Government

Congress Is Looking To Extend Copyright Protection Term To 144 Years (wired.com) 282

"Because it apparently isn't bad enough already, Congress is looking to extend the copyright term to 144 years," writes Slashdot reader llamalad. "Please write to your representatives and consider donating to the EFF." American attorney Lawrence Lessig writes via Wired: Almost exactly 20 years ago, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the term of existing copyrights by 20 years. The Act was the 11th extension in the prior 40 years, timed perfectly to assure that certain famous works, including Mickey Mouse, would not pass into the public domain. Immediately after the law came into force, a digital publisher of public domain works, Eric Eldred, filed a lawsuit challenging the act [which the Supreme Court later rejected].

Twenty years later, the fight for term extension has begun anew. Buried in an otherwise harmless act, passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate, this new bill purports to create a new digital performance right -- basically the right to control copies of recordings on any digital platform (ever hear of the internet?) -- for musical recordings made before 1972. These recordings would now have a new right, protected until 2067, which, for some, means a total term of protection of 144 years. The beneficiaries of this monopoly need do nothing to get the benefit of this gift. They don't have to make the work available. Nor do they have to register their claims in advance.

Transportation

Utilities, Tesla Appeal Federal Rollback of Auto Emissions Standards (arstechnica.com) 118

A coalition of utilities and electric vehicle makers, including Tesla, are petitioning the EPA to reconsider its recent plan to roll back auto emissions standards. In April, the EPA said that it would relax greenhouse gas emissions standards that had been put in place for model year 2022-2025 vehicles. Ars Technica reports: The National Coalition for Advanced Transportation (NCAT) represents 12 utilities as well as Tesla, electric truck maker Workhorse, and EV charging network EVgo. NCAT earlier this month asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC to review the EPA's latest efforts to relax the Obama-era fuel economy standards.

The coalition challenge to the EPA follows a similar challenge made by 17 states, including California. The utilities' efforts show that they're interested in protecting one of the major projected avenues for growth in electricity demand. Electricity consumption has stagnated in the U.S. as efficiency measures take effect and, in some states, solar panels make it easier for residents to buy less electricity from the local utility.

Crime

Alleged Owners of Mugshots.com Have Been Arrested For Extortion (lawandcrime.com) 101

Reader schwit1 writes: The alleged owners of Mugshots.com have been charged and arrested. These four men Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan only removed a person's mugshot from the site if this individual paid a "de-publishing" fee, according to the California Attorney General on Wednesday. That's apparently considered extortion. On top of that, they also face charges of money laundering, and identity theft.

If you read a lot of articles about crime, then you're probably already familiar with the site (which is still up as of Friday afternoon). They take mugshots, slap the url multiple times on the image, and post it on the site alongside an excerpt from a news outlet that covered the person's arrest. According to the AG's office, the owners would only remove the mugshots if the person paid a fee, even if the charges were dismissed. This happened even if the suspect was only arrested because of "mistaken identity or law enforcement error." You can read the affidavit here.

Java

California Bypasses Science To Label Coffee a Carcinogen (undark.org) 277

travers_r writes: Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle affirmed last week that all coffee sold in California must come with a warning label stating that chemicals in coffee (acrylamide, a substance created naturally during the brewing process) are known to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. But judges, journalists, and environmental advocates fail to recognize the critical difference between probably and certainly, which fuels the inaccurate belief that cancer is mostly caused by things in the environment. From a report at Undark: "IARC is one of the leading scientific bodies in the world, and it is also one of several expert panels on which California relies for scientific opinions in such cases. The IARC has concluded that while there is sufficient evidence to consider acrylamide carcinogenic in experimental animals, there is insufficient evidence for carcinogenicity in humans. Therefore, its overall evaluation is that 'acrylamide is probably carcinogenic to humans.'
[...]
Leading experts, in fact, believe that roughly two-thirds of all cancers are the result of mutations to DNA that are caused by natural bodily processes, not exposure to environmental chemicals. This is quite the opposite of the prevailing belief among the public that most cancers are caused by exogenous substances imposed on us by the products and technologies of the modern world. It's this belief -- this fear -- that prompted voters to pass Proposition 65 in 1986. It was a time when fear of hazardous waste and industrial chemicals was high, when chemophobia -- a blanket fear of anything having to do with the word 'chemicals' -- was being seared into the public's mind."

