Over the last few weeks there’s been plenty of controversy over plans on the Côte d’Azur in the south of France to ban burkinis — a kind of full body bathing suit favored by some Muslim women. As the Guardian pointed out recently, the whole thing seems like a “bizarre inversion” of Muslim countries where making sure women are covered is enforced
No tweets, no YouTube, no likes, no killings, court told
That’s great, but I do wonder how they’re actually going to make any money after the Kickstarter?
The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals.
The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.
The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was published Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept. The document outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were working on during workshops held in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012.
The main purpose of the workshops was to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for surveillance. The agencies used the Internet spying system XKEYSCORE to identify smartphone traffic flowing across Internet cables and then to track down smartphone connections to app marketplace servers operated by Samsung and Google. (Google declined to comment for this story. Samsung said it would not be commenting “at this time.”)
As part of a pilot project codenamed IRRITANT HORN, the agencies were developing a method to hack and hijack phone users’ connections to app stores so that they would be able to send malicious “implants” to targeted devices. The implants could then be used to collect data from the phones without their users noticing.
Previous disclosures from the Snowden files have shown agencies in the Five Eyes alliance designed spyware for iPhones and Android smartphones, enabling them to infect targeted phones and grab emails, texts, web history, call records, videos, photos and other files stored on them. But methods used by the agencies to get the spyware onto phones in the first place have remained unclear.
The newly published document shows how the agencies wanted to “exploit” app store servers — using them to launch so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks to infect phones with the implants. A man-in-the-middle attack is a technique in which hackers place themselves between computers as they are communicating with each other; it is a tactic sometimes used by criminal hackers to defraud people. In this instance, the method would have allowed the surveillance agencies to modify the content of data packets passing between targeted smartphones and the app servers while an app was being downloaded or updated, inserting spyware that would be covertly sent to the phones.
In June 2011, authorities in Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands raided premises suspected of having something to do with kino.to, a site that offered links to a Megaupload-style file lockers containing unlicensed copies of movies, music and TV shows.
Not long after the raids, the site shut up shop. Folks associated with the site were later jailed.
But according to a new research paper, Online Copyright Enforcement, Consumer Behavior, and Market Structure, closing the site had little effect on copyright breaches. Indeed, it may have spawned a new generation of stronger piracy services.
The paper was penned by Luis Aguiar of the European Union’s Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Jörg Claussen of the Copenhagen Business School and Christian Peukert from the University of Zürich. The three got their hands on Nielsen NetView data that “… monitors the online activity of a representative sample of Internet users by recording all of their URL visits together with visit duration, while guaranteeing them that the data will be kept anonymous.” With that data in hand, the authors set about identifying pirate sites and found that in their January to June 2011 sample kino.to topped their chart of 15 sites of interest with about 6,000 visits per week.
Those visits stopped once kino.to’s service ceased, but a new kinoX.to site that claimed to be kino.to’s the official heir quickly picked up traffic. So did other sites offering similar services.
“Put together, our data clearly shows that the shutdown massively altered the German market for unlicensed video streaming, making it less concentrated and more competitive,” the authors write. Users also started visiting more piracy sites, up to around 1.4 a week from the 1.15 when kino.to was online.
The study does find that former kino.to users did start to spend more time visiting sites selling licensed content, but argues “If we were to take the costs of the intervention into account (raid, criminal prosecution, etc.), our results would suggest that the shutdown of kino.to has not had a positive effect on overall welfare.”
“Finally,” the authors conclude, “the shutdown of kino.to resulted in a much more fragmented structure of the market for unlicensed movie streaming. This potentially makes future law enforcement interventions either more costly – as there would not be a single dominant platform to shutdown anymore – or less effective if only a single website is targeted by the intervention.”
We learned recently from Paris that the Western world is deeply and passionately committed to free expression and ready to march and fight against attempts to suppress it. That’s a really good thing, since there are all sorts of severe suppression efforts underway in the West — perpetrated not by The Terrorists but by the Western politicians claiming to fight them.
One of the most alarming examples comes, not at all surprisingly, from the U.K. government, which is currently agitating for new counterterrorism powers, “including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalize young people.” Here are the powers which the British Freedom Fighters and Democracy Protectors are seeking:
They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.
It will also contain new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others. The powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened.
In essence, advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance. Basking in his election victory, Prime Minister David Cameron unleashed this Orwellian decree to explain why new Thought Police powers are needed: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.’” It’s not enough for British subjects merely to “obey the law”; they must refrain from believing in or expressing ideas which Her Majesty’s Government dislikes.
We’ve been writing a lot about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement over the past few years. There are many, many problems with it, but the two key ones are the intellectual property chapter and the investment chapter. Unlike some who are protesting TPP, we actually think that free trade is generally a good thing and important for the economy — but neither the intellectual property section nor the investment chapter are really about free trade. In many ways, they’re about the opposite: trying to put in place protectionist/mercantilist policies that benefit the interests of a few large legacy industries over the public and actual competition and trade. We’ve already discussed many of the problems of the intellectual property chapter — which is still being fought over — including that it would block the US from reforming copyright to lower copyright term lengths (as even the head of the Copyright Office, Maria Pallante has argued for).
