration. Universal insists that as long as a copyright owner subjectively believes the use in infringing, that is enough. The OSPs respond:
Such an interpretation would lead to the illogical result that the more objectively unreasonable a copyright holder is, the more legal leeway it has to send unfounded notices.
Congress did not intend, and the law does not support, such an absurd result.
Finally, the OSPs urge that attorney’s fees and costs associated with bringing a claim should be available to a prevailing party under that DMCA. This result is clearly supported by the statute, which provides that a victim of misrepresentation is entitled to “any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees.”
Taken together, these briefs help explain the real stakes of this case. We appreciate the support and hope the Ninth Circuit will take heed.Files: osp_lenz_amicus_brief.pdf otw_pk_and_ida_lenz_amicus_brief.pdfRelated Issues: Free SpeechIntellectual PropertyDMCARelated Cases: Lenz v. Universal
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If all you did was pay attention to headlines featuring everyone's favorite/most-hated social network, you would think that all Facebook was good for was being confusing about hate-speech, giving the government as much information about yourself as possible, and apparently being directly responsible for suicides. However, now that we're knee-deep in yet another holiday season, the hallmarks of which are consumer-on-consumer taser violence and having to argue with your crazy uncle over various family dinners that Barack Obama and George Bush Jr. probably aren't lizard-people from the planet Fascism here to steal our freedoms and freshly harvested apple pies, it's time that we had a nice story to warm the cockles of all our hearts.
This story of holiday cheer and goodwill towards all peoples begins auspiciously, with one man mugging another man for his bus pass on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History. That was over three decades ago, however. More recently, the mugger, a Michael Goodman, happened to come across his victim on Facebook. "You may not remember this," Goodman wrote Soffel in the comments underneath the post, "but a long long time ago I walked up the steps of The Museum of Natural History one afternoon, trying to look like a tough guy to [somebody] & saw you standing there at the top of the steps, I walked up to you & (mugged) you for your bus pass. Finally I can say," he continued. "I"M VERY SORRY that you had to go through that crap that day long ago, I wish it had never happened but it did." Claude Soffel, his victim, was every single bit as gracious as Goodman was contrite, responding directly to the Facebook post. "Michael A. Goodman, clearly your a "bigger man" today. wow. Memory is a funny thing, I recognize your name now, as well. So, apology accepted. Interestingly, I have dedicated a large portion of my life to helping other men be the man they have always wanted to be, and moments like this one continue to fuel my faith that the battle may be uphill but so rewarding. Any man who draws aline for himself, "Today I step forward for myself, my family, and humanity" is a hero to me. So let us now, jointly, put this in its proper place, behind us." Please try to remember, in a day when you will hear a lot of noise about how people never connect any longer, never talk, or don't regard one another as human beings: technology is what you make of it. Social media can bring us together in amazing ways, as this once perp/victim combo shows us. And, damn it, be nice to one another this holiday season!
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German copyright troll U+C (Urmann and Colleagues) recently upped its trolling game by sending out settlement letters to German Redtube viewers who had the misfortune of watching some rather generically-titled porn under its nominal control. U+C's previous trolling efforts had concentrated on P2P file sharing, so this new move, targeted at viewers of supposedly infringing streams raised several questions.
First and foremost: how did U+C acquire the names and addresses of those who had viewed the streams? Streaming viewers don't leave IP addresses exposed like P2P sharers do. Redtube denied turning over any user data. The theory arose that U+C had misled the courts by presenting Youtube as a "swap meet," i.e., a file sharing site. Obviously, Redtube is not in the business of file sharing and under German law, those viewing streams -- even if the streams themselves are infringing -- cannot be held liable for infringement. The other theory mooted was that U+C was utilizing some sort of malware to trap IP addresses, but no evidence has surfaced that this is the case. (Although, it should be pointed out that Google indicates Redtube "might be hacked.")
A few German lawyers stepped into the fray, offering their assistance and telling those served with letters to ignore them until further notice. Now, Redtube itself has weighed in on the matter via a press release, and it sounds thoroughly irritated by U+C's shady activities. RedTube, the leading provider of adult content with 25 million daily users, refutes the matter in which thousands of RedTube users have received so-called "cease and desist letters". RedTube stands by its firm opinion that these letters are completely unfounded and that they violate the rights of those who received it in a very serious manner.
RedTube reaffirms its position that the Company takes all its customers personal data very seriously and applies the highest privacy standards for its visitors on an on-going basis.
The Company goes on to emphasize that RedTube certainly did not submit any personal data to any law firm or any authority or entity, and that it seems very likely that the data was obtained by using dishonest measures.
"Serious allegations have surfaced in the media recently," stated Vice President Alex Taylor, "rest assured that our counsel received an immediate mandate to pursue all necessary actions to make all related entities accountable for the damage that has been caused." Taylor continued, "In 2013, blackmailing and violating the privacy of German citizens' private domain should not and will not be tolerated."
Redtube would like to reach out to its viewers who have received one of the spamming letters, and ask they get in touch with Redtube immediately. If you have received one of these letters, please let us know by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. So, Redtube's got your back, Einhänders. It remains to be seen what the court U+C misled will do once this information makes its way back to it. It may have very little effect on what's already been done, but it will (hopefully) guide its interactions with U+C in the future. In the meantime, those who have been sent letters asking them to pay up are probably safe just running them through the shredder. There doesn't seem to be any German law under which U+C can hold viewers accountable for streaming allegedly infringing material.
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Efforts by Aereo and an apparent copycat service called FilmOnX to deliver broadcast television over the Internet have prompted multiple copyright lawsuits and drawn considerable media attention. Yesterday, CDT and several trade associations warned the DC Circuit that the stakes in this litigation extend well beyond television. In an amicus brief in an appeal involving FilmOnX, CDT urged that whichever party prevails, the court must take care not to disturb the key legal principles that have enabled the rise of cloud computing.
The history here dates back several years to the litigation over Cablevision's "remote storage DVR." Back in 2007, CDT helped lead a coalition that defended Cablevision's right to offer a digital video recorder device that stored user-recorded programs on a remote server instead of on a hard drive in a set top box. Our point was that copyright law shouldn't discriminate against products that use the Internet to provide storage and computing functions from remote locations -- in other words, cloud computing. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately agreed, establishing a crucial legal foundation for the growth of cloud computing.