The Courts

Uber Drops Arbitration Requirement For Sexual Assault Victims (npr.org) 89

Previously, Uber required complaints to be resolved in mandatory arbitration -- out of court and behind closed doors. Today, the company announced it is "changing its policies to allow customers, employees and drivers who are sexually harassed or assaulted to take their complaints to court and to speak publicly about their experiences," reports NPR. From the report: Last month, Katherine and Lauren were among 14 female victims who sent an open letter to Uber's board, pointing to the company's own sexual harassment problems and the #MeToo movement. "Silencing our stories deprives customers and potential investors from the knowledge that our horrific experiences are part of a widespread problem at Uber," they wrote. The women's demand -- and Uber's response -- highlight the significance of mandatory arbitration agreements, which are increasingly common. The provisions are usually in the fine print -- and most people who sign the agreements don't know they have signed away their right to sue.
Crime

Suspect Identified In CIA 'Vault 7' Leak (nytimes.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: In weekly online posts last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen archive of secret documents about the Central Intelligence Agency's hacking operations, including software exploits designed to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices. It was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency's history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials. Now, The New York Times has learned the identity of the prime suspect in the breach (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets.

F.B.I. agents searched the Manhattan apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A. documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation, taking his passport, according to court records and family members. The search warrant application said Mr. Schulte was suspected of "distribution of national defense information," and agents told the court they had retrieved "N.S.A. and C.I.A. paperwork" in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics. But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found the material on a server he created as a business in 2009 while he was a student at the University of Texas.

Facebook

Facebook Faulted By Judge For 'Troubling Theme' In Privacy Case (bloomberg.com) 61

schwit1 quotes a report from Bloomberg: A judge scolded Facebook for misconstruing his own rulings as he ordered the company to face a high-stakes trial accusing it of violating user privacy. The social media giant has misinterpreted prior court orders by continuing to assert the "faulty proposition" that users can't win their lawsuit under an Illinois biometric privacy law without proving an "actual injury," U.S. District Judge James Donato said in a ruling Monday. Likewise, the company's argument that it's immune from having to pay a minimum of $1,000, and as much as $5,000, for each violation of the law is "not a sound proposition," he said. Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the damages in play at a jury trial set for July 9 in San Francisco could easily reach into the billions of dollars for the millions of users whose photos were allegedly scanned without consent. Apart from his concerns about the "troubling theme" in Facebook's legal arguments, Donato ruled a trial must go forward because there are multiple factual issues in dispute, including a sharp disagreement over how the company's photo-tagging software processes human faces.
Businesses

Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Law Prohibiting Sports Gambling (espn.com) 171

The Supreme Court has struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively prevented most states from legalizing sports betting, clearing up a legal gray area and opening a door for state governments to join in what has become a lucrative industry. From a report: The court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions. It made Nevada the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game.

States that want to offer legal sports betting may now do so, and New Jersey plans to be first. Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among the states expected to quickly get into the legal bookmaking game.

Wikipedia

Last Stop For Wikipedia's Feuding Editors -- Online High Court (wsj.com) 57

Wikipedia has its own internal "Supreme Court," which adjudicates disputes, takes appeals, and even issues injunctions [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. The cases it hears are as petty as you'd expect. Fascinating story by WSJ: Wikipedia, the vast online crowdsourced encyclopedia, has a high court. It is a panel called the Arbitration Committee, largely unknown to anyone other than Wiki aficionados, which hears disputes that arise after all other means of conflict resolution have failed. The 15 elected jurists on the English-language Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee -- among them a former staffer for presidential candidate John Kerry, an information-technology consultant in a tiny British village and a retired college librarian -- have clerks, write binding decisions and hear appeals. They even issue preliminary injunctions.

