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Submission + - Apple responds to court order regarding San Bernandino terrorist's phone (npr.org)

UnknowingFool writes: Last week, a federal court judge ordered Apple to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone of the San Bernandino terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook. The phone was owned by San Bernandino county but issued to Farook as a work phone. The order compelled that Apple remove several security features and create a new feature where passcodes could be sent via Bluetooth, WiFi, or cable. Today Apple filed its motion to vacate the previous order.

Something that is not detailed is that the original order was granted through an ex parte motion meaning Apple did not see/know about the motion from the government and could not respond to it. Among Apple's arguments:
  • "Just once" does not mean just once as there are a number of current state cases and federal cases that would compel Apple to perform the order again. This may also include other countries.
  • The All Writs Act which the government based the order is not unlimited.
  • The government is creating a mandatory back door by court order, an effort which they have abandoned in the past to create legally by statute.
  • Apple is protected under several provisions of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) which specifically protect encryption and prohibits back doors.
  • Apple has assisted the government already with the investigation, but the government (FBI) has pursued ill-advised actions without Apple's assistance or guidance (resetting the Apple ID password)
  • As such the All Writs Act cannot "impose a duty on a private party when Congress has failed to impose one".
  • The Act does not authorize an "end run around constitutional and statutory law" (CALEA)
  • Apple as a 3rd party should be forced to participate in a case which they are "far removed."
  • Creating such code would create undue burden on Apple to curate, maintain, supervise, and organize a hacking department for law enforcement. (Under current laws, Apple must provide testimony and personnel for every court case where they hacked a phone).
  • The government has not demonstrated that Apple is necessary to achieve the goals (has the FBI asked other agencies (NSA, CIA) for help first.
  • Such an order violates First and Fifth Amendment rights.

Submission + - CBS, others sued for copyright infringement over "Soft Kitty" in Big Bang Theory (arstechnica.com)

UnknowingFool writes: In the popular sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, Penny has sung "Soft Kitty" to the difficult Sheldon Cooper on numerous occasions as a lullaby and to comfort him. These scenes are such fan favorites that the song lyrics are sold on merchandise. The daughters of poet Edith Newlin are suing CBS, Warner Bros, and others claiming copyright infringement for her poem, "Warm Kitty".

The situation is not a simple copyright infringement case of Warner Brothers not obtaining any permission. The poem was created in the 1930s by Newlin, but she granted permission to Willis Music to be used as lyrics in their songbook Songs for the Nursery School. Warner Brothers obtained permission from Willis Music in 2007 for the song to be used in the show. Willis Music is also named as a defendant.

The legal question I see is whether Warner Brothers got permission as they licensed a derivative work (the song) but not the original work (the poem). My non-lawyer opinion is that the show and CBS are probably okay because they licensed the song. The merchandise is another matter and that will need a license.

Submission + - Facebook open sources AI hardware design (facebook.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Facebook has released specifications on their newest Open Rack-compatible hardware server they named Big Sur. It is for AI computing at a large scale. Using eight 300W GPU slots the server is touted to offer more efficient neural network training by using GPUs.

Submission + - Ballmer: Microsoft mobile should focus on Android apps not universal apps (theverge.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Former CEO Steve Ballmer had some strong opinions about the direction of Microsoft's mobile strategy. As reported last month, Microsoft's Project Astoria has not been received well or going well. The strategy is to help build Windows 10 apps by making universal apps via easy porting from Android. Ballmer question its effectiveness. "That won't work," he said. Instead he suggested that Windows phones should "run Android apps." This is a dramatic departure from the Microsoft only focus that Ballmer championed during his tenure as CEO.

Submission + - Beats Music to shut down November 30 (fortune.com)

UnknowingFool writes: After November 30, Beats Music subscriptions will be cancelled and no longer work according to Apple. Subscribers can use Apple Music which has many of the same features. This shutdown was not unexpected when Apple purchased Beats last year for $3 billion as Apple has a history of buying companies for various reasons other the products. Many former companies have been absorbed into Apple in one form or another in this manner: The technology of Fingerworks peripherals were the start of multi-touch for iPhones. PA Semi and Intrinsity personnel were the core of Apple's internal chip design teams. AuthenTec made biometric technology that became backbone of Touch ID.