Now, in the litigation over Aereo and FilmOnX, skeptics of the earlier Cablevision decision are urging courts to subvert or even abandon key legal principles from that decision. Our brief this week stressed that adopting such an approach would call into question a variety of established and mainstream services; create an irrational legal preference for local technologies over networked ones; and threaten the great promise of cloud computing for individual users, businesses, and economic growth. When the DC Circuit decides this case, it should take care not to question the validity of the Cablevision decision or otherwise articulate a test that would undermine cloud computing.
Earlier this week the Washington Post reported that law enforcement is collecting cell phone data on hundreds of thousands of Americans absent any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. This is a disturbing practice that infringes upon Americans’ privacy and raises serious legal concerns.
The report is based upon published responses by wireless carriers to numerous questions Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) posed to them about law enforcement demands for data. These responses reveal that cell phone companies are receiving government requests for “tower dumps” – all data from a certain cell tower over a given time period, usually a number of hours. This provides law enforcement with bulk data on users’ call records, location, and Internet activity, absent a warrant or any showing of a suspicion of wrongdoing by those users whose data are collected. The scale of these requests is increasing; according to the response letter by Verizon Wireless, “The industry as a whole has in recent years experienced a substantial increase in these demands.”
This type of data – where you were at a particular time – can be used to infer personal information, such as religious affiliation, political activities, and romantic relationships. Because the information is so sensitive, Congress is considering legislation that would better protect it. The GPS Act introduced by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) would require warrants for the location information contained in a tower dump as well as for cell phone tracking.
The standard in current law for cell phone location data that reveals an individual person’s location over time is also unclear. While the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion this year permitting law enforcement to obtain historic cell site location data with just a court order, the Third Circuit recently ruled that judges may order the government to obtain a warrant before accessing such information.
The constitutional standard for cell phone tracking may be inferred from the Supreme Court’s landmark U.S. v. Jones ruling from 2012. In that case, in which the Court ruled that attaching a GPS device to a vehicle to track it constituted a search, five Justices signed concurring opinions signaling their belief that individuals have an expectation of privacy in their location over time and that the 4th Amendment protects such information. Though the Jones case turned on a physical trespass and cell phone location tracking does not, the concurring opinions in Jones have direct implications on law enforcement’s collection of cell phone location data and may impact other types of revealing data as well. In her concurring opinion, Justice Sotomayor stated that the basis for requiring a warrant to track location was that the monitoring at issue “reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations,” and “the Government's unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse.” This is just as true of call records and Internet activity as it is of location data.
Law enforcement’s mass collection of phone data is overly invasive, susceptible to abuse, and based on unclear legal authority. We applaud Senator Markey for his diligence in bringing this surveillance activity to light, and are hopeful that Congress will enact the GPS Act or similar legislation to ensure it is prohibited in favor of measures that focus investigative resources on wrongdoers without unduly invading the privacy of law abiding Americans.
Intelligence Task Force To Recommend Cosmetic Changes... While The White House Pre-Rejects The Biggest One
Right. So their report is "due" to be delivered this Sunday, and some of the details have leaked. While the Wall Street Journal suggested that the recommendations would "constitute a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Agency", almost everyone looking at the details suggests something completely different. Instead, it's looking a lot more like some stern language accompanied by cosmetic changes that "leave spying programs largely unchanged." For example, it appears to recommend that bulk collection of metadata continue, but potentially with that data residing at the telcos, instead of in the NSA's own databases.
If that sounds familiar, it's because this is exactly the "concession" that NSA boss Keith Alexander himself proposed. When the task force is directly pitching the same "solution" the NSA's own boss has proposed, that's hardly a "sweeping overhaul".
Oh, and what appears to be one somewhat substantive move suggested in the report -- definitively splitting the NSA and the US Cyber Command -- has already been pre-rejected by the White House. If you don't recall, these are supposedly two different organizations -- but they're currently both run by Keith Alexander and are housed in the same place. The NSA is supposed to just be obtaining "signals intelligence", not conducting offensive operations. US Cyber Command, on the other hand, does conduct offensive operations, launching numerous attacks on computing systems around the globe. Many, many people see significant problems with this, as the roles of the two can be merged in dangerous ways -- such as rather than having the groups protect the US from computer attacks, having them help to create new vulnerabilities for their own purposes (basically, exactly what's happening).
Many have argued that Cyber Command should have civilian rather than military leadership, and the task force is rumored to support this. But without the report officially being delivered, the White House has already flatly rejected the idea. “Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command Commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an e-mail So, we end up with a task force report that has cosmetic changes to the surveillance program, and one big change they're going to recommend has already been dismissed out of hand before the recommendation was even made. In other words, this whole task force was as much of a farce as everyone expected.
Remember how, when President Obama set it up, the main purpose was to supposedly "restore the trust" of the American public in what the NSA is doing? That doesn't seem to be working.
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Anyway, it appears that Krugman has decided to discuss the TPP agreement after many of his readers asked him to weigh in. And his response is basically to dismiss the entire agreement as not really being a big deal one way or the other. The entire crux of his analysis can be summed up as: trade between most of the countries in the negotiations are already quite liberalized, so removing a few more trade barriers is unlikely to have much of a consequence. Therefore, the agreement is no big deal and he doesn't get why people are so up in arms over it.
On his basic reasoning, he's correct. There's little trade benefit to be gained here. In fact, some countries have already realized this. But that's why the TPP is so nefarious. It's being pitched as a sort of "free trade deal," and Krugman analyzes it solely on that basis. That's exactly what the USTR would like people to think, and it's part of the reason why they've refused to be even the slightest bit transparent about what's actually in the agreement.
Instead, the TPP has always been a trade liberalization agreement in name only. Sure, there's some of that in there, but it's always been about pushing for regulatory change in other countries around the globe, using trade as the club to get countries to pass laws that US companies like. That's why there's an "IP chapter" that is entirely about building up barriers to trade in a so-called "free trade" agreement. It's why a key component of the bill is the corporate sovereignty provisions, frequently called "investor state dispute settlement" (in order to lull you to sleep, rather than get you angry), which allow companies to sue countries if they pass laws that those companies feel undermine their profits (e.g., if they improve patent laws to reject obvious patents -- leading angry pharmaceutical companies to demand half a billion dollars in lost "expected profits.")
