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Contractors or Not, Seattle Uber Drivers Might Get Collective Bargaining 88

The Seattle Times reports on a development in Seattle that might have implications for other cities with contentious relationships with transportation coordinating services like Uber. Seattle councilman Mike O'Brien has proposed a system under which drivers for Lyft, Uber, and similar companies would be represented in collective bargaining agreements with the companies they do work for. The proposal would require taxi companies, for-hire vehicle companies and app-based ride-dispatch companies, including Uber and Lyft, to negotiate agreements with drivers on issues such as payment and working conditions. The approach would be novel because of the drivers’ employment status. The National Labor Relations Act gives employees, but not independent contractors, the right to bargain as a union. ... Under O’Brien’s plan, a nonprofit organization would need to show support from a majority of a company’s drivers to be designated by the city as their bargaining representative. The organization would use a list of drivers provided by the company.

Canadian, UK Law Professors Condemn Space Mining Provisions of Commercial Space Act ( 184

MarkWhittington writes: The Commercial Space Launch Act, which includes provisions allowing American companies the right to keep resources that they mine in space, was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama. While the act has been hailed as groundbreaking in the United States, the space mining title has gotten an angry reaction overseas. In an article in Science Alert, Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer in International Commercial Law, University of Kent, condemned the space mining provisions as environmentally risky and a violation of international law. Ram Jakhu, a professor at Canada's McGill University's Institute of air and space law, adds that space mining is a violation of the Outer Space Treaty and should not be allowed.

Swedish Court Says ISPs Can't Be Forced To Block Pirate Bay 20

The Next Web reports that a district court in Sweden has ruled that it cannot simply force ISPs to block The Pirate Bay, despite its role in large-scale copyright violation. A coalition of copyright holders including Sony and a group representing the Swedish film industry wanted the court to force Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget to curtail access, as courts have done in various cases around the world. The court found that Bredbandsbolaget couldn’t be held responsible for the copyright infringement of its customers’ actions while using the service as it doesn’t constitute a crime under Swedish law, according to the report. As such, it’s also not liable for any of the fines. While it could still be overturned by a higher authority appeals court, the group representing the copyright holders will have to pay the ISPs legal costs thus far, which is more than $150,000 according to TorrentFreak. (And here's TorrentFreak's report.) Update: 11/29 15:55 GMT by T : Oops -- sorry, we've mentioned this once already.
The Military

Air Force Hires Civilian Drone Pilots For Combat Patrols ( 72

schwit1 writes: For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence. Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

France Using Emergency Powers To Prevent Climate Change Protests ( 224

Bruce66423 writes: Following the Paris massacre, the French government declared a state of emergency. One of the regulations this introduced was control of large scale gatherings, and one of the events that is being caught up in this is planned protests to do with the Climate Change conference in Paris next month. This has resulted in some activists being put under house arrest — yet other gathering, such as commercial street markets — are being allowed to go ahead. Funny that; anyone would think that the government is using the opportunity to suppress dissent.

NSA To End Bulk Phone Surveillance By Sunday ( 132

An anonymous reader writes: The White House announced today that the NSA will be shutting down the program responsible for the bulk collection of phone records by the end of tomorrow. The program will be immediately replace with a new, scaled back version as enumerated by the USA Freedom Act. "Under the Freedom Act, the NSA and law enforcement agencies can no longer collect telephone calling records in bulk in an effort to sniff out suspicious activity. Such records, known as "metadata," reveal which numbers Americans are calling and what time they place those calls, but not the content of the conversations. Instead analysts must now get a court order to ask telecommunications companies ... to enable monitoring of call records of specific people or groups for up to six months."

