Friday, March 28, 2014

Us poor non-lawyers are so easily confused. Does this mean that if I find a book/movie/music on a UK site, I can make a copy without worrying about Intellectual Property rights?
Glyn Moody writes:
More and more of our activities take place in the digital rather than analog realm. But what exactly is the legal status of that digital stuff as it flows around the Internet, or sits inside databases? A recent judgment in the UK provides important guidance:
Information stored electronically does not constitute property which someone can exercise possession of, judges in the UK have ruled.
The Court of Appeal rejected arguments to the contrary and refused to interpret existing laws in a manner which would, it admitted, “have the beneficial effect of extending the protection of property rights in a way that would take account of recent technological developments”.
The judges said that whilst it is possible to exert control over electronic information it is not possible to gain possession of it. The distinction was drawn in a case concerning a dispute between a publisher and an IT supplier.
Read more on TechDirt.
[From the article:
The analysis of one of the judges is interesting:
"An electronic database consists of structured information," Lord Justice Floyd said. "Although information may give rise to intellectual property rights, such as database right and copyright, the law has been reluctant to treat information itself as property. When information is created and recorded there are sharp distinctions between the information itself, the physical medium on which the information is recorded and the rights to which the information gives rise. Whilst the physical medium and the rights are treated as property, the information itself has never been."
That's an important statement that touches on many aspects of the online world, not least digital copyright. It confirms that the property of "intellectual property" is of monopoly rights, not of the information in the creative work. And since that information cannot be possessed, it therefore cannot be stolen, despite what copyright maximalists would have us believe.

“We're trying to cut back on NSA hacking, so...”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Justice is seeking increased authority to remotely search not only computers but also cloud based services to which those computers connect. The techniques investigators use for this searching include sending an email containing code that installs spying software. At that point, investigators can take over the computer, and use any stored passwords to search cloud based back ups, file storage, email accounts, and more. The government doesn’t describe these methods as hacking, preferring instead to use terms like “remote access” and “network investigative techniques.”
The DOJ push comes in the context of proposed modifications to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, specifically Rule 41 which governs how search warrants are issued. Under the current rule, magistrates may only authorize searches within their particular district. Electronic crimes may affect the district, but the suspect and data located in a different, or many different, districts.

You have the right to reenforce your biases by only reading or listening to people who agree with you. (and if no one ever tells you you're wrong, you must be right!)
U.S. judge rules Baidu's censorship is protected as free speech
… The lawsuit against Baidu, originally filed in 2011 by eight activists in New York, claimed that the Chinese search engine had violated U.S. laws on free speech. This was because Baidu had been censoring pro-democracy works on its search engine for not only its users in China, but also for those accessing the site from New York.
The lawsuit demanded Baidu pay $16 million in damages. But on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against the activists, and said requiring Baidu to include pro-democracy works in its search results would "run afoul" of the U.S.'s free speech laws.
In his ruling, Furman compared Baidu's blocking of pro-democracy works to a newspaper's right to exercise "editorial control" to publish what it wants. In Baidu's case, the company has created a search engine that favors certain political speech.