Founded in 2001, Wikipedia operates largely through community consensus. All editors are volunteers, and anyone can write and edit its millions of articles. In online forums, editors debate content, sources and style, and typically manage to broker peace by talking -- or rather, typing -- it out. But every so often, tempers flare, necessitating a more stringent brand of justice. In 2003, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales created the committee, known as ArbCom, as the final stop in the site's dispute-resolution process. "There are things that wouldn't start an argument anywhere else that can still start an argument on Wikipedia," says Ira Matetsky, a Manhattan litigator and the unpaid panel's longest-serving current member. Among them: capitalization rules and whether individual television episodes deserve encyclopedia entries.

Portables (Apple)

Class Action Suit Filed Against Apple Over the Keyboards in MacBook Pro and MacBook Laptops (theoutline.com) 217

On Friday, Apple was hit with a class action lawsuit over the butterfly-switch keyboards, found on the current generation MacBook Pro and MacBook lineups, that have plagued its customers since they were released in 2015. The suit, filed in the Northern District Court of California, alleges that Apple "promoted and sold laptops it knew were defective in that they contain a keyboard that is substantially certain to fail prematurely," The Outline reports, and that selling these computers not only directly to its customers but also to third party retailers constitutes a violation of good faith. From the report: The Outline was the first outlet to substantially cover the magnitude of the issue, writing that Apple Geniuses responsible for diagnosing and repairing these Apple computers would benevolently attribute dead keys and double-spacing spacebars to a "piece of dust" stuck under the keyboard. Under Apple's warranty, Geniuses might offer to replace the entire top case of the computer, a process that takes about a week. Out of warranty, it costs about $700 to replace this part on a MacBook Pro. Apple has declined repeatedly to comment on the issue, but directs sufferers to a support page that instructs users how to tilt the computer at an angle, blow canned air under the malfunctioning keys, light candles arranged in the shape of a pentagram, and recite an incantation to Gaia in hopes of fixing their machines. Earlier this month, users kickstarted a petition on Change.org that calls on Apple to recall MacBook Pro units released since late 2016 over the defective keyboard. The petition has garnered about 20,000 signatures. Widely respected iOS developer and Apple commentator Marco Arment tweeted on the news, "We can't know for sure that Apple knew the 2016 keyboards were defective and sold them anyway. But it's hard to see how they couldn't have known. They were released 18 months earlier in the 12" MacBook, and those had the same problems with high failure rates from the start."
The Courts

Illinois To Sue EPA For Exempting Foxconn Plant From Pollution Controls (reuters.com) 127

Last week, Reuters reported that "Illinois' Attorney General said she plans to sue the EPA for allowing a proposed Foxconn plant in neighboring Wisconsin to operate without stringent pollution controls." From the report: On Tuesday, the EPA identified 51 areas in 22 states that do not meet federal air quality requirements for ozone, a step toward enforcing the standards issued in 2015. An exempted area was Racine County, Wisconsin, just north of the Illinois border that is known to have heavily polluted air, where Taiwan-based Foxconn is building a $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant. Pollution monitoring data show the county's ozone levels exceed the 70 parts per billion (ppb) limit. If Racine County had been designated a "non-attainment" area, it would have required Foxconn to install stringent pollution control equipment.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she would file a lawsuit in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the EPA's ozone designations, saying its failure to name Racine County a "non-attainment" area puts people at risk. "Despite its name, the Environmental Protection Agency now operates with total disregard for the quality of our air and water, and in this case, the U.S. EPA is putting a company's profit ahead of our natural resources and the public's health," Madigan said in a statement.

Cellphones

US Appeals Court Rules Border Agents Need Suspicion To Search Cellphones (reason.com) 116

On Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. border agents need some sort of reason to believe a traveler has committed a crime before searching their cellphone. Slashdot reader Wrath0fb0b shares an analysis via Reason, written by Fourth Amendment scholar Orin Kerr: Traditionally, searches at the border don't require any suspicion on the theory that the government has a strong sovereign interest in regulating what enters and exits the country. But there is caselaw indicating that some border searches are so invasive that they do require some kind of suspicion. In the new case, Kolsuz (PDF), the Fourth Circuit agrees with the Ninth Circuit that at least some suspicion is required for a forensic search of a cell phone seized at the border. This is important for three reasons. First, the Fourth Circuit requires suspicion for forensic searches of cell phones seized at the border. Second, it clarifies significantly the forensic/manual distinction, which has always been pretty uncertain to me. Third, it leaves open that some suspicion may be required for manual searches, too.