Swedish Court: ISPs Can't Be Forced To Ban the Pirate Bay ( 52

An anonymous reader writes: After years of rulings against The Pirate Bay around Europe, a Swedish court has now ruled that the country's ISPs can't be forced to block access to the torrent indexer. The case centers around copyright holders and an ISP called Bredbandsbolaget. The ISP refused to comply with demands that music pirates be cut off from internet access. When rightsholders couldn't get traction that way, they added Bredbandsbolaget to their list of targets. The court found that the ISP does not "participate" in copyright infringement carried out by its subscribers, and is thus not liable for any damages incurred.
The Courts

Czech Judge Cuts Deal With Software Pirate: Get 200K YouTube Views Or Pay Huge Fine 94

An anonymous reader writes: A judge allowed a software pirate to make a anti-piracy PSA and get away from paying a $373,000 / €351,000 fine he owed Microsoft and other software manufacturers. The only condition was that his video should get over 200,000 views on YouTube. From the BBC's coverage of the trial's unusual outcome: [The defendant, known only as Jakub F] came to the out-of-court settlement with a host of firms whose software he pirated after being convicted by a Czech court. In return, they agreed not to sue him. ... The firms, which included Microsoft, HBO Europe, Sony Music and Twentieth Century Fox, estimated that the financial damage amounted to 5.7m Czech Crowns (£148,000). But the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represented Microsoft, acknowledged that Jakub could not pay that sum. Instead, the companies said they would be happy to receive only a small payment and his co-operation in the production of the video. In order for the firms' promise not to sue to be valid, they said, the video would have to be viewed at least 200,000 times within two months of its publication this week. ... But, if the video did not reach the target, the spokesman said that — "in theory" — the firms would have grounds to bring a civil case for damages."
The Courts

Insurer Refuses To Cover Cox In Massive Piracy Lawsuit ( 100

An anonymous reader writes with news that Cox Communications' insurer, Lloyds Of London underwriter Beazley, is refusing to cover legal costs and any liabilities from the case brought against it by BMG and Round Hill Music. TorrentFreak reports: "Trouble continues for one of the largest Internet providers in the United States, with a Lloyds underwriter now suing Cox Communications over an insurance dispute. The insurer is refusing to cover legal fees and potential piracy damages in Cox's case against BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 222

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.
The Almighty Buck

"Clock Boy" Ahmed Mohamed Seeking $15 Million In Damages 814

phrackthat writes: The family of Ahmed Mohamed, the boy who was arrested in Irving, Texas has threatened to sue the school and the city of Irving if they do not pay him $15 million as compensation for his arrest. To refresh the memories of everyone, Ahmed's clock was a clock he disassembled then put into a pencil case that looked like a miniature briefcase. He was briefly detained by the Irving city police to interview him and determine if he intended for his clock to be perceived as a fake bomb. He was released to his parents later on that day and they publicized the matter and claimed Ahmed was arrested because of "Islamophobia".

Sued Freelancer Allegedly Turns Over Contractee Source Code In Settlement 130

FriendlySolipsist writes: Blizzard Entertainment has been fighting World of Warcraft bots for years. TorrentFreak reports that Bossland, a German company that operates "buddy" bots, alleges Blizzard sued one of its freelancers and forced a settlement. As part of that settlement, the freelancer allegedly turned over Bossland's source code to Blizzard. In Bossland's view, their code was "stolen" by Blizzard because it was not the freelancer's to disclose. This is a dangerous precedent for freelance developers in the face of legal threats: damned if you do, damned if you don't.
The Courts

Judge: Stingrays Are 'Simply Too Powerful' Without Adequate Oversight ( 111

New submitter managerialslime sends news that an Illinois judge has issued new requirements the government must meet before it can use cell-site simulators, a.k.a. "stingrays," to monitor the communications of suspected criminals. While it's likely to set precedent for pushing back against government surveillance powers, the ruling is specific to the Northern District of Illinois for now. What is surprising is Judge Johnston’s order to compel government investigators to not only obtain a warrant (which he acknowledges they do in this case), but also to not use them when "an inordinate number of innocent third parties’ information will be collected," such as at a public sporting event. This first requirement runs counter to the FBI’s previous claim that it can warrantlessly use stingrays in public places, where no reasonable expectation of privacy is granted. Second, the judge requires that the government "immediately destroy" collateral data collection within 48 hours (and prove it to the court). Finally, Judge Johnston also notes: "Third, law enforcement officers are prohibited from using any data acquired beyond that necessary to determine the cell phone information of the target. A cell-site simulator is simply too powerful of a device to be used and the information captured by it too vast to allow its use without specific authorization from a fully informed court."