Krugman judging the TPP solely on its net impact on trade is exactly what TPP supporters are hoping will happen, so it's disappointing that he would fall into that trap. Thankfully, economist Dean Baker, who does understand what's really in TPP, was quick to write up a powerful and detailed response to Krugman that is worth reading.
However it is a misunderstanding to see the TPP as being about trade. This is a deal that focuses on changes in regulatory structures to lock in pro-corporate rules. Using a "trade" agreement provides a mechanism to lock in rules that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get through the normal political process.
To take a couple of examples, our drug patent policy (that's patent protection, as in protectionism) is a seething cesspool of corruption. It increases the amount that we pay for drugs by an order of magnitude and leads to endless tales of corruption. Economic theory predicts that when you raise the price of a product 1000 percent or more above the free market price you will get all forms of illegal and unethical activity from companies pursuing patent rents.
Anyhow, the U.S. and European drug companies face a serious threat in the developing world. If these countries don't enforce patents in the same way as we do, then the drugs that sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars per prescription in the U.S. may sell for $5 or $10 per prescription in the developing world. With drug prices going ever higher, it will be hard to maintain this sort of segmented market. Either people in the U.S. will go to the cheap drugs or the cheap drugs will come here.
For this reason, trade deals like the TPP, in which they hope to eventually incorporate India and other major suppliers of low cost generics, can be very important. The drug companies would like to bring these producers into line and impose high prices everywhere. (Yes, we need to pay for research. And yes, there are far more efficient mechanisms for financing research than government granted patent monopolies.)Hopefully Krugman can be convinced to rethink his initial analysis after investigating more of what's actually going on with the TPP agreement, and will no longer be fooled into thinking it's actually about trade. Of course, this is part of why the USTR is so secretive. The more they can get people thinking it's about trade, the less they'll realize it's actually about exporting bad regulations to favor a few crony-connected industries.
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Join TechFreedom on Thursday, December 19, the 100th anniversary of the Kingsbury Commitment, AT&T’s negotiated settlement of antitrust charges brought by the Department of Justice that gave AT&T a legal monopoly in most of the U.S. in exchange for a commitment to provide universal service.
The Commitment is hailed by many not just as a milestone in the public interest but as the bedrock of U.S. communications policy. Others see the settlement as the cynical exploitation of lofty rhetoric to establish a tightly regulated monopoly — and the beginning of decades of cozy regulatory capture that stifled competition and strangled innovation.
So which was it? More importantly, what can we learn from the seventy year period before the 1984 break-up of AT&T, and the last three decades of efforts to unleash competition? With fewer than a third of Americans relying on traditional telephony and Internet-based competitors increasingly driving competition, what does universal service mean in the digital era? As Congress contemplates overhauling the Communications Act, how can policymakers promote universal service through competition, by promoting innovation and investment? What should a new Kingsbury Commitment look like?
Following a luncheon keynote address by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, a diverse panel of experts moderated by TechFreedom President Berin Szoka will explore these issues and more. The panel includes:
- Harold Feld, Public Knowledge
- Rob Atkinson, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
- Hance Haney, Discovery Institute
- Jeff Eisenach, American Enterprise Institute
- Fred Campbell, Former FCC Commissioner
Thursday, December 19, 2013
11:30 – 12:00Registration & lunch
12:00 – 1:45Event & live stream
The live stream will begin on this page at noon Eastern.
The Methodist Building
100 Maryland Ave NE
Washington D.C. 20002
How Cable and Satellite TV Providers Are Using the Net Neutrality Playbook to Regulate Broadcast Television Content
The decision to forgo distribution is referred to as a “blackout” in the cable context and “blocking” in the Internet context, but the economic considerations affecting such negotiations are substantially the same.
The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a coalition comprised primarily of cable and satellite TV operators, is using the playbook of net neutrality proponents in abid to convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate prices for broadcast television content. The goal of ATVA’s cable and satellite members is to increase their profit margins by convincing the government to artificially lower the cost of programming they resell to consumers. I suspect the goal of ATVA’s non-profit members, e.g., Public Knowledge and New America Foundation, is to solidify the FCC’s flawed rationale for adopting net neutrality rules in 2010, which imposed restrictions on market arrangements between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet content providers without finding a market failure.
Many of ATVA’s cable members are also ISPs that have routinely argued against the imposition of net neutrality regulations in the market for Internet services. By supporting ATVA, these same companies appear to have abandoned the intellectual foundation for opposition to net neutrality. Are they now signaling their intent to embrace net neutrality regulation of the Internet?
An analysis of the similarities between the cable and Internet services markets illuminates this apparent inconsistency. Both cable and Internet services exhibit the characteristics of two-sided markets, and the economic relationships among the participants in both of these markets are substantially similar. All else being equal, consumers prefer distribution platforms (i.e., cable or ISP networks) that provide access to more rather than less content, and content providers prefer distribution on platforms with more rather than less users. As a result, either side of the market has the potential to behave anticompetitively, but only if it has substantial market power relative to the other. Recent economic literature demonstrates that, in the absence of market failure, permitting full pricing flexibility on both sides of two-sided communications markets maximizes consumer welfare by increasing investment in both network infrastructure and content.
Prominent ATVA members who are also ISPs recognized as much in their fight against net neutrality at the FCC. In its comments opposing net neutrality, Time Warner Cable argued that the “critical gap in the [FCC]‘s selective proposal to regulate broadband Internet access service providers is the absence of any assertion that they possess market power—without which, it is unclear that even manifestly harmful discrimination would warrant regulatory intervention.” (Time Warner Cable Comments at 27 (emphasis in original)) Yet, the ATVA petition, filed by Time Warner Cable at the FCC, fails to provide any economic analysis or cite any precedent finding that broadcasters exercise market power warranting government intervention in retransmission consent negotiations.