But wait, that's not all. In fact, I don't think it's the most important part of the opinion. The most important part of the opinion comes in a different section, where the Fourth Circuit adds what seems to be a new and important limit on the border search exception: a case-by-case nexus requirement to the government interests that justify the border search exception. Maybe I'm misreading this passage, but it strikes me as doing something quite new and significant. It scrutinizes the border search that occurred to see if the government's cause for searching in this particular case satisfied "a 'nexus' requirement" of showing sufficient connection between the search and "the rationale for the border search exception," requiring a link between the "predicate for the search and the rationale for the border exception." In other words, the Fourth Circuit appears to be requiring the government to identify the border-search-related interest justifying that particular search in order to rely on the border search exception.
"The analysis is interesting throughout, and it would be a fairly large limitation on digital searches conducted at the border, both in requiring some articulable suspicion for digital searches and in the requirement to justify the relationship between the search and the border inspection," writes Wrath0fb0b.
United States

Man Allegedly Used Change Of Address Form To Move UPS Headquarters To His Apartment (npr.org) 91

As federal crimes go, this one seems to have been ridiculously easy to pull off. From a report: Dushaun Henderson-Spruce submitted a U.S. Postal Service change of address form on Oct. 26, 2017, according to court documents. He requested changing a corporation's mailing address from an address in Atlanta to the address of his apartment on Chicago's North Side. The post office duly updated the address, and Henderson-Spruce allegedly began receiving the company's mail -- including checks. It went on for months. Prosecutors say he deposited some $58,000 in checks improperly forwarded to his address.

The corporation isn't named in the court documents, but the Chicago Tribune reports that it's the shipping company UPS. In a statement to NPR, UPS said it "was notified that some U.S. mail, intended for UPS employees at the company's headquarters address, was redirected by an unauthorized change of address by a third party. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) corrected the issue and the USPS Postal Inspector is investigating the incident."

Businesses

Xiaomi Sued For Alleged Patent Infringement Ahead of Blockbuster IPO (reuters.com) 23

An anonymous reader shares a report: Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad said its unit has sued three group firms of Xiaomi, which last week filed for a Hong Kong IPO that could be worth up to $10 billion, for patent infringement. Coolpad said in a statement late on Thursday its subsidiary, Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific (Shenzhen) filed a lawsuit against Xiaomi Telecom Technology, Xiaomi Technology and Xiaomi Factory in a court in Jiangsu province for using its patent without authorization. Yulong demanded that the Xiaomi companies should immediately stop production and sale of some smartphone models, including the Mi MIX2, Coolpad said.
Businesses

Apple Scraps $1 Billion Irish Data Center Over Planning Delays (reuters.com) 197

Apple ditched plans to build an 850 million euro ($1 billion) data center in Ireland because of delays in the approval process that have stalled the project for more than three years, the iPhone maker said on Thursday. From a report: Apple announced plans in February 2015 to build the facility in the rural western town of Athenry to take advantage of green energy sources nearby, but a series of planning appeals, chiefly from two individuals, delayed its approval. Ireland's High Court ruled in October that the data center could proceed, dismissing the appellants who then took their case to the country's Supreme Court.
IOS

iOS 11.4 Disables Lightning Connector After 7 Days, Limiting Law Enforcement Access (macrumors.com) 268

hyperclocker shares a report from Mac Rumors: The iOS 11.4 update, currently being beta tested, includes a USB Restricted Mode that introduces a week-long expiration date on access to the Lightning port on your iOS devices if your phone hasn't been unlocked, which has implications for law enforcement tools like the GrayKey box. USB Restricted Mode was outlined this morning by Elcomsoft after testing confirmed that the feature has indeed been enabled. In Elcomsoft's experience, after an iPhone or iPad has been updated to iOS 11.4, if it hasn't been unlocked or connected to a paired computer in the last 7 days using a passcode, the Lightning port is useless for data access and limited to charging.