File Says NSA Found Way To Replace Email Program ( 93

schwit1 writes: Newly disclosed documents show that the NSA had found a way to create the functional equivalent of programs that had been shut down. The shift has permitted the agency to continue analyzing social links revealed by Americans' email patterns, but without collecting the data in bulk from American telecommunications companies — and with less oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The disclosure comes as a sister program that collects Americans' phone records in bulk is set to end this month. Under a law enacted in June, known as the USA Freedom Act, the program will be replaced with a system in which the NSA can still gain access to the data to hunt for associates of terrorism suspects, but the bulk logs will stay in the hands of phone companies.

The newly disclosed information about the email records program is contained in a report by the NSA's inspector general that was obtained through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. One passage lists four reasons the NSA decided to end the email program and purge previously collected data. Three were redacted, but the fourth was uncensored. It said that "other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements" that the bulk email records program "had been designed to meet."


YouTube Defending Select Videos Against DMCA Abuse 56

Galaga88 writes: It's not a complete solution, but YouTube is going to begin stepping up to defend select videos in court on fair use terms, including covering court costs. Will this help stem the tide of bad DMCA takedown requests, or just help the select few YouTube doesn't want to lose? From the blog post linked: We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them. ... In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a “demo reel” that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community.

Chicago Sends More Than 100,000 "Bogus" Camera-Based Speeding Tickets 200

Ars Technica, based on an in-depth report (paywalled) at the Chicago Tribune, says that the city of Chicago has been misusing traffic cameras to trigger automated speeding tickets. In particular, these cameras are placed in places where there are enhanced penalties for speeding, putatively intended to increase child safety. The automated observation system, though, has been used to send well over 100,000 tickets that the Tribune analysis deems "questionable," because they lack the evidence which is supposed to be required -- for instance, many of these tickets are unbacked by evidence of the presence of children, or were issued when the speeding rules didn't apply (next to a park when that park was closed).
The Internet

New Anti-Piracy Law In Australia Already Being Abused ( 73

Gumbercules!! writes: A small Australian ISP has received a demand that it block access to an overseas website or face legal action in the Federal Court, in a case in which a building company is demanding the ISP block access to an overseas site with a similar name. This case is being seen as a test case, potentially opening the way for companies and aggregated customers to use the new anti-piracy laws to block access to companies or their competition. The ISP in question has obviously been selected because they're very small and have limited financial capacity to fight a legal case.

Manhattan DA Pressures Google and Apple To Kill Zero Knowledge Encryption ( 291

An anonymous reader writes: In a speech to the 6th Annual Financial Crimes and Cybersecurity Symposium, New York County District Attorney for Manhattan Cyrus Vance Jr. has appealed to the tech community — specifically citing Google and Apple — to "do the right thing" and end zero-knowledge encryption in mobile operating systems. Vance Jr. praised FBI director James Comey for his 'outspoken' and 'fearless' advocacy against zero knowledge encryption, and uses the recent attacks on Paris as further justification for returning encryption keys to the cloud, so that communications providers can once again comply with court orders.

Carnegie Mellon Denies FBI Paid For Tor-Breaking Research ( 79

New submitter webdesignerdudes writes with news that Carnegie Mellon University now implies it may have been subpoenaed to give up its anonymity-stripping technique, and that it was not paid $1 million by the FBI for doing so. Wired reports: "In a terse statement Wednesday, Carnegie Mellon wrote that its Software Engineering Institute hadn’t received any direct payment for its Tor research from the FBI or any other government funder. But it instead implied that the research may have been accessed by law enforcement through the use of a subpoena. 'In the course of its work, the university from time to time is served with subpoenas requesting information about research it has performed,' the statement reads. 'The university abides by the rule of law, complies with lawfully issued subpoenas and receives no funding for its compliance.'"
The Courts

Taxi Owners Sue NYC Over Uber, While Court Overrules Class-Action Appeal ( 210

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi owners in New York have filed a lawsuit against cab-hailing app giant Uber, citing damaged revenues and a hefty fall in value of NYC's 'medallion' business. The case against the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission claims that the regulators have unfairly permitted Uber to steal away business from the regulated cab industry. Getting away without regulation has enabled Uber drivers to compete directly, and drown out official taxi companies. A further lawsuit case hovering over Uber this week, is its request to immediately appeal an order approving class certification filed by its own drivers. The appeal was denied by a U.S. court yesterday.