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The Media

Submission + - Fans Driving CBS Execs Nuts

LupeSpywalper writes: Fans of the recently cancelled TV show Jericho have been organizing a powerful front against CBS. They demand nothing less than full retreat. The fan troops fight with weapons like online petitions, YouTube campaigns, message boards, wallet voting, ad campaigns and... nuts!
The scale of this fan uprising is fueled by sympathetic messages from the show's actors and increasing media attention.
Does CBS have the balls to cover up the nuts?
Censorship

Submission + - Electronic Frontier Foundation Sues Uri Geller

reversible physicist writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued spoon-bender Uri Geller for using "baseless copyright claims" to silence critics who question his paranormal powers. Brian Sapient posted on YouTube a 14-minute excerpt from the 1993 PBS NOVA program "Secrets of the Psychics," in which magician James Randi says Geller's spoon-bending feats were simple tricks. YouTube took down the video after Geller complained — his lawyers claim that 10 seconds of the video are owned by Geller. A shorter excerpt is still up on YouTube.
Sci-Fi

Submission + - SF Author Harlan Ellison sues Fantagraphics

Dr. Strangefate writes: Renowned SF author Harlan Ellison has filed suit against comics publisher Fantagraphics, best known for publishing underground comics and The Comics Journal. Ellison alleges that Fantagraphics has misappropriated his name and defamed him. Fantagraphics is attempting to make this a first amendment issue. The irony is that Ellison has a long support of freedom of the press and anti-censorship issues and now seems to be engaging in (arguably) the same thing!
Businesses

Submission + - Work really can make you ill

An anonymous reader writes: http://www.daniweb.com/blogs/entry1449.html A new report confirms what we all knew: going to work can make you sick. Poor understanding of computing ergonomics are responsible for millions of workers suffering bad desk health as a result of sick office syndrome, reckon monitor manufacturers ViewSonic.
Censorship

Submission + - EFF and Dvorak blame the digg revolt on lawyers

enharmonix writes: "Just a bit of an update on the recent digg revolt over AACS. Well, the New York Times has taken notice and written quite a decent article that actually acknowledges that the take down notices amount to censorship and documents instances of the infamous key appearing in purely expressive form (I was pleased to see the similarity to 2600 and deCSS was not lost on the Times either). More interesting though is that the EFF's Fred von Lohmann blames the digg revolt on lawyers. And in an opinion piece, John Dvorak expands on that theme."
Editorial

Submission + - Blizzards's ban targets today's busy gamer

Marcus Eikenberry writes: "If you're a hard working adult, parent, or student who enjoys today's MMO's but have no time to grind to level 70, Blizzard's recent actions scream "Your S.O.L." Earlier this week Blizzard banned thousands of accounts in a matter of days. Buying, selling, trading, and even giving away your account results in banning without a second chance. Instead of innocent until proven guilty you're simply guilty. They even use their godly powers and ban any account associate with your credit card if you chose the monthly billing option. That's not accounting for the gamers who lost their accounts using game time cards. Those who haven't been banned have their accounts on a temporary lockdown until an I.D that has been notarized is faxed in and approved. Even if they get that information to Blizzard it will take time for the hold to be taken off, leaving the account dead until they deem fit. A majority of gamers believe that buying or trading an account is cheating, giving other players an unfair advantage. Although, what if you're a casual player as opposed to a hard core player? Not every gamer has the luxury of being able to play eight or more hours a day. Casual gamers want to experience the end game fun without spending a massive amount of time away from reality and their responsibilities. It's well known that trading an account is a violation of the terms of service. Even if you decide to give your account away it will result in a ban. Some will argue that it's not worth the ban and definitely not worth losing their other accounts that had nothing to due with the violation. The customer is still paying their monthly dues and Blizzard is still generating an income. Blizzard has yet to release a statement on why the harsh crack down this week, but few have their theories. Marcus Eikenberry from Markee Dragon Inc, a trusted guru in the online gaming community, gives his trusted opinion at: http://www.markeedragon.com/u/ubbthreads/showflat. php?Board=newsmd&Number=502154 Press Contacts: Marcus Eikenberry Markeedragon@markeedragon.com (866) 533-5010 www.MarkeeDragonInc.com Blizzard Entertainment Inc (949) 955-1382 www.Blizzard.com"
Businesses

Submission + - Is the Second Life backlash gaining momentum?

An anonymous reader writes: InformationWeek, which until now has been writing worshipful fanboy praise of Second Life, gripes about some of its problems in three articles posted today. Mitch Wagner, who's been Info Week's head SL cheerleader, writes: "You ever have the experience of moving to a new city — a great city, like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, or London? For a couple of months, just walking down the street is magic, but then one day you wake up and, well, you notice the uncollected trash and the panhandlers and the fact that public transit is never on time. You still love it there, but you also wish that your bus stop didn't smell like pee. That's kind of where I am with Second Life." A second articke, "Bugs And Unstable Code Threaten Second Life's Future" describes a user petition drive to get Linden Lab to fix some of the service's worst bugs before the whole thing collapses. And Info Week also takes Linden Lab to task for promoting misleading usage stats.. Is the Second Life backlash gaining momentum?
Music

Submission + - Internet Radio Saving Bill

k-zed writes: "A bill has been introduced that will save independent internet radio by setting royalties at the same level paid by satellite radio services, a reasonable amount (7.5% of gross revenues) which will benefit the artists as well as not bankrupt net radio stations. Call your Representative right now and ask to cosponsor the "Internet Radio Equality Act", just introduced by Representative Jay Inslee. This bill will set royalty rates that internet radio pays to the same reasonable level that satellite radio pays."
Education