The core of ATVA’s argument is a straightforward attack on the ordinary functioning of any two-sided market – the same attack on the previously unregulated Internet made by net neutrality proponents. ATVA argues that, when a cable operator asks a broadcaster for consent to retransmit broadcast content (which is known as “retransmission consent”), the cable operator must either agree to pay the broadcasters or forgo distribution of that broadcaster’s content. Net neutrality advocates similarly argue that, if an Internet content provider were required to pay an ISP for Internet content distribution, the Internet content provider would either have to agree to pay the ISP or forgo distribution of its content. The decision to forgo distribution is referred to as a “blackout” in the cable context and “blocking” in the Internet context, but the economic considerations affecting such negotiations are substantially the same.
ATVA’s attack on retransmission consent agreements suffers from the same infirmity as the net neutrality attack on ISPs: It is a “solution in search of a problem.” As Time Warner Cable noted in its comments on net neutrality:
“Consumers have to come to expect that they can access the content and services they want, when they want. Service providers almost invariably meet those expectations, and in those isolated instances when they have not, the marketplace has exerted the discipline necessary to rectify matters.” (Time Warner Cable Comments at 18)
Those who believe in free markets should exhibit the same trust in the marketplace when addressing the issue of “black outs” for video content as they do when addressing the issue of “blocking” Internet content. Broadcasters have no greater incentive to “black out” cable viewers (and potentially lose advertising revenue) than ISPs have to “block” Internet content (and potentially lose subscription revenue).
Of course, ATVA doesn’t complain about blackouts, per se. Every blackout to date has been resolved by the marketplace without restrictive FCC rules, and even if they weren’t, consumers could still access broadcast programming over the air free of charge. ATVA’s real complaint is that broadcasters are demanding “excessive” retransmission consent fees due to the popularity of their programming – an allegation that is uncomfortably similar to the “gatekeeper” theory the FCC relied on in its net neutrality order. There, the FCC concluded that an ISP could “force” edge providers to pay “inefficiently high fees” because that ISP is “typically” an Internet content provider’s “only option” for reaching a particular end user. Both theories reflect a desire to intervene in the ordinary pricing mechanisms of two-sided markets without engaging in a thorough market power analysis. They also ignore the fact that, in a two-sided market, charging for content distribution “may well have important pro-competitive effects.” (Time Warner Cable Comments at 31)
The apparent inconsistency of ATVA members who support regulation of retransmission consent agreements while opposing net neutrality is not a new or surprising phenomenon in Washington. It is essential, however, for those who believe in liberty to recognize the danger that ATVA’s theory represents to free market principles: An ATVA win on retransmission consent would continue the expansion of FCC authority unbounded by rigorous analysis that began with the net neutrality order. With a rewrite of the Communications Act on the horizon, free market advocates cannot afford to lose this battle. If we do, we risk losing the war before it even begins.
It’s encouraging to see more congressional movement in repurposing federal spectrum for commercial use. This week, a bill rewarding federal agencies for ending or moving their wireless operations passed a House committee. The bipartisan Federal Spectrum Incentive Act of 2013 allows agencies to benefit when they voluntarily give up their spectrum for FCC auction.
In the past, an agency could receive a portion of auction proceeds but only to compensate the agency for relocating its systems. Agencies complained, sensibly, that this arrangement does little to encourage them to give up spectrum. Federal agencies had to go through the hassle of modifying their wireless equipment and sharing spectrum with another agency but were left no better off than before. In some cases, the complications with sharing spectrum made them worse off, so there was risk of downside and no upside.
This House bill provides that an agency can keep 1% of auction proceeds in addition to relocation costs. With this additional carrot, the hope is, agencies will be more willing to modify their equipment and make room for mobile broadband carriers.
The bill is a good start but I think it’s a little too restrictive. A one percent claim on auction receipts seems insufficient to induce dramatically improved agency participation. Given how poorly federal agencies use spectrum, Congress should be doing much more to force agencies to justify their spectrum usage. Additionally, how agencies can use that 1% benefit seems too limited. The bill allows the funds to be used 1) to offset sequestration cuts, and 2) to compensate other agencies if they agree to share spectrum. Some journalists are reporting that agencies can use the funds to expand existing programs but I don’t see that language in the proposed bill. It wouldn’t be a bad idea, though, to have fewer restrictions on the payments since it would likely increase agency participation.
See my Mercatus paper on the subject of repurposing federal spectrum.
Censorious, Abusive Spanish Anti-Piracy Firm Targets Chevron (Yes, Chevron) With Bogus Copyright Takedowns
Second, there's the strange case of Spanish "anti-piracy" firm Ares Rights, which didn't actually seem that interested in "anti-piracy" but in out-and-out censorship via copyright fraud on behalf of various Latin American countries. Ares Rights (correctly) realized that copyright notice-and-takedown provisions were a de facto censorship tool, and has used that to the maximum advantage possible, regularly issuing highly questionable copyright takedown claims to take down all sorts of content that might embarrass the governments of Ecuador or Argentina, even if they have no legitimate copyright interest in the material.
Now, however, Adam Steinbaugh alerts us to the news that Chevron itself has posted a blog post on a blog the company has dedicated entirely to the Ecuador lawsuit (yes, they have an entire blog on the topic) in which the company explains how Ares Rights has begun issuing a similar series of completely bogus takedowns on Chevron's own videos. You may have noticed that our videos on The Amazon Post are currently down. In late November, Ares Rights, a firm based in Spain that claims to be “devoted entirely to the defense of rights on the Internet,” filed copyright infringement claims against videos legitimately posted to YouTube by Chevron. Chevron also chides Ecuador for its recent attempts to "rebrand" itself as the "home of internet freedom" at a time when it's doing plenty of things that suggest it is not a fan of internet freedom at all.
Chevron claims that it's working to get those videos back up, and details past abuses of copyright law for the sake of censorship by Ares Rights. No matter what you might think of Chevron, it's difficult not to think that, if the company decided to pursue Ares Rights with a DMCA 512(f) claim of misrepresenting the copyrights and seeking sanctions, the case could suddenly get very interesting. It would certainly be the most money ever behind establishing a 512(f) violation, and it would be nice to get a good ruling on that front in a case where the actions are especially blatant, obvious and censorious.