Submission + - HDMI announces premium certification program for HDMI 2.0 (businesswire.com)

UnknowingFool writes: HDMI® Licensing LLC announced the new Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program which will certify whether cables can meet the 2.0 specification. While today's HDMI 1.4 cables can handle 4K (4096 x 2160) video, it is at 24Hz or 30Hz for the UltraHD (3840×2160) resolution. HDMI 2.0 cables should be able to handle 4K at 60Hz with 18 Gbit/s throughput and support for HDR video. HDMI 1.4 can handle 10.2 Gbit/s. No word on how many first-born children Monster will charge for 2.0 cables.

Submission + - Judge rules that Inglewood, California cannot copyright public videos (latimes.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Recently a judge ruled in California, that the city of Inglewood cannot hold copyrights of videos of public city council meetings which they published on their youtube account and thus cannot sue individuals for copyright infringement for using them. In several youtube videos, Joseph Teixeira, a resident of Inglewood, California criticized the mayor, James Butts. (Yes that's his real name). Under the account name, Dehol Truth, Teixeira took city council meetings posted on their youtube account and edited them to make pointed criticisms about the mayor.

The city responded by registering the videos with copyrights and then suing Teixeira for copyright infringement. Many would say it was a thinly veiled attempt to silence a critic. Teixeira filed a motion to dismiss arguing that (1) the city cannot claim copyright over public records (videos of public city council meetings) and (2) even if they could, his videos fell under Fair Use.

Unsurprisingly a judge dismissed the city's case citing California law which bars the city from holding copyrights on most public records. What is notable is that the judge dismissed the case with prejudice meaning that the city cannot refile. Normally judges do not do this unless they feel that the plaintiff's case was so weak that he feels no judge should hear the case ever again. Also because the judge agreed with the defendant Teixeira on the first point, he would not normally need to address Teixeira's Fair Use defense, but he did anyway. Anticipating that the city may appeal his decision, judge ruled that Teixeira's videos substantially met all four factors for Fair Use:
  1. There is no evidence Teixeira used the videos for commericial gain and was transformative
  2. His work was creative by adding music and commentary to the normally boring council videos
  3. Despite the city's claim he used their "entire work", it clear that he only used portions of meetings that lasted as long as four hours editing them down to a max of 15 minutes.
  4. Teixeira did not harm the city's market for the videos because the city is barred by state law from recouping more than direct costs of duplication. Even if the city could sell the videos (which they published themselves for free on youtube), his short videos are not a substitute.

This case may not be over as Teixeira's pro bono lawyer has not filed for attorney's fees. The ruling can be found here

Submission + - Behind the Microsoft write-off of Nokia (techcrunch.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Previously Microsoft had announced that they write-off the Nokia purchase for $7.6B in the last quarter. In doing so Microsoft would create only the third unprofitable quarter in the company's history. Released on July 31, new financial documents detail some of the reasoning and financials behind this decision. At the core of the problem was that the Phone Hardware business was only worth $116M after adjusting for costs and market factors. One of those factors was poor sales of Nokia handhelds in 2015. Financially it made more sense to write it all off.

the carrying value of Phone Hardware goodwill exceeded its estimated fair value. Accordingly, we recorded a goodwill impairment charge of $5.1 billion, reducing Phone Hardware’s goodwill from $5.4 billion to $116 million


Submission + - Microsoft to layoff 7,800 and write-off $7.6B from Nokia acquisition (nbcnews.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Less than 2 years after its $7.2B acquisition of Nokia's phone business, Microsoft announced it will layoff 7,800 mostly from that business and write off the acquisition for $7.6B. Among those let go will be Stephen Elop who is the former CEO of Nokia and a former executive of Microsoft. Many believe Elop was placed at Nokia to undermine their business so that Microsoft could buy it for a cheaper price. Even with the acquisition, Microsoft's share of the phone market did not increase significantly and lags behind Android and Apple.

Submission + - Microsoft to sell Bing Maps, advertising sections (computerworld.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Microsoft has announced that they will sell some Bing Maps technology to Uber and their advertising business to AOL. About 1300 employees are expected to be offered positions in their new companies. CEO Nadella said previously that there would be "tough choices" to be made. Some outside analysts have said neither venture was very profitable for Microsoft and may have been unprofitable at times.