And, last week, Wikileaks leaked the investment chapter, which is focused on corporate sovereignty provisions, officially known as “investor state dispute settlement” or “ISDS” (named as such, in part, because the negotiators know it sounds boring, so they hope the public won’t pay attention). As people go through the details and the fine print, they’re finding some serious problems with it. Sean Flynn has a very in-depth look at how the combination of these two chapters — the IP chapter and the investment chapter — could very likely threaten fair use (and, with it, undermine the First Amendment).
The full details as to how are a bit tricky to understand, because it involves digging through the leaked versions of both chapters, and understanding some of the subtle language choices, but it’s a serious concern. Flynn’s article also goes through the history of how such corporate sovereignty provisions have been expanded and increasingly used over the past decade or so. But the key part is this: the investment chapter certainly can (and will) be read to cover intellectual property as well, including the idea that a company can invoke the ISDS process if it feels its “intellectual property” has been “expropriated” in some manner. The word “investment” in the investment chapter is defined incredibly broadly and explicitly includes “intellectual property” as well as “other tangible or intangible, movable or immovable property.” It also, importantly, notes that an investment, for the purpose of ISDS, covers:
every asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has the characteristics of an investment, including such characteristics as the commitment of capital or other resources, the expectation of gain or profit, or the assumption of risk.
Now, it’s no secret that the legacy entertainment industry is no fan of fair use (even if they often rely on it themselves). While fair use is officially part of the law in the US, the entertainment industry just recently fought very hard to block it in the UK and Australia, arguing (ridiculously) that fair use would harm innovation.
Even where there are very strong arguments for fair use — such as in helping the blind access works — the entertainment industry has twisted the so-called “three step” test from the Berne Agreement to argue that that is the most that is allowed for fair use. The three step test is actually really about limiting fair use, rather than enabling it. It is in the Berne agreement (as a relatively recent addition) as one possible “exception” to copyright, but not the only one. However, the haters of fair use like to pretend that it is the only one allowed under that agreement.
Under the three step test, “exceptions” to copyright occur when there are:
limitations and exceptions to exclusive rights to (Step 1) certain special cases (Step 2) which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and (Step 3) do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder
And, of course, in the US, fair use goes way beyond that already. And, as Flynn points out, it appears from the leaked text of TPP, the US would now be opening itself up to an ISDS challenge from a foreign owned company (remember: Universal Music is owned by a French company, Sony Music is owned by a Japanese company and Warner Music is owned by Russians…) that the fair use doctrine itself “expropriates” its “intellectual property” rights by going beyond the three steps test. Here’s Flynn:
And here is a major one lurking in the shadows. Many copyright intensive industries are hostile to the U.S. fair use doctrine and many of the decisions of courts emanating from it. There have been arguments raised from time to time that the doctrine or its applications are contrary to the so-called Berne 3-step test requiring that limitations and exceptions to rights be limited to certain special cases, not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author (see this rebuttal from Gervais et al.). No other country has attempted to sue the U.S. or the nearly dozen other countries around the world that have fair use. But will the content industry be so reticent with such challenges in the future? With the TPP ISDS chapter, they will not have to in 40% of the global economy.
And this isn’t so far fetched. As we’ve been discussing, under existing ISDS/corporate sovereignty provisions in NAFTA, Eli Lilly is currently suing Canada for $500 million because Canada refused to grant it some patents. Eli Lilly is arguing that this “expropriated” Eli Lilly’s “intellectual property” and took away its “expected profits.”
Is it that difficult to believe that a recording studio or movie studio might make a similar argument on a fair use determination on one of its copyright-covered works?
And, if fair use is undermined, so is free speech. As we’ve noted, the Supreme Court itself has long argued that current fair use doctrine is a necessary “safety valve” in making sure that copyright does not violate the First Amendment. In other words, fair use is a key part of your First Amendment rights.
And yet… the USTR is basically putting in place a plan and system to undermine this, because the big copyright players are among the very few people who are allowed to see the negotiating text and to “advise” the USTR on what should be in it. Once again, it would seem like the most obvious way to deal with this would be for the USTR to release the negotiating documents, so that the public would be aware of what’s being negotiated, and could discuss the possible consequences — like how the current rules have the potential to undermine fair use and free speech. But, for reasons that the USTR still will not explain (perhaps because they reveal the USTR’s true reasoning for such provisions), it refuses to do so.
Israel spied on the recent US-Iran nuclear talks, alleges America. And the US knows enough about it to say it publicly because the NSA is spying on Israel, along with everyone else.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Israel handed over confidential information from the negotiations with friendly members of the US Congress in a bid to derail any deal.
Israel denies the accusations, which highlight a widening gulf between Binyamin Netanyahu’s hawkish government in Israel and the Obama administration.
Three years ago file-hosting site Ryushare was a rising star in the so-called cyberlocker scene. Operating healthy affiliate and rewards schemes the site became a magnet for those looking to upload popular content.
After mere months online the site was already pressing the market leaders and by early 2013 was looking to break into the Alexa 500. Progress continued for another year but in April 2014 the site suddenly disappeared without explanation.
Rumors began to circulate that the site’s operators had been arrested but it took weeks for the arrival of an official announcement. The Vietnamese government eventually delivered the news that Ryushare had been closed down following the arrest of site owner Nguyen Duc Nhat plus three of his associates. Cars, motorcycles, and around $350,000 were seized.
While arrests are not a particularly unusual development in file-sharing cases, copyright issues weren’t at the heart of the site’s problems. It transpired that the authorities had taken offense at the huge amounts of “depraved content” being made available via the site.