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Is there a Bitcoin bubble? Jason Kuznicki thinks so and believes that he has conclusive proof. He blogs three graphs that show more or less that there is a lot of speculation in Bitcoin. But does speculation prove that there’s a bubble? Let’s use Bayes’s rule to think about this carefully.
Bayes’s rule is a mathematical tool for thinking about the incorporation of new evidence into subjective probabilities. Let’s suppose that there is some proposition A for which you have a prior belief. Somebody offers evidence B for or against A. How much should you change your belief in A based on evidence B?
Bayes’s rule boils the answer down to a simple mathematical form:
In English, the probability of A given B equals the probability of B given A, times the probability of A and divided by the probability of B.
So to evaluate Jason’s argument and see how much we should change our estimate of a Bitcoin bubble based on the evidence that there’s speculation, we can simply assign the proposition and the evidence to A and B. In this case, A is the proposition that there’s a bubble, and B is the evidence that there’s speculation in Bitcoin. If we figure out our subjective probabilities for B|A and B, we can use those to determine how different P(A|B) should be from P(A).
So what is B|A? Since B is the evidence that there is speculation in Bitcoin and A is the proposition that there is a bubble, B|A simply states the proposition that given that there is a bubble, there is speculation. It seems pretty much impossible to have a bubble without speculation, so I’ll go with a subjective probability of 1. Picking a different value here will only work against Jason’s argument.
So what is the probability of B, the fact that there is speculation in Bitcoin? The Bitcoin ecosystem isn’t built out yet. Most of the protocol’s most exciting uses haven’t even seen the light of day yet. As I blogged last week, multisignature transactions are barely in use yet, but they form the foundation for a decentralized architecture of arbitration. Ed Felten at Princeton is working on decentralized prediction markets. Jerry Brito points to microtransactions, or even nearly-continuous transactions, as another exciting future use scenario.
Given that we don’t know whether this ecosystem will ever materialize, holders of bitcoin are necessarily speculating. If the ecosystem matures and is useful, bitcoins will be worth something. If none of these innovations come about, or if we decide they’re not that useful after all, then bitcoins will probably be worth nothing. There’s no way out of speculating, because we simply don’t know for sure if the ecosystem will come along. Almost the entire “fundamental value” of Bitcoin rests on future events.
So the probability of B, I think, is 1. When P(B|A) is 1, and P(B) is 1, what does Bayes’s rule reduce to?
B simply offers no information as to whether A is true.
A similar argument can be made when Bitcoin’s volatility is offered as evidence of a bubble. Bitcoin is a thinly-traded asset where supply does not adjust to accommodate demand. It is going to be volatile. So the fact that Bitcoin is volatile adds no new information to the question of whether it’s a bubble.
What does provide information? I think the most reliable evidence is on the maturation (or not) of the Bitcoin ecosystem. If Bitcoin seemed static right now, I would interpret that as evidence of a bubble. But it doesn’t. Every day, people are working to build businesses that leverage some of the unique features of Bitcoin’s protocol. As long as that continues, I think it’s most reasonable to be highly agnostic about the correct price of Bitcoin.
The TSA, having earned every bit of its ~$8 billion/year, is now looking for just a little bit more. As Kevin Underhill at the ultra-enjoyable Lowering the Bar blog notes, the "security fee" that's been tacked onto tickets is about to increase -- more than doubling in most cases. [T]he AP says that Congress is currently debating whether to double the TSA fee that is currently $5 per ticket. (It's actually $2.50 per "enplanement," but close enough.) Passengers pay that, not the airlines. The TSA collects about $1.8 billion from us every year just through this fee, and in return, provides virtually nothing in addition to what's already provided by (1) alert passengers and (2) reinforced cockpit doors. And it will definitely be passengers paying the fee. The CEO of Delta Airlines has already gone on the record to inform the public that this increase will be all theirs. "Airfares are going up for consumers. So that tax increase will not be absorbed by Delta," Richard Anderson said at a Delta Air Lines Inc. presentation for investors in New York on Wednesday. As if there was ever any doubt. Any new fee levied by the government, whether to cable companies, wireless providers or airlines, is immediately dumped into the laps (or rather, extracted from the pockets) of Joe Public.
The AP story offers a slightly deeper explanation of the fee that doesn't do much to justify the increase. The fee is meant to offset some of the cost of the Transportation Security Administration. A report last year by the Government Accountability Office found that the fees currently cover about 29 percent of the cost of airline security. The higher fee is meant to get travelers to pay for more of those costs, although some of the new money is slated to be spent on non-security items. Hmm. As far as I know, every government program is already paid for by travelers, including our extra-useless Theatrum Satis Absurdum. The only way to get travelers to pay more of the cost is to double-dip, first through income taxes and second, through this ridiculous "security fee."
Not that this fee increase will result in better or more efficient "security." Travelers will just pay more and see nothing in return. The $5 fee will increase to roughly $11.20 per round trip ticket, with some of the funds earmarked for "covering" security costs, and the rest vanishing into the "non-security" ether.
In exchange, travelers will continue to be saved from toy guns carried by toy monkeys, small children with rare medical conditions, breast cancer survivors and dozens of "suspicious people" given "ocular patdowns" by Behavioral Detection Officers employing the best in modern junk science.
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While it's an unusual move, there are a few good reasons for it. The first, as Aereo notes in its brief, is the broadcasters have made it abundantly clear that they're going to try to sue Aereo in any jurisdiction it launches service in, hoping to both bleed the company dry of funds and, the broadcasters hope, to find some court somewhere that will rule against Aereo. Getting the case to the Supreme Court now could effectively kill that strategy for the broadcasters. Second, and somewhat more troubling, is that the broadcasters have also been suing wacky billionaire Alki David who claims to have built a similar system as Aereo, though there are significant doubts about that in reality. In the cases against Alki David's company -- whose name has changed from FilmOn (originally) to AereoKiller (subtle) to BarryDriller (aimed at Aereo investor Barry Diller) and then back to FilmOn again -- the broadcasters have been winning. Aereo built its business carefully, with an aim towards following the law very specifically, and has a legal team that understands the issues. David? His response to yet another legal loss was to tell the court to kiss his ass.