Submission + - MIT's Dean of Admissions Resigns

crl620 writes: "MIT's Dean of Admissions resigned yesterday after it was discovered that she misrepresented her academic degrees. At one point, she claimed to have degrees from three different colleges. Turns out, she probably doesn't have an undergraduate degree. Pretty interesting considering she's in charge of admissions for one of the world's most competitive colleges. http://www-tech.mit.edu/V127/N21/jones.html"
United States

Submission + - H.R. 964: Another Misguided Spyware Bill

njdube writes: Last week a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce reported out H.R. 964, a.k.a. the "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" or "SPY Act." This bill is the latest incarnation of misguided legislative language that has been resurfacing since 2003 (in 2005, it passed the House as H.R. 29).

Although badware (i.e., spyware, malware, and deceptive adware) is a serious problem for computer users, H.R. 964 is not likely to help. In fact, having been massaged by lobbyists for the software and adware industries, the bill would actually make things worse, insulating adware vendors from more stringent state laws and private lawsuits.

H.R. 964 combines a variety of redundant prohibitions on deceptive practices (Section 2) and ambiguous "notice" requirements (Section 3) with broad federal preemption of state laws (Section 6). In fact, you can essentially skip the first 15 pages of the bill — the FTC already has the authority to police many, if not all, of the "unfair or deceptive acts or practices" prohibited therein. If anything, by creating a heightened intent requirement (Section 4(c)), this law could constrain the authority the FTC already possesses against badware vendors.

So these provisions are pure window dressing. Both the FTC and Department of Justice have said (see p. 21 of this 2005 FTC report) that they already have the enforcement authority they need. In just the last two years, the FTC has commenced 11 spyware enforcement actions, demonstrating that they've got the authority they need. Of course, more enforcement would be a good thing, but H.R. 964 allocates no new money for it. (There is one improvement tucked in Section 4 of the bill — granting the FTC the power to seek civil penalties against those who violate the law.)

The federal preemption provisions (Section 6), meanwhile, trump most of the stricter state laws that might have been used to go after badware vendors. This is particularly disappointing, as state laws have opened a new front in the war on badware. A few categories of state laws are preserved, including trespass, contract, tort, and fraud laws. And, in an interesting twist, H.R. 964 preserves state consumer protection statutes, but only if the state's Attorney General is bringing the enforcement action.

Reading between the lines in Section 6, one thing becomes clear: this section is intended primarily to block the ability of private citizens to sue badware vendors under state laws. By consolidating all the enforcement authority against badware in the hands of the FTC and state Attorneys Generals, software and adware vendors are trying to quietly block consumer class actions that could target their misbehavior. For example, H.R. 964 would have made it impossible for EFF to use California's Business and Professions Code 17200 (which allows private citizens to sue for unfair and unlawful business practices) against Sony-BMG for its spyware-laden copy-protection software.

This is a terrible move. If Congress is serious about enacting tough anti-spyware laws, it should create incentives that would encourage private citizens to pursue the bad guys. The FTC and state AGs can't possibly take on the entire job alone.

And, perhaps most disappointingly, Congress dropped the ball on the most promising section of the statute, the "Good Samaritan" provision (Section 5(c)). The consumer's most important allies in the war on badware are the companies that make badware-removal tools. If Congress really wanted to do some good, it would protect these companies from legal harassment at the hands of the badware vendors. For example, Congress could give the good guys a legal shield with which to ward off bogus defamation, interference with contract, and DMCA claims brought by badware companies (something like the immunities that CDA 230 provides for companies that host the speech of others).

Instead, Congress crafted a "Good Samaritan" clause that only protects badware-removal tools from liability under the Spy Act itself — something that these vendors likely don't need (it's hard to imagine the FTC going after Lavasoft, isn't it?).

Frankly, I think the testimony of Zango (formerly 180Solutions, a notorious adware vendor) before Congress tells you everything you need to know about H.R. 964: "Zango supports all provisions of H.R. 964 with the exception of subsection 5(c) [the Good Samaritan provision]."

Complete Story
Censorship

Submission + - The Great Firewall of Utah (and Banning Open Wi-Fi

njdube writes: The Utah legislature has been considering a proposal that would require the state's ISPs to ensure that minors are unable to access explicit material on the Internet [1] [2]. The scheme would also make open wireless networks illegal (!) unless they are restricted to only allow connections on certain, censored, "community ports".

Giving ISPs the responsibility and incentives to censor a paricular subset of the web is precisely the same architecture that the Chinese Communist Party uses for their "Great Fireall of China". The communists use it to filter news and political information as well as porn — but in neither case is it particularly effective. Users who are either knowledgeable or motivated quickly learn that there are easy ways around these filters.

The absurd Utah proposal has been pushed by the CP80 Foundation, which pedals fanatasies of a world where certain TCP ports (80, for instance) are free of any material that they consider "indecent". The group is fronted by SCO Chairman Ralph Yarro. Yes, that SCO.

The chance that a state or even federal statute could (practically or constitutionally) prevent sexually explicit content from being transmitted through port 80 is approximately zero point zero zero zero percent. The chance that politicians could pass foolish laws that cause needless headaches and court battles for ISPs and users, however, is significantly higher.

Complete Story

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