Verizon To Keep Fighting For Privacy

Verizon Corp. must reveal the identities of two high-speed Internet subscribers accused of illegally trading music online, a federal judge ruled today.

Verizon had first argued that turning over subscribers’ names would violate their constitutional right to privacy.  They said that it is unfair for the music industry to be allowed to obtain subpoenas without judicial approval, but U.S. District Court Judge John Bates threw out that argument in a January ruling.  Verizon then turned to its argument that the DMCA is unconstitutional.

“The case is not over and we intend to immediately appeal the decision and seek a stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals,” Verizon’s Associate General Counsel Sara Deutsch said.  “It’s virtually unprecedented in U.S. law that someone can use a form to find out your identity without any judicial process.”

Verizon argues that record labels should be required to get permission from a judge, rather than a clerk, which would add another legal hurdle to any copyright investigation, and that such a move is necessary to protect user privacy.  Without it any copyright holder — or anybody claiming to be a copyright holder — could easily obtain the name and address of any Internet user, giving easy access to any stalker, sexual predator, con artist or identity thief.

Story Link.

Morpheus Is Legal

A federal judge ruled today that companies providing peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software, such as Morpheus and Grokster, cannot be held liable for copyright infringement by users of the software.  In making the ruling, P2P was compared to “home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights.”

Story Link.

But Is It Art?

Escher TriangleIsometric illusory art was created as early as 1934 by Swedish Artist Oscar Reutersv√§rd with the impossible arrangement of blocks shown here. I always considered all that type of stuff Escher Art, but apparently he wasn’t the first one with it.

It also seems that many of those impossible triangles and stairs and such have names like the “Penrose illusion” and “Mach’s figure”.¬† See them described here.

A Better Example

What’s worse: Having an affair with an intern or child pornography? Clearly, a prominent Republican fund-raiser was confused.  (the short story)

He once said former President Bill Clinton was “a lawbreaker and a terrible example to our nation’s young people,” but pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court to production of child pornography. Trying to one-up Clinton, so to speak, I guess he was trying to show them a better example, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

The full story:,0,5369464.story?coll=bal-local-headlines (probably only good for two weeks) or

Shock And Awe Trademark

The phrase “shock and awe” was coined by military strategist Harlan Ullman in a 1996 publication. He used it to describe a tactic of pressuring the enemy to give up with little fighting. Coined, but apparently not trademarked. Oops.

A day after U.S. allied forces marched into Iraq, Sony applied for a trademark on “shock and awe” for use as the title of a video game, according to a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Sony has since backed down, describing the move to capitalize on the catchword as “an exercise of regrettable bad judgment.”

But Sony was not the only company hoping to profit from the phrase. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has more than a dozen recent applications for its uses, including for fireworks, lingerie, baby toys, shampoo and consulting services.

My favorite is from Michael Knight of Irving, Texas, who has applied for a “Shock & Awe” trademark on pesticides and herbicides.

Web Browser Turns 10

The original Mosaic browser, born in the University of Illinois’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications, turns 10 this year.  ZDNet has a nice history article, which reminds us that “in 1995, Netscape’s Navigator owned 80 percent of the browser market but by 2000 Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had reversed the numbers.”

The original IE 1.0 browser code was licensed from Spyglass, which was a commercial arm for the NCSA Mosaic browser work.  As usual, MS bought a technology and then modified it.

This tabled history of when the various browser versions were released reminds me of all the rewriting I’ve had to do of this web site.  When it was started, the compatibility issues were with Netscape 1.0, IE 2.0 and Mosaic 2.1, and new versions were coming out monthly.  Now, with IE have 95% of the market and MS rarely making any significant changes, things are much easier.

Spam Crackdown By FTC

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on a pornographic spam operation that it says has grossed more than $1 million in commissions and nearly 50,000 consumer complaints from a recent bulk e-mail campaign.  Two sources: and The Mercury News.

Also interesting is a discussion on slashdot.  Well, most of it isn’t interesting, it’s the usual bunch of people calling each other names and making feeble attempts at humor.  But there is at least one comment on it (from somebody that has more time on their hands than even I do) that is worth reading.  He says that the FTC is saying that “They don’t even have to prove that the business being advertised by spam paid the spammer. If someone benefitted from the spam, the beneficiary is liable.” Which will make it a lot easier to sue da bastards.

Webby Awards

No sooner do I put up the Musical Mayhem post earlier today, than I learn that the site is up for a Webby Award. If only I had gotten around to it last week.

This year’s nominees are listed here.

TIA and CAPPS:  The Math

I’ve seen a couple of articles on this concept.  The basic story is that, due to the relatively large number of innocent versus guilty people, anything other than a 100% correct database (checked your credit report lately?) will wrongly punish a much larger number of innocent people than wrongly allow guilty ones to go free.

Example 3: Assume a 1% error rate — one in a hundred — and the same one in 10,000 ratio of guilty people. The results are very different. For every 100 guilty people the database correctly identifies, it will mistakenly identify 10,000 innocent people as guilty. The number of guilty people erroneously listed as innocent is larger, but still very small: one in 100.

Another interesting tidbit:

There are 13 million people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. That’s ridiculous, it’s simply inconceivable that a number of people equal to 4.5% of the population of the United States are terrorists. … And in any case, any watch list with 13 million people is basically useless. How many resources can anyone afford to spend watching about one-twentieth of the population, anyway?


Security Research Muzzled

A state court in Georgia has issued temporary restraining order, which forced the cancellation of a conference panel this past weekend. A company called Blackboard, which sells campus automation systems to colleges and universities, convinced the court to block the publication of embarrassing details about Blackboard products.  The injunction is a prior restraint on speech, which prevented the defendants from speaking to an specific audience that had gathered to hear them in spite of any consideration of the First Amendment.


DMCA Scares Off Book Publisher

A MIT grad student hacked the Xbox and described his methods in a widely distributed research paper, helping spur a wave of Xbox-hacking that has led to the development of Xbox versions of Linux and other homemade software.

The publishing deal on his recently competed book, “Hacking the Xbox” was killed because the publisher is scared that Microsoft will come after them with the DMCA. (The Department of Justice recently used the DMCA to shut down, a Web site partly used to distribute Xbox-hacking tools, and to imprison the site’s owner.)

So he decided to self-publish the book, but the shopping-cart service he used also got scared off by the DMCA.

“The thing I have to emphasize is that the book itself is not criminal,” Huang said. “It’d be like saying that breaking and entering is illegal, so you can’t write a book on how locks work.”

Full story