Even if it were true that they were doing the same thing, the fact that David doesn't seem to know how to actually present a decent case is simply bad for everyone, because, even if they try not to, judges can't help but be influenced by such activities. Getting the Supreme Court to take on this case now rather than waiting until there's some sort of circuit split between an Aereo case and a FilmOn case hopefully leaves David's ridiculous antics out of the fight, and lets everyone focus on the core copyright issues at hand.
There is, of course, no guarantee that the Supreme Court grants cert to hear the case. But having both parties asking for the same thing is somewhat unusual, and given the issues at play, it makes it somewhat more likely that they'll be willing to check it out.
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The P2P cryptocurrency Bitcoin has been a hot topic in the tech world this year, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the BitTorrent community.
Dozens of prominent sites and trackers, including The Pirate Bay, have added support for Bitcoin donations in recent months. Perhaps more excitingly, several BitTorrent developers are exploring options to integrate the currency more closely into BitTorrent software.
The people behind FrostWire are working hard to add Bitcoin address support to torrent meta-data, so users can send donations to content creators and tracker owners, directly from the client.
“The idea is to let users enter an optional Bitcoin address and suggested donation amount along with the torrent they’re about to create on FrostWire,” FrostWire‘s Angel Leon tells TorrentFreak.
“When FrostWire encounters a .torrent with the Bitcoin address field set, FrostWire will be able to display a Bitcoin icon on the transfer row in the GUI. When clicked, FrostWire could try to open a Bitcoin client, or take the user to a website which will enable them to copy the address, or scan a QR code,” Leon adds.
According to the FrostWire team this Bitcoin integration will encourage content creators to share, and let the fans show some love and support to their favorite artists. In addition to showing donation buttons in BitTorrent clients, torrent sites can also show this information in their search results.
The FrostWire team has pitched the idea to other developers who responded positively. The next step is to submit an official “BitTorrent Enhancement Proposal” (BEP) where Bitcoin metadata will become part of the core BitTorrent protocol.
The proposal will enable developers to integrate Bitcoin even further, making it possible for clients to talk to the Bitcoin network and come up with new business models for content creators.
FrostWire, for example, plans to add a Bitcoin wallet to their client so users can easily send donations to tracker operators or content creators.
“Our implementation plan includes adding a simplified Bitcoin wallet to FrostWire, users can send Bitcoins to their FrostWire Bitcoin wallet which can then be used to support their favorite content creators,” Leon says.
However, these direct donations are just one of the many possibilities Bitcoin integration will offer. Another option would be to allow creators to set an amount people will have to pay before the torrent can be shared. While this paywall idea is definitely not the main motivation behind bringing Bitcoin to BitTorrent, it does open up endless possibilities to monetize content within the BitTorrent ecosystem.
“I think it’d be a great evolutionary step for BitTorrent as a whole, deep Bitcoin integration could be what the Movie Rental industry was to VCRs, for BitTorrent and the big media industry. They will have to see that it’s a pretty darn attractive proposition being able to collect all that revenue without paying for merchant fees and not even pay for the bandwidth to distribute the content.”
For now, the FrostWire’s team first step is to discuss the BEP proposal with other developers in the BitTorrent community forums. When there is agreement on the finer details they will submit an official proposal.
But whether it’s through an official protocol extension or not, FrostWire is moving full stream ahead with their plans to integrate Bitcoin.
timcushinghatescops.com brings you the following special holiday message:
When I call out law enforcement officers for brutality, excessive force, moral turpitude and a general contempt for citizens' rights, it's not because I think all cops are bad. In fact, I know the job is often thankless and unpleasant. Many officers only deal with the kind of people we all hope we'll never run into, and they do it day after day. Even when a cop does his or her job well, there's a chance he or she will be criticized for any perceived missteps. (Quite possibly by me...)
When I cover stories of police misconduct, it's not because I believe that the mindset and actions on display are present in a majority of law enforcement officers. I don't think it is. The problem is that it's still far too prevalent and will only increase as long as cops are shielded by other officers, supervisors and friends in the judicial system. Law enforcement members wield a great deal of power with very little accountability.
But not all cops are bad cops, just like all cops aren't saints. But underneath it all, they're all human beings dealing with the day-to-day rigors of a job most people would never take.
Via Photography Is Not A Crime comes this video of a Canadian cop, Mark Morelli, who makes the best of what could easily have become a bad situation -- an arrest featuring several onlookers with cameras and one very uncooperative suspect. How does he keep this from becoming something more in line with the stories I usually cover? Watch. (The first 4:30 is the arrest. What follows after that is worth sticking around for.)
There's nothing more powerful than using your position and experience to inform, and to do so patiently in the face of vocal critics. The only one who comes off as a jerk is the cameraman, who is so "disturbed" by what he's seeing that he wants to go back inside where it's warmer.
The suspect knows there's an audience and that fact undoubtedly colors her performance. (And it is a performance -- at 3:07 she adjusts her hair with her handcuffed hands, almost unleashes a smile and then returns to making a whole lot of noise.)
Morelli should be held up as an example for other officers all over his nation and ours (meaning the US in this case, but feel free to apply it to your own). Rather than view onlookers "armed" with cameras as an enemy, he treats them as a simple fact of life. The job of policing is no longer private or purely subject to opinionated eyewitness accounts.
Cameras can be a cop's best friend, even when wielded by antagonistic onlookers. Morelli seizes the opportunity afforded by this recording to explain what he's done, why he did it and all without tossing out threats or condescension. He exits the situation gracefully, having gained the respect of most of the viewers. That's how you "win" at being a cop. Communication -- communication that asserts authority without using it as a weapon. "These are the facts." "This is what I do." It's professionalism at its best.
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UK Secure Email Provider Shut Down His Service In January To Prevent GCHQ From Obtaining Encryption Keys
Shutting down secure email services because of surveillance agency interference apparently isn't just a local phenomenon. Lavabit, Snowden's email provider, shut down earlier this year to prevent being forced by the NSA to sabotage its own encryption. Silent Circle, another secure email service, shut down only hours later. Silent Circle hadn't yet been pressured by the government, but obviously felt it was only a matter of time.
