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Comment No, comrades, it's doubleplusgood (Score 3, Informative) 251

... at least, according to the people who stand to make $160 million over the next two years "fighting propaganda" by reading blogs and blacklisting any they disagree with.

Fortunately, they won't come for Slashdot. This is News for Nerds, we never discuss things like politics or rights or surveillance...

Comment Question from the final debate (Score 1) 1321

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you.

Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you -- his words -- "will absolutely accept the result of this election." Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

Perhaps he should've asked Clinton that question?

Comment Re:Interesting, but probably irrelevant (Score 1) 121

It's not about possession, it's about who's in control of the "make a copy" process.

So if I first ask my girlfriend to make me a mix CD, then I become party to her copyright infringement, but if she just does it of her own accord I'm fine?

Yes. It's called induced infringement - where you induce another to infringe on your behalf.
The rest of your questions have the same answer.

Comment Re:Interesting, but probably irrelevant (Score 1) 121

I was under the impression that downloading is illegal, but uploading is not, and that is why it is handled in civil, not criminal, court. Is that correct?

Nope, both are illegal, both criminally and civilly. Specifically, 15 USC 504 has civil remedies for copyright infringement, including both copying and distribution. 15 USC 506 has criminal punishments for copyright infringement, including both copying and distribution. The difference? The criminal penalties only attach when the infringement was committed "for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain"; "by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180–day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000"; or "by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution."

For most casual sharing, it's not for private financial gain, so the first one is out. It's also not usually totaling over $1000... but watch out, because many people's upload or shared folder can frequently approach that. And it's rarely a leaked pre-release work, though that does happen too. So, generally, most people don't run into criminal copyright infringement (it tends to be more counterfeiters), but it could happen.

Comment Re:Thought. (Score 2) 121

Normally I don't respond to ACs, but this is a good question:

Find a torrent you want to investigate.

Join that torrent. Don't seed. Just advertise you have the whole thing.

Log any requests, but serve up bum content; fail checksums, or hit protocol errors, simply time out, seed bad data at 1B/s, whatever. You're not giving that tacit license, since you're not feeding proper data.

It's a good thought, but there's the problem - you're not serving up the copyrighted work, so therefore, you don't know that the accused recipients downloaded the copyrighted work... and in fact, you explicitly know that they didn't, because they got crap. Like, if I record myself farting into a microphone for five minutes and then upload it to a network with the label "Creed - new hot single!.mp3", even though you may not be able to tell the difference when you download it, I couldn't sue you for copyright infringement of Creed's new song, because I know for a fact that you didn't make a copy of Creed's new song.

So, yeah, by uploading bad content, you don't give an implied license to the good content, but you also can't be sure you're finding anyone who got the good content.

Comment Re:Interesting, but probably irrelevant (Score 2) 121

Is the recipient of a mix CD a copyright infringer? If not, it doesn't make any sense that a downloader would be either.

The one who started out in possession of the media, made and distributed a copy of it, is violating the right to control copying and distribution, i.e. copyright.

It's not about possession, it's about who's in control of the "make a copy" process. If I put something on a server, and you (via your computer) send a GET request, then you're initiating the copying. If you don't have a license to do that, then you're infringing copyright. I may also be infringing copyright by distributing it - it's not a you xor me requirement.
So, this becomes:

Someone who started out with nothing, and directed a system to make them a copy, distributed nothing, but ends up in possession of something that someone else illegally copied and distributed, has done what exactly that violates what law?

Directly infringed copyright, and the law is 15 USC 101 et seq.

Comment Interesting, but probably irrelevant (Score 5, Insightful) 121

Downloading music or movies without a license has always been copyright infringement, just like uploading or sharing them. However, the labels only go after uploaders for a few different reasons:
First, technically, it's difficult to identify a leecher or someone who only downloads - due to the nature of file transfers and how the various protocols work, you can easily discover uploaders and download complete copies from them (e.g. by finding Napster hosts, bittorrent seeders, etc., and then blocking transfers from everyone except your 'target'). To discover a leecher, however, you have to be a seeder or host and wait for them to download the file from you. And with so many other seeders out there for any file, that doesn't happen often.
Second, even if you did manage to get someone to download the file from you, if you're the copyright owner or acting on the copyright owner's behalf, you put the file online for public distribution! So the downloader can easily argue that they have at least an implied license from you, and they actually obtained a legal copy. Ooops.
Third, even if somehow you get over those two hurdles, a leecher actually can use the "a download only costs 99 cents, so the actual damages due to my infringement are tiny" argument to mitigate the label's giant statutory damage request. This doesn't work for uploaders who are distributing copies, as a distribution license typically costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the work (Michael Jackson paid about $45k each for the distribution licenses for several hundred Beatles songs back in the 1980s, for example). But a mere downloader isn't distributing to anyone.
And finally, though it would be illegal and unethical, if you were accused of downloading something, you could rush out and buy a copy of it with cash, and then claim you were just legally format shifting (albeit by proxy). Maybe your proxy that you got it from is liable for infringement due to their distribution, but if you can legally rip your own CDs for archival purposes, then simply using someone else's drive (and computer, and network connection) to do it shouldn't create liability for you.

So, yeah, could a label go after a mere downloader for infringement? Absolutely, and that's always been true. Are they going to do so, and potentially spend millions knowing they're going to run into those four potentially insurmountable barriers? Hell, no. Not when moviebuff6969 is seeding 50 films on bittorrent.

Disclaimer: I am an IP lawyer, but I'm not your IP lawyer. This is not legal advice, but is purely for (my own) entertainment purposes.

Comment Re:Well, there goes the 4th Amendment again... (Score 1) 204

The bigger issue is that they wanted to search an opaque bag. For no reason other than they were curious. Then when it's opened, and shows cards, again, they wanted to search, for no reason other than curiosity.

Partly yes, partly no. They wanted to search an opaque bag because they were curious. They had no right to do so... until the driver handed the cops the bag and told them that it contained gift cards he had purchased for cash off another individual, giving them (i) reasonable articulable suspicion that these were counterfeit cards, and more importantly (ii) implicit consent. It's even in the opinion:

Turner agrees that by handing the bag to the officer in response to his question about its contents, Henderson consented to the officer’s initial seizure of, and look inside, the bag.

At that point, the cops can most certainly open the bag, see the cards and, per (i) above, check if they were counterfeit.

If the driver said, "I don't consent to any searches" and shut up, they wouldn't have either (i) or (ii).

Comment Re:One month every four years. (Score 1) 294

Thus, to have Judge Haldane Mayer do an about-face on Software Patents is Huuuge, in part because of the influence the Federal Court of Appeals has on lower courts, but mostly since it shows that learning can take place at that level, when presented with cogent arguments.

Perhaps there is hope, after all.

It certainly is a good sign. The Alice ruling is key since it provides him with a basis for his opinion and the Appeals Court can use the SCOTUS decision and clarify and extend the boundaries of what is not patentable. Ultimately SCOTUS may have to weigh in on the boundaries established by the Appeals Court and say yay or nay. Which wold be good since there would be more clarity around patent law.

Not if they do it in the way Thomas did in Alice Corp.: "In any event, we need not labor to delimit the precise contours of the "abstract ideas" category in this case."
"We know it when we see it" is not good law.

Comment Re:OMFH!!! (Score 1) 294

Any half-assed hacker can reverse engineer your code

Reverse engineering is, in fact, one of the hardest forms of engineering and projects that reverse engineer are generally filled with some of the smartest brains we have- because it's very hard. You think the wine devs are idiots ? Yet it took them more than decade to get out of alpha !

Part of that, mind you, was because they had little to no money and were working part time. How do you think Zynga cranks out their own versions of whatever the hot new game on the App store is in two weeks? Because they've got a team of a dozen full-time paid programmers reverse engineering the code.
Perhaps OP's hyperbole should be toned down to "any company with sufficient resources and motivation can reverse engineer your code," which, I'm sure you'll agree, is true.

>He can then replicate your software in 1/10th the time it took you to develop your software

If what my software does is so simple that somebody can replicate it in 1/10th the time it took me to do it - then he's the better programmer and he deserves to win in the market place. My best defense, in fact, is to use a free software license in the first place - so it's to his benefit to rather add his features to *my* product where we can both profit than to go and create his own.

Use a free license so you can both profit? What are you going to do, make it up in volume? \_()_/
Your best defense is a patent, though you may not like them for various moral reasons. Regardless of legitimate complaints about patent abuse and patent trolling, patents are useful when a giant company swoops in and blatantly steals a feature from a small company and says, "what are you going to do, sue us?" Microsoft learned that from lesson from i4i.

You must be truly incompetent as a programmer if you are *this* afraid to compete on the merits of your product - that even with a first-to-market advantage you are this convinced any "half-assed-hacker" can make something better than you did...

