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This Week In Techdirt History: Augusts 12th - 18th

Five Years Ago This week in 2013, the White House incredibly put James Clapper in charge of independent NSA review, then tried to change its tune a bit when people rightly pointed out that this was insane. Meanwhile, Rep. Justin Amash discovered that the House Intelligence Committee had withheld important NSA documents from the rest of Congress, and that the White House knew it. Then, the latest leak revealed that the NSA abused the rules to s

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As Academic Publishers Fight And Subvert Open Access, Preprints Offer An Alternative Approach For Sharing Knowledge Widely

The key idea behind open access is that everyone with an Internet connection should be able to read academic papers without needing to pay for them. Or rather without needing to pay again, since most research is funded using taxpayers‘ money. It‘s hard to argue against that proposition, or that making information available in this way is likely to increase the rate at which medical and scientific discoveries are made for the benefit

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Getting Worse: The Office Of Hawaiian Affairs Jumps Into The Aloha Poke Situation As Chicago Chain Stonewalls

It‘s been a week or so since we last checked in on the Aloha Poke situation, so perhaps you were wondering how things were coming along with the Chicago chain that wasn‘t founded by Hawaiians attempting to bully native Hawaiian poke joints across the country out of using their own language and culture over trademark concerns. You will recall that Aloha Poke Co. had sent cease and desist notices to many poke restaurants that dared to

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In-N-Out Sends Punny Cease And Desist Over Fairly Clear Trademark Infringement

You may have heard the general mantra that "puns are the lowest form of comedy." Heathens say that, because puns are great and, if I had my way, there would be a legal requirement to use at least one in every legal document this country produces. They can also be used to lighten up what would otherwise be heavy legal actions. Such is the case with In-N-Out Burger, which decided to respond to what is pretty likely trademark infringement with a pu

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Google‘s Location Info Failure Might Interest The FTC

Earlier this week, the Associated Press did a story revealing that even for Google users (on both Android and iPhone) who turned off location tracking Google was still tracking their location in some cases. Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you‘ve been. Google‘s support page on the subject states: ‘You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are n

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NJ Courts Impose Ridiculous Password Policy ‘To Comply With NIST‘ That Does Exactly What NIST Says Not To Do

As a New Jersey native I know how tempting it is for people to gratuitously bash my home state. But, you know, sometimes it really does have it coming. In this case it‘s because of the recent announcement of a new password policy for all of the New Jersey courts‘ online systems ranging from e-filing systems for the courts to the online attorney registration system that will now require passwords to be changed every 90 days. Th

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Ajit Pai Opposes Effort To Update The Definition Of Broadband

The Telecom Act of 1996 mandates that the FCC routinely assess whether broadband is "being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion," and do something about it if that‘s not the case. As part of that mission, the FCC also periodically takes a look at the way it defines broadband to ensure the current definition meets modern consumer expectations and technical advancements. That‘s why, much to the telecom industry&

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New Bill Aims To Pierce The Darkness Surrounding California Police Officers‘ Disciplinary Records

Cops in California have literally unbelievable protections. To ensure the "privacy" of government employees sworn to serve the public, the Cali legislature has kowtowed to state police unions to make disciplinary records all but impossible to obtain by anyone. This has led to the expected results. Professional liars in cop uniforms offer unimpeached testimony filled with more lies as defense lawyers stand helplessly by, screwed out of offering e

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Comrade Brewing Gets Its ‘Superpower‘ Trademark After Nonsense Opposition From The Wonderful Company

Between the explosion in the craft beer industry and our pernicious ownership culture, the beer industry has enough of a trademark problem to regularly appear in our posts. While many of the disputes in the industry are generated by once-small breweries that have grown up and shed their permissive attitudes towards branding, just as many trademark disputes result from entities outside the industry attempting to pretend that the alcohol industrie

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Bitmovin Takes A Scorched Earth Approach To Patent Troll, Who Limps Away Quickly

A few years back, e-commerce company Newegg decided to take something of a scorched earth approach to all of the various patent trolls that came after it: it would never settle with a patent troll. While many trolls rely on the fact that it‘s cheaper to settle than to fight in court (even if you win), Newegg did the longer term calculation, and recognized that even if it cost more to defeat trolls in court, by being very public with its st

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‘Oversight‘ Hearing Fails Utterly To Hold FCC Accountable For Lying To Congress About Fake DDOS Attack

FCC "oversight" hearings continue to be comically lacking in the actual oversight department. As we noted previously, today was Congress‘ opportunity to hold the FCC and agency head Ajit Pai accountable for making up a DDOS attack and then lying (repeatedly) about it to the press, FBI investigators, and Congress. As we‘ve previously stated, both e-mails obtained via FOIA and an FCC Inspector General report found that the FCC bizarrel