"At this point, it is still unclear whether the USB port is blocked if the device has not been unlocked with a passcode for 7 consecutive days; if the device has not been unlocked at all (password or biometrics); or if the device has not been unlocked or connected to a trusted USB device or computer," reports Elcomsoft. "In our test, we were able to confirm the USB lock after the device has been left idle for 7 days. During this period, we have not tried to unlock the device with Touch ID or connect it to a paired USB device. What we do know, however, is that after the 7 days the Lightning port is only good for charging."

Software

Devices Supporting Google Assistant Have More Than Tripled In Last Four Months 50

In a blog post on Thursday, Google announced that their smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices. That's up from the 1,500 devices it worked with back in January. The Verge reports: According to Google, it's a list made up of a huge variety of products, including "cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens." It's a big jump -- at least, numerically speaking -- and if nothing else, it's a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results. For comparison, Apple's Homekit is compatible with 195 products while Amazon's Alexa assistant currently supports over 12,000 devices.
Businesses

Apple's Eddy Cue To Be Deposed In Qualcomm Patent Battle (bloomberg.com) 34

"Apple executive Eddy Cue will be questioned by Qualcomm's lawyers as part of a legal battle between the companies over billions of dollars in patents and licensing fees," reports Bloomberg. "On Friday, San Diego Federal Judge Mitchell D. Dembin ordered Cue to be deposed in the case, granting a Qualcomm request and turning down Apple's arguments against the move." From the report: At the heart of the standoff is a dispute over how much Qualcomm can charge phone makers to use its patents, whether or not they use its chips. The San Diego, California-based company gets the majority of profit from licensing technology that covers the fundamentals of modern mobile phone systems. Apple has cut off license payments to Qualcomm and filed an antitrust lawsuit that accused the chipmaker of trying to monopolize the industry. In November, Qualcomm filed a motion to depose Cue. Apple pushed back stating that Cue's role overseeing services made him unrelated to the case. Qualcomm cited past Apple statements pinpointing Cue as one of the lead negotiators when the iPhone launched in 2007 exclusively on AT&T's network in the U.S.
Communications

FCC Commissioner Broke the Law By Advocating for Trump, Officials Find (theverge.com) 324

A newly released letter from government officials finds that Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Reilly broke a federal law preventing officials from advocating for political candidates when he told a crowd that one way to avoid policy changes was to "make sure that President Trump gets reelected." The Verge reports: After he made the comments, the watchdog group American Oversight filed a letter with the Office of Special Counsel, which handles Hatch Act complaints. In response to the group's letter, the Office of Special Counsel said today that O'Rielly did, in fact, violate the Hatch Act. The letter said O'Rielly responded that he was only trying to provide an explanatory answer to how those changes in policy could be stopped, but the office rejected that reasoning. The office said it has sent a warning letter to O'Rielly this time, but will consider other infractions "a willful and knowing violation of the law" that could lead to legal action.
The Courts

California Leads States In Suing the EPA For Attacking Vehicle Emissions Standards (theverge.com) 247

California, along with seventeen other states, announced a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency today over its recent rollback of Obama-era vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards. The states argue that the EPA "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in overturning the previous administration's decision. The Verge reports: The standards in question were drawn up in 2009 and adopted in 2012. They laid out a path for automakers to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by reaching an average fleet fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2024. Since the program was charting a course that stretched out more than a decade into the future, it was written into the rules that the EPA would have to perform a "mid-term evaluation" before April 1st, 2018. This review would serve two purposes: assess whether automakers were on track, and then use that information to determine if the last section of the standards (which apply to model year 2022-2025 cars) were still feasible.

The EPA, under Barack Obama, kicked off this review process ahead of schedule in the summer of 2016 when it published an extensive 1,200-page technical assessment that analyzed whether the standards were working. In January 2017, the outgoing EPA wrapped this evaluation and determined that the bar was not set too high. In fact, it argued, automakers were overwhelmingly compliant. The Trump EPA's decision in April did not set new standards -- it simply argued that there were problems with the existing standards. In the meantime, the agency and the Department of Transportation are currently working together to craft and officially propose new standards. But the previous standards that the EPA said were inappropriate will technically remain in place until that happens.

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