The Courts

The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred (engadget.com) 61

Long-time Slashdot reader lactose99 writes: One of the original copyright trolls finally got their comeuppance. From TFA: "John L. Steele, a Chicago lawyer who pled guilty to perjury, fraud and money laundering resulting from alleged 'honeypot' schemes, has just been disbarred by an Illinois court." John L. Steele, as you may know, is one of the principals of Prenda Law, a notorious copyright troll who has been featured on /. several times. The article goes on to describe how the Prenda lawyers used honeypot-like tactics to trick people into downloads and then subsequently scammed them for copyright violations.
Their operation brought in $6 million in settlement fees, reports Engadget, adding "While it is illegal to download copyrighted files from file-sharing sites, it is also against the law to extort downloaders."
Government

Investigation Demanded Over Fake FCC Comments Submitted By Dead People (bbc.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future has found another issue with the fake comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality. "The campaign group says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people," according to the BBC. The exact same comment was also submitted more than 7,000 times using addresses in Colorado, where a reporter discovered that contacting the people at those addresses drew reactions which included "I have never seen this before in my life" and "No, I did not post this comment. In fact, I disagree with this comment." Fight for the Future also knocked on doors in Tampa, Florida, where the few people who answered "were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with." An alleged commenter in Montana told a reporter she didn't even know what net neutrality was.

14 people have already signed Fight for the Future's official complaint to the FCC, which calls for notification of all people affected, an investigation, and the immediate removal of all fake comments from the public docket. "Based on numerous media reports, nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us," states the letter, "in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."

Fight for the Future says they've already verified "dozens" of instance of real people discovering a fake comment was submitted in their name -- and that in addition, more than 2,400 people have already used their site to contact their state Attorneys General demanding an investigation. They note the FCC has taken no steps to remove the fake comments from its docket, "risking the safety and privacy of potentially hundreds of thousands of people," while a campaign director at Fight for the Future added, "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."
Google

Accused of Underpaying Women, Google Says It's Too Expensive To Get Wage Data (theguardian.com) 377

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women. Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators' ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women. Noting Google's nearly $28 billion annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company's defense, saying, "Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
Businesses

US International Tourism Market Share Is Falling Under Trump (buzzfeed.com) 427

An anonymous reader writes: The United States' slice of the international tourism pie is declining, according to a new report from Foursquare that looks at data from millions of phones worldwide. The US share of international tourism dropped 16% in March 2017 compared with the previous year. And it declined an average of 11% year over year in months spanning October 2016 to March 2017, according to the report. The drop coincides with the final month of the US election, the Trump transition, and the early months of the Trump administration, which notably imposed a travel ban on people from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017 that was eventually halted in court but is currently under appeal. Declines in tourism market share from people originating in the Middle East were more pronounced than the rest of the world, down 25% this January, along with a smaller decrease from South America, Foursquare found. The data accounts for the percentage of international tourism coming to the US and not the absolute number of tourists, but Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told BuzzFeed News that it's unlikely tourist visits to the US increased while share declined. "I don't think you'd see a 16% decline in international market share and absolute numbers being up. I don't think that's compatible," he said. "The volume of tourism doesn't change that fast."
Security

Wikimedia Is Clear To Sue the NSA Over Its Use of Warrantless Surveillance Tools (engadget.com) 60

The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
The Courts

Engineer At Boeing Admits Trying To Sell Space Secrets To Russians (arstechnica.com) 70

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old engineer living in Culver City, Calif., has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted economic espionage and attempted violation of the Export Control Act. Justice, who according to his father worked for Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, Calif., was arrested last July after selling technical documents about satellite systems to someone he believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. Instead, he sold the docs to an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation employee. The sting was part of a joint operation by the FBI and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The documents provided by Justice to the undercover agent included information on technology on the US Munitions List, meaning they were regulated by government International Trade in Arms regulations (ITAR). "In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. "During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show 'The Americans.'"
Communications

Comcast Proves Need For Net Neutrality By Trying To Censor Advocacy Website (fightforthefuture.org) 153

Reader mrchaotica writes: As most Slashdot readers are probably aware, the FCC, under the direction of Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to undo its 2015 decision to protect Net Neutrality (PDF) by classifying ISPs as common carriers. During the recent public comment period, the FCC's website was flooded with pro-Net-Neutrality comments from actual people (especially those who heeded John Oliver's call to arms) as well as anti-Net-Neutrality comments posted by bots using the names and addresses of people without their consent. The fake comments use boilerplate identical to that used in a 2010 press release by the conservative lobbying group Center for Individual Freedom (which is funded by Comcast, among other entities), but beyond that, the entities who perpetrated and funded the criminal acts have not been conclusively identified. In response to this brazen attempt to undermine the democratic process, the Internet freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future (FFTF) created the website Comcastroturf.com to call attention to the fraud and allow people to see if their identity had been misappropriated. Comcast, in a stunning display of its tone-deaf attitude towards free speech, has sent a cease-and-desist order to FFTF, claiming that Comcastroturf.com violates its "valuable intellectual property[sic]." According to the precedent set in Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer , websites created for the purpose of criticizing an organization can not be considered trademark infringement. As such, FFTF reportedly has no intention of taking down the site.

"This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "If Ajit Pai's plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies," she added. "It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?"

Could there be a better example to illustrate why ensuring strong Net Neutrality protections by regulating ISPs as common carriers is so important?


Businesses

Nokia Uses Lawsuit To Make Apple Its Friend (bbc.com) 8

Apple has settled a patent dispute with Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia and agreed to buy more of its network products and services. The deal means Nokia will get bigger royalties from Apple for using its mobile phone patents, helping offset the impact of waning demand for its mobile network hardware. Nokia's shares were up by seven percent following the announcement. WSJ puts things into perspective: Nokia's deal with Apple follows a highly unusual playbook: using a lawsuit to win business from your adversary (could be paywalled). When the first iPhone was unveiled a decade ago, Apple became a major competitor to the Finnish group, which was then the world's leading mobile-phone maker. As Nokia's business dwindled, the companies became legal antagonists. Now they are set to become business partners. The settlement announced Tuesday involves Apple paying Nokia a lump sum plus royalties for each device it sells using Nokia's technology. This is broadly the same kind of agreement the two sides reached in 2011 following a two-year lawsuit. The previous deal expired last year, which is why both sides launched fresh suits in December. In the aftermath of the lawsuit last year, Apple had pulled all Withings products from its stores. As part of the settlement, Apple said it will reverse that move.
The Courts

PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo (billboard.com) 136

PayPal has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pandora, arguing that the company's minimalist logo "dilutes the distinctiveness" of its own branding. "Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful," the lawsuit alleges. Billboard reports: In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole. It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screen grabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. PayPal's lawsuit also points out Pandora's current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it "has no obvious path to profitability," especially given "overwhelming competition" from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely "latched itself on to the increasingly popular" PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.
Patents

The Supreme Court Is Cracking Down on Patent Trolls (fortune.com) 112

The Supreme Court on Monday limited the ability of patent holders to bring infringement lawsuits in courts that have plaintiff friendly reputations, a notable decision that could provide a boost to companies that defend against patent claims. The high court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled unanimously that a lower court has been following an incorrect legal standard for almost 30 years that made it possible for patent holders to sue companies in almost any U.S. jurisdiction. From a report: The justices sided 8-0 (PDF) with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz, ruling that patent infringement suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. The decision overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington-based patent court, that said patent suits are fair game anywhere a defendant company's products are sold.
Government

Julian Assange Still Faces Legal Jeopardy In Three Countries (chicagotribune.com) 234

Though Sweden dropped an investigation into rape allegations against Julian Assange, "I can conclude, based on the evidence, that probable cause for this crime still exists," chief prosecutor Marianne Ny told reporters in Stockholm. An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek: Ny stressed in her statement Friday that the investigation could be reopened before the statute of limitations on the case expires in 2020. If Assange "went into British custody, then the Swedes may well revisit their decision ⦠as extradition is suddenly easier", tweeted legal expert David Allen Green. Assange failed to answer a bail hearing when he took refuge in the embassy, resulting in an active warrant for his arrest by London's Metropolitan Police, punishable by up to a year in prison. Foremost of Assange's concerns is possible extradition to the U.S., where he he could be detained on espionage charges... Ecuador has offered Assange asylum should he be able to leave Britain.
Meanwhile, The Chicago Tribune reports that "a federal inquiry is widely assumed to be underway by prosecutors in Virginia." According to a former senior Justice Department official, who requested anonymity to discuss the Assange case, American authorities are now presented with a "cat and mouse game." "The decision on whether to indict him rests largely on whether they can get their hands on him," the former official said. Indicting the head of an organization such as WikiLeaks presents a huge number of First Amendment issues, but the Trump White House has indicated such issues may be less of a hurdle than during previous administrations. Prosecutors could seek a sealed indictment -- or may have one already -- to be unveiled if and when Assange strays within reach of American law enforcement, the former official said.
United States

Aftermath From The Net Neutrality Vote: A Mass Movement To Protect The Open Internet? (mashable.com) 132

After Thursday's net neutrality vote, two security guards pinned a reporter against a wall until FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly had left the room, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Writers Guild of America calls the FCC's 2-to-1 vote to initiate a repeal of net neutrality rules a "war on the open internet," according to The Guardian. But the newspaper now predicts that online activists will continue their massive campaign "as the month's long process of reviewing the rules begins." The Hill points out that Mozilla is already hiring a high-profile tech lobbyist to press for both cybersecurity and an open internet, and in a blog post earlier this week the Mozilla Foundation's executive director sees a larger movement emerging from the engagement of millions of internet users. Today's support for net neutrality isn't the start of the Internet health movement. People have been standing up for an open web since its inception -- by advocating for browser choice, for open source practices, for mass surveillance reform. But net neutrality is an opportunity to propel this movement into the mainstream... If we make Internet health a mainstream issue, we can cement the web as a public resource. If we don't, mass surveillance, exclusion and insecurity can creep into every aspect of society. Hospitals held hostage by rogue hackers can become the status quo.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that it's not till the end of the FCC's review process that "a final FCC vote will decide the future of internet regulation," adding that however they vote, "court challenges are inevitable."
Crime

Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation (cnn.com) 187

rmdingler writes: "Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday," reports CNN. "Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant." Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently. There is no apparent change in the risk of being detained in the west, particularly in the U.S., but it's definitely a win for Assange. Joshua.Niland adds: The pressure on Julian Assange may have lifted ever so slightly with Swedish prosecutors dropping their investigation into the allegations of rape. A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange." This will not likely deter the United States from pursuing their own charges against him for publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After describing the development as "an important victory," Assange said, "[...] it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight. Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget."
Businesses

Uber Threatens To Fire Engineer Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets From Waymo (gizmodo.com) 39

Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo has warned Anthony Levandowski that if he doesn't return the files he's accused of stealing from Google's self-driving car unit and using them to develop similar technology at Uber, or open deny taking them, he could be fired. Gizmodo reports: Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo warned Levandowski in a letter sent Monday and made public last night that, if he didn't return the stolen files or openly deny taking them, he could be fired. The letter is a result of a court order issued Monday, and Levandowski has until the end of the month to comply. "We understand that this letter requires you to turn over information wherever located, including but not limited to, your personal devices, and to waive any Fifth Amendment protection you may have," Yoo wrote. "While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court's Order requires us to make these demands of you." Despite the allegations against him, Levandowski's job at Uber has been protected so far by his reputation as a rising star in the self-driving industry and his close friendship with CEO Travis Kalanick, who called Levandowski his brother from another mother. However, Yoo's letter hints that the tide at Uber may be turning against Levandowsk -- in addition to demanding he return Waymo's documents, Yoo also asks Levandowski to return any Uber files he may have and to only use Uber-issued devices for work, where his actions will be monitored. "If you have not fully complied with our prior request to return all Uber-owned documents in your possession, custody, or control, you must immediately return all such documents to us," Yoo wrote.
United States

Federal Agents Used a Stingray To Track an Immigrant's Phone (detroitnews.com) 103

An anonymous reader shares a report: Investigators from Immigration and Custom Enforcement as well as the FBI have been using controversial cell-spoofing devices to secretly track down undocumented immigrants, court records show. According to a report the Detroit News, which obtained an unsealed federal search warrant affidavit, FBI and ICE agents in Michigan used a Stingray device to ensnare a restaurant worker from El Salvador in March. The devices, which were originally intended for counter-terrorism use, have come under fire because there are currently no clear rules governing when law enforcement is allowed to deploy them. Even in cases where authorities have a clear target in mind, they run the risk of exposing personal information of other innocent people in range. Until 2015, Federal investigators were free to deploy the devices without a search warrant. At that point the Justice Department laid out a policy requiring investigators get approval to use the devices first.
Transportation

Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA (recode.net) 113

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.
Education

Elsevier Wants $15 Million In 'Piracy' Damages From Sci-Hub and Libgen (torrentfreak.com) 158

lbalbalba writes: Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers, is demanding $15 million in damages from Sci-Hub and LibGen, who make paywalled scientific research papers freely available to the public [without permission]. A good chunk of these papers are copyrighted, many by Elsevier. Elsevier has requested a default judgment of $15 million against the defendants for their "truly egregious conduct" and "staggering" infringement. Sci-Hub's efforts are backed by many prominent scholars, who argue that tax-funded research should be accessible to everyone. Others counter that the site doesn't necessarily help the "open access" movement move forward. Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan defends her position and believes that what she does is helping millions of less privileged researchers to do their work properly by providing free access to research results.
Facebook

EU Fines Facebook $122 Million Over Misleading Information On WhatsApp Deal (siliconrepublic.com) 31

On Thursday, the European Union's powerful antitrust chief fined Facebook 110 million euros, or about $122 million, for giving misleading statements during the company's $19 billion acquisition of the internet messaging service WhatsApp in 2014. From a report: During the review process, the EC discussed the possibility of Facebook matching its users' accounts with WhatsApp users' accounts, to which Facebook replied that it "would be unable to establish reliable automated matching" between the two. Since then, though, the company has found a way, and it seems pretty straightforward. Unhappy with this, the EC today revealed a "proportionate and deterrent fine." How it acts as a deterrent, however, is unclear. Facebook was at risk of a fine totalling 1 percent of its turnover, which would have been closer to 200 million euros, but the figure was lower due to its compliance during the investigation. "The commission has found that, contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility," the EC said.
Communications

Google's Balloons Connect Flood-hit Peru (bbc.com) 16

An anonymous reader writes: "Tens of thousands" of Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google's parent company, Alphabet. Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons carrying a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below. The team told the BBC they had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January, and so the technology was opened up to people living in three badly-hit cities. Until now, only small-scale tests of the technology had taken place. Project Loon is in competition with other attempts to provide internet from the skies, including Facebook's Aquila project which is being worked on in the UK. Project Loon recently announced it had figured out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to "steer" the balloons by raising or lowering them to piggy-back weather streams. It was this discovery that enabled the company to use just a "handful" of balloons to connect people in Lima, Chimbote, and Piura. The balloons were launched from the US territory of Puerto Rico before being guided south.

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