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EU

EU Commissioner Reveals He Will Ignore Any Rejection of ACTA 253

Dupple tips a story at Techdirt about comments from EU commissioner Karel De Gucht, who made some discouraging remarks to the EU International Trade committee about the opposition to ACTA: "If you decide for a negative vote before the European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue to pursue the current procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the Court of Justice. ... If the Court questions the conformity of the agreement with the Treaties we will assess at that stage how this can be addressed." De Gucht also spoke about proposing clarifications to ACTA if Parliament declined to ratify it, which, as Techdirt points out, doesn't make much sense: "Remember that ACTA is now signed, and cannot be altered; so De Gucht is instead trying to fob off European politicians with this vague idea of 'clarifications' — as if more vagueness could somehow rectify the underlying problems of an already dangerously-vague treaty."
Government

Australian Govt Holding Secretive Anti-Piracy Talks 218

daria42 writes "Looks like Australia's Government prefers to keep its ongoing anti-piracy discussions behind closed doors. It held an initial meeting in September last year to try to get the content and ISP industries to thrash out an agreement on how to handle Internet piracy. Consumer representative groups were explicitly blocked from attending the meeting, and attendees are not allowed to reveal what was discussed behind closed doors. Now a second meeting has been held, and again, no information has been revealed about what's being discussed. Quelle conspiracy?"
United States

Senate Passes 4-Year Re-Up of Patriot Act Provisions 422

Bloomberg News reports that, as expected, today "[t]he US Senate approved a four-year extension of provisions in the USA Patriot Act allowing law enforcement to track suspected terrorists with roving wiretaps. ... The measure goes to the House for final passage before being sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. The surveillance powers would be extended until June 1, 2015." The story mentions that the Patriot Act powers this approval includes would extend "to so-called 'lone wolf' suspects who aren't affiliated with any terrorist group."
Businesses

Supreme Court: AT&T Can Force Arbitration 415

suraj.sun writes with this unhappy news, as reported by Ars Technica: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that AT&T — and indeed, any company — could block class-action suits arising from disputes with customers and instead force those customers into binding arbitration. The ruling reverses previous lower-court decisions that classified stipulations in AT&T's service contract which barred class arbitration as 'unconscionable.' ... In cases where an unfair practice affects large numbers of customers, AT&T or other companies could quietly settle a few individual claims instead of being faced with larger class-action settlements which might include punitive awards designed to discourage future bad practices."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Uncovers Widespread FBI Intelligence Violations 268

An anonymous reader writes "EFF has uncovered widespread violations stemming from FBI intelligence investigations from 2001 — 2008. In a report released today, EFF documents alarming trends in the Bureau's intelligence investigation practices, suggesting that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed. Using documents obtained through EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, the report finds: Evidence of delays of 2.5 years, on average, between the occurrence of a violation and its eventual reporting to the Intelligence Oversight Board; reports of serious misconduct by FBI agents including lying in declarations to courts, using improper evidence to obtain grand jury subpoenas, and accessing password-protected files without a warrant; and indications that the FBI may have committed upwards of 40,000 possible intelligence violations in the 9 years since 9/11."
Democrats

Obama Nominates RIAA Lawyer For Solicitor General 463

Xiph1980 writes "President Barack Obama on Monday nominated former Recording Industry Association of America lawyer Donald Verrilli Jr. to serve as the nation's solicitor general. The solicitor general is charged with defending the government before the Supreme Court, and files friend-of-the court briefs in cases in which the government believes there is a significant legal issue. The office also determines which cases it would bring to the Supreme Court for review. Verrilli is best known for leading the recording industry's legal charge against music- and movie-sharing site Grokster. That 2003 case ultimately led to Grokster's demise when the US Supreme Court sided with the RIAA's verdict."
Australia

Australia Mandates Microsoft's Office Open XML 317

littlekorea writes "The Australian Government has released a common operating environment desktop policy that — among security controls aimed at reducing the potential for leaks of Government data — mandates the ECMA-376 version of Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) standard and productivity suites that can 'read and write' the .docx format, effectively locking the country's public servants into using Microsoft Office. The policy [PDF] also appears to limit desktop operating systems to large, off-the-shelf commercial offerings at the expense of smaller distributions."
The Internet

Comcast-NBC Merger Approved By FCC 268

AndyAndyAndyAndy writes "It seems that the FCC has approved the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC, effectively kicking apart hopes for protection against 'pipes and their water' frameworks. Pres. Obama's 2008 goal also goes ignored: 'I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group.' The Dept. of Justice is also onboard, leaving little hope that this will be stopped."
Facebook

Facebook To Own the Word "Face" 311

Dthief writes "The US Patent And Trademark Office has sent Facebook a Notice of Allowance, which means it will grant the 'Face' trademark to the popular social networking site. Facebook now has three months to pay an issue fee before they officially own the word. From the article: 'For all intents and purposes today's status update bodes well for Facebook's hold over 'face' usages in 'Telecommunication services, namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter, none primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars.''"
Software

Court Says First Sale Doctrine Doesn't Apply To Licensed Software 758

An anonymous reader wrote to tell us a federal appeals court ruled today that the first sale doctrine is "unavailable to those who are only licensed to use their copies of copyrighted works." This reverses a 2008 decision from the Autodesk case, in which a man was selling used copies of AutoCAD that were not currently installed on any computers. Autodesk objected to the sales because their license agreement did not permit the transfer of ownership. Today's ruling (PDF) upholds Autodesk's claims: "We hold today that a software user is a licensee rather than an owner of a copy where the copyright owner (1) specifies that the user is granted a license; (2) significantly restricts the user’s ability to transfer the software; and (3) imposes notable use restrictions. Applying our holding to Autodesk’s [software license agreement], we conclude that CTA was a licensee rather than an owner of copies of Release 14 and thus was not entitled to invoke the first sale doctrine or the essential step defense. "
Earth

Louisiana Federal Judge Blocks Drilling Moratorium 691

eldavojohn writes "In the ongoing BP debacle, the Obama administration imposed a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling and a halt to 33 exploratory wells going into the Gulf of Mexico. Now a federal judge (in New Orleans, no less) is unsatisfied with the reasons for this and stated, 'An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.' The state's governor agrees on the grounds that blocking drilling will cost the state thousands of lucrative jobs." The government quickly vowed to appeal, pointing out that a moratorium on 33 wells is unlikely to have a devastating impact in a region hosting 3,600 active wells. And reader thomst adds this insight on the judge involved in the case: "Yahoo's Newsroom is reporting that the judge who overturned the drilling moratorium holds stock in drilling companies. You can view his financial disclosure forms listing his stock holdings online at Judicial Watch (PDF)."
Government

Court Takes Away Some of the Public Domain 431

An anonymous reader writes "In yet another bad ruling concerning copyright, a federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling, and said that it's okay for Congress retroactively to remove works from the public domain, even if publishers are already making use of those public-domain works. The lower court had said this was a First Amendment violation, but the appeals court said that if Congress felt taking away from the public domain was in its best interests, then there was no First Amendment violation at all. The ruling effectively says that Congress can violate the First Amendment, so long as it feels it has heard from enough people (in this case, RIAA and MPAA execs) to convince it that it needs to do what it has done." TechDirt notes that the case will almost certainly be appealed.
Music

Obama DOJ Sides With RIAA Again In Tenenbaum 528

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Despite having had some time to get their act together, Obama's Department of Justice has filed yet another brief defending the RIAA's outlandish statutory damages theory — that someone who downloaded an mp3 with a 99-cent retail value, causing a maximum possible damages of 35 cents, is liable for from $750 to $150,000 for each such file downloaded, in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. The 25- page brief (PDF) continues the DOJ's practice of (a) ignoring the case law which holds that the Supreme Court's due process jurisprudence is applicable to statutory damages, (b) ignoring the law review articles to like effect, (c) ignoring the actual holding of the 1919 case they rely upon, (d) ignoring the fact that the RIAA failed to prove 'distribution' as defined by the Copyright Act, and (e) ignoring the actual wording and reasoning of the Supreme Court in its leading Gore and Campbell decisions. Jon Newton of p2pnet.net attributes the Justice Department's 'oversights' to the 'eye-popping number of people [in its employ] who worked for, and/or are directly connected with, Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music's RIAA.'"

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