Submission + - Prenda Law's 9th Circuit Appeal Does Not Go Well (techdirt.com)

UnknowingFool writes: In May 2013, US District Court Judge Otis Wright issued a blistering and Star Trek referencing sanctions order against copyright troll Prenda Law fining them for $80,000 for conduct and referring them for criminal action. Since then the firm has dissolved but their lawyer appeared before three judges of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to have them overturn the decision and the now $250,000 fine ($80,000 plus accrued penalties). It did not go well for their lawyer Daniel Voelker who at times evaded basic questions about who ran the firm and a forged document irking judges Pregerson and Tallman. Mr. Voelker kept repeating his argument that since Judge Wright threatened criminal penalties and denied a witness to appear, his clients were denied due process and thus everything should be remanded back for criminal contempt. Judge Nguyen seemingly rebuffed this argument stating that the fines were civil and not subject to criminal proceedings and tried to focus Voelker on legal arguments on the amount of the fines. Judge Tallman also expressed incredulity that Voelker was asking the court for criminal contempt as the maximum penalty for that was life imprisonment and not the $250,000 fine that was owed. Judge Pregerson at one point explicitly stated that Prenda had engaged in extortion.

Part of Prenda's Law problem was that Judge Wright had written much about their operations in his Findings of Fact which is rarely overturned by higher courts as opposed to the Findings of Law which can be scrutinized by higher courts. The court's first question to Voelker expressly asked that for the appeal court to rule in his client's favor they would have to find clear error in the Findings of Fact which he characteristically dodged again and again.

Morgan Pietz representing the opposing side did better on answering the Judges' questions. For example in doubling the original fine which may have crossed the line between criminal and civil, Pietz responded that deterrence is an important element of sanctions and doubling the fine was justified. Pietz also argued that a separate criminal proceeding could still be held without voiding the civil result.

Submission + - Apple DRM lawsuit loses last plaintiff; judge rules against dismissal (appleinsider.com)

UnknowingFool writes: In the Apple DRM lawsuit, the last plaintiff in the case has been disqualified but due to the number of potential consumers affected, the judge has denied Apple's motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs' lawyers will have to find a qualified plaintiff. To recap, the suit lost both plaintiffs in the last week when Apple reported to the judge that their iPods were not eligible (iPods must be purchased between Sept 2006 and May 2009). The first plaintiff withdrew when all her iPods were found to be outside the time period. The second plaintiff produced one iPod that was not eligible but two others that were eligible; however, Apple challenged the two eligible ones as the plaintiff could not prove she purchased them. They were purchased by her ex-husband's law firm. With one of the main claims of suit being that the price of the iPod was raised due to Apple's actions it was important to establish that she purchased them.

At the heart of the case is that Apple's use of DRM harmed customers by raising the price of the iPod and that Apple removed other competitor's music from the iPod namely RealPlayer's Harmony music files. Apple does not dispute that it removed RealPlayer's files but contends it was done for security reasons as RealPlayer was able to get the music files onto the iPod by posing as Apple FairPlay files. In testimony, Steve Jobs called RealPlayer's move "a hack" and there was considerable discussion at the time.

Submission + - iPod DRM lawsuit might be dismissed: Plaintiffs didn't own affected iPods (slashgear.com)

UnknowingFool writes: The lawsuit involving Apple and iTunes DRM may be thrown out because the plaintiffs did not own the iPods for which they are suing. The lawsuit covers iPods for the time period between September of 2006 and March of 2009. When Apple checked the serial numbers of the iPods of the plaintiffs, it appears they were not manufactured during this time. One plaintiff did purchase an iPod in 2005 and in 2010 and has withdrawn from the suit. The second plaintiff's iPod was manufactured in July 2009 but claims purchasing another iPod in 2008. Since the two plaintiffs were the only ones in the suit, the case may be dismissed for lack of standing.

Submission + - Microsoft shows off Windows 10 (techradar.com)

UnknowingFool writes: Today Microsoft unveiled the next version of their OS but it will be called Windows 10 instead of 9. No reason on the skip in version numbers but Microsoft hasn't been known for their consistent naming conventions before. Windows 10 will be "mobile-first, cloud-first world" and operate both tablets and desktops. Some considerations however have been given for desktop users with Windows 7 type features. Also a feature called Continuum will change the UI depending if the user is in desktop mode or tablet mode. It is due to be released in spring 2015

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