Freezenet’s Official Podcast: January 2020: Copyright In Crisis

In this 15th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Copyright In Crisis”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for January.

Welcome to the public version of the 15th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for January, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “Copyright In Crisis” due to observers now saying that we are living in a copyright crisis.

Additionally, this month, we talk about the Google v. Oracle court cast which asks whether or not an API can be copyrighted. Another story covered is the growing censorship creep spreading across Canada. Also, we talk about how police can determine what they think is the best mattress endorsement they’ve ever heard. All this and more on this month’s episode!

you can check out our official podcast on Soundcloud or take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode:

Intro

Copyright In Crisis

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to the 15th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for January 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

The Google v Oracle case could head to the Supreme Court

Next is the mass Internet censorship expanding In Canada without court oversight

Also, Cory Doctorow makes the case that we are entering a copyright crisis

Top Stories

First, we begin with a court case that could have profound implications for innovation. That, of course, is the Google v Oracle case. The case came about when Google created the Android operating system. In doing so, they re-implemented an API which Oracle developed. While this is a very standard practice, what Oracle did next shook the technology sector to the core. Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement. The case has been going on for years, but things are starting to look bad for Google. In the appeals court, Google lost when the courts ruled that an API can be copyrighted.

For those who don’t know what a API is, a quick and dirty explanation is that it’s a piece of code that allows computers to communicate with each other. An example would be embed code that allows web developers to encourage people to follow their page on Twitter. The code is freely given out, Twitter gets the traffic, and the developer stands to increase their presence on Twitter. What Oracle is basically saying is that the act of putting that button on your page is copyright infringement.

This month, Google urged the US Supreme court to hear their case. With Oracle winning in the appeals court, Google now only has one option left: to get the case overturned in the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, for its part, will, at some point, make a decision on whether or not to hear the case. If they do, then there will be a trial and the case will still be alive. Otherwise, the case is dead and the decision stands.

Digital rights organization, the EFF, filed a brief along with Google. In the brief, the organization sided with Google in saying that an API cannot be copyrighted. The EFF’s legal team also made some comments on the case:

“Instead of following the law, the Federal Circuit decided to rewrite it to eliminate almost all the exclusions from copyright protection that Congress put in the statute,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “APIs are not copyrightable. The Federal Circuit’s ruling has created a dangerous precedent that will encourage more lawsuits and make innovative software development prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, the Supreme Court can and should fix this mess.”

“Treating the Java APIs as copyrightable gives Oracle, which stands to make billions from that decision, outsized control and monopoly power over the development of Java-compatible programs. Copyright law aims to stimulate creativity for the public good, not lock developers into a licensing scheme for the functional aspects of software,” said EFF Special Counsel Michael Barclay. “We’re strongly urging the Supreme Court to correctly apply copyright law in this case, and put right what the Federal Circuit got wrong.”

Other members in the tech sector also weighed in on the case. In a friend of the court submission, companies like Mozilla, Medium, Cloudera, Reddit, and others are urging the Supreme court to overturn the case. The brief says that the appeals court decision would stifle innovation and competition by “privileging powerful incumbents, creating artificial barriers to entry for new players, and deterring new software development”

IBM and Microsoft also weighed in with their own submissions. The filings read, in part:

“Computer interfaces are not copyrightable. That simple, yet powerful principle has been a cornerstone of technological and economic growth for over 60 years,” IBM opens up in its filing.

“Not once, until this case, has a Court of Appeals held that software interfaces are protected by copyright separate and apart from the code embodying the implementation of those interfaces. This is not because this principle is fringe; it is because it has always been accepted – based on legal precedent dating back 140 years.”

Microsoft said the Court of Appeals decision “takes an unduly narrow view of fair use that elevates functional code to the same level of copyright protection as the creative expression in a novel”.

In another story we brought you, it seems that Internet censorship creep is already expanding in Canada. Earlier, Europe issued a report encouraging Canada to implement Internet censorship. Additionally, they also urged Canada to remove exceptions to copyright laws. They further contend that Canada should get rid of the overwhelmingly effective notice-and-notice system. Instead, they demand that Canada adopt the proven failed notice-and-takedown system instead as seen in America’s controversial copyright laws.

Of course, Europe didn’t need to make the demand that Canada adopt mass Internet censorship laws. This is thanks to the hugely controversial GoldTV court case that we mentioned last month. In it, the Canadian judge ditched Canadian law and legal precedence in favour of UK law and caselaw to render a decision that would benefit foreign multinational corporations. That decision was appealed by independent ISP TekSavvy for obvious reasons.

