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  • Court: Car Dealers Can't Stop Tesla From Selling In Massachusetts

    curtwoodward writes: Many states have laws that prevent car manufacturers from operating their own dealerships, a throwback to the days when Detroit tried to undercut its franchise dealers by opening company-owned shops. But dealers have taken those laws to the extreme as they battle new competition from Tesla, which is selling its cars direct to the public. In some states, dealers have succeeded in limiting Tesla's direct-sales model. But not in Massachusetts (PDF): the state's Supreme Court says the dealers don't have any right to sue Tesla for unfair competition, since they're not Tesla dealers. No harm, no foul.

    145 comments | yesterday

  • Court Rules the "Google" Trademark Isn't Generic

    ericgoldman writes Even though "googling" and "Google it" are now common phrases, a federal court ruled that the "Google" trademark is still a valid trademark instead of a generic term (unlike former trademarks such as escalator, aspirin or yo-yo). The court distinguished between consumers using Google as a verb (such as "google it"), which didn't automatically make the term generic, and consumers using Google to describe one player in the market, which 90%+ of consumers still do.

    129 comments | yesterday

  • New Details About NSA's Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden's Emails

    An anonymous reader points out this Vice story with new information about the NSA's search of Edward Snowden's emails. Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden's available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency's vast surveillance programs. According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

    In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA's associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a "comprehensive" investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs "would be expected to be found within the agency." Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a "original classification authority," which means he can classify documents as "top-secret" and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

    In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he'd raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden's account and emails "obtained by restoring back-up tapes." He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with "NSA affiliates" with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

    191 comments | yesterday

  • Navy Guilty of Illegally Broad Online Searches: Child Porn Conviction Overturned

    An anonymous reader writes In a 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Navy investigators regularly run illegally broad online surveillance operations that cross the line of military enforcement and civilian law. The findings overturned the conviction of Michael Dreyer for distributing child pornography. The illegal material was found by NCIS agent Steve Logan searching for "any computers located in Washington state sharing known child pornography on the Gnutella file-sharing network." The ruling reads in part: "Agent Logan's search did not meet the required limitation. He surveyed the entire state of Washington for computers sharing child pornography. His initial search was not limited to United States military or government computers, and, as the government acknowledged, Agent Logan had no idea whether the computers searched belonged to someone with any "affiliation with the military at all." Instead, it was his "standard practice to monitor all computers in a geographic area," here, every computer in the state of Washington. The record here demonstrates that Agent Logan and other NCIS agents routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate the restrictions on military enforcement of civilian law. Agent Logan testified that it was his standard practice to "monitor any computer IP address within a specific geographic location," not just those "specific to US military only, or US government computers." He did not try to isolate military service members within a geographic area. He appeared to believe that these overly broad investigations were permissible, because he was a "U.S. federal agent" and so could investigate violations of either the Uniform Code of Military Justice or federal law."

    283 comments | 2 days ago

  • NSA Metadata Collection Gets 90-Day Extension

    schwit1 sends word that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has authorized a 90-day extension to the NSA's ability to collect bulk metadata about U.S. citizens' phone calls. In April, the House of Representatives passed a bill to limit the NSA's collection of metadata, but the Senate has been working on their version of the bill since then without yet voting on it. Because of this, and the alleged importance of continuing intelligence operations, the government sought a 90-day reauthorization of the current program. The court agreed. Senator Patrick Leahy said this clearly demonstrates the need to get this legislation passed. "We cannot wait any longer, and we cannot defer action on this important issue until the next Congress. This announcement underscores, once again, that it is time for Congress to enact meaningful reforms to protect individual privacy.

    73 comments | 2 days ago

  • Justice Sotomayor Warns Against Tech-Enabled "Orwellian" World

    An anonymous reader writes: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke on Thursday to faculty and students at the University of Oklahoma City about the privacy perils brought on by modern technology. She warned that the march of technological progress comes with a need to enact privacy protections if we want to avoid living in an "Orwellian world" of constant surveillance. She said, "There are drones flying over the air randomly that are recording everything that's happening on what we consider our private property. That type of technology has to stimulate us to think about what is it that we cherish in privacy and how far we want to protect it and from whom. Because people think that it should be protected just against government intrusion, but I don't like the fact that someone I don't know can pick up, if they're a private citizen, one of these drones and fly it over my property."