International Business Times is reporting a similar incident occurred in the UK earlier this year. PrivateSky was shut down at the beginning of the year after introducing a web-based version in beta and for Outlook and had "tens of thousands of heavily active users".
Brian Spector, CEO of CertiVox, told IT Security Guru: "Towards the end of 2012, we heard from the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC), a division of GCHQ and a liaison with the Home Office, [that] they wanted the keys to decrypt the customer data. We did it before Lavabit and Silent Circle and it was before Snowden happened. Even before the leaks made the Five Eyes' covert surveillance programs public, PrivateSky got an inside peek at the intelligence community's thirst for data. Unfortunately for Spector and his company, complying with GCHQ's request would mean destroying the security it promised to its customers. [W]e had the choice to make - either architect the world's most secure encryption system on the planet, so secure that CertiVox cannot see your data, or spend £500,000 building a backdoor into the system to mainline data to GCHQ so they can mainline it over to the NSA.
"It would be anti-ethical to the values and message we are selling our customers in the first place." I suppose GCHQ is satisfied either way. While having the encryption key would have been nice, it's just as simple to gather up communications and metadata from less secure services -- services some of PrivateSky's customers would have resorted to instead. National intelligence agencies seem all too willing to deploy scorched earth policies that destroy companies that don't immediately cave in to their demands. And why not? It does no harm to the government to force secure services out of business. The users of these services have to go somewhere and many of the available options have been compromised already.
Spector hasn't completely given up on the thought of offering a secure email service. He says PrivateSky is still up and running but is currently only used internally by CertiVox. But he does have a plan for another secure email offering based on the internal PrivateSky service. He said that from the technology it has implemented a split of the root key in the M-Pin technology so it has one half and the user has the other.
"So as far as I know we are the first to do that so if the NSA or GCHQ says 'hand it over' we can comply as they cannot do anything with it until they have the other half, where the customer has control of it." This could throw up some obstacles for intelligence agencies, the sort of thing they do everything in their power to avoid. The path of least resistance is also the one most frequently traveled. These agencies hate being told "no" almost as much as they hate being inconvenienced. PrivateSky's split key will do both. It should be interesting to see GCHQ's response if Spector takes the service live again.
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UN Tribunal Condemns the Vietnamese Government for Its Arbitrary Detention of Journalist and Lawyer Le Quoc Quan
Last week, a United Nations Rights Tribunal condemned the Vietnamese government for the arbitrary detention of Le Quoc Quan, a prominent lawyer, blogger, and human rights activist who has been imprisoned since December 27, 2012. EFF submitted a petition in March of this year with 11 other advocacy groups calling on the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to determine that Le Quoc Quan’s imprisonment violates international legal standards. This UN condemnation comes at a critical moment as the Communist Vietnamese government’s crackdown on activists, bloggers, and dissidents has been on the rise in 2012 and 2013.
Le Quoc Quan’s arrest was the culmination of years of constant surveillance and harassment over his extensive writing on civil rights, political pluralism, and religious freedom for the BBC, online newspapers, and on his blog. Le Quoc Quan was arrested for tax evasion, charges that are widely regarded as a baseless pretext for silencing his powerful, popular blog-writings that are critical of human rights violations by the Vietnamese government. This wasn’t the first time Vietnam has used tax evasion charges to jail and reign in bloggers; the same charges were used by the Vietnamese government to imprison popular, political blogger Nguyen Van Hai in 2008.
Since being disbarred in 2007 on suspicion of engaging in “activities to overthrow the regime”, Quan has continued his human rights advocacy and maintained a very popular blog covering issues ignored by the state run media. His arrest came nine days after publishing an article with the BBC discussing proposed amendments to Vietnam’s constitution entitled, “Constitution of a contract for electricity and water service?” The piece is critical of article 4 in Vietnam’s constitution that secures the Communist Party as the “vanguard” of the people of Vietnam, quashing any attempt at political pluralism in the country.
In Vietnam media is largely controlled by the state, and foreign TV broadcasts air on a 30-mintue delay in order to give state censors time to edit content. It’s estimated that the Vietnamese government has arrested at least 46 activists and bloggers convicted of anti-state activity in 2013. What’s more, in September the country passed a new law making it illegal to share news links on social media.
The UN tribunal found that Le Quoc Quan’s detention may be “the result of his peaceful exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed under international human rights law” and “related to his blog articles on civil and political rights.” Quan was held incommunicado for the first two months following his arrest and spent fifteen days on a hunger strike while detained.
In October of 2013 Le Quoc Quan finally had a trial and was sentenced to 30 months in prison for alleged tax fraud. These charges may have serious speech-chilling consequences for others in Vietnam who wish to speak out against government policies. The UN Working Group agrees. In their condemnation, the tribunal added, “given Mr. Quan’s history as a human rights defender and blogger, the real purpose of the detention and prosecution might eventually be to punish him for exercising his right [to freedom of expression] and to deter others from doing so.” The Working Group further recommended that Le Quoc Quan be compensated for his time in prison.
With international pressure mounting, rights advocates can now confirm that the detention of Le Quoc Quan is a clear violation international human rights standards. What’s more, this year Vietnam was elected into the United Nations Human Rights Council, meaning the communist country is obliged to uphold UNHCR core values and UN requests. Vietnamese bloggers responded quickly to their country’s inclusion to the UN Human Rights Council, creating a Network of Vietnamese Bloggers (NVB) to pressure the country to stop prosecuting citizens exercising their right to free expression. International organizations that petitioned for the UN rights tribunal, including EFF, Article 19, and Reporters without Borders, likewise demand for the immediate release of Le Quoc Quan and call on the Vietnamese government to comply with the decision made by the United Nations Working Group. EFF applauds the decision made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We will continue to follow the case closely.
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As Yet Another Free Trade Agreement Fails To Deliver, Why Should People Believe USTR's Claims About TPP's Huge Benefits?
