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EFF: License Plate Scanner Deal Turns Texas Cops Into Debt Collectors (eff.org) 442

An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is sounding the alarm about a deal between Texas law enforcement agencies and Vigilant Solutions — a company that provides vehicle surveillance tech. The deal will give Texas police access to a bunch of automated license plate readers (ALPRs), and access to the company's data and analytic tools. For free. How is Vigilant making money? "The government agency in turn gives Vigilant access to information about all its outstanding court fees, which the company then turns into a hot list to feed into the free ALPR systems. As police cars patrol the city, they ping on license plates associated with the fees. The officer then pulls the driver over and offers them a devil's bargain: get arrested, or pay the original fine with an extra 25% processing fee tacked on, all of which goes to Vigilant. In other words, the driver is paying Vigilant to provide the local police with the technology used to identify and then detain the driver. If the ALPR pings on a parked car, the officer can get out and leave a note to visit Vigilant's payment website." Vigilant also gets to keep the data collected on citizens while the ALPRs are in use.
Censorship

FunnyJunk v. the Oatmeal: Copyright Infringement Complaints As Defamation 286

An anonymous reader writes "Funny as it might sound, FunnyJunk's threat of litigation against The Oatmeal raises a very important issue: the extent to which artists can complain in public about perceived or actual infringement of their works by user-generated content websites. Does it matter if the content creator accused the website of condoning or participating in the infringement?" The short story is this: Numerous Oatmeal comics were posted without permission to FunnyJunk; Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman lambasted FunnyJunk in the form of a blog post. FunnyJunk responded with a suit (or rather the threat of a suit) accusing Inman of willful defamation, unless he ponies up $20,000, which he doesn't plan to do.
Censorship

Smearing Toddler Reputations Via Internet: Free Speech Or Extortion? 213

retroworks writes "Crystal Cox, a Montana woman who calls herself an 'investigative journalist,' was slapped with a $2.5-million judgment last year for defaming an investment firm and one of its lead partners. Cox had taken control of the Google footprint of Obsidian Finance and its principal Kevin Padrick by writing hundreds of posts about them on dozens of websites she owned, inter-linking them in ways that made them rise up in Google search results; it ruined Obsidian's business due to prospective clients being put off by the firm's seemingly terrible online reputation. After Obsidian sued Cox, she contacted them offering her 'reputation services;' for $2,500 a month, she could 'fix' the firm's reputation and help promote its business. The Forbes Article goes on to describe how she tried to similarly leverage attorneys and journalists reputations. Finding some of her targets were too well established in google rank to pester or intimidate, Cox moved to family members, reserving domain names for one of her target's 3-year-old daughter. Forbes columnist Kashmir Hill makes the case that this clearly isn't journalism, and establishes a boundary for free speech online."
Piracy

Crying Foul At the BSA's "Nauseating" Anti-Piracy Tactics 235

Barence writes "The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has been accused of heavy-handed tactics that could drive small companies to incriminate themselves. The Microsoft-backed piracy watchdog generates a quarter of its cases by offering employees cash rewards for informing on their own employer. 'It is basically harvesting allegations from disgruntled employees and farming them out to expensive law firms,' one small business owner told PC Pro, who said he was 'nauseated' by the tactics. The BSA then sends out a letter demanding the business owner fill out a software audit, or potentially face court action — even though the BSA has no power to demand such an audit and hasn't pursued a court case in five years. 'It's designed to scare the recipient into thinking that they're obliged to provide certain information when, in fact, it's difficult to see that they are,' said a leading IT lawyer."
Space

SpaceX Sues Valador For Defamation 111

An anonymous reader writes "Looks like aerospace consulting firm Valador tried to bite off more than it can chew. After already having bagged lucrative 'safety review' contracts with SpaceX' competitors, it tried to sell its services to SpaceX as well. However, according to SpaceX' claims in a recent court filing, Valador tried to juice up their sales pitch by first spreading rumors at key NASA offices that SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is 'unsafe', and then generously offering its services to SpaceX to aid them with addressing any undeserved bias against them among NASA officials. In true California fashion (being the most litigious state of the nation), SpaceX is having none of that and is taking Valador to court for defamation, seeking damages identical to the value of the consulting contract Valador tried to sell to them." CT: It appears that the link in this story has disappeared. If you can find something better, post it.
Government

Hospital Wireless Networks May Be Regulated Medical Devices 185

Lucas123 writes "As hospitals continue to connect patient monitoring equipment, physician PDAs and laptops to wireless networks, and then collapse those data paths onto traditional IT networks, the closer the US Food and Drug Administration comes to regulating them, according to Computerworld. The focus of the FDA's regulation comes in its recently finalized 80001-1 standard that established risk management practices for those networks, the adherence to which may be voluntary, but would determine Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. 'If you don't comply, then you have two choices. You can have the federal government come in and inspect your hospital, or you can decide not to accept money from Medicare or Medicaid. Voluntary sometimes isn't exactly voluntary,' said Rick Hampton, wireless communications manager for Partners HealthCare System in Boston."
PC Games (Games)

Witcher 2 Torrents Could Net You a Fine 724

An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Eurogamer: "Gamers who download upcoming PC exclusive The Witcher 2 illegally could receive a letter demanding they pay a fine or face legal action. If gamers refuse to pay the fine, which will be more than the cost of the game, they could end up in court, developer CD Projekt told Eurogamer. 'Of course we're not happy when people are pirating our games, so we are signing with legal firms and torrent sneaking companies,' CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiski said. 'In quite a few big countries, when people are downloading it illegally they can expect a letter from a legal firm saying, "Hey, you downloaded it illegally and right now you have to pay a fine." We are totally fair, but if you decide you will not buy it legally there is a chance you'll get a letter. We are talking about it right now.' Interestingly, The Witcher 2 will be released free of digital rights management – but only through the CD Projekt-owned digital download shop GOG.com. That means owners will be able to install it as many times as they like on any number of computers – and it will not requite an internet connection to run."

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