Facebook Sends Letter Asking DEA to Stop Violating its Terms of Service


It was only recently that the DEA got caught impersonating a woman on Facebook in an attempt to catch criminals who contacted her. Facebook wasn't pleased about it then and now it is taking steps to prevent similar future occurrences..

Earlier this week Facebook sent a letter asking the agency to promise that it will not create fake accounts or otherwise violate the social network's terms of service. As the site argues, the DEA's actions "threaten the integrity" of its user base. The point of Facebook's real identity policy is to foster trust, and DEA sting operations violate that trust.

It's not certain if the letter will have much effect. The Justice Department tells BuzzFeed News that it doesn't believe this sort of thing happens frequently.

See the original BuzzFeed News article.

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UK High Court forces ISPs to block websites selling luxury goods


The British High Court of Justice as been the venue for a few noteworthy cases that have resulted in British ISPs being forced to block certain infringing websites. These have usually involved entertainment giants that want to make it harder for illegal file-sharing or peer-to-peer sites to connect with their users. The court has now given the ISPs a new target: websites selling counterfeit goods. Thought to be the first ruling of its kind in Europe, the High Court has today ordered that Sky, BT, Virgin, EE and TalkTalk (which collectively provide 95% of all British broadband) must block a handful of websites that sell fake versions of products made by luxury brands such as Cartier and Mont Blanc.

The judgement was based on a theory of trademark infringement The sites use real brand names and logos to appear to offer legitimate luxury items at deeply discounted prices. After discussions with British ISPs failed, Richemond, the parent company that owns the aforementioned brands, resorted to a lawsuit. The websites ISPs are being forced to block barely scratch the surface of infringing online retailers, and Richemond has thousands more to hand that it could go after in future litigation. More importantly, though, the ruling could set a precedent that will lead other companies to pursue similar action. Don't expect that the ruling will have any long-term impact. For every infringing site that is shut down, multiple replacements appear within days.

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YouTube Receives Take Down Notices from Microsoft Over Tech Vids


Microsoft’s never-ending battle against software piracy caused some collateral damage this week. The victims were a handful of prominent YouTube video bloggers.

The bloggers—including LockerGnome founder Chris Pirillo and FrugalTech host Bruce Naylor—took to Twitter on Tuesday, with the hashtag #Microstopped, to complain that they had received erroneous copyright infringement notices for videos that were several years old. The notices were filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Microsoft has been quick to distance itself from the actions of the law firm responsible for the take down notices. Some users, including Pirillo, initially believed that the copyright claims were targeting videos critical of Microsoft products, but Microsoft has denied at these rumors. According to a statement released by the software maker the videos were flagged because other users had posted stolen product keys in the comments. Those keys were the real target of the takedown action but the legal team overreacted and the videos were collateral damage. In a message from Microsoft’s Twitter account the company stated that it was investigating the takedown notices and that Microsoft had no intention of targeting “great content.”

Events such as this cause continued concern over YouTube's copyright infringement system. While these videos weren’t targeted for their content they easily could have been and the dispute process could have cost their creators months in time and lost revenue. YouTube’s copyright system is in need of reform to ensure it is not abused.

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Google Fiber to launch in December


Google will launch its ultra-fast Google Fiber Internet service in South and Southeast Austin in December, Google officials said Wednesday at a meeting in Austin.

Google announced in April 2013 that Austin would be the second U.S. city, after Kansas City, to get its Google Fiber gigabit service. Google has since added the ultra-fast service in Provo, Utah.

Google initially said the service would be available in Austin by mid-year 2014, but that deadline came and went without the service being ready to launch.

Signups will begin in December for new users in South and Southeast Austin. Individual neighborhoods will have to commit to using the service for Google to consider putting Fiber there. If your area's selected, you'll have to pay a $300 "construction fee" to access the pipeline but, aside from a free 5mbps package, other pricing details haven't been announced.

At 1 gigabit, the service is more than 100 times faster than today’s typical broadband Internet access and lets a user download 25 songs in 1 second, a TV show in 3 seconds and a high-definition movie in less than 36 seconds.

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Microsoft considers rebranding Internet Explorer


Microsoft has had discussions about renaming Internet Explorer to distance the browser from its tarnished image, according to developer team members in a Reddit session last week.

In spite of significant investment in the browser (current version is Internet Explorer 11) many still view the browser as infamous for lack of support after version 6. Microsoft has been working to recruit developers and get them to give the browser a second chance, but Microsoft still faces many challenges.

Rebranding could be seen as a way of breaking from the past and distancing the new, better performing browser from its legacy. The team was asked if it had considered renaming, and the answer was yes. The browser developers noted that the discussion was "very recent" and remarked "Who knows what the future holds."

The company also confirmed that in spite of a new policy that offers new features in the regular monthly updates to the browser, there will still be new major versions in the future.

This is significant because of the new support policy that will see Microsoft only support the current version of its browser on each version of Windows, when previously it supported every version that works. The release of Internet Explorer 12 (or whatever the name ends up being) will reset that support window.

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Amazon sued over in-app purchases


The Federal Trade Commission announced last week that they have sued Amazon for allegedly making it too easy for children to make in-app purchases without a parent's permission. "In-app purchases" are typically for items or rewards offered within mobile games that enhance a game or allow a user to advance levels.

The FTC said in its suit that it seeks a court order for the company to refund money to parents affected by the unauthorized charges. It also wants the court to ban Amazon from charging parents for in-app purchases without their consent.

Amazon altered its policy in 2012, requiring passwords for purchases over $20. The FTC continued to receive complaints, according to the lawsuit. In 2013, Amazon began requiring greater password protections but still allowed for a 15-minute window for unlimited purchases after an authorizing password was used.

The lawsuit comes after weeks of talks between the FTC and Amazon about the company's policy for in-app purchases. The FTC asked Amazon to abide by guidelines the agency has put forward for rival Apple, which settled similar FTC charges earlier this year.

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Don't count Aereo out yet


It may not be game over for internet television streaming company Aereo, which shut its doors last month after the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the Copyright Act. In a new court filing, the company says it believes it can operate once again, and within the confines of the Supreme Court decision by operating as a cable system instead of an equipment provider. Under current law, that would protect any transmissions it's picking up from being prohibited, the company wrote in a joint letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan.

"Under the Second Circuit's precedents, Aereo was a provider of technology and equipment with respect to the near-live transmissions at issue in the preliminary injunction appeal. After the Supreme Court's decision, Aereo is a cable system with respect to those transmissions," the company said in the letter. Therefore, it added, those signals would be protected as part of a "statutory license." Broadcasters who sued Aereo commented that they find this new legal plan and interpretation of the Copyright Act "astonishing."

Aereo launched in early 2012, and was quickly sued by broadcasters who took aim at its legality. The company's technology uses rooms full of dime-sized antennas to stream and record over-the-air TV programming, then delivers it to people online. The company made money off premium plans that offered extra features like DVR and multichannel recording before shutting down late last month. The company's attempts to sidestep the Supreme Court ruling also includes calling on consumers to get in touch with members of Congress.

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Mass. Supreme Court can order decryption of your computer


Imagine that you get arrested, your computer is seized and state wants to take a look at the encrypted data hidden away on your hard drive. Can it force decryption of your computer? Traditionally, the answer has been no. Courts have previously ruled that ordering a defendant to decrypt their data was tantamount to self-incrimination, which would be a violation of their 5th amendments rights. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has changed this, and has recently ordered a defendant to decrypt his machine because the pertinent data's presence on the computer was a "foregone conclusion." In other words, if the police already know the data they are looking for is there, it doesn't count as new testimony and is not protected by the 5th amendment.

The state's argument is largely based on the defendant's own statements. When Leon Gelfgatt was arrested under suspicion of mortgage fraud he told state troopers that everything on his computers was encrypted and that "no one is going to get to it." He also explained that he was capable of decrypting this data, but refused to. According to the Supreme Court, this made the presence of encrypted data and the existence of a decryption key a "foregone conclusion," and won't tell the government anything it didn't already know. The ruling sounds a bit slippery - of course the government already knows that there are encrypted documents on the computer, but it doesn't know what those documents contain, which leaves proponents of digital privacy rights uncomfortable with the ruling.

While this ruling only applies to the state of Massachusetts, it's a major strike against privacy advocates. For the rest of the country, the burden of decrypting seized data still falls on the burden of of authorities, but the larger issue is still up for debate in the higher courts.

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Supreme Court Rules Aereo's Service Violates Copyright Law


The United States Supreme Court ruled last week that Aereo was in violation of US copyright law. The decision states that Aereo's use of small antennas hooked up to cloud DVR technology violates the right of companies producing broadcast content. Specifically, the decision says that Aereo's business violates the 1976 Copyright Act; the act states that individuals or businesses are violating copyright if:

1: perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or
2: to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work ... to the public by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public are capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places at the same time or at different times.

In the case of Aereo, the Supreme Court says the company's service is tantamount to "a performance or display of the work."

The decision is in line with the Supreme Court's history involving cable companies. In 1976, the Copyright Act deemed the rebroadcast of airwave-based television via cable a performance. As a result, cable companies had to pay broadcast networks for access to content. Today's ruling states that Aereo is essentially in the same boat as cable TV companies. "Aereo's activities are substantially similar to those of the [cable television] companies that Congress amended the Act to reach," Associate Justice Stephen Breyer writes.

Aereo's argument was that, since it only rebroadcasts shows that its users choose and save on customer-assigned DVR machines, its users were retransmitting/performing. In other words: each Aereo subscriber is assigned an individual DVR machine and antenna. Since each user must choose what they watch (unlike cable, which is a feed of every channel all the time), Aereo argued that it's not a rebroadcaster, but its users are (which is legal). Instead, Aereo thinks of itself as a hardware provider. That hardware (DVR machines and antennas) provide a service. Associate Justice Breyer disagrees: "We conclude that Aereo is not just an equipment supplier and that Aereo 'perform[s].'"

The justices were split six to three, with justices Breyer, Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan in favor, while justices Thomas, Alito and Scalia were against. Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion of the court. Read the opinion here.

Aereo has "paused" its service, and is refunding subscribers for their last paid month.

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Vimeo unveils Copyright Match system to identify infringing videos


The popular online video service Vimeo announced that it's introducing a new system called “Copyright Match” to automatically remove copyright-infringing videos from the site.

The move is a departure for Vimeo, which previously resisted the use of automated content filtration technologies despite competitors, such as YouTube, embracing such content identification systems several years prior. Vimeo has said that unlike certain other sites, it was never meant to be a hub for illicit Simpsons clips and films broken into 10-minute increments. According to the company, Vimeo was supposed to be about original content and community.

“The first rule of Vimeo has always been: upload only your own videos,” the company’s blog post explains. "Vimeo is a home for original work—not for rips of movies, TV shows, music videos, and sports broadcasts. We encourage creativity and innovation, and we always want to respect everyone who expresses themselves artistically."

But, Vimeo, which now boasts more than 26 million registered members and 170 million visitors each month, also noted that its fast growth over time and its desire to maintain the core principles set out in its Community Guidelines has precipitated this decision. “At our size, we need a semi-automated system to help us ensure those beloved guidelines.” The company further explained that its launch of “Vimeo On Demand,” its “open platform that enables creators to distribute their work worldwide” has made the company aware of the importance of ensuring that proper permissions are obtained before making work available over the site.

While Vimeo decided to employ a copyright matching system that samples an audio clip “to see if it matches that of certain third-party copyrighted material,” the company explained that it will provide an easy-to-use appeals process if the uploader believes he or she has permission or that the use qualifies as “fair use” under federal copyright law. Vimeo's blog post assured its user base that unlike some other content identification systems that can be a "double-edged sword," its redress procedures will ensure that fair and licensed uses are considered.

While YouTube has been criticized at times for employing its ContentID system as a blunt tool, many say the company has become better at addressing frivolous takedown requests over time.

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