In a move that is stunning the legal and digital rights community alike, the censorship lists are expanding without court oversight. Corporations sent a letter to all ISPs demanding that more domains be censored. They said that these sites need to be censored immediately. However, lawyers working on behalf of major corporations like Bell and Rogers ordered the ISPs to stay silent on the move. The reason for this is because the expanded censorship lists have not been cleared or looked at by a judge yet. In short, the censorship lists are gradually expanding in the veil of secrecy without legal oversight of any kind.

Law experts commenting on the development say that this is an extraordinary development. They point out how atypical such a move is because even if all the parties agree to the scheme, such a move would still need to be OKed by a judge first. This is because there are obvious public interest implications in all of this, so it is not normal for such a move to be made through private arbitration.

Cory Doctorow is making stark comments about the state of copyright today. In response to a number of issues that have cropped up in the last few years, he is making the case that copyright is now in a state of crisis. Among the reasons why are how much broader copyright laws are being interpreted. In a Rolling Stone article, observations were made about how copyright is getting to the point of stifling creativity. This is because various court cases are now saying that aspects of music such as rhythm, tempo, and even the general feel of a song can now be eligible for copyright protection. In response, even mainstream artists are getting nervous about releasing music for fear that they could be the next big artist to get sued for copyright infringement. As a result, some are even taking out insurance policies specifically for this problem. Others are simply releasing the music and risk being forced to pay millions to obscure artists from yesteryear because the “feel” of a song could be similar to their work.

Another reason for Doctorow’s stark comments stems from a case we also brought you this month. Samuel Maddock, developer of MetaStream, opened up about his frustrations in building an all purpose web browser. While every other piece of the puzzle was finally put together, the DRM aspect, which only began to exist in 2017, became a roadblock. This is because the developer then had to canvas the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft for permission to finish developing the web browser. In one instance, the developer was asked to fork over $10,000 just to have their project looked at. In response, Maddock also pointed to other browsers having similar problems – often with unfortunate end results causing the projects to remain permanently incomplete.

Doctorow also pointed to issues like the consolidation of major tech companies and a multitude of other issues that contributes to the argument that we are now living in a copyright crisis. Further, he points out that other issues could soon contribute to an even darker dire future. This is thanks to laws such as the European censorship machine law which is going to take effect sometime in 2021 as well. At any rate, it’s hard to disagree with the analysis given how much things have slid over the years.

Certainly not the most upbeat stories we’ve seen, so here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

The UK government launched another political attack on Facebook. The Home Office says that Facebook securing messages will give free reign to child sex abusers and terrorists. While the Home Office released statistics on current ongoing investigations, they didn’t appear to be able to make the case that encryption would actually put an end to those investigations.

Later on, Facebook engineers spoke at length about the plans for encryption. They admit that such encryption requires major rethinking of current infrastructure across its properties. As a result, encryption by default could very easily be years away.

While the war on encryption did continue to hit Facebook, Facebook isn’t the only one facing attacks by the US government. Apple is also becoming another target in the war on encryption again. US Attorney General, William Barr, attacked Apple for allegedly dragging its feet on an investigation. At issue is an iPhone owned by the naval base shooter at Pensacola, Florida. Barr contends that there were delays in an investigation because Apple refused to hand over decryption keys. When Apple was contacted about these allegations, they defended themselves by saying that everything authorities were asking for was, in fact, handed over. The government shot back and said that the shooter had a second iPhone. Apple said they were never made aware of a second iPhone in the investigation. As it turns out, the US government forgot to ask. Two days later, paperwork was sent requesting the information which Apple complied with.

While the situation was obviously a bureaucratic mistake on the governments part, that didn’t stop impeached president Trump from weighing in anyway. In one of his countless Twitter tantrums, Trump said that they are helping Apple on trade and yet they aren’t helping them with investigations. Despite already stepping up to the plate, Trump demanded that Apple step up to the plate.

European digital rights organizations are claiming a legal win with Austria. The constitutional court has ruled that the countries hacking laws are unconstitutional. The law would allow authorities to use malware and hacking tools on potential targets. Austria argued that this is no different than simple wiretaps. The court, however, didn’t buy it and said that there is a huge difference between hacking into someones computer and issuing a wiretap on them. After that, the law was declared unconstitutional.

YouTube has unveiled new tools to YouTubers to deal with DMCA complaints. While the new tools helps differentiate between a strike and a complaint, the tools may be disappointing to many. The tools essentially allows YouTubers to find out what part of the video is infringing. After that, they can trim out or mute the alleged copyrighted material. As we point out in our analysis, this won’t necessarily do much to stop the wave of fraudulent copyright claims which is currently plaguing YouTubers.

Later on, the EFF would agree with our analysis that the tools are disappointing. In their own comments, the EFF pointed out that the tools still do nothing to address fair use concerns. Instead, it just helps YouTubers simply cave to even the flimsiest of complaints.

