While there have been some occasional nutty attempts to paint journalists reporting on the documents that Ed Snowden revealed as being somehow legally at risk for doing so, for the most part, US officials have recognized that we do respect the freedom of the press in this country. This has been in stark contrast to the UK, where a whole investigation is ongoing into The Guardian's role in reporting on the documents. However, that changed this morning, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to deliver his "Worldwide Threat Assessment."
In his prepared statement, Clapper made it clear that he views the journalists who have copies of the documents as "accomplices" to Snowden -- who has been charged with violating the Espionage Act. As he said:
Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security. While some may claim that this is just a passing phrase, this is a written statement from James Clapper to Congress, meaning it was vetted many, many, many times, and the word choices are clear and specific. As Glenn Greenwald has noted, the implication is not at all subtle. The Obama administration has now officially stated that it views journalists reporting on Snowden documents as "accomplices" to a crime:
Here, Clapper is referring to "accomplices" as those who can "facilitate the return of the remaining" documents. As Snowden has said, the only ones to whom he has given those documents are the journalists with whom he has worked. As has been publicly reported, the journalists who are in possession of thousands of Snowden documents include myself, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica.
Is it now the official view of the Obama administration that these journalists and media outlets are "accomplices" in what they regard as Snowden's crimes? If so, that is a rather stunning and extremist statement. Is there any other possible interpretation of Clapper's remarks? That is absolutely crazy. Even more ridiculous is that ODNI's public affair director more or less confirmed the point:
The office's public affairs director Shawn Turner said in an email that “director Clapper was referring to anyone who is assisting Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs.” Of course, just last year (prior to the Snowden leaks), there was a bit of a scandal when it was revealed that the DOJ was claiming to courts that certain journalists were accomplices in order to spy on them to get access to their sources. That controversy resulted in Attorney General Eric Holder promising new guidelines to stop targeting journalists. And, just today, Holder told Congress that those new rules are already in effect.
Clapper's choice of words here was deliberate. Even if the government doesn't go after any of the journalists with Snowden's documents, the message today's statement made is loud and clear: we can go after you and charge you criminally. And that's an incredibly chilling message in a country that is supposed to respect the freedom of the press.By Mike Masnick
In April, my old friends in the recently-reunited Afghan Whigs will release their first new album in sixteen years. It seems that the gentlemen have been reading up on Aleister Crowley as the record is titled "Do To The Beast" and the graphic on their Web site references Babalon, the Scarlet Woman from Crowley's Thelema system of magick. The record will be released by Sub Pop Records on April 15 in the United States, the same week the group performs at Coachella. Do what thou wilt, fellas. You always have.
Below, The Afghan Whigs performing their classic "Miles Iz Ded" and a new song, "Into The Floor," at the Primavera Sound festival in May 2012.
Last.fm is giving users early access to a new version of its music player, currently in beta. Little has changed in terms of its functionality, but a clear difference is that it now uses YouTube, rather than its own built-in player, to provide its customisable internet radio stations.
If you log in through the Last.fm site, you should see a link to activate the new player at the top of the page. A couple of controls have ben pulled out – because the new player uses video, there’s no need to offer a slideshow toggle, or a volume slider when there’s one already offered within the YouTube player.
Although music videos are a welcome addition to the music player, it’s possible that Last.fm is also making the switch to cut down on licensing costs. In December 2012, Last.fm withdrew its radio service in all markets aside from the US, UK and Germany, where it became paid-for on desktop and through its mobile apps. The site is struggling to stay relevant in a world filled with music streaming services, such as Spotify, Rdio and Google Play Music All Access, that offer their own personalized radio stations. Scrobbling is still a unique feature, although it’s unclear if that’s still enough to lure in new users.
We’ve reached out to Last.fm and will update this article with any additional information we receive.
This is a big deal. Audiobooks are the last holdouts for DRM in audio, and one company, Audible, controls the vast majority of the market and insists upon DRM in all of its catalog (even when authors and publishers object). Itunes, Audible's major sales channel, also insists on DRM in audiobooks (even where Audible can be convinced to drop it). Audiobooks can cost a lot of money, and are very cumbersome to convert to free/open formats without using illegal circumvention tools. To stay on the right side of the law, you have to burn your audiobooks to many discs (sometimes dozens), then re-rip them, enduring breaks that come mid-word; or you have to play the audio out of your computer's analog audio outputs and redigitize them, which can take days (literally) and results in sound-quality loss.
