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Stop the Copyright Creep: New Restrictions are Not the Answer to the Challenges of Digital Publishing - Sat, 09/04/2016 - 05:51

Publishers are seeking to expand the copyright restrictions they can impose on news platforms, in the latest example of a phenomenon known as “copyright creep.” That kind of creep happens when lawmakers lose sight of the central purpose of copyright: to ultimately grow the cultural commons by ensuring that authors and their heirs can collect compensation for specific uses of their works. In line with that purpose, copyright is not a fundamental right so much as a bundle of restrictions we allow creators to impose for limited times, subject to numerous exceptions such as fair use which are intended to ensure that those restrictions don't impede new expression and innovation. Copyright creep undermines that a delicate balance.

In essence, copyright creep is an effort to expand copyright restrictions and/or allowing new parties to impose them in new ways. For example, civil law countries such as Europe and Latin America, may allow people who aren't traditional rightholders to exercise copyright-like restrictions, calling them “related rights” (or “neighboring rights”), as distinct from “authors' rights.” In the United States, we are more likely to give traditional rightholders new powers, such as the ability to sue people who circumvent technological protections on a work.  These experiments are dangerous: copyright and related rights are powerful tools, and the farther they reach the more likely they are to cause collateral damage to speech and innovation.

We've written previous posts explaining the dangers of extending copyright powers --including the effective power to veto or censor a work -- to performers and broadcasters. This post turns our focus to the case of publishers, and particularly to that of press publishers, who are the latest in a line of claimants throwing their political weight behind the copyright creep.

Press Publishers in Europe Demand New Restrictions

Just as efforts to extend the copyright term began in Europe, so too have efforts by press publishers to acquire new copyright-like powers. The European Commission has opened a public consultation on whether new related rights should be afforded to press publishers, to buffer them against the economic upheaval they are experiencing with the move to digital. This upheaval—which is quite real—has seen circulation numbers of printed publications fall, as readers turn to online sources for news. The funding models that support these online sources are different, and presently less lucrative for publishers, than traditional newspaper publishing.

The suggestion that these challenges could be addressed by changes to copyright law follows upon the introduction of laws in Germany and Spain to impose new restrictions known as “ancillary copyright.” These laws require payment to news publishers when excerpts accompanying links to their stories are published by third-party online aggregators, such as Google through its Google News service. Such brief excerpts would normally be free of copyright restrictions, under national copyright exceptions for quotation or fair dealing; ancillary copyright laws override this with new restrictions that uniquely benefits news publishers.

However, these laws have swiftly proved a monumental failure. In Germany's case, publishers waived their new powers when the alternative was that Google would simply stop publishing excerpts from their news stories, thereby cutting off their most important source of traffic. In Spain, lawmakers thought they could prevent a similar result by prohibiting news publishers from waiving their entitlement to compensation. But this tactic dramatically backfired, to the detriment of both users and publishers alike, when Google simply withdrew its Google News service from Spain altogether.

It is quite unclear why a similar Europe-wide law would achieve different results, nor why news publishers, alone, should be the beneficiaries of a special override to the balance that copyright law strikes, carved out from the public's right of quotation or fair dealing.

But from the publishers' point of view, their reasoning is quite simple—if music producers and performers, and most recently audiovisual performers, have gained new special neighboring rights of their own, why not them too? And, indeed, the more copyright creeps outward to include ever more beneficiaries, the more difficult it becomes to answer why one more beneficiary should be excluded.

Once we lose sight of the guiding principle that copyright is an incentive for promoting creativity, there is no clear reason why news publishers can't demand special payments from others in the value chain. Like the call for special broadcasters' rights, it simply becomes another arbitrary demand for special interest regulations to prop up a powerful industry that finds its established business models threatened by technological change.

We don't mean to minimize the challenges that news publishers face—adapting to change is a tough ask; those who are quick to innovate may benefit (Medium, Buzzfeed) while others (Life, the New Republic) struggle and may fall. In the face of such struggle, it is natural for news publishers to seek a lifeline. (We see exactly the same behavior in other creative sectors also—for example, the strongest opposition to the European Commission's plans to dismantle artificial national borders that restrict cross-border licensing of audiovisual content has come from filmmakers, whose business model relies on old-fashioned country-by-country licensing deals.)

But the answer to the challenges of technological change is not denial, but adaptation. The successful business models that characterize today's content market today—such as iTunes and Netflix—would not have come into being at all if new special interest regulations had been raised to protect incumbent music and movie publishers against Internet-based competition. Neither should news publishers be offered such protections that discriminate against nimble-footed competitors.

If there is ever a case for the introduction of new copyright-like restrictions, news publishers haven't made that case out. We fully agree that publishers should be recompensed for their work. However, it's quite a stretch from recognizing the value of that work, to rewarding endowing them with separate legal powers that operate as an arbitrary tax on Internet platforms. Existing copyright law is already designed to enable news publishers to compete on a level playing field with other content publishers. We must strongly resist calls by interest groups to augment it with new restrictions that benefit them alone.

The European Commission's consultation on new rights for press publishers, which is also a consultation on the possible European extension of the “panorama exception” that permits photography of public works of art and architecture, will remain open until June 15.

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The Burr-Feinstein Proposal Is Simply Anti-Security - Sat, 09/04/2016 - 05:09

Sens. Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein recently released a draft bill forcing nearly all U.S. companies to decrypt any encrypted data they may handle. Specifically, it would place a new, sweepingly broad duty on device manufacturers, software developers, ISPs, online services and others to decrypt encrypted data or offer “such technical assistance as is necessary” if ordered to do so by any court anywhere in the country.

The draft reflects an ignorance of everyday computer security practices that safeguard your devices and information from criminals. As currently written, the draft likely even outlaws forward secrecy, an innovative security feature that many major tech providers, including WhatsApp, have implemented to limit the damage to user privacy in the event encryption keys are compromised.

The draft shows how out of touch Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Sens. Burr and Feinstein are with the needs of the American people. Millions of Americans suffer the loss, theft, or compromise of intimate communications, trade secrets, and identities each year. We desperately need more security, not less. Yet this bill would strongly discourage companies from providing it. The draft should never be introduced in a bill and should never advance in the Senate. 

It's also unclear why this bill was drafted for the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee does not have jurisdiction over this issue, and similar bills—like the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)—were overseen by the Judiciary and Commerce Committees. 

Despite being in a golden age of surveillance, the senators are pushing Congress to destroy fundamental aspects of computer security. We already use encryption every day to protect our devices from criminals, ensure the privacy of our communications, and protect routine online transactions. Forcing companies to undermine their products will stifle the very innovation that built the American tech industry. American innovators and companies will just lose out since foreign companies will still be offering these protections to their users. 

We have no doubt that the Intelligence Committee will try to pass this draft out of committee behind closed doors and without any public input. That's why we urge senators to oppose cosponsoring, or otherwise voting on advancing the measure.

In the coming weeks, we'll be calling on our community of digital rights supporters to join us in fighting back against this draft bill, or one that looks anything like it. Our goal is clear: stopping Burr-Feinstein and safeguarding the future of security for all Americans.

Speak out against the Burr-Feinstein proposal

Related Cases: Bernstein v. US Department of JusticeApple Challenges FBI: All Writs Act Order (CA)
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The California Bill to Undermine Smartphone Encryption Actually Got Worse - Sat, 09/04/2016 - 04:33

State lawmakers recently introduced some misguided changes to California’s Assembly Bill 1681, which would require that manufacturers and operating system providers be able to decrypt smartphones sold in the state. On first glance, the amendment to A.B. 1681 might seem to address some of EFF’s previous criticisms, but the new version actually makes an already bad bill even worse. EFF has signed on to a new letter in opposition to the bill, and you can still join our action calling on lawmakers to vote against it. 

The bill’s authors explain that A.B. 1681 is intended to prevent smartphone encryption from thwarting law enforcement investigations by ensuring that companies whose phones are sold in California can decrypt them if ordered to do so. An earlier version would have required that phones be decryptable “at the time of sale” by imposing a civil penalty of $2,500 per device on any company knowingly selling a phone that could not be decrypted. In current form, though, the bill instead penalizes companies if they are “unable to decrypt the contents of the smartphone pursuant to a state court order.”

To be clear, EFF will oppose any law that has the intent or effect of undermining encryption, so this amendment can’t get at the root problem. No legislative “solution” can change the technical consensus that requiring third parties to maintain the ability to decrypt user data is a bad idea, whether that’s in the context of full disk encryption (FDE) of smartphones or end-to-end encryption of messaging platforms.

Nevertheless, this amendment makes A.B. 1681 noticeably worse. Currently, companies like Apple and Google offer FDE by default for smartphones running their respective operating systems. Because FDE on iOS and Android precludes the companies (and anyone else who doesn’t hold the key) from decrypting phones, the earlier version of the bill would have forced them to change this default and turn FDE off at the time of sale. But it might not have required removing FDE as a feature altogether, so users could have enabled it after purchase without subjecting anyone to penalty.

But by linking liability to a court order, the new version puts companies on the hook indefinitely. Apple cannot even sell an iPhone with FDE off by default because a user might then enable it, preventing Apple from complying with a court’s decryption order at some point in the future. (Not such a stretch, as hypotheticals go.) The only way Apple can avoid the possibility of the penalty is to not offer FDE at all. Arguably, companies might have to go even further and take steps to prevent users from even installing third party applications that offer these features, although even iOS is routinely jailbroken.

Of course, the law wouldn’t directly outlaw encryption; rather it uses the prospect of fines to force companies to comply. Some have argued that $2,500 per phone is pocket change to companies like Apple and Google, even though they’d be prohibited from passing the cost onto consumers. But this is a criticism of the bill’s effectiveness, not its operation. The way the new version of A.B. 1681 uses monetary penalties is tantamount to a ban on full disk encryption. In addition, the bill explicitly allows for other penalties, so courts could impose a $2,500 penalty as well as contempt for failure to comply with their underlying orders.

No matter how A.B. 1681 tries to accomplish its goal of undermining smartphone encryption, it should be stopped. Take action and tell lawmakers not to support this misguided bill.

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Over a Year Later, EFF Granted Leave to Intervene in Patent Case - Sat, 09/04/2016 - 02:38
Fight to Make Documents Public Continues

In December, 2014, EFF asked a court to allow it to intervene in a patent case so that we could formally request that certain documents in the court record be unsealed and made available to the public. Yesterday, EFF’s motion to intervene was granted. Our motion to unseal is now pending.

It has been a long road to get even this minor victory. EFF asked the court for permission to intervene almost 1.5 years ago. In a July 2015 order, the court denied EFF’s motion, finding it moot in light of the fact that it decided to unseal some (but not all) documents. We objected to that order last August, and yesterday, the Court reversed itself and allowed EFF to intervene.

This is only a first step in getting the information that the public is almost surely entitled to receive. The patent owner is being given the opportunity to oppose our motion to unseal, and the Court will then have to rule on the issue. In the meantime, the document EFF is seeking to make public—the patent owner’s legal arguments as to why defendant State Farm infringed—is still not public. (State Farm previously told the court that no confidential information about its products is found in the document and that it thinks it should be public.)

Document sealing is a major problem in patent lawsuits. Parties routinely seal everything and anything, possibly because that is simply easier for them. Although EFF understands that certain material may be properly kept from public view, too often we see everything sealed without good reason. This practice frustrates the public’s First Amendment right to access court proceedings. Moreover, as this case proves, it effectively places a burden on the public if they want to exercise this right.

EFF has put significant time and effort into getting this one document in one case unsealed. Unfortunately, it is just one of countless documents that are routinely sealed without good reason in patent cases around the country. Just last week we asked the court in a different patent case to unseal documents that almost surely should not have been completely hidden from public view.

As we wrote when we originally filed our first motion in 2014, improper sealing can be used to make it more difficult to figure out whether a party is making inconsistent statements. Sealing can also make it difficult for a defendant to figure out whether it has certain defenses, such as exhaustion (i.e. the accused products and methods are already licensed). And in this case, sealing prevents the public from understanding what the patent owner believes it owns, thereby preventing the public from designing around the patent or more importantly, figuring out whether they are at risk of a patent lawsuit.

Neither EFF nor the public should have to expend significant time and effort to access court documents as courts are presumptively open. We hope through our publicity of this issue we can help the courts, the parties, and the public better understand how oversealing is harmful.

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UK Prime Minister Cameron Admitted Evading Taxes - Sat, 09/04/2016 - 02:23
UK Prime Minister Cameron Admitted Evading Taxes
by Stephen Lendman
He profited from his late father’s Panama tax haven account, selling shares valued 31,500 pounds before becoming prime minister in 2010 - without declaring 19,000 pounds in capital gains for tax purposes.
His claim about not knowing if 300,000 pounds he inherited from his father benefitted from tax avoidance rang hollow.
He danced around the issue for days after Panama Papers documents implicated his father, giving one evasive explanation after another, including saying “I don’t have anything to hide.” 
Exposed deception proved him a liar. What other Cameron wealth might be hidden in tax haven accounts? Is he a greater tax cheat than now known?
What about his family members, wealthy cronies, other high-net-worth public and private figures in Europe and America? 
How many Western heads of state, other government officials and corporate ones hide their wealth offshore, free from taxes - while demanding ordinary people pay theirs?
In October 2014, Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne twittered “(t)ax evasion is not just illegal it’s immoral. People evading tax should be treated same as common thieves.”
How he’s handling his boss’ corruption isn’t known. Others want him out. Former London Mayor Ken Livingston demanded he step down, calling him the “most hypocritical prime minister of my lifetime,” his administration “the most damaging” to Britain’s least advantage.
His “government (since taking office in 2010) has been about a small elite getting rich while the poorer get left behind.”
“He shouldn’t just resign. He should be sent to prison.” Livingston accused his late father, Ian, of laundering money tax-free through Panama for 30 years. “And then (son David) was in denial, refusing to be honest about all of this.”
On March 20, a petition began circulating in Britain, calling for Cameron and Osborne to resign, saying:
“Recent events have exposed just how dangerous and corrupt this current UK government is.” 
“Their own colleagues (turned) against them on their continuing mistreatment of the vulnerable in UK society while handing out breaks to the better off. Our current Prime Minister and Chancellor are not fit for office.”
“Continued cuts to infrastructure, the NHS and the biggest sale of public assets to private investors since records began have brought the UK to tipping point.” 
“Repeated falsehoods covering the real agenda of this current cabinet have now been exposed, and the people of the UK are sick of the lies, the corruption and the dismantling of the welfare state as an ideological exercise for political and financial interests.” 
“We, the people of the UK demand the resignation of those responsible: David Cameron and George Osborne.”
The petition was rejected on grounds of not being about a specific issue, not meeting “petition standards.”
Most often, crimes in the suites and halls of government go unpunished. Ordinary people aren’t so privileged.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Clinton/Sanders Call Each Other Unfit to Be President - Sat, 09/04/2016 - 02:07
Clinton/Sanders Call Each Other Unfit to Be President
by Stephen Lendman
They’re both right, maybe the first honest assessment expressed by any duopoly aspirant since campaigning began last year.
Trump ad hominem attacks on other Republican candidates throughout the campaign are in a category of their own - along with similar retorts directed at him.
Clinton and Sanders went at it ahead of the April 19 New York primary. Clinton said “I think he hadn’t done his homework, and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood.”
Asked if Sanders is a “real Democrat, she said “I’m not even sure he is one (even though) he’s running as one.”
On whether he’s qualified, she said “what he has been saying about the core issue in his whole campaign doesn’t seem to be rooted in an understanding of either the law or the practical ways you get something done.” 
“And I will leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job that the country needs, who can do all aspects of the job, both on the economic domestic issues and on national security and foreign policy.”
Raising these issues amounts to calling Sanders unfit for the nation’s top job without saying it in so many words directly.
Sanders minced no words, saying “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is - through her Super PAC - taking in tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds.”
“I don’t think that you are qualified if you get 15 million dollars from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq.” 
“I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs.”
Sanders ignored his own deplorable record, voting with Democrats 98% of the time, supporting the rape of Yugoslavia, all US post-9/11 wars except 2003 Bush aggression on Iraq - then opposed impeaching him and Obama for war crimes.
The real issue for voters is why they support any duopoly candidate for any political office, especially the nation’s highest.
No matter who succeeds Obama, government of, by and for its privileged few exclusively will continue, concerns of ordinary people ignored.
Bipartisan neocons infesting Washington headed by Clinton as president may launch WW III.
Ballot box change is unattainable. America’s political process is too venal to fix. Voting is a waste of time. 
The only solution is grassroots revolution. Nothing else can work.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Remembering Quentin Young: Physician, Human Rights Champion - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 21:51
Remembering Quentin Young: Physician, Human Rights Champion
by Stephen Lendman
On March 7, he died at his daughter’s home in Berkeley, CA at age 92. Cook County Health & Hospitals System executive medical director, Dr. Claudia Fegan, called him “a giant in public health.”
He was “a radical, a rebel, a tiger for social justice,” explained health consultant Michael Gelder.
He attended the University of Chicago, performed military service during WW II, received his MD from Northwestern Medical School in 1948.
In the 1950s, he worked to desegregate Chicago hospitals. In the early 1960s, he co-founded the Medical Committee for Human Rights.
Chicagoans like myself remember his passion for social justice, notably universal healthcare he championed for many years.
He was an honored guest on my Progressive Radio News Hour, discussing his advocacy for universal healthcare at length, a passion we both share.
In 2008, he retired from private practice after 61 years, serving in numerous capacities throughout his long career - treating ordinary people with the same dedication as notables like Martin Luther King, famed author Studs Terkel, Mayor Harold Washington, and the Beatles, among many others.
His partner, Dr. David Scheiner, was Obama’s personal physician during his Chicago years before becoming president.
He was a founding member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), was Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center. 
In 1964, he founded and served as national chairman of the Medical Committee for Human Rights - established to provide free healthcare for civil rights workers, community activists and summer volunteers during Freedom Summer in Mississippi - a volunteer social justice campaign to help state African Americans, including registering them to vote for the first time.
He was chairman of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group he founded in 1980, served as American Public Health Association president.
He appeared regularly on air and at public events championing universal healthcare, calling it “the only solution…no longer the best one.” 
“All other alternatives have been proven disastrous failures” - including Obamacare designed by health industry giants for their self-enrichment, at the expense of full and equal treatment for everyone.
He once said he championed “unpopular causes,” later becoming mainstream ones. 
Ralph Nader called him “a physician for all seasons - for his patients, for public health facilities, for workplace safety, and for full Medicare for all people with free choice of doctors and hospitals.”
In retirement, he continued working tirelessly for universal healthcare - everyone given world-class care when needed, no one left out or treated unequally.
Noting his passing, PNHP president Dr. Robert Zarr highlighted “his deep commitment to social justice and racial equality, his quick wit, his insuppressible optimism, his personal courage, and his ability to inspire those around him to join him in the battle for a more equitable and caring world.”
In his 2013 autobiography, titled “Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause,” he wrote:
“From my adolescent years to the present, I've never wavered in my belief in humanity's ability - and our collective responsibility - to bring about a more just and equitable social order.” 
“I’ve always believed in humanity's potential to create a more caring society.”
“That viewpoint has infused my relations with family, friends, patients and medical colleagues. It's been a lifelong, driving force to promote equality and the common good…”
“I’ve spent a lifetime trying to help others. (It’s been a) deeply rewarding career. Few people have such good fortune.”
He added his “work is unfinished.” He’s survived by three daughters, two sons, a stepdaughter, a stepson, nine grandchildren and five step-grandchildren.
He called being part of the human race an obligation to serve it. He’s sorely missed.
Speaking at my June 14, 1956 commencement, Jack Kennedy said “if more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live…”
If more politicians and others were like Quentin, imagine how much better.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Resumption of Farcical Syrian Peace Talks Delayed - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 21:43
Resumption of Farcical Syrian Peace Talks Delayed
by Stephen Lendman
Two weeks of proximity talks accomplished nothing. Nor will months more with US/Saudi terrorist groups representing the opposition.
Assad rightfully vows to combat all armed groups killing Syrians until the nation is freed from their scourge.
Liberation requires a military, not diplomatic, solution because no legitimate peace partner is represented in talks.
Pro-Western mediator (sic) Staffan de Mistura announced scheduled April 9 or 10 talks delayed until April 13. 
Saying they’re intended to achieve “a real beginning of a political transition” defies justice for long-suffering Syrians, wanting no foreign elements compromising their sovereign rights.
Peace is unattainable through diplomacy because Washington and its rogue allies want war. US/Saudi-backed opposition terrorist groups want Syrian sovereign independence replaced by jihadist tyranny.
Meanwhile, conflict rages. Syrian forces aided by Russia’s aerial campaign keep making steady gains, retaking earlier lost territory.
A major operation is underway to free areas of Aleppo still held by terrorist fighters. ISIS elements attacked Kurdish YPG forces and civilians with chemical weapons in Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood - killing around two dozen, injuring scores more.
Jaysh al-Islam is part of the US/Saudi supported High Negotiations Committee (HRC) - a terrorist group responsible for gruesome atrocities.
Its fighters were involved in the Sheikh Maqsood attack, firing mortars containing toxic agents. The YPG confirmed what happened, calling it launched “under the patronage of Turkey.”
Russia and Syria oppose Jaysh al-Islam political leader Mohammed Alloush’s participation in peace talks - acting as chief opposition negotiator, making them farcical with him and likeminded elements involved.
The group shelled Damascus residential areas, including Russia’s embassy, Sergey Lavrov explained.
Russia’s Defense Ministry reported an increase in terrorist attacks in and around Aleppo in recent days, dozens killed and injured, civilians harmed most.
According to YPG spokesman Redur Xelil, “there is no cessation of hostilities (for their fighters) and the Kurdish people.”
Just the opposite, he explained. Attacks “intensified. We are absolutely sure that it’s the Turkish government and (terrorist fighters) they support (who) are responsible for these assaults.”
Diplomatic conflict resolution remains unattainable as long as Washington, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other anti-Syrian rogue states want endless war, regime change, and the end of the Syrian Arab Republic as it’s now constituted.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

PA Funds of Mahmoud Abbas' Son in Foreign Tax Haven - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 21:30
PA Funds of Mahmoud Abbas’ Son in Foreign Tax Haven
by Stephen Lendman
Leaked Panama Papers’ documents show Tareq Abbas has shares in a British Virgin Islands registered Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC) worth nearly $1 million.
The company is registered on the Palestinian stock exchange, PA involvement considerable, holding 18% of the firm’s shares.
Its stated/dubious objective is “strengthen(ing) the local economy through strategic investments, while maximizing long-run returns for its ultimate shareholder, the people of Palestine” - without any achievements throughout its existence benefitting them.
As president, Abbas issued a decree, usurping control over the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), established in 2003. WikiLeaks exposed a classified 2006 cable, saying its “billion dollar-plus investment portfolio…is now more securely in the hands of president Abbas with a board…of his choosing…”
In 2011, he appointed his son Tareq a board member. He and older brother Yasser amassed considerable wealth along with their father, suspected of being ill-gotten.
An earlier article discussed it. Since Israel installed him as president in January 2005 by rigging the electoral process, he reportedly earned (sic) $1 million a month.
His expenses (sic) way exceeded a billion dollars. Reportedly he has extensive property holdings, his personal wealth possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sons Tarek and Yasser profit handsomely from PA projects, both men multi-millionaires. Abbas was accused of enriching himself throughout his tenure, stashing huge sums abroad in tax havens, hidden investments and secret land deals.
PA financial operations are opaque, longstanding corruption involving Arafat, Abbas, his sons and cronies notorious.
PA officials enrich themselves at the expense of their own people. Washington and Israel ignore their corruption as long as they’re obedient servants.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

WhatsApp Rolls Out End-To-End Encryption to its Over One Billion Users - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 09:57

End-to-end encryption has just gone massively mainstream. In an update on March 31st, the Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp quietly pushed an update adding end-to-end encryption enabled by default to its chat and call functionality. They announced the change publicly on Tuesday, allowing the app's over 1 billion monthly active users to message each other with the guarantee of strong encryption—whether they're exchanging messages, sending files, participating in group chats, or calling each other directly. Let us be clear: this means that WhatsApp has in one fell swoop moved the user base of end-to-end encryption from those protecting trade secrets, enthused crypto-hobbyists, and whistleblowers to an actually significant portion of the world population. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this move for the security and privacy of ordinary users. As of this week, there are hundreds of millions of users communicating with each other using end-to-end encryption for the very first time.

Not only are the app's users protected by encryption, but it's strong encryption. In a technical white paper released on April 4, WhatsApp describes in detail the underlying cryptographic exchange that occurs when users message each other. It's based on The Signal Protocol (née Axolotl) developed at Open Whisper Systems, and utilizes double ratcheting to provide forward secrecy even if session keys are compromised. This means that if an adversary is able to uncover the cryptographic keys being used by the app, this will not compromise communications made with contacts in the past—these will still be protected. The Signal Protocol uses strong and well-vetted cryptographic building blocks (or 'primitives') to construct and transmit messages, including ECDH using Curve25519. In addition to the service's strong end-to-end offerings, all communications between the client app and the WhatsApp server are encrypted using Noise Pipes from the Noise Protocol Framework.

Those familiar with using Signal will find the encryption workflow on WhatsApp similar. Both apps aim for ease of use, hiding the underlying cryptographic functionality away from the end user and integrating it as seamlessly as possible into the normal, intuitive app user interface. There are a few differences, though. The main differences have to do with how authenticity is established.

Traditionally, end-to-end applications have relied on manually verifying fingerprints. If Alice wants to verify Bob's identity, Alice would have Bob read off (or display the QR code for) his 'fingerprint'—the digest form of his public encryption key. If Alice has the same fingerprint for Bob, she can be assured that when she retrieved Bob's key from the Internet it wasn't tampered with or replaced by the key of someone else, perhaps someone with malicious intent. Bob would then have Alice read her key as well.

WhatsApp has made the interesting decision not to repeat this workflow in its app. Instead, it presents a distinct QR code per interaction that is shared so that both Alice and Bob will be scanning the same QR code on each other's devices. Presumably, their reasoning is that it is more intuitive for both parties to be verifying the same exact image (which actually just consists of both Alice and Bob's fingerprints concatenated together.) What's interesting about this decision is that it indicates some consideration was given to introducing the concept of key verification to millions of people. In contrast, Apple's iMessage platform, which gained notoriety last year for its own use of end-to-end encryption, does not allow users to verify each others keys at all. WhatsApp is showing the world that you don't need to sacrifice usability in order to provide meaningful features such as ways to verify contact authenticity.

In order to verify the identity of a contact, first you'll want to ensure that your contact is using the latest update of WhatsApp that actually supports the new security features. You can do this on Android by viewing the contact's details:

You'll see a green lock to indicate your communications are encrypted. Then, you can tap the lock to verify a security code as described above:

From this screen, you can have your contact scan your code, and you can scan your contact's code.

One of the settings the security-conscious should be sure to change is enabling security notifications. This ensures that if the encryption key for your contact changes, you will be notified of this change so that you'll know you have to verify security codes again. With Signal these notifications are always shown, but with WhatsApp they are optional and are switched off by default. To change this in Android, go into Settings ? Account ? Security, and slide 'Show security notifications' to the right:

Another setting the security-conscious should watch out for is that they aren't storing unencrypted backups to the cloud. In Android, WhatsApp gives the option to send these backups to Google Drive; for iOS the option is to send it to iCloud. Navigate to Settings ? Chats ? Chat backup to ensure cloud backups are turned off:

We've updated our Secure Messaging Scorecard to give WhatsApp 6 out of 7 stars. Unfortunately, WhatsApp remains closed source, which means that an independent reviewer can not review the code and its security. For this reason, if you're using Signal to communicate with contacts already, keep it. It's better to use a fully free and open source product. But because of the wide adoption of WhatsApp, you may have contacts you would have never expected using end-to-end encryption already. For the sake of their and your privacy and security, install WhatsApp and use it when communicating with them. You'll be glad you did.

Update 4/18: Added an explainer and screenshot for turning off cloud backups.

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Illinois Law Requiring Sex Offenders To Report All Internet Activity Violates Free Speech Rights - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 08:28

With the goal of keeping tabs on sex offenders, the state of Illinois has veered way off course. Its offender registration statute requires individuals to report every nook and cranny of their online activities to law enforcement—or face jail time. Every Internet site they visit, every online retailer account they create, and every news story comment they post must be reported to police.

EFF and the ACLU of Illinois today asked the Illinois Supreme Court to strike down these onerous requirements of the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). The rules violate free speech rights guaranteed to all people—even unpopular people—under the Constitution.

The law was challenged by a Normal, Illinois, man who served 12 months of probation for a misdemeanor offense he committed as a juvenile. Several years later he was arrested and charged with a felony punishable by a year in prison because he failed to report to police a Facebook account to which he uploaded a photo. An Illinois judge last year correctly ruled that the online speech requirements of SORA were overbroad and unconstitutional. He noted that SORA has absolutely no limitation on the type of speech or communication offenders are required to report, and disregards whether the speech being targeted “is in any way related to” the purpose of the statute—which is to deter sexual offenses. The state has appealed the decision.

No one, not even sex offenders, should be forced to report every aspect of his or her online life to law enforcement or be prevented from speaking anonymously on the Internet. Illinois’ law requires reporting of all email addresses, usernames, and websites used, and law enforcement must make that information available to the public. Participating in political discussion groups, banking online or posting a restaurant review has no nexus with police enforcement of sex offender laws. Compelling individuals to turn over this information imposes severe burdens on speech that go way beyond what’s needed for the state to ensure sex offenders don’t offend again. As Illinois Judge Robert Freitag said in his ruling last year (citing a court that struck down a Nebraska law very similar to Illinois’), such online speech reporting rules clearly chill offenders “from engaging in expressive activity that is otherwise perfectly proper.”  

EFF and ACLU in 2012 successfully challenged a state ballot measure aimed at combating human trafficking that restricted the legal and constitutionally protected speech of all registered sex offenders in California. We argued that requiring registrants to turn over their online identifiers doesn't fight trafficking but rather creates a dangerous slippery slope, stoking law enforcement’s desire for accessing more and more personal data online. A district court ruling blocking enforcement of the measure was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and California chose not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court

In the Illinois case, state officials make the argument that no website is “unrelated” to the purpose of its sex offender registration law, and any physical location in which the public may encounter a sex offender is relevant to police investigations of those offenders. By that logic, sex offenders should be required to report their every move—when they take a bus, go to the post office, shop at the grocery store, or attend a meeting. The law doesn’t force offenders to report to police every place they come in contact with the public, nor should it force them to disclose everywhere they go online. That’s not just wrong, it’s unconstitutional.

Related Cases: Doe v. Harris
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US Genocide in Iraq - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 02:41
US Genocide in Iraq
by Stephen Lendman
Since Jimmy Carter instigated the 1980s Iran/Iraq War, millions of Iraqi civilians perished from endless conflicts, devastating violence, preventable diseases and starvation - continuing today without letup, US barbarity fully responsible.
Bush administration officials remain unaccountable for genocidal massacres, Fallujah residents horrifically punished by US viciousness - on the phony pretext of pursuing resistance leaders, slaughtering civilians in cold blood.
On April 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said tens of thousands of the city’s original population of over 300,000 “are besieged by the government, trapped by ISIS, and are starving.”
Supply routes are blocked. Desperately needed aid can’t get in. HRW representatives have no access to the city.
Activists in contact with residents say they’re eating soup made from grass and flat breads from ground date seeds.
“What little food remains is being sold at prices” few residents can afford, said HRW. Sustenance needed to sustain life is mostly unavailable at any price.
Scores died this year for lack of food and/or medical care, the elderly and young children most affected.
A campaign called “Fallujah Is Being Killed by Starvation” seeks to draw attention to untenable conditions. Suffering, desperation and deprivation affect the entire remaining population, its survival imperiled.
A mother drowned herself and her two children for lack of sustenance to survive and no way of getting it.
ISIS controls the city. Government forces block food and other essentials to life from entering. Residents are trapped, unable to leave. Anyone trying risks death.
Conflict claimed many civilian lives, including by government forces, operating like America, disdainful of human life, mindless of who’s killed or harmed.
According to HRW’s Joe Stork, “(t)he humanitarian picture in Fallujah is bleak and getting bleaker. Greater international attention to the besieged towns and cities of the region is needed or the results for civilians could be calamitous.”
America’s rage to dominate bears full responsibility for genocide regionally and elsewhere. Its killing machine shows no mercy anywhere, including at home.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Unrelenting Iran Bashing - Fri, 08/04/2016 - 02:32
Unrelenting Iran Bashing
by Stephen Lendman
Longstanding US hostility toward Iran continues despite last year’s nuclear deal. Regime change remains official US policy. 
Iranian sovereign independence won’t ever be tolerated. Nor will a rival to Israel’s quest for regional hegemony, partnered with Washington.
Congressional critics and media scoundrels want new sanctions imposed, citing Iran’s legal ballistic missile program and tests, in strict compliance with JCPOA provisions and Security Council Resolution 2231, making the agreement binding international law, prohibiting any nation from unilaterally abrogating it.
Iran is only forbidden from developing missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. Hillary Clinton militantly bashes Iran, urging imposition of new sanctions, claiming a nonexistent threat to Israel, maybe intending naked aggression if elected president.
Bipartisan congressional hardliners want additional sanctions, intending legislation to impose them on all Iranian entities connected to its missile program, as well as renewing a stiffer Iran Sanctions Act. 
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration is weighing whether punishing Iran is warranted - even though its missile program is entirely legal.
“…Iran may face some consequences,” said Earnest. “(W)e have demonstrated no reluctance to impose sanctions against Iran for conducting ballistic missile tests (US officials unilaterally consider) outside (its) international obligations” - despite no evidence proving it.
On Wednesday, Republican neocon Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk introduced legislation, prohibiting foreign banks from currency exchanges with Iran involving US dollars - including blocking offshore US dollar clearing systems for transactions.
Tehran is wrongfully accused of funding terrorist organizations and threatening Israel. Rubio is a notorious Islamophobe/Iran basher/serial liar - disgracefully claiming “Iranian access to US dollars or (its) financial system, will…further support its (nonexistent) threatening and destabilizing activities.”
Administration officials are considering restricted conditions under which foreign banks may conduct financial exchanges with Iran in US dollars - linked to its assets and future trade deals.
Normalized US/Iranian ties remain unattainable as long as Israel and AIPAC reject them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

America: World's Leading Tax Haven - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 22:19
America: World’s Leading Tax Haven
by Stephen Lendman
Obama publicly criticizes tax avoidance while quietly encouraging high-net worth foreigners to shift wealth to America, free from taxation.
The Lectric Law Library says “(s)ince the ‘80s, the US has been the largest tax and regulatory haven for non-resident foreign nationals in the world.”
Foreign-based individuals “can buy the newly issued Reg. S stock of a US company at a discount because the company does not have to register those shares with the Securities Exchange Commission.” 
“Foreigners can sell those shares back into the US forty days later without paying any tax on the trading profits to the US government.” 
“They can open bank accounts or buy the debt instruments of government and private borrowers and earn interest in the US tax free.”
According to Lectric Law, the policy attracted trillions of dollars to America, making it the world’s top tax haven.
Bloomberg discussed it, saying “Panama and the US have at least one thing in common: Neither has agreed to new international standards to make it harder for tax evaders and money launderers to hide their money.”
Since 2014, nearly 100 countries and jurisdictions imposed disclosure requirements on foreign held wealth, including Switzerland and Bermuda in principle, to crack down on tax evaders.
“(A) handful of countries refused,” notably America along with Panama in the eye of the current “storm over tax evasion…”
Secrecy in global tax havens is well-known. Global Witness exposes corruption and demands accountability for perpetrators of criminal and human rights violations.
According to acting US office head Stefanie Ostfeld, “the US is just as big a secrecy jurisdiction as so many of these Caribbean countries and Panama.”
“We should not want to be the playground for the world’s dirty money, which is what we are right now.”
The 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requires financial firms to inform the IRS about foreign accounts held by US citizens.
Reporting information on foreign accounts in America to governments abroad isn’t mandated. OECD standards aren’t observed.
International tax and money laundering expert Bruce Zagaris said “(t)he US doesn’t follow a lot of the international standards, and because of its political power,” gets away with it - the only country able to do what it pleases unaccountably.
America welcomes dirty money, trillions in private accounts free from taxes - making it the world’s leading tax haven.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Panama Papers Ignore Massive Corruption and Racketeering in America - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 22:03
Panama Papers Ignore Massive Corruption and Racketeering in America
by Stephen Lendman
America is the epicenter of world public and private corruption and gangsterism - a kleptocracy run by criminals complicit with corporate crooks, headquartered on Wall Street, profiting at the public’s expense.
Monied interests transformed the nation into an unprecedented money making racket, scamming ordinary people of their savings, jobs, homes and futures so privileged elites can get richer and more powerful.
From inception, the business of America has always been business - meaning license to pillage, defraud and benefit extralegally, including tax avoidance more than anywhere else worldwide, encouraging high-net-worth foreign individuals to shift funds to the US free from taxation, discussed in a separate article.
Government of, by, and for its privileged few allows grand theft on an unprecedented scale. Markets are manipulated up or down for profit, scamming the unwary.
Authorities permitted the greatest ever wealth shift from ordinary people to its rich and powerful, the grandest of grand theft, facilitated by Fed controlled money, credit and debt - Wall Street owned and operated.
America’s dark legacy is largely concealed from view. Enormous wealth is hidden in tax havens or investments at home and abroad, free from taxation.
Wall Street banks and other giant US financial institutions are at the center of unprecedented criminality, aided by government co-conspirators.
Panama Papers’ leaks were selective, from what’s known so far, ignoring Western wrongdoing, focusing attention elsewhere, including on targets powerful monied interests in the West complicit with Washington want smeared - notably Vladimir Putin, despite no evidence linking him to tax avoidance or hiding ill-gotten wealth in secret offshore accounts.
Western media scoundrels reacted as expected, pointing fingers the wrong way, ignoring what demands featuring.
The New York Times discussed “the Panama Papers’ sprawling web of corruption” without addressing its unrevealed epicenter in America.
The Washington Post asked “where have Russia’s billions gone” instead of demanding accountability for America’s criminal class.
The Wall Street Journal highlighted a “Chinese link to (the) ‘Panama Papers’ widen(ing).” Lots discussed on its top officials, nothing about wrongdoing by Americans.
Crime in high places is a global epidemic. Exposing it demands starting with its epicenter.
It’s deep-rooted in the world’s richest country with nearly a third of global billionaires, more than in all EU countries combined, and government run by its rich and powerful, controlled by monied interests, serving America’s privileged class exclusively at the expense of everyone else.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Dutch Voters Reject US/Kiev Association Agreement - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 21:30
Dutch Voters Reject EU/Kiev Association Agreement
by Stephen Lendman
It’s a signed, not yet in force, agreement between EU states and Ukraine, pending required ratification by all signatories, not the Netherlands so far.
It commits parties to cooperate politically and economically, notably through so-called free trade, allows visa-free movement and access to the European Investment Bank. It benefits monied interests exclusively at the expense of ordinary Ukrainians.
It commits Kiev to bringing its political and economic policies in line with EU standards - along with all parties allying in their collective defense, threatening Russian security.
Discussions for closer ties began years earlier. Washington orchestrated Yanukovich’s ouster for rejecting the deal, opting instead for favoring economic and political cooperation with Russia along with EU countries. 
EU/Ukraine political principles were agreed on weeks after Washington replaced Ukraine’s democratically elected government with Nazi-infested putschists.
Implementing the agreement is a first step toward Kiev’s EU membership, unlikely any time soon, given its deplorable governance, illegitimate by any standard, hugely corrupt, despised by its people, at war with Donbass freedom fighters rejecting fascist rule.
In a non-binding Wednesday referendum, Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the agreement, over 60% against ratifying it.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged it, saying “(i)t’s clear the ‘No’ have won by an overwhelming margin…”
“If the turnout is above 30%, with such a large margin of victory for the ‘No’ camp, then my sense is that ratification can’t simply go ahead.”
At the same time, he indicated consideration would be given on how to proceed - whether to comply with public opinion or ignore it, a decision to be announced on April 12.
The referendum followed a petition collecting over 450,000 signatures, wanting the issue of agreement with Ukraine put to a popular vote.
Ukraine represents the reemergence of fascism in Europe’s heartland for the first time since WW II.
It’s an illegitimate, US installed, Nazi-infested police state, ruling by intimidation and brute force, responsible for horrendous human rights abuses against its own people, threatening Russia’s security.
The battle for Ukraine’s soul didn’t end with putschists usurping power. Ordinary people have power when they use it.
It’s up to them to challenge illegitimate authority and replace it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

The FCC's Plan To Unlock Your Set-Top Box Is About Competition, Not Copyright - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 10:47

The Federal Communications Commission is trying to open up the closed world of TV set-top boxes, with the goal of finally killing that dust-gathering, power-sucking box altogether. They’ve proposed a new rule known as “Unlock the Box” that allows devices and apps from any manufacturer to connect with your home cable or satellite TV feeds. We think the FCC’s effort has the potential to unlock new competition, delivering cost savings and innovation.

Imagine being able to search for shows and movies available on your cable or satellite TV service, online services like Netflix and Amazon, and even over-the-air broadcasts, all with the same search-box. Imagine being able to change and customize your cable's janky interface as much as you do with PCs, smartphones, and browsers, and to add new features from any source. Oh, and imagine not having to pay $231 a year to rent a set-top box that's really just a three-generations-stale PC in an ugly case. The FCC’s “Unlock the Box” proposal might achieve all this, if we nudge the agency to do it right.

Naturally, pay-TV companies and their allies in the entertainment industry are fighting hard to stop the new monopoly-breaking rules. They’re raising many of the same arguments they tried to raise against net neutrality. One of their claims is that the new rules would somehow violate copyright law, or lead to violations.

This is the same thing these companies say about all new technology that they didn't invent, but the reality is that while the FCC's proposal could (and should) let you take back some of your rights under copyright, that doesn't mean you'll be violating copyright when you get those freedoms back.

The Unlock the Box proposal spells out what pay-TV customers can do with content they’ve already paid for. Anyone who copies or distributes TV content in a way that violates copyright law—whether individuals or technology companies—risks draconian penalties that often lead to bankruptcy.  Copyright rules are set by Congress, and nothing the FCC does can give any technology providers a license to violate them.

So why are pay-TV's titans crying piracy? What does copyright have to do with breaking the set-top box monopoly? When these companies talk about copyright, what they mean is control over your experience and the design of your technology. That’s why recent letters to the FCC from major TV producers (Disney, Time Warner, Fox, Comcast-NBC, etc.) and from the cable lobby group NCTA (Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Comcast-NBC again, etc.) don’t mention copyright infringement. Instead, they demand control over “the meticulous details of how a viewer sees programming content” and the ability to “rearrange” channels in the user interface. The thought that you might choose to “drop apps and interactive elements” from your screen sends them to their fainting couches. They describe giving pay-TV customers more choices in search, discovery, and user interface as “misappropriating content” and “commercial monetization.” They insist that “creators need to maintain control over product placement and commercial content” in the user interface of every device and app that accesses pay-TV programming.

Look, it's true that giant media companies might make more money when they get to "meticulously" specify every single detail of how you get to watch their stuff. When we were fighting these companies over the rules for European digital TV, one rep from the US entertainment industry demanded the right to control how long you could pause your TV to go to the bathroom, and said that rightsholders might want to "monetize" (ugh) your biological needs.

Putting a price tag on your bodily functions might be a way to make a lot of money, but it has nothing to do with copyright. Copyright is only an exclusive right to copy creative work (and to distribute, publicly perform, and adapt it). Copyright has important limitations, including fair use. Copyright doesn’t give rightsholders the ability to stop others from “monetizing” (double ugh) or even “exploiting” creative work unless one of the specific rights laid out in the law is violated. TV and home stereo manufacturers, used DVD sellers, and popcorn growers all “monetize” and profit from the creative works of others without asking permission or paying royalties. Last year, a federal court ruled that copyright doesn’t stop Dish Networks from offering a DVR that can skip commercials automatically. And no one has to pay extra for a mute button that works during commercial breaks (yet).

This isn't a bug in copyright, it's a feature. After all, it was independent innovators, working outside of copyright’s reach and without asking permission, who gave us the videocassette recorder, the mp3 player, the digital video recorder, and the cloud-based DVR, to name just a few. It was independent companies who gave us cable television, capturing broadcast signals and retransmitting to their customers without permission!

The set-top box is a frozen artifact of a bygone age whose features have been caught in a time-warp of innovation-through-permission. For the past 20 years, everyone who's had a cool idea for making the pay-TV experience better was sent packing. If the FCC's order comes through, they'll deliver.

This isn’t about control over copying, but control over the entire experience of TV watching, from the studio to your eyeballs, and over search and discovery as well as viewing. Open competition could bring many more options, like new TV interfaces that present recommendations from various critics and tastemakers, or from your friends. New video devices could take you straight to those shows and movies in one step, no matter which of your pay-TV or Internet video services they appear on. This could be a boon for niche and non-mainstream programs of all kinds.

So, when you hear from opponents that Unlock the Box rules will violate copyright, ask them: do you mean copyright, or the made-up right to tell people how they're allowed to watch?

And consider sending a comment to the FCC asking them to pass the Unlock the Box rules, before April 22. (Enter "16-42" in the box labeled "Proceeding Number").

Edited on 4/13/2016 to correct the FCC Proceeding Number for submitting comments.

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Court’s Decision on Recording Police Erodes First Amendment Rights and Transparency While Inviting Violence - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 02:47

A federal district court in Pennsylvania recently issued a terrible joint decision in Fields v. City of Philadelphia and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia, holding for the first time that "observing and recording" police activities is not protected by the First Amendment unless an observer visibly challenges police conduct in that moment. The right to record police activities, under both the First and Fourth Amendments, is an increasingly vital digital rights issue. If allowed to stand, Fields would not only hamstring efforts to improve police accountability, but—given disturbing patterns across the U.S.—could also lead to unnecessary violence.

Criticism of the Fields decision emerged quickly, but focused mostly on its artificial distinction between what counts as protected "expression" under the First Amendment and what does not. Unfortunately, that fallacy is merely one among several that pervade the decision.

Artificial Distinctions in the Law

In previous cases emerging from across the country, appellate courts have held that the First Amendment "unambiguously" confers on civilians a right to record police activities, so long as they don’t interfere with those activities.

Both the First Circuit (in 2011, in Glik v. Cunniffe) and the Seventh Circuit (in 2012, in ACLU of Illinois v. Alvarez) have established controlling precedents establishing that rule within their jurisdictions. As a result, residents of Boston and Chicago, for instance, are entitled to observe and record police unless they interfere with them.

In the Third Circuit, however, prior cases failed to resolve whether recording police activity is inherently expressive, or whether instead some other expressive element—such as intending to share the photograph to communicate a message—is required to justify First Amendment protection.

In Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle (2010), the Third Circuit declined to adopt "a broad right to videotape police" and embraced other cases that "imply that videotaping without an expressive purpose may not be protected." Within this zone of uncertainty, the district court in Fields could have agreed with the First and Seventh Circuits and found that "image capture before the decision to transmit the image is, as a matter of law, expressive conduct."

Instead, the court adopted the untenable position that, as a general matter, recording police officers engaged in their public duties is not protected by the First Amendment.

Yet any attempted distinction between clear acts of expression (such as displaying photographs) and their antecedents (taking the photos in the first place) is artificial for First Amendment purposes. In U.S. v. Stevens (2010), the Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting not only the sale and manufacture, but also the creation of films depicting animal cruelty, on the basis that the First Amendment protects both the creation and dissemination of such videos. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh succinctly illustrates why a distinction between expression and antecedent acts is meaningless:

Your being able to spend money to express your views is protected even when you don't say anything while writing the check (since your plan is to use the funds to support speech that takes place later).

Even the Fields court acknowledged the findings of other courts that "photographing or observing official a necessary step in the process of expressing a right to criticize or challenge government behavior." Allowing the suppression of such "a necessary step" inevitably limits subsequent expression. How can an artist or community resident display photos that she was prevented from ever taking?

Undermining Transparency

Even if recording police activity were not inherently expressive, it would remain necessary to ensure transparency and police accountability. By denying constitutional protection to observers of police who take care to avoid interfering with officers' activities while recording, the Fields decision undermines community oversight. As described by the Cato Institute's Adam Bates:

The ability of individuals to record police in public without fear of reprisal is an essential mechanism for injecting transparency where it is sorely lacking, for holding the government accountable for misconduct, and in many cases for protecting good police officers from misattributed blame. (emphasis added)

The incentives constructed by Fields would undermine this "essential mechanism for…transparency," by inviting police officers to either suppress recordings of potential abuse (as they did in both of the cases before the court) or contrive their actions when they are being recorded. As photographer and journalist Jeremy Gray writes:

If you are required to announce to police that you’re recording them...what are the chances that any illegal conduct that you had been observing will continue when you start taking photos?

More fundamentally, as noted by Reggie Shuford at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, "The freedom to monitor the police without fearing arrest or retaliation is one of the ways we distinguish a free society from a police state."

Inviting Police Discretion, With Dangerous Consequences

An objective, "bright line" rule recognizing First Amendment protection for recording police engaged in their public duties, regardless of the purpose, not only facilitates community oversight, but also facilitates decision-making by both police officers and judges. In contrast, a requirement that photographers demonstrate a hostile purpose in order to secure constitutional protection for recording police invites discretion that is difficult—and dangerous—to apply.

How, exactly, is a police officer supposed to recognize whether someone recording their activities is hostile? Is it reasonable to expect—or even ask—police to give overtly hostile people wider berth than others who calmly observe, as the plaintiffs in these cases tried to do?

By perversely encouraging adversarial relations with police, Fields essentially requires civilians and photojournalists to risk police retaliation in order to exercise a constitutional right. Such retaliation often includes physical violence (as Ms. Geraci endured while being denied her right to record), arbitrary arrest, and contrived charges such as "assault on a police officer."

A further tension emerges in light of prior cases sharply distinguishing observing and recording police activities (recognized as constitutionally protected acts) from acts interfering with police activities, which remain within the state's authority to legitimately prohibit. In order for a police accountability activist like Ms. Geraci to gain constitutional protection under Fields, she would have to risk prosecution under the rule in Alvarez.

Moreover, judging from their behavior in the instances before the court, the police in these cases did think the plaintiffs were hostile, leading them to detain Fields and seize his phone, and to "attack" Geraci and restrain her from taking photos. At least in Geraci's case, they were right: she trained with Cop Watch Berkeley and was visibly associated with organizers of a protest that she was observing specifically to record any possible police misconduct.

The district court's failure to correctly apply its own subjective standard to the facts of Fields and Geraci reflects yet another reason why Fields was incorrectly decided: it invents a rule that is simply inadministrable, impossible to apply consistently across differing facts.

Undermining Communities Vulnerable to Police Violence

People who record police rarely do so recreationally. They usually do so because, around the country, evidence has emerged that police apply unnecessary force and even kill innocent people with disturbing frequency. In this context, Fields places at risk not only the rights of millions of people, but also their safety.

By limiting constitutional protection for recording police, Fields denies vulnerable communities the essential tool that has exposed the public, courts, and Congress to recurring acts of police violence prohibited under the law. Fields would not only expose individuals to police retaliation for acts of civic engagement, but also make their communities more vulnerable to systemic patterns of arbitrary police abuses.

The decision's failure to even address this outcome implicit in its reasoning, let alone its various other defects, renders it worthy of prompt reversal. We eagerly await the Third Circuit's ruling in a forthcoming appeal to correct this novel, unprecedented, and ultimately dangerous ruling.

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Ousting Assad Remains Official US Policy - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 02:23
Ousting Assad Remains Official US Policy
by Stephen Lendman
In March 2011, Obama launched naked aggression on Syria, using imported death squads as proxy fighters, creating the myth about civil war - wanting Assad replaced with US controlled puppet governance the way Gaddafi was ousted and murdered.
Over five years later, endless conflict rages. Washington and its rogue allies continue supporting ISIS and likeminded terrorist groups while claiming they’re combatting them.
When farcical peace talks resume this weekend, if things go as planned, expect continued failure to resolve things, both sides intractably apart, discussions a waste of time.
Washington wants war, not peace. It wants Syrians having no say on who’ll lead them while claiming otherwise - polar opposite Russia’s position. 
Its Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov explained Moscow “will never agree with…Washington (and EU leaders) who (insist) ‘Assad must leave,’ “ at times calling his remaining in power “a nonstarter.”
Numerous times before when questioned, State Department spokesman admiral John Kirby and his depute Mark Toner insisted Assad must go.
During a Monday press briefing, Toner lied, saying “(w)e believe that a political process that reflects the desires and will of the Syrian people is what should ultimately decide the future leadership and the future government of Syria” - then contradicting himself, adding:
“We believe (Assad) is not legitimate (nor) a legitimate future leader for the country.”
Washington continues recruiting, arming, funding and training ISIS and other death squad terrorists, deploying them in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, using them to advance its imperial agenda, wanting all independent governments replaced by puppet ones it controls.
As long as this madness continues, regional wars won’t end. Liberation depends on battlefield victories - diplomacy a waste of time without legitimate peace partners. Syria and Russia have none.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Israeli Drone Killings - Thu, 07/04/2016 - 02:17
Israeli Drone Killings
by Stephen Lendman
Palestinians wanting to live free from Israeli state terror are called terrorists. 
They’re targeted for elimination, extrajudicially executed by land, sea and air attacks, including by Hermes 450 attack drones, similar to US predator ones - instruments of cold-blooded murder.
Israel admitted its drone assassination policy with little elaboration, saying they’re “very widely used in (its) air force operations against” terrorists - aka defenseless Palestinian men, women and children, notably slaughtered during its naked 2014 Gaza aggression and preemptive aerial attacks after hostilities ended.
Just societies call extrajudicial assassinations cold-blooded murder, culpable parties held accountable. 
In Israel, they’re given medals, promoted and honored - its regime rewarded with billions of dollars of largely US military aid, used for more killing.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.



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