Reporters Without Borders is demanding the release of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange. Assange has been in solitary confinement since his arrest for his crimes of exposing government corruption through his website, Wikileaks. The demands come as Assange’s health continues to deteriorate. 60 medical doctors were able to visit him and assess his health. They concluded that Assange’s health has deteriorated so much that he could die in jail.

China’s new encryption laws are taking force and it has rattled American senators. After the senators demanded backdoor access from tech companies to allegedly guard national security, the senators expressed dissatisfaction that China is asking for the same access. Some senators suggest that the backdoor access China is seeking is merely a ploy to steal American intellectual property. Some are calling on businesses to stop dealing with the Chinese in response to the new laws.

Iranian hackers are claiming responsibility for defacing an American government website. For a period of time, the website for the Federal Depository Library Program contained pro-Iranian and anti-American messages. The incident happened as tensions rose between the US and Iran, but before the downing of a Ukrainian passenger airplane which killed Iranian, Ukrainian, and Canadian citizens.

Studio71_1_2 briefly became a trending hashtag after a wave of allegedly fraudulent DMCA notices targeted YouTubers. The company appeared to be targeting random let’s play videos on YouTube with the company saying they own the rights to the video animation. A sampling of the list shows video’s that contain game play footage of Pokemon, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Little Misfortune. All of these games, of course, contain footage produced by different studio’s. YouTubers were able to issue counterclaims to have the videos immediately restored. Due to lack of a web presence, Freezenet was unable to locate any information on the company filing these claims.

A new study out of Australia is revealing what many would suspect would happen. In the last few years, the country began performing a social experiment where the country would demand different kinds of websites be censored at the ISP level. While experts and tech companies united to reject these ideas, the government simply chose to ignore the advice of those who know better and proceed with censoring the Internet anyway. The recent study suggests that more and more Australian’s are getting better at circumventing the censorship. In 2018, 1% said that they were able to circumvent the censorship. In 2019, that number spiked to 16%.

The European censorship machine laws made news< this month as well. Formerly known as article 13, article 17 of the copyright directive pressures websites to deploy ineffective filtering technology to remove allegedly copyright infringing material. Digital rights organizations came out in force in one of the more open hearings about the implementation of the laws. Those organizations demand that user rights be respected in the process. European countries have until June 7, 2021 to implement the censorship laws. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced that the NAFTA 2.0 implementation bill could be tabled within a week. Known sometimes as the USMCA, the agreement caught controversy on a number of fronts including the demand that Canada increase the length of copyright terms. Currently, Canada abides by the international standard of life plus 50 years per the Berne Convention. The agreement is demanding that Canada increase this to life plus 70 years. Canadian digital rights organizations are watching nervously to see if this extension will make it into the implementation bill.

Security incidences also made a number of headlines this month. We begin with the Canadian security incident with LifeLabs. The medical corporation suffered from a breach which affected 15 million Canadians along with 85,000 lab patients. A Toronto lawyer has filed a class action lawsuit against LifeLabs. The lawyer is seeking $1.13 billion in potential damages as well as $10 million in punitive damages.

Shortly after, a second class action lawsuit was filed against LifeLabs. The lawsuit was filed in the BC Supreme court on Anna Belle Tharani’s behalf. Obviously not a good start to 2020 for LifeLabs.

Home Smart Security company Wyze suffered from a data leak. In all, 2.4 million customers have been exposed. The incident was reported on an small security website before Wyze could respond to the security ticket. The report also contained inaccurate information about how bone density information was also exposed in the leak. That aspect has since been disproven after Wyze confirmed the leak and shed light on the situation.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is continuing to haunt Facebook. Brazil issued a $1.6 million fine against the company. The data mining affected 443,000 Brazilian’s. Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security said that the data on Brazilian’s were used for “at the very least, questionable” purposes.

Cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex has reset the passwords of a number of their customers. The action came after a data leak of unknown origin exposed user information. Out of an abundance of caution, the exchange reset the passwords of potentially affected users who might, in part, be re-using those passwords on their services.

Definitely another busy month here on Freezenet.

Video Game Reviews

Now, let’s take a look at entertainment.

Before we get into video game reviews, we wanted to point out that we have released another first impression video this month. This time, we are playing the puzzle game Portal. If you’d like to check out the video yourself, you can follow the link in the transcript or visit our website.

Now, here are the video games we’ve reviewed this month:

First, we played Vanguard for the Atari 5200. Great variety in the play and nicely done graphics. So, this game earns a great 88%.

The next one we played is Joust for the Atari 5200. Nicely done physics and plenty of variety throughout the game. This one gets a solid 72%.

After that, we played H.E.R.O. for the Atari 5200. Slight delay with the controls, but the interlocking screