The Internet

FCC's Ajit Pai is Surrounded By a 'Set of People With a Very Traditional Mindset', Says Sir Tim Berners-Lee (bbc.com) 114

Next Monday the web celebrates its 29th birthday. Ahead of it, Sir Tim Berners-Lee spoke with BBC on a wide-range of topics. An excerpt: In Barcelona last week at the Mobile World Congress I heard FCC boss Ajit Pai mount a robust defence of the move, pointing out that the internet had grown and thrived perfectly well in the years before 2015, when the net neutrality provision came in. "He said the same thing to me," Sir Tim tells us, revealing that he had recently been to lunch with Mr Pai. He had told the FCC boss that advances in computer processing power had made it easier for internet service providers to discriminate against certain web users for commercial or political reasons, perhaps slowing down traffic to one political party's website or making it harder for a rival company to process payments. But he failed to change Ajit Pai's mind. "He's surrounded by a set of people with a very traditional mindset, which has been driven by the PR machine of the telco industry, who believe it is their duty in Washington to oppose any regulation, whatever it is." Sir Tim, however, is refusing to concede defeat in this battle. "We stopped SOPA and PIPA," he says, referring to two US anti-piracy measures which campaigners opposed on the grounds they impinged on internet freedoms.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Calls to Action on the Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Aaron Swartz (eff.org) 151

On the fifth anniversary of the death of Aaron Swartz, EFF activist Elliot Harmon posted a remembrance: When you look around the digital rights community, it's easy to find Aaron's fingerprints all over it. He and his organization Demand Progress worked closely with EFF to stop SOPA. Long before that, he played key roles in the development of RSS, RDF, and Creative Commons. He railed hard against the idea of government-funded scientific research being unavailable to the public, and his passion continues to motivate the open access community. Aaron inspired Lawrence Lessig to fight corruption in politics, eventually fueling Lessig's White House run... It's tempting to become pessimistic in the face of countless threats to free speech and privacy. But the story of the SOPA protests demonstrates that we can win in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
He shares a link to a video of Aaron's most inspiring talk, "How We Stopped SOPA," writing that "Aaron warned that SOPA wouldn't be the last time Hollywood attempted to use copyright law as an excuse to censor the Internet... 'The enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared... We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom. They threw themselves into it. They did whatever they could think of to do.'"

On the anniversary of Aaron's death, his brother Ben Swartz, an engineer at Twitch, wrote about his own efforts to effect change in ways that would've made Aaron proud, while Aaron's mother urged calls to Congress to continue pushing for reform to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

And there were countless other remembrances on Twitter, including one fro Cory Doctorow, who tweeted a link to Lawrence Lessig's analysis of the prosecution. And Lessig himself marked the anniversary with several posts on Twitter. "None should rest," reads one, "for still, there is no peace."
Slashdot.org

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.
Censorship

MPAA Opposes Proposed Minnesota Revenge Porn Law, Saying It Limits Speech (arstechnica.com) 96

New Minnesota legislation is "attempting to penalize those who post explicit photos or videos of ex-lovers on the Internet without permission," reports the Associated Press. But while 27 states across America have already passed laws against "revenge porn", Hollywood's lobbying arm, the MPAA, argues that Minnesota's bill doesn't specifically require an intent to harass in their definition of the crime, which "could limit the distribution of a wide array of mainstream, Constitutionally protected material, including items of legitimate news, commentary, and historical interest," according to Ars Technica. The MPAA adds that "images of Holocaust victims, or prisoners at Abu Ghraib, or the Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph entitled 'Napalm Girl' -- which shows a young girl running screaming from her village, naked, following a Napalm attack -- could be prohibited under the terms of this legislation."

"This is the same MPAA that fiercely supported the Stop Online Piracy Act of 2012," notes Ars Technica, though "many claimed that legislation would also curtail free speech because SOPA could lead to the removal of domains that host infringing material." But the state's ACLU chapter is also opposing Minnesota's bill, according to the Associated Press, pointing out that it doesn't require an offender to be aware that they're invading someone's privacy, and arguing that "We're not doing victims of revenge porn any service by passing a law that can't be upheld in court, that will let people go free."
Democrats

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Is Now Chairing Lessig's Presidential Bid 119

Funksaw sends a followup to Tuesday's news that Lawrence Lessig is pondering a presidential campaign: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is now chairing the committee for Lessig's campaign. Wales said, "Larry's run for President is different. He's crowdfunding his campaign instead of seeking out rich donors. He's showing people that we can change the rigged political system. ... The Internet community came together to fight back against SOPA and we were successful. Now we’re behind Lessig to fight for citizen equality." Lessig's goal is to raise a million dollars by September 7, and they're already at roughly $300,000. Relatedly, Newsweek had a brief interview with Lessig over his potential campaign, and Eric Posner wrote an insightful piece about it at Slate.
Government

Parts of SOPA Hiding Inside a Boring Case About Invisible Braces 174

derekmead writes: The most controversial parts of SOPA, an anti-piracy bill defeated in 2012 after a massive public outcry, may end up becoming de facto law after all, depending on the outcome in an obscure case that is working its way through the legal system without anyone noticing.

Next week, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit will hear oral arguments in ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. International Trade Commission, a case that could give an obscure federal agency the power to force ISPs to block websites. In January, The Verge reported that this very legal strategy is already being considered by the Motion Picture Association of America, as evidenced by a leaked document from the WikiLeaks Sony dump.
Google

Google Sues Mississippi Attorney General For Conspiring With Movie Industry 114

ideonexus writes: Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has called for a "time out" in his perpetual fight with Google in response to the company filing a lawsuit against him for conspiring with the movie industry to persecute the search giant. Leaked Sony Pictures Entertainment emails and documents obtained under FOIA requests this week have exposed how the Motion Picture Association of America was colluding with and lobbying state prosecutors to go after Google, even going so far as to "assigned a team of lawyers to prepare draft subpoenas and legal briefs for the attorneys general" to make it easier for them to persecute the company. Here's the full complaint (PDF).
Piracy

Sony Leaks Reveal Hollywood Is Trying To Break DNS 388

schwit1 sends this report from The Verge: Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that's sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that's currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place? To do that, the MPAA's lawyers would target the Domain Name System that directs traffic across the internet.

The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, but three years after the law failed in Congress, the MPAA has been looking for legal justification for the practice in existing law and working with ISPs like Comcast to examine how a system might work technically. If a takedown notice could blacklist a site from every available DNS provider, the URL would be effectively erased from the internet. No one's ever tried to issue a takedown notice like that, but this latest memo suggests the MPAA is looking into it as a potentially powerful new tool in the fight against piracy.
Google

Hollywood's Secret War With Google 176

cpt kangarooski writes: Information has come to light (thanks to the recent Sony hack) that the MPAA and six major studios are pondering the legal actions available to them to compel an entity referred to as 'Goliath,' most likely Google, into taking aggressive anti-piracy action on behalf of the entertainment industry. The MPAA and member studios Universal, Sony, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Disney have had lengthy email discussions concerning how to block pirate sites at the ISP level, and how to take action at the state level to work around the failure of SOPA in 2012. Emails also indicate that they are working with Comcast (which owns Universal) on some form of traffic inspection to find copyright infringements as they happen.
Government

Is Public Debate of Trade Agreements Against the Public Interest? 219

onproton writes The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently being negotiated in secret, has been subject to numerous draft leaks that indicate these talks are potentially harmful to everything from public health to internet freedom. So why isn't the public involved, and why are the terms of the agreement being debated behind closed doors? According to New Zealand's current Trade Minister, Tim Groser, full disclosure of what is being discussed would likely lead to "public debate on an ill-informed basis before the deal has been done." Leaving one to question how revealing the full context and scope of the agreement talks would lead to an increase in misinformation rather than clarity.
Businesses

Net Neutrality Campaign To Show What the Web Would Be Like With a "Slow Lane" 91

blottsie writes In a move out of the anti-SOPA campaign playbook, Fight for the Future and other net neutrality activist groups have set up the Battle for the Net coalition, which plans to launch an "Internet slowdown day" later this month. No actual traffic will be slowed down. Instead, participating sites will display embeddable modules that include a spinning "loading" symbol and information about contacting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the White House, and members of Congress.
DRM

Trans-Pacific Partnership Includes Unwanted Elements of SOPA 129

New submitter Error27 writes "Last month Wikileaks leaked a draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty. Here is Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren's response to the leaked documents. She points out that there several troubling issues with the trade agreement. It locks countries into extremely long copyright terms. It limits fair use. It includes DRM provisions which would make it illegal to unlock your cell phone. These laws come from the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which Americans already rejected."
Crime

Administration Seeks To Make Unauthorized Streaming A Felony 398

wabrandsma writes "From the Washington Post: 'You probably remember the online outrage over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) copyright enforcement proposal. Last week, the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force released a report on digital copyright policy that endorsed one piece of the controversial proposal: making the streaming of copyrighted works a felony. As it stands now, streaming a copyrighted work over the Internet is considered a violation of the public performance right. The violation is only punishable as a misdemeanor, rather than the felony charges that accompany the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material.'"
Government

1,700 Websites In Russia Go Dark In SOPA-Style Protest 34

An anonymous reader writes "Russians are going nuts over a new anti-piracy law that enables Roskomnadzor (the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications) to 'blacklist' Internet resources before the issue of a court order. Indeed, 1700 websites have issued a blackout, just like U.S. firms did in protest at the Stop Online Piracy Act. The law, widely known as the Russian SOPA, has been slammed by some major tech firms from the country, including Yandex. Freedom of speech campaigners are worried it could be used for political censorship, while digital companies say it will slow down the development of Internet services in the country."
Censorship

Irish SOPA Used To Block Pirate Bay Access 94

ObsessiveMathsFreak writes "Ireland's own SOPA Act has finally struck home. Today, the Irish High Court ordered all ISPs to begin censoring the The Pirate Bay. After earlier attempts were struck down, this case was brought by EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal music under new copyright laws brought in last year. This follows the largest ISP Eircom already having voluntarily blocked the Pirate Bay after previous legal action. Despite some early indications that some ISPs would appeal the decision, it now appears that like Eircom, they have quietly given up. Pity; IT was one of the few industries Ireland was getting right."
Censorship

Taiwan's IP Office Proposes Blocking Foreign Sites Infringing Copyright 39

New submitter thomas8166 writes "The Taiwanese Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) recently proposed draft legislation that would empower it to block foreign websites that it deems infringing. The proposal has been likened to SOPA, and has drawn heavy criticism from website operators such as Wikimedia Taiwan. The TIPO stresses that it will only target well-known infringing sites, but Taiwanese netizens are concerned that this power can potentially be abused for political purposes."
Government

SOPA Creator Now In Charge of NSF Grants 307

sl4shd0rk writes "Remember SOPA? If not, perhaps the name Lamar Smith will ring a bell. The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chose Smith to Chair as an overseer for the National Science Foundation's funding process. Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense,' be of 'utmost importance to society,' and not be 'duplicative of other research.' Duplicating research seems reasonable until you consider that this could also mean the NSF will not provide funding for research once someone has already provided results — manufactured or otherwise. A strange target since there is a process in place which makes an effort to limit duplicate funding already. The first and second requirements, even when read in context, still miss the point of basic research. If we were absolutely without-a-doubt-certain of the results, there would be little point in doing the research in the first place."
Politics

Ask Slashdot: What Planks Would You Want In a Platform of a Political Party? 694

An anonymous reader writes "I am the Technology Manager of the Justice Party (sorry, no relationship to the Avengers). We are currently working on our Platform (version 2.0) and I would be interested to know what people in the science and technology field would like to see in a platform of a political party. For example, we are considering planks that relate to Open Government (data) access, science and maths promotion, space industries, promotion of open source, dealing with SOPA/ CISPA laws, improvement in user privacy and much more. Give us your comments so we can help build a more tech-savvy America."
Media

Internet Defense League To Be Deployed Against CISPA 71

yanom writes "Slashdotters may remember the launch of the Internet Defense League, a network for website owners that would allow for the replication of a media campaign similar to the one that took down SOPA. Now it plans to spring into action in response to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which is now making it's way through Congress. The IDL wants its members to embed anti-CISPA banners into their websites, which will be activated tomorrow, March 19th."
Government

DoJ Admits Aaron Swartz's Prosecution Was Political 326

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a blog post by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, founder of corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org and partner of the late Aaron Swartz: "The DOJ has told Congressional investigators that Aaron's prosecution was motivated by his political views on copyright. I was going to start that last paragraph with 'In a stunning turn of events,' but I realized that would be inaccurate — because it's really not that surprising. Many people speculated throughout the whole ordeal that this was a political prosecution, motivated by anything/everything from Aaron's effective campaigning against SOPA to his run-ins with the FBI over the PACER database. But Aaron actually didn't believe it was — he thought it was overreach by some local prosecutors who didn't really understand the internet and just saw him as a high-profile scalp they could claim, facilitated by a criminal justice system and computer crime laws specifically designed to give prosecutors, however incompetent or malicious, all the wrong incentives and all the power they could ever want. But this HuffPo article, and what I’m hearing from sources on the Hill, suggest that that’s not true. That Ortiz and Heymann knew exactly what they were doing: Shutting up, and hopefully locking up, an extremely effective activist whose political views, including those on copyright, threatened the Powers That Be."

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