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The Courts

Judge Calls Malibu Media "Troll", Denies Subpoena 91

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: In what could be the beginning of the end of the Malibu Media litigation wave involving alleged BitTorrent downloads of porn films, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in Manhattan federal court has denied Malibu Media's request for a subpoena to get the subscriber's name and address from his or her internet service provider. In his 11-page decision (PDF), Judge Hellerstein discussed "copyright trolls" and noted that (a) it is not clear that Malibu Media's porn products are entitled to copyright protection, (b) discussed some of its questionable litigation practices, (c) Malibu's "investigation" leads at best to an IP address rather than to an individual infringer, (d) there is a major risk of misidentification, (e) Malibu has no evidence that the individual John Doe committed any act of infringement, and (f) Malibu's claim that there is no other practical way for it to target infringement was not supported by adequate evidence.
Encryption

FBI Slammed On Capitol Hill For "Stupid" Ideas About Encryption 174

blottsie writes: At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the FBI endured outright hostility as both technical experts and members of Congress from both parties roundly criticized the law enforcement agency's desire to place so-called back doors into encryption technology. "Creating a technological backdoor just for good guys is technologically stupid," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a Stanford University computer science graduate. "That's just stupid. Our founders understood that an Orwellian overreaching government is one of the most dangerous things this world could have," Lieu said.
United States

US Senate Targets Patent Trolls 56

New submitter jeffkoch writes: Last year, the United States Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to combat patent trolls when it was killed by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressional-insider newspaper Roll Call reports today that, "Knowing Reid would no longer control the Senate's legislative schedule in 2015, staff for John Cornyn, (a Republican from Texas), and Charles E. Schumer, (a Democrat from New York)", began work in February to assemble a new bill and to build support among fellow members of the Senate. Patent law is usually not a partisan issue, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk on several occasions including in his 2014 State of the Union speech. The last overhaul of United States patent law, the America Invents Act, took several years to be developed. The U.S. Congress is likely to act on the proposed legislation before they recess in August. "Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it's time for that to end," Schumer said in a statement. "This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules."
Government

FCC Chairman: a Former Cable Lobbyist Who Helped Kill the Comcast Merger 86

An anonymous reader writes: After Friday's news that the Comcast/TWC merger is dead, the Washington Post points out an interesting fact: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who was instrumental in throwing up roadblocks for the deal, used to be a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry. "Those who predicted Wheeler would favor industry interests 'misunderstood him from the beginning — the notion that because he had represented various industries, he was suddenly in their pocket never made any sense,' said one industry lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he represents clients before the FCC." The "revolving door" between government and industry is often blamed for many of the problems regulating corporations. We were worried about it ourselves when Wheeler was nominated for his current job. I guess this goes to show that it depends more on the person than on their previous job.
Censorship

Indian Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Against Posting 'Offensive' Content Online 54

palemantle writes: The Indian Supreme Court has overturned the controversial Section 66A of the IT Act which included a provision for a three-year jail term for sending "offensive" messages through a "computer resource or a communication device." In its judgement, the Supreme Court held "liberty of thought and expression as cardinal" and overturned the provision (66A) deeming it "unconstitutional." It's been in the news recently for an incident involving the arrest of a high school student for posting allegedly "offensive" content on Facebook about a local politician.
Privacy

Judge Says Public Has a Right To Know About FBI's Facial Recognition Database 79

schwit1 writes U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said the bureau's Next Generation Identification program represents a "significant public interest" due to concerns regarding its potential impact on privacy rights and should be subject to rigorous transparency oversight. "There can be little dispute that the general public has a genuine, tangible interest in a system designed to store and manipulate significant quantities of its own biometric data, particularly given the great numbers of people from whom such data will be gathered," Chutkan wrote in an opinion.
The Courts

Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant 249

New submitter CarlThansk (3713681) writes The courts have long debated on if cell phones can be searched during an arrest without a warrant. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected (PDF) from routine inspection." Phones may still be searched under limited circumstances (imminent threats), but this looks like a clear win for privacy. Quoting the decision: "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. Cell phones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals. Privacy comes at a cost."
Patents

German Parliament Tells Government To Strictly Limit Patents On Software 75

jrepin writes "On Friday the 7th of June the German Parliament decided upon a joint motion to limit software patents. The Parliament urges the German Government to take steps to limit the granting of patents on computer programs (PDF, German; English translation). Software should exclusively be covered by copyright, and the rights of the copyright holders should not be devalued by third parties' software patents. The only exception where patents should be allowed are computer programs which replace a mechanical or electromagnetic component. In addition the Parliament made clear that governmental actions related to patents must never interfere with the legality of distributing Free Software."
Government

US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Embraces FOSS, Publishes On Github 38

New submitter gchaix writes "The U.S. Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has publicly embraced open source software and has begun posting its code to GitHub. From the article: 'Until recently, the federal government was hesitant to adopt open-source software due to a perceived ambiguity around its legal status as a commercial good. In 2009, however, the Department of Defense made it clear that open-source software products are on equal footing with their proprietary counterparts. We agree, and the first section of our source code policy is unequivocal: We use open-source software, and we do so because it helps us fulfill our mission. Open-source software works because it enables people from around the world to share their contributions with each other. The CFPB has benefited tremendously from other people's efforts, so it's only right that we give back to the community by sharing our work with others.'"
Patents

Supreme Court Throws Out Human Gene Patents 91

thomst sends this quote from an Associated Press report: "The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowing human genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers. The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The justices' decision sends the case back down to the federal appeals court in Washington that handles patent cases. The high court said it sent the case back for rehearing because of its decision in another case last week saying that the laws of nature are unpatentable. In that case, the court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease."
EU

EU Court Adviser Says Software Ideas Can't Be Copyrighted 196

bhagwad writes "The EU continues to ooze common sense as a court insists that software functions themselves cannot be copyrighted. Drawing a box or moving cursor are examples. To quote: 'If it were accepted that a functionality of a computer program can be protected as such, that would amount to making it possible to monopolize ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development.'" Note that this is a "non-binding opinion by Yves Bot, an advocate-general at the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice," and that the court "will rule on the case next year."
Cellphones

Florida Reduces Penalties For 'Sexting' Teens 295

SonicSpike sends word that Florida has changed how law enforcement deals with teenagers who send racy pictures to each other over their phones. Quoting CNN: "Before Saturday, a Florida teenager who sent or received nude photos or video could have been charged with a felony and forced to register as a sex offender. But a new law, recognizing the proliferation of cell phones and computers, eases the penalties for 'sexting' infractions. A first offense is punishable by eight hours of community service or a $60 fine; the second is a misdemeanor and the third is a felony. ... Under House Bill 75, teens who receive explicit images won't be charged if they took reasonable steps to report it, did not solicit the image and did not send it to someone."
Software

ISO Puts OOXML On Hold 138

schliz alerts us that ISO, in response to the four appeals (Venezuela, India, Brazil, South Africa) filed in recent weeks, has put the OOXML standardization process on hold. Here is ISO's press release, which says that ISO/IEC DIS 29500 will not be published for at least "several months" while the appeals process goes forward.
Update: 06/11 10:13 GMT by KD : Reader Alsee points out that the fourth officially recognized appealing country is Venezuela, not Denmark as originally stated. The protests of Denmark and Norway are being disregarded, as they do not come from the administrative heads of their national organizations.

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