    163 comments | 3 days ago

  • Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court

    walterbyrd writes: In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent, many in the tech industry hoped it would be the beginning of sweeping changes to how the patent system handles software. Just a few months later, lower courts are making it happen. Quoting Vox: "By my count there have been 10 court rulings on the patentability of software since the Supreme Court's decision — including six that were decided this month. Every single one of them has led to the patent being invalidated. This doesn't necessarily mean that all software patents are in danger — these are mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice precedent. But it does mean that the pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction. Every time a patent gets invalidated, it strengthens the bargaining position of every defendant facing a lawsuit from a patent troll." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on alleged corruption in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    110 comments | 4 days ago

  • Windows Tax Shot Down In Italy

    An anonymous reader writes Italy's High Court has struck a blow to the practice of forcing non-free software on buyers of PCs and laptops. According to La Repubblica, the court ruled on Thursday that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license on his computer. The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as "a commercial policy of forced distribution". The court slammed this practice as "monopolistic in tendency." It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced into using additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they wanted these programs or not. "This decision is both welcome and long overdue", said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "No vendor should be allowed to cram non-free software down the throats of users."

    416 comments | 4 days ago

  • German Court: Google Must Stop Ignoring Customer E-mails

    jfruh writes If you send an email to support-de@google.com, Google's German support address, you'll receive an automatic reply informing you that Google will not respond to or even read your message, due to the large number of emails received at that address. Now a German court has ruled (PDF) that this is an unacceptable response, based on a German law saying that companies must provide a means for customers to communicate with them. Update: 09/12 15:47 GMT by S : Updated to fix the links.

    287 comments | 4 days ago

  • U.S. Threatened Massive Fine To Force Yahoo To Release Data

    Advocatus Diaboli writes The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA's controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government's demands. The company's loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

    223 comments | 4 days ago

  • Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

    jfruh writes The top European court has ruled that libraries have the right to digitize the contents of the books in their collections, even if the copyright holders on those books don't want them to. There's a catch, though: those digitized versions can only be accessed on dedicated terminals in the library itself. If library patrons want to print the book out or download it to a thumb drive, they will need to pay the publisher.

    101 comments | 5 days ago

  • Text While Driving In Long Island and Have Your Phone Disabled

    An anonymous reader writes: A District Attorney in Long Island, NY is stepping up efforts to combat distracted driving. Kathleen Rice says motorists who are caught texting while driving should have hardware or apps installed on their phone to prevent them from using it at all while driving. She likened such barriers to the ignition interlock devices that prevent people convicted of drunk driving from using their cars unless they're sober. "Hardware and software solutions that block texting during driving are currently produced by various manufacturers and software developers, and are constantly under development. The DA's office does not endorse any particular company and is in the process of reviewing specific solutions based on their features and services. Critical features include security measures to make the solutions tamper-proof, and data integrity measures to ensure accurate reporting to courts, law enforcement, parents, and guardians." New York is one of many states who already have laws banning all handheld use while driving.

    363 comments | about a week ago

  • Microsoft Agrees To Contempt Order So It Can Appeal Email Privacy Case

    An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft made news some weeks ago for refusing to hand over customer emails stored on its Dublin, Ireland servers to the U.S. government. The district judge presiding over the case agreed with the government and ordered Microsoft to comply with its demands. On Monday, Microsoft struck a deal with the U.S. government in which the company would be held on contempt charges but would not be penalized for it until after the outcome of an appeal. The district judge endorsed the agreement (PDF) on Thursday.

    122 comments | about a week ago

  • Microsoft Takes Down Slideshow-Building Tool After Getty Images Lawsuit

    jfruh writes Slideshows are an increasingly popular (and, for publishers, lucrative) web content genre. So why not automate their production? Microsoft had a beta tool that was part of Bing Image Search that did just that, but took it down in the face of a lawsuit from Getty Images. It turns out that, unlike a human web content producer, Bing couldn't distinguish between images publishers have the rights to use and images they didn't.

    81 comments | about a week ago

  • Feds Say NSA "Bogeyman" Did Not Find Silk Road's Servers

    An anonymous reader writes The secret of how the FBI pinpointed the servers allegedly used by the notorious Silk Road black market website has been revealed: repeated login attempts. In a legal rebuttal, the FBI claims that repeatedly attempting to login to the marketplace revealed its host location. From the article: "As they typed 'miscellaneous' strings of characters into the login page's entry fields, Tarbell writes that they noticed an IP address associated with some data returned by the site didn't match any known Tor 'nodes,' the computers that bounce information through Tor's anonymity network to obscure its true source. And when they entered that IP address directly into a browser, the Silk Road's CAPTCHA prompt appeared, the garbled-letter image designed to prevent spam bots from entering the site. 'This indicated that the Subject IP Address was the IP address of the SR Server,' writes Tarbell in his letter, 'and that it was "leaking" from the SR Server because the computer code underlying the login interface was not properly configured at the time to work on Tor.'"