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Elected Official Files Business, Trademark Registrations Using Name Of Website That Frequently Criticized Her

Lots of government employees and officials would love to shut their critics up. The problem is that most methods they come up with don‘t work (at best) or are unconstitutional (at worst). That doesn‘t stop them from trying. The amount of hours expended trying to find ways to silence critics sits well above zero, making these efforts fraudulent as well as potentially unconstitutional. Never underestimate the creativity of the criticiz

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Voting Machine Vendors, Election Officials Continue To Look Ridiculous, As Kids Hack Voting Machines In Minutes

Last year at Defcon, the Voting Machine Hacking Village showed just how bad the security was on electronic voting machines. This is not a surprise, of course. It‘s a topic we‘ve covered on Techdirt going back almost 20 years. But what‘s still most incredible is how much the voting machine manufacturers and election officials continue to resist the efforts of security experts to explain all of this. Even earlier this year, there

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AT&T Sued After SIM Hijacker Steals 24 Million in Customer‘s Cryptocurrency

It has only taken a few years, but the press, public and law enforcement appear to finally be waking up to the problem of SIM hijacking. SIM hijacking (aka SIM swapping or a "port out scam") involves a hacker hijacking your phone number, porting it over to their own device (often with a wireless carrier employee‘s help), then taking control of your personal accounts. As we‘ve been noting, the practice has heated up over the last few

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Automated ‘Content Protection‘ System Sends Wave Of Bogus DMCA Notice Targeting Legitimate URLs

Yet another content protection service decides it‘s better off letting the machines do the work, with predictably catastrophic results. The EFF first noticed the DMCA abuse being committed by "Topple Track," a content protection service offered by Symphonic Distribution. Symphonic talks big about its protection service, pointing out its position as one of the "leading members" of Google‘s "Trusted Copyright Program." The thing about

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Video Games In Germany Can Now Maybe Kinda Sometimes Have Swastikas

As you likely know, Germany has some very restrictive laws surrounding how and when Nazi iconography can appear in the country. This has resulted in a heavily-policed artistic community, particularly when it comes to video games, which has produced some fairly funny happenings about games accidentally going to Germany chock full of Nazi stuff and other funny happenings in which the game makers make a show of doing as little as possible to get ar

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Court Says CBP Likely Violating First Amendment By Forbidding Photography Of Publicly-Viewable Border Crossings

Another (partial) win for the First Amendment, the ACLU, and American citizens. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a decision forbidding the photography of CBP officers at border crossings. (h/t Mitra Ebadolahi) The CBP seems to have a problem respecting the First Amendment rights (along with several other rights) of American citizens when engaged in its border patrolling and protecting. This same appeals court recently allowed th

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Disney Gets Early Loss In Trademark, Copyright Suit Against Unlicensed Birthday Party Characters

Late last year, we discussed a lawsuit brought by Disney against Characters For Hire, a small company that sends costume characters to children‘s birthday parties. Those characters, as we said at the time, are barely-altered clear homages to storied Disney-owned characters, such as Dark Lord (Dearth Vader) and Big Hairy Guy (sigh, Chewbacca). While Disney sued over both trademark and copyright, the alterations to the characters and the ver

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Facebook Bans ‘Promotion‘ Of Kodi Boxes, Even If They‘re Perfectly Legal

If you haven‘t noticed, the entertainment industry has a new, terrifying bogeyman. Over the last year or two, pressure from entertainment industry lobbying groups has resulted in an all-out war on streaming video devices (aka computers) that run Kodi, the video streaming software. Kodi has technically been around since 2002, first as Xbox Media Player, after which it became the Xbox Media Center until 2014. The XBMC Foundation then renamed

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Irony Alert: Disney (Yes, DISNEY!) Whines About ‘Overzealous Copyright Holders‘

Here‘s one that might create a bit of a stir. The history of the 20th century and maximalist, ever expanding copyright is often associated with one particular company: Disney. I mean, the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) is regularly called the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" and Tom Bell once created this lovely Mickey Mouse Curve showing how copyright terms always seemed to expand just before the original movie starring Mickey, Ste

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Prisons Switch Device Providers; Render 11.3 Million Of Inmate-Purchased Music Worthless

Yet again, when it comes to digital goods, you don‘t own what you buy. Inmates in Florida‘s prison system are learning this fact of life, thanks to a change in jail "entertainment" providers. In April last year, the Florida Department of Corrections struck a deal with JPay. The private company, spearheading a push to sell profit-driven multimedia tablets to incarcerated people across the country, would be allowed to bring the techn

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