As the US applies more and more pressure to the other nations taking part in the secret TPP negotiations in an attempt to get them to accept its demands, one issue that is starting to be raised is the central one of benefits. Given the sacrifices the USTR is demanding from other countries in order to strike a deal, people in affected countries are rightly questioning what exactly they will get in return. The growing doubts about the value of TPP are presumably why at this late stage the USTR has just released a document touting its "economic benefits". There are two things worth noting about this.
First, that no evidence is offered to back up the big numbers being thrown around there, so we know nothing about the assumptions and methodology behind the figures. And secondly, as Burcu Kilic rightly points out, if the USTR wants people to consider the economic benefits, it should also produce a similar report on the economic damage that could result from TPP so that they can see whether on balance it is worth proceeding with the deal. Needless to say, such analyses are never conducted -- at least, not by governments.
Of course, predicting the economic effects of complex trade agreements that haven't even been concluded is nigh on impossible. But as an alternative, instead of trying to squint into the future, we can perhaps look back at what actually happened with previous free trade agreements. Techdirt has already written about two major deals, NAFTA and KORUS, both of which turned out to be disastrous for the US, but what about the others?
A small, bilateral FTA was signed between the US and Colombia just under a year ago. Recently, President Obama welcomed Colombia's President Santos to the White House, and referred to the trade deal as follows: We also had an opportunity to talk about the success so far of the Free Trade Agreement and its implementation. There's still some details that are being worked on. Nevertheless, what we've seen is a 20 percent increase in trade between our two countries since its signing. And that creates jobs in Colombia, it creates jobs here in the United States of America. That's the kind of upbeat assessment you'd expect during these visits, but not everyone agrees with it. For example, Oxfam has recently produced a study on the effects of the FTA on Colombian farmers, in which: [it] warned that of products important for Colombia's small-scale producers, especially whey, rice, white corn, milk powder and pork, were at greatest risk of being undercut by an increase in US imports and a fall in import prices. Specifically: It turns out that during the first nine months of the trade agreement, US exports to Colombia grew at a much greater rate than Colombia's exports to the US, leading to a 40 percent drop in Colombia's balance of trade with the US. Colombia's trade deficit with the US in processed foods deteriorated dramatically, and the country also fared poorly with regard to agricultural commodities, as its exports to the US declined while its imports from the US increased. In other words, Oxfam claims that the reality of Obama's "20 percent increase in trade between our two countries" is lop-sided, with the US selling more, and Colombia's small-scale producers suffering as a result, since they are unable to compete with the larger US agricultural and processed food companies and their cheaper products.
Cynics might say that you'd expect Oxfam to take this line, and it's certainly difficult to tell what is really happening in the country. But this BBC news story from a couple of weeks ago gives us a hint: Several thousand Colombian farmers have marched through the streets of Bogota to demand that the government comply with agreements reached in September.
Farmers' leaders said the Colombian government had breached 72 of 88 points agreed to end the previous protest.
"Things are as bad or worse than they were before," said one of their leaders, Cesar Pachon.
In August, the farmers had said the government's agricultural policies were driving them into bankruptcy.
They said that free trade agreements with the European Union and the United States, which had recently come into force, were flooding the market with agricultural products at prices they were unable to match. As an Oxfam post points out, undermining small-scale farmers may have a knock-on effect with serious consequences for US policy in the region: The US has invested a lot in Colombia -- more than eight billion dollars in US aid has gone to the country since 2000 to eradicate the illicit drug trade, promote alternative agricultural development and bolster the government's war effort. With peace talks now underway, comprehensive rural reform is the first item on the agenda of negotiations between the Colombian government and the [Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization] FARC.
Yet the evidence now shows that several of the agricultural products most important to Colombia's small-scale farmers -- dairy, rice, white corn, and pork -- are at greatest risk of being undermined by imports from the US in the first year under the agreement. In other words, not only is the US-Colombia trade agreement de-stabilizing key parts of Colombian society, but also could well start to undo a decade's worth of US efforts to combat drug production and terrorist activity there. So much for Obama's claim that the bilateral agreement was a "success". Participating nations may want to bear this in mind when considering the USTR's cheery projections about TPP's benefits.
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Every minute of every day, file-sharing networks all over the globe are being monitored by anti-piracy companies on behalf of their copyright holder paymasters.
Much of the work carried out is for information gathering purposes. That data can be put to many uses by movie and music companies, including the development of marketing and lobbying strategies.
Needless to say, some of the harvested data is used to generate copyright takedowns and, on the more aggressive side of the business, to hunt down individuals engaged in piracy so that law enforcement can make an example of them.
After a week in the headlines due to the passing of Nelson Mandela, South Africa now has a brand new anti-piracy achievement to report. According to the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT), authorities have just arrested their first ever Internet pirate.
The individual, said to have been detained in Cape Town, stands accused of uploading to The Pirate Bay. SAFACT CEO Corné Guldenpfennig told MyBroadband that his investigation team, led by a “certified ethical hacker”, were able to identify, profile and trace the uploader. This in itself is an interesting development as up until recently ISPs have refused to play ball.
“Downloaders think they can hide on the Internet. Uploaders think they can hide, but they can’t no matter how smart they think they are,” Guldenpfennig said.
As it features the first ever arrest of an online pirate in South Africa the case is interesting enough, but curiosity is only being aroused further by SAFACT’s refusal to identify the movie in question. Perhaps understandably there is speculation that for such an important case there can only be one candidate, the Nelson Mandela chronicle ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, a movie set to be launched in the U.S. on Christmas Day but already a box office sensation in South Africa.
But could that really be the case?
To find out, TorrentFreak scoured The Pirate Bay for the movie, later moving on to several other torrent indexes and scene resources for good measure. Unfortunately, searches for the movie title in both English and Afrikaans produced similarly poor results. We also searched for other top South African-produced movies released in 2013 but drew a blank there as well.
The only thing that appeared were torrents for the Mandela autobiography and audio books of the same name, items that copyright holders have been trying to take down for some time.
Interestingly the only ‘hits’ we could find for the movie were fake uploads designed to trick users into downloading malware. But while the targets here are the inexperienced, anti-piracy company IP Echelon working on behalf of Sony can’t seem to tell the difference either. Despite no sign of the movie online, they are issuing regular takedowns for fake files.
The suspect in the case is due to appear in court later today, where presumably all will be revealed.