    142 comments | about a week ago

  • Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks

    reifman (786887) writes "A thousand unionized healthcare workers protested outside Microsoft's Seattle offices over its Nevada tax dodge on Friday. Microsoft shareholders have pocketed more than $5.34 billion in tax savings as Washington State social services and schools have taken huge cuts. In a hearing Wednesday, the Supreme Court suggested it may hold the Legislature in contempt and order it to repeal all tax breaks to restore proper funding to K-12 schools and universities." I suspect Microsoft's lawyers are careful to engage in legal tax avoidance rather than illegal tax evasion. Geekwire notes "The South Lake Union satellite facility is not a major office for Microsoft, compared to its presence in Redmond. It’s not clear why the workers didn’t protest at Microsoft headquarters."

    246 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Silicon Valley Fights Order To Pay Bigger Settlement In Tech Talent Hiring Case

    The Washington Post carries a story from the Associated Press that says the big companies hit hardest by Judge Lucy Koh's ruling in the "No Poaching" case have not suprisingly appealed that ruling, which found that a proposed settlement of $324.5 million to a class-action lawsuit was too low. The suit, filed on behalf of 60,000 high-tech workers allegedlly harmed by anti-competitive hiring practices, will probably enter its next phase next January or March. (Judge Koh is probably not very popular at Apple in particular.) If you're one of those workers (or in an analogous situation), what kind of compensation or punitive action do you think is fair?

    200 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Deadmau5 Accuses Disney of Pirating His Music

    An anonymous reader writes After Disney objected to musician Joel Zimmerman [aka Deadmau5]'s trademark application in the U.S. (his logo is already properly trademarked in many other countries), a battle of trademarks and copyrights ensued. Apparently, Disney was (URL has since been disabled, as per DMCA law requires) hosting a video containing a remix of music which Zimmerman claims ownership of. Not only that, but the Deadmau5 logo was prominently displayed next to said video. The mouse fight was on and a few hours ago Deadmau5 retaliated with a rather surprising counter attack. As it turns out, Disney is hosting a Deadmau5 video on their website, without permission. "Disney prominently features the deadmau5 Mark next to the Infringing Video. implying a non-existent endorsement by Zimmerman," the letter reads. "Again. we are unaware of any license allowing you the right to reproduce, distribute or otherwise exploit the deadmau5 Mark or to exploit Zimmerman's name and likeness in connection with same." At the time of writing Disney hasn't complied with the request, but it seems that they have no other option than to comply. Whether it will change anything in their stance towards the DJ's mouse ear trademark application is doubtful though.

    137 comments | about two weeks ago

  • DMCA Claim Over GPL Non-Compliance Shuts Off Minecraft Plug-Ins

    New submitter Maxo-Texas writes One of the primary programmers, Wesley Wolfe (Wolvereness), who contributed over 23,000 lines of code to the Bukkit project (which enhances Minecraft server performance and allows others to write mods and plugins) submitted a DMCA request September 5th, preventing use of his code in the popular Bukkit or Spigot (and numerous other Minecraft plugins, mods, and other open source enhancements that depend on them). This has the effect of freezing all further development for multi-player server Minecraft based on these add-ons until the issue is resolved.

    The programmer says that Mojang must release the Minecraft server code to the public domain since decompiled, deobfuscated versions of the Java code are included in the Bukkit project before he will withdraw the DMCA. Mojang has never released the real source code and has stated they will not open source the server code to meet the GPL and LGPL licensing requirements. This approach might be a risk for other GPL and LGPL projects out there which are derivative of or enhance non GPL programs or products.
    Mojang COO Vu Bui writes in a post at the Bukkit forums The official Minecraft Server software that we have made available is not included in CraftBukkit. Therefore there is no obligation for us to provide the original code or any source code to the Minecraft Server, nor any obligation to authorize its use. Our refusal to make available or authorize the use of the original / source code of the Minecraft Server software cannot therefore be considered to give rise to an infringement of any copyright of Wesley, nor any other person. Wesley’s allegations are therefore wholly unfounded.

    354 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NVIDIA Sues Qualcomm and Samsung Seeking To Ban Import of Samsung Phones

    Calibax writes NVIDIA has filed complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm at the ITC and in the U.S. District court in Delaware. The suit alleges that the companies are both infringing NVIDIA GPU patents covering technology including programmable shading, unified shaders and multithreaded parallel processing. NVIDIA is seeking damages and a ban on U.S. import of a number of devices with Snapdragon and Exynos processors until there is an agreement on licensing.

    110 comments | about two weeks ago

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