Or OP's a competent programmer, but in an industry that lacks proprietary format lock-in and where the market is quick and fickle. Like, say, mobile games. NimbleBit certainly weren't incompetent programmers, but their first-to-market advantage didn't help them against Zynga's giant cross-marketing arm. Nor did Liam Bowmers, creator of Castle Clout, see a dime for Angry Birds.
As noted above, a company with the resources to devote can reverse engineer your product within a couple weeks. More difficult product that you've been working on for years to solve problems? They'll just hire more engineers. Your first to market advantage is going to be negligible, because your head start will be tiny, and they can spend lots of money on marketing, since they don't have to pay people for years to solve the problems you did when they can just take your solution.

exactly the the reason patents exist

No. That is not at all why patents exist. The reason patents exist is right there in the law. To promote open disclosure of how an invention works. Quite the opposite of what you think - it's to make sure you will have MORE competitors than you otherwise would. The reward for letting the world copy your invention, is having a brief time where nobody is allowed to.

Here, we're in agreement. The point of patents is to encourage people to give up trade secrets. Otherwise, we would end up with crappy proprietary format lock-in, intrusive DRM, and highly restrictive licenses like the one AutoCAD uses to keep people from selling older copies of their software.

One of the major problems with software patents it the absolute lack of disclosure actually - I've yet to read a software patent include full source for an implementation of the idea - and nothing less than a working source implementation can count as 'blueprints' for a software program.

I would agree, except that I'd say flow charts and pseudocode should be sufficient as blueprints. I'd also point out that, once a patent application has been filed for, an inventor is free to release white papers, functional specifications, source code, etc., without losing any rights. The original patent for Brunelleschi's merchant boat didn't include any details in the patent - it did, however, include a legal requirement that he was to separately teach everyone how to build it. Patents in many ways are like land deeds - they're written in formal language to sketch out the boundaries of a claimed invention - but you wouldn't rely on the land deed to build a house.

That said, the patent office and courts could be much better at enforcing the written disclosure requirements.

Hey it's first-to-file - who gives a fuck that she died after spending 50 years 'inventing' romance novels before I got the patent right ?

First to file didn't change anything about rules of inventorship. It simply changed the case where two inventors independently create the same thing at the same time and both file identical patents. Know how rare that is? There were about 20 interferences per year, out of half a million patent applications. And they cost hundreds of thousands to resolve. First to file simply reduces that to a black and white decision, rather than a trial.

That would be mathematics. Which is, in fact, a language - and unpatentable all by itself anyway. You may want to study computing theory - if you think software is anything but NOT pure and unadulterated mathematics on every level it's because you don't actually know what software is. Only what we try very hard to make it pretend to be.

Machines can be easily abstracted to pure and unadulterated mathematics, too, but no one would say a transmission is unpatentable because you can describe it in gear ratios.
Pure software is unpatentable. Software implemented by a machine, however, is no longer just mathematics - like the transmission, it's a bunch of interconnected parts configured to produce a particular result.

No, 'technology' consists of real, physical things - machines and devices. Processing steps - a completely abstract set of ideas is not and has never been patentable, software was an abberation in this regard - and the Alice verdict was basically the supreme court telling you just that.

35 USC 101 defines patent eligible subject matter, and uses the term "process", which is a set of steps. Processes have always been patentable in this country, and the Supreme Court certainly did not say they weren't or that software wasn't patentable in Alice Corp. They said that some attempts to claim processes were too abstract (and Alice wasn't on software anyway, but double book accounting). In fact, the word "software" doesn't appear even once in the Alice decision. And a bunch of software has been patented since, and the Supreme Court just denied appeals from a bunch of patent eligibility cases, confirming patentability of software in some of them.

Alice Corp involved a terrible patent. But that doesn't mean that by invalidating it, the Supreme Court threw out all patents.

So what are you ? Patent lawyer ? Patent troll ? Since those are the *only* people who have ever benefited from software patents. No programmer has ever found them anything but a massive risk. No programmer has ever benefited from them. Many have been bankrupted by them - but it wasn't usually other programmers bankrupting them.

Don't know about OP, but I'm an engineer and a patent lawyer. And I've got many clients who rely on patents to protect their businesses. Maybe some programmer in a cubicle working for them might think patents have no value... but if that programmer's work could be easily copied by every competitor, then the programmer has no value to the company.

