Chaonici writes: A US federal judge has ruled against the Spanish company Puerto 80, refusing to reinstate two seized domain names on the grounds that the seizures do not constitute "substantial hardship" for the company. Puerto 80 is the owner of Rojadirecta, a Spanish website that links to other websites that stream sports content. While Rojadirecta was determined to be legal in Spain, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the US Department of Justice, seized the domains rojadirecta.com and rojadirecta.org in February. Puerto 80 sued the government for reinstatement of the domain names, but the judge ruled that because Puerto 80 could advertise new domain names for the website (such as rojadirecta.es), the domain seizures are not "substantial hardship." The judge also dismissed First Amendment complaints against the seizures (specifically with regards to discussion forums) on the grounds that visitors can just go to other websites for the same discussions.
Chaonici writes: The EFF has a blog post about what appears to be Facebook's stance on anonymity on the Internet. Speaking last week at a social media conference hosted by Marie Claire magazine, Facebook's Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerburg, is quoted: "I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors." This position appears to apply to the entire Internet, not just Facebook (which already requires that its users post real names instead of pseudonyms). The EFF goes on to point out how this would be a bad choice for civil liberties online.
Chaonici writes: The word on cnet is that an antipiracy agreement between a number of ISPs (including Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast) and the RIAA & MPAA is nearing completion. Under the agreement, ISPs will step up their responses to copyright infringement complaints against subscribers. If a subscriber accumulates enough complaints, the ISP can throttle their bandwidth, limit their Web access to only the top 200 websites, and/or require participation in a "copyright awareness" program that explains the rights of content creators. ISPs and rights holders will share the costs of the system. Ars Technica confirms the story with notes from an industry source, who mentions that the Obama administration is "generally supportive" of the agreement.
Chaonici writes: Last Monday, Tennessee's Governer Bill Haslem signed a law prohibiting the transmission or display of an image that is likely to "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to" anyone who sees it. In Tennessee, it is already illegal to use other methods of communication, such as telephones or e-mail, to offend someone; the new law updates legislation to include images sent or posted online. However, the scope of this law is broader, in that anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court finds that a violator should have known that someone would be offended by the image in question, they face up to a year in prison or up to $2,500 in fines.
Chaonici writes: LastPass, a popular online password management application, has reported on its blog that a possible external attack may have compromised certain user information. While there is no solid evidence that an attack took place, LastPass is assuming the worst, namely that the server salt and users' email addresses and salted password hashes were leaked. All LastPass users will have to change their master passwords (although users with strong passwords are less vulnerable to brute-force attacks), as well as authenticate themselves either through email or by logging in from a previously used IP address block. The company is also taking the opportunity to improve the encryption for their servers in response to the potential intrusion.
Chaonici writes: When a Swedish citizen identified as Ryan heard about US movie studio Liberty Media's plan to get copyright infringers to confess and voluntarily pay up, he couldn't stop himself from sending them a satirical email promising that he will pay 'from the pot of gold I got at the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow', regardless of scathing criticism of the studio from his unicorn. However, despite his location, the jesting nature of the email, and his insistence that he has never downloaded anything for which the studio is suing, Liberty Media's lawyers have taken the 'confession' seriously, and have issued a subpoena to Google for personal information related to Ryan's Gmail account. In a phone call, the legal team affirmed their determination to 'hunt him down, all the way to Sweden if need be.'
Chaonici writes: Last Friday, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized ten websites accused of selling counterfeit goods or trafficking in child pornography. However, in the process, about 84,000 unrelated websites were taken offline when the government mistakenly seized the domain of a large DNS provider, FreeDNS. By now, the mistake has been corrected and most of the websites' domains again point to the sites themselves, rather than an intimidating domain seizure image. In a press release, the DHS praised themselves for taking down those ten websites, but completely failed to acknowledge their massive blunder.
Chaonici writes: In a sub-operation fittingly dubbed Operation Broken Hearted, the United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office's Homeland Security Investigation division spent Valentine's Day seizing the domains of eighteen more websites accused of selling counterfeit goods. This time, it appears that no websites related to online copyright infringement were targeted, but as before, the seizures carried out by the US government affect Internet users worldwide. The US Chamber of Commerce praised the seizures, but lamented the US government's inability to similarly shut down websites hosted overseas.
Chaonici writes: Operation In Our Sites, a US initiative to crack down on websites related to online copyright infringement, appears to be ongoing. Rojadirecta is a site that links to (but does not host) broadcasts of major sporting events, including soccer matches. It is highly popular in Spain, where it has prevailed twice in court after its legal status was challenged. However, US authorities have now seized the.org domain of the website without notifying the site's owner or its web host, GoDaddy. Rojadirecta can still be accessed through.com,.es,.me, and.in domains, which are not controlled by the US, but rojadirecta.org currently redirects to this well-known image.
Chaonici writes: A few weeks ago, Google promised that, on behalf of the entertainment industries, they would begin filtering 'piracy related' terms from their search system. Now, TorrentFreak reports that Google has lived up to their promise, and certain keywords (such as 'bittorrent' and 'rapidshare') will no longer produce results with the Autocomplete or Instant Search features. The standard search feature, however, continues to display results as normal. Simon Morris of BitTorrent Inc., RapidShare, and Jamie King (the founder of Vodo) are critical of the change, pointing out the many legitimate uses of popular file-sharing technology.
Chaonici writes: The first actual bank to do so, Bank of America has decided that it will follow in the footsteps of PayPal, MasterCard, and Visa, and halt all its transactions that it believes are intended for WikiLeaks, including donations in support of the organization. 'This decision,' says the bank, 'is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.' Coincidentally, in a 2009 interview with Forbes magazine, Julian Assange stated that he was in possession of the hard drive of a Bank of America executive, and that he planned to release information about a major bank early next year.
Chaonici writes: The popular Canadian radio show Spark reports that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada's publicly owned and funded national radio broadcaster, has banned podcasts that use Creative Commons-licensed music. 'The decision is apparently the result of restrictions in collective agreements the CBC has with some talent agencies,' writes Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist. 'In other words, groups are actively working to block the use of Creative Commons licenced alternatives in their contractual language.'