I can only hope that other schools actually read about this and think a bit (neither is likely)
Two years ago, the ACLU filed suit against Minnewaska Area Schools for disciplining a student who had posted a negative comment about a staff member while in the privacy of her home. As part of the district’s response, they demanded the student’s login credentials to Facebook. The case raised free speech and privacy issues.
This week, the ACLU of Minnesota announced that there’s been a settlement:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota succeeded in defending the rights of their client, Riley Stratton, with the settlement of their case against Stratton’s school. In 2012, the ACLU-MN filed a lawsuit against the Minnewaska School District for violating Stratton’s rights (she was a 6th grader at the time) when they unjustly punished her for content she posted on her Facebook page and forced her to turn over her passwords for her Facebook and email accounts. The case was recently settled and as a part of the agreement the School District agreed to strengthen privacy protections for its students and pay damages.
“I am so happy that my case is finally over, and that my school changed its rules so what happened to me doesn’t happen to other students,” stated Riley Stratton. “It was so embarrassing and hard on me to go through, but I hope that schools all over see what happened and don’t punish other students the way I was punished.”
In one humiliating ordeal after another, Stratton was subject to a baseless punishment for a comment she made on her own Facebook page, while at home, about a staff member from the school. A short while later she was put through a traumatizing experience when she had her Facebook page searched at school, with police present, merely because she allegedly had an online conversation about sex while on her home computer. Stratton’s mother was not informed about the search until after it happened. The whole experience left Stratton distressed to the point where she no longer wanted to attend school.
As part of the settlement the School District agreed to change its policies to better protect students’ privacy and train its staff on the new policy to ensure it is correctly followed. The School District also agreed to a $70,000 settlement which will be divided between the Strattons, for damages, and the ACLU-MN to cover case costs and support future ACLU-MN efforts to protect the civil liberties of Minnesotans.
“We are pleased with the settlement and hope this sends a clear message to other schools that it is bad policy to police students behavior on social media,” stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. “There may be times when it is appropriate for schools to intervene, but only in extreme circumstances where there are true threats or safety risks.”
Cooperating attorneys working on the case are: Wallace Hilke and Bryan Freeman of Lindquist & Vennum PLLP and Professor Raleigh Hannah Levine, William Mitchell College of Law along with Teresa Nelson, Legal Director of the ACLU-MN.
The judgement can be found here.
More background of the case can be found here.
One of the terms of the settlement is that the student handbook will be revised to include this provision:
Voluntary searches:
Students may be asked for permission to search their backpacks or orher personal items. When a search is voluntary, the student is free to withhold consent and a student’s refusal to consent to a voluntary search will not result in additional discipline or other adverse consequences.

Perspective. Think of these as arrows into the side of cable TV. What is available on cable that you can not get on the Internet for free?
Roku Makes The 3500R Streaming Stick Official With Todays Launch
The gloves are off Chromecast fans, Roku has officially announced the release of their brand new streaming HDMI dongle called the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick. This is Roku’s answer to the wildly popular Chromecast, which to be honest, they were smart to release because the Chromecast has been making waves. The 3500R, although a tad more expensive, gives quite a bit more options to those willing to buy. While the Chromecast is great because it comes in under $40 and offers a ton of different ways to get your media onto your TV, the Roku 3500R provides access to over 1,200 channels with plenty of movies for the film buff, loads of TV shows, kids programs, Sports, music and news. You’ll also have access to media content through Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Blockbusters streaming video service and a service called Mgo. Did you think the media content would stop there? Of course not. You can also get your content from hulu plus, VUDU, and HBO Go among others.

(Related) Old industries (like cable) can't move as quickly as new industries. (I'll leave it to you to define “old” and “new.”) If we don't get in their way, consumers could be the big winners.
Amazon Reportedly Ready To Offer A Set-Top Box And Free Ad-Supported Streaming
The company best known for selling books has been aggressively moving into video streaming with a subscription and rental service (that competes with both Netflix and Apple’s iTunes) and new original content.
Now the company is reportedly taking things one step further. Re/Code is reporting that a new set-top box from Amazon will be revealed next week. The gadget would compete with things like Roku and AppleTV to stream shows from the Internet to your TV.
… At the same time, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon is working on free ad-supported video streaming. Previously, streaming video was only available to people who signed up for Amazon Prime (which now costs $99 per year). By offering the streaming for free but with ads, Amazon gets a whole new revenue stream and the chance to pitch its Prime service to people who don’t already take advantage of the video and the free shipping.

Stuff for students.
Google Docs Adds-Ons For Students: These 5 Will Help You Write A Paper
Word-processing for students has long been the domain of Microsoft Word. The recent release of add-ons is making Google Docs an appealing free option. The five add-ons we are about to meet have the potential to become quick favorites for people working on research papers, essays, and collaborative projects. But, are they good enough to make Google Docs the go-to option?
Google Docs won’t be toppling Word from the top of the heavy-duty text-editing list anytime soon, but add-ons like these will help keep it in the list of best alternatives to Office. It will make it more attractive for those who want to keep all of their work in the cloud.

More student stuff.
– provides a free to use library of the world’s best educational videos. They scour the public web and work with the world’s best teachers and institutions to bring you a one stop shop for video learning. It’s like a You Tube of education. The library is comprehensive and high quality. They are rigorous in only uploading high quality, fascinating videos from established academic institutions.

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