If we used a graphical flowchart based system to describe software You may actually get a little closer to at least properly disclosing the invention - it wouldn't solve the other problems. Oh and graphical flowcharts used to be the standard way we designed software until not so long ago. We ditched them because they don't work very well - especially for stuff like parallel execution where you could have dozens of lines on the chart all being followed at once...

Every patent application on software includes at least one flow chart. Problem is that the patent office just said "include a flow chart, and you're okay", rather than "include a detailed flow chart that you could hand to a programmer and say 'build this'," which is what they should have said, under 35 USC 112. As I said above, we agree that the disclosure requirements aren't being sufficiently enforced.

Nope software has never been patentable and never will be. It was a massive legal fuckup to pretend they were, perpetrated by a court of people who - whatever their merits as judges - were idiots at technology who could barely tell the difference between software and magic - let alone fairly adjudicate whether this is patentable technology or not. Because courts and legal systems are slow beasts, and precedent is a thing - it took decades for judges to start figuring out they had made a mistake and finally start fixing it.

Hundreds of what you'd call software patents are being issued every day, and judges are upholding them. I think you're going to have to eat that "never has been and never will be" statement.
Incidentally, your arguments are nothing new. Every new industry throughout history has complained about patents - people said that automobile patents shouldn't exist, aerospace patents shouldn't exist, textile patents shouldn't exist, small molecule pharmaceutical patents shouldn't exist, etc.. This has all been done before, and will be done again.

Comment Car with funny looking thing on top goes wrong way (Score 3, Interesting) 254

From a distance he couldn't tell whether the car was driving itself, or its human operator had made a mistake. Stachelek took out his phone in time to shoot a brief video of Uber's vehicle backing up and driving away, then uploaded it to Facebook. "Driverless car went down a one way the wrong way," he wrote. "Driver had to turn car around."

Well, was it driverless or did it have a driver? If it had a driver, was the driver in control? Which would make it just a funny looking car and a confused human operator?

Verdict: meh.

Comment Re:Also kicks out scores from third party purchase (Score 1) 85

Isn't that a good thing though? If you didn't by the game on Steam, why should you be able to contribute to the rating on Steam? Amazon does the same thing, it's called a verified purchase. To allow anything else is opening up the system for abuse.

It's still a verified purchase... You get a Steam key on Humble (and other stores) that you then have to redeem at Steam, download the game from Steam, launch the game via Steam, etc. Steam sure as hell knows you have the game.

Comment Re:Also kicks out scores from third party purchase (Score 4, Interesting) 85

one of my initial thoughts as well.

I suppose a better way to deal with the problem is to throw out reviews that are tied to a clearly inactive steam account.

A person who actually uses steam will have recorded play histories and times. A bullshit ratings inflation service will have hundreds of dummy accounts that they use to inflate ratings with, and little to nothing else. If those accounts need actual play history, especially recent play history (given valve's stated goals with this to capture changing ratings over time), then the cost of these ratings inflation services will balloon.

That suggests an idea that they should be doing already, with data they already have access to: rather than providing a single rating score (or even two with "recent" and "overall"), provide a graph of average rating vs. time played. If the average score among people who've played it less than 20 minutes is 4 stars, but the average score among people who've played it two hours is 2 stars, that's a lot more indicative of rating inflation and what the real game is like... Conversely, if the average score among short-term users is low, but the score shoots up among people who stick with it, that may indicate a difficult learning curve that most people give up on, or may indicate that it's a niche title only for users really into that genre, etc., etc. Either way, it would be very useful information to have.

Comment Also kicks out scores from third party purchasers (Score 5, Insightful) 85

... it does not include reviews written by those who obtained the product through a Steam key. What this means is that reviews penned by those who got a game after backing it on Kickstarter, for example, or via a developer's website, do not affect the Steam user review score. Again, the thinking behind this change is sound. Valve knows that some developers were gaming the system -- that is, they were giving keys to friends or shady paid services in exchange for positive reviews.

Although certainly a valiant effort, one unintended result is that it will ignore reviews from people who purchase keys via Humble Bundle or other third-party stores. Perhaps that's a negligible portion of the total, but for some games, it may not be. For example, Humble frequently puts up indie bundles for a few dollars, including games that many people wouldn't necessarily buy individually on Steam (because of, for example, the lack of reviews). But at $10 for two games you want and three you've never heard of, you figure, why not? If you end up liking one of those games, your review won't matter... again making it difficult for hidden gems to get a foothold.

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