Overdrive going DRM-free for libraries is a massive shift in this market, and marks a turning point in the relationship between the publishers/creators and the technology companies that act as conduits and retail channels for their work. It's especially great that libraries are getting a break, as they have been royally screwed on electronic books and audiobooks up until now.
This is in response to user preferences, widespread compatibility of MP3 across all listening devices and the fact that the vast majority of our extensive audiobook collection is already in MP3 format. This includes the audiobook collections from Hachette, Penguin Group, Random House (Books on Tape and Listening Library), HarperCollins, AudioGo, Blackstone, Tantor Media and dozens of others. Our publisher relations team is working closely with the very few remaining publishers who require WMA to seek permission to sell their titles in MP3 for library and school lending.
We will soon be communicating the discontinuance of WMA sales, and then at a future date, we will announce when MP3 files will be the only supported format through OverDrive platforms. For libraries and schools that currently have WMA audiobook files in their collection, we will be working with the publishers of those titles to gain permissions to update your inventory to MP3. In the event that some titles are unavailable, an alternate solution will be offered to make up for the lost titles. Be on the lookout for announcements on our blog and from your Collection Development Specialist for a timeline of this process. OverDrive announces plan for audiobooks to be solely available in MP3 format [Heather Tunstall/Overdrive]
We wrote earlier about the guy who told the story of being pulled out of a theater in the middle of a movie for wearing Google Glass (turned off), which he wears all the time, because he got prescription lenses installed on the device and uses it as his regular pair of glasses. As we noted, there were some oddities in the original story, including references to the FBI and "The Movie Association," neither of which made sense. Since then, as we noted in our updated post, AMC confirmed that a customer had been detained, and since then the MPAA as well as Homeland Security have weighed in, confirming the basic story. This is insane on multiple levels, which we'll get to in a moment. But first, the quotes. Here's AMC:
Movie theft is something we take very seriously, and our theater managers contact the Motion Picture Association of America anytime it’s suspected that someone may be illegally recording content on screen. While we’re huge fans of technology and innovation, wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theatre. At AMC Easton 30 last weekend, a guest was questioned for possible movie theft after he was identified wearing a recording device during a film. The presence of this recording device prompted an investigation by the MPAA, which was on site. The MPAA then contacted Homeland Security, which oversees movie theft. The investigation determined the guest was not recording content. Then the MPAA:
Google Glass is an incredible innovation in the mobile sphere, and we have seen no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft. The MPAA works closely with theaters all over the country to curb camcording and theater-originated piracy, and in this particular case, no such activity was discovered. Finally, Homeland Security's ICE division:
On Jan. 18, special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and local authorities briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in Columbus. The man, who voluntarily answered questions, confirmed to authorities that the suspected recording device was also a pair of prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been inactive. No further action was taken. Okay, now onto the point. As we said in the initial post, this certainly fit with the MPAA's insane "guidelines" to theaters and their "zero tolerance" policies towards anyone possibly recording anything. However, the involvement of ICE is particularly insane. We've been particularly critical of ICE and the group's over-aggressive campaign to seize websites based entirely on Hollywood's say so.
Even so, it seemed incredible that ICE would take direction from the MPAA on something as small as a guy in a movie theater, rushing to the theater to help with the interrogation of someone there, but we underestimated the willingness of ICE to say "how high" when the MPAA says "jump." Yes, we should know better by now, but we thought we'd actually give the MPAA and DHS the benefit of the doubt here. Our mistake.
We find it difficult to believe that there aren't more important things for ICE to be doing than hassling a guy out attending a movie with his wife. Hollywood has gotten ICE into trouble in the past with its over-aggressive claims about websites. You'd think that ICE would have learned by now that the RIAA and MPAA are not exactly trustworthy when they insist someone is a "filthy pirate" who needs to be investigated. There is simply no reason for federal investigators to be involved at all, let alone called in to interrogate some guy wearing a new piece of technology that the MPAA has overreacted to.By Mike Masnick
Here's another great post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in honor of Copyright Week, explaining the relationship between copyright and free expression. Copyright is a monopoly on speech -- the right to decide, within limits, who can express themselves with certain words, tunes, and images -- so it's important that the law be structured so that monopoly doesn't jeopardize free debate and artistic expression.
Arts groups often have a blind spot here, staunchly defending free speech right up until it conflicts with copyright, and then stopping dead. But if you support free speech except where it conflicts with copyright, then your free speech movement is practically irrelevant to the age of the Internet, since all expression on the Internet involves making copies, and thus interacting with copyright.
Or as EFF's legal director Cindy Cohn likes to say, "We know you love the First Amendment, but we want you to share."
It's hard to look in the mirror and see what you fear. It's easier to deny it or try to explain it away. That's why many supporters of ever-more-restrictive copyright law insist so emphatically that copyright never suppresses speech. Copyright rewards and enables speech, they say, therefore it cannot be a tool of censorship.
This is a little like saying that because X-rays are used to treat cancer, they can never cause cancer. Of course, X-rays can both treat cancer and cause it, depending on the dose and accurate targeting. Copyright is likewise: well-crafted, appropriately limited, it may reward and strengthen creativity. Applied carelessly and indiscriminately, it punishes and suppresses creativity.
In the American legal tradition, there are only a few narrow categories of self-expression that are not protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, and those categories are not permitted to grow. Yet when the mouthpieces of Big Media insist that our guarantees of free speech do not limit the scope of copyright law, they are inviting the creep of censorship that so many creative people have fought against. It's dangerous to treat copyright as a special exception to free speech, no matter how passionate and heartfelt the cries of "piracy!" Those who would use the law to silence speech that they call libel, sedition, blasphemy, hateful, hurtful, disquieting all make passionate cases for why they need special treatment. They argue that suppressing "bad" speech promotes harmony, order, happiness, and even prevents violence, arguably the most important function of any government (not that censorship actually prevents violence, but that's the argument and it's appealing to many). Copyright is no different. The Russian government has used claims of copyright infringement to silence the independent press. People the world over misuse the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act to make others' political viewpoints disappear. EFF has six principles for copyright week that you can sign onto.
The LA Times points out something worth repeating: net neutrality was really killed back in 2002, when the FCC Chairman Michael Powell reclassified cable modem services as “information services” rather than “telecommunications services.” This effectively moved Internet service providers beyond FCC regulation and led to Tuesday’s controversial decision. It created a time bomb that was bound to explode sooner or later. And now it has. Net neutrality is dead and soon ISPs will start deciding what services they will allow to run fast and what they opt to slow down — and how much sites might have to pay to move from the latter category to the former.
And Michael Powell? He is now the President and CEO of NCTA, the top cable industry lobbying organization. The man who handed the cable industry a gift worth potentially tens of billions of dollars as a regulator pivoted into a lucrative industry gig.
Isn’t that cute?
And James M. Massey, the Executive Vice President of NCTA? He used to be the Senior Democratic Counsel on Communications and Media Issues for the Committee chaired by U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Telecommunications Counsel for former U. S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC).
And K. Dane Snowden, the Chief of Staff of NCTA? He used to be Chief of the FCC’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) from 2001 – 2005. You know — during the very period when net neutrality was effectively gutted by FCC’s leadership. According to the NCTA website, Snowden used to be “responsible for development and execution of the vision, strategic direction, telecommunications policy, and management of the Bureau’s activities and 300 employees.”
The key psychological insight here is that the NCTA is openly bragging about how it has captured this country’s top regulators. There is no shame in their game. These guys luxuriate in their dark power with the brazen glee of Mordor on Potomac.
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say. The very men holding the most powerful government regulatory positions when net neutrality was fatally wounded in the United States landed high-paying jobs funded by the cable industry.By Tero Kuittinen
The US Trade Representative is pushing Congress hard for "Trade Promotion Authority," which would give the President's representatives the right to sign treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership without giving Congress any chance to oversee and debate the laws that America is promising to pass. With "Trade Promotion Authority" (also called "fast track"), Congress's only role in treaties would be to say "yes" or "no" to whatever the US Trade Rep negotiated -- so if the USTR papered over a bunch of sweetheart deals for political cronies with a single provision that politicians can't afford to say no to, that'll be that.
Not coincidentally, the TPP is one long sweetheart deal with a couple of political sweeteners that no Congresscritter can afford to kill.
The USTR's push for Trade Promotion Authority contains some of the stupidest, easy-to-debunk lies I've ever read. Either the Obama Administration figures that Congress is thicker than pigshit, or the USTR drafted this to give tame Congresscritters cover for selling out the people they represent to the corporations that fund their campaigns.
Techdirt's Mike Masnick has undertaken the unpleasant chore of documenting and rebutting the Trade Rep's falsehoods point-by-point.
TPA does not provide new power to the Executive Branch.
Hell yes, it does. Trade Promotion Authority gives the power of regulating foreign commerce directly to the USTR, rather than Congress. It allows the USTR to negotiate a "final" agreement with other countries, which Congress cannot seek to change, amend or fix. Instead, Congress can only give a simple "yes or no" vote on what the USTR comes back with. Without TPA, the USTR actually needs to engage Congress, and win its support and approval on everything within the agreement. That gives Congress -- which is supposed to represent the public -- a chance to make sure that (as the USTR has shown a proclivity to do) the agreement is not filled with ridiculous "gifts" for cronies and friends at the expense of the public and disruptive innovation.
TPA is a legislative procedure, written by Congress, through which Congress defines U.S. negotiating objectives and spells out a detailed oversight and consultation process for during trade negotiations.
If TPA didn't tie Congress' own hands, the USTR might have a point here. But it's not true. While the TPA bill does officially "define" the negotiating objectives, those objectives listed in the current bill are basically the USTR's own list of what it's working on, reprinted by friends in Congress. And, honestly, how is it possible that it "spells out detailed oversight," when what the bill really does is make sure that the USTR can give Congress whatever it comes up with and say "take it or leave it"? Without TPA, the USTR actually has to go convince Congress that what it's been proposing (secretly and with no public review) is actually in the public interest. The Lies The USTR Is Spreading About Fast Track Authority To Push TPP Through Congress [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]By Cory Doctorow
In an attempt to turn the tables on a local intelligence agency, several members of the Swedish Pirate Party’s youth division set up shop yesterday outside the headquarters of the Swedish NSA. Armed with a surveillance van the Pirates planned to listen in on one of the country’s most secretive outfits. Unfortunately for them they were unable to gather much data, as armed guards turned up quickly and threatened arrests.
Pirate parties worldwide are known for their aversion of both on- and offline surveillance.
So, when the Swedish Pirate Party found out that their local intelligence agency FRA was helping the NSA to spy on Russian leaders, something had to be done.
Turning the tables on the spying agency, three members of the Swedish Pirate Party’s youth division drove up to FRA’s headquarters yesterday, hoping they could find out more about the agency’s secretive plans.
“No politician or FRA executive wants to tell the public what they actually are doing. So we thought that we need to do a bit of signal intelligence ourselves,” Gustav Nipe, Chairman of Young Pirate tells TorrentFreak.
Armed with a large antenna the Pirates parked their purple van a few meters outside the FRA building. However, before they could set up their surveillance rig armed guards came rushing in to put a stop to their plans.
Ready to spy
The ‘spies’ were held for 45 minutes while their vehicle was searched, with the guards filming every minute detail. The pirates were eventually released, but not before they were warned that any attempt to activate their equipment would lead to their arrest.
Looking back, the Young Pirate chairman is surprised that they were approached this aggressively, as they were not trespassing or carrying out any other type of illegal activity. “Everybody is allowed to scan the air for signals in Sweden,” Nipe tells TorrentFreak.
“It’s clear that FRA have something to hide, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent armed guards at us,” he adds.
Spying on the spies
The Pirates hope that their actions have at least helped to raise public awareness about the secret surveillance practices, and the fact that those who are responsible refuse to explain what they are doing, and why.
“It is up to us citizens to try to find out what is going on. Who and what is FRA spying on? Our constitution states that all public power emanates from the people, but when we are not entrusted to know what is done with this power, we need to seek the answers ourselves,” Nipe concludes.
Constitutional rights aren’t all that effective if you don’t know what they are. A new infographic released by Online-Paralegal-Programs.com seeks to help Americans understand what rights they do and don’t have when interacting with an officer of the law.
The infographic is surprisingly detailed and includes information on filming a police encounter, DUI stops and requirements to show ID — which actually varies state to state.
Explore all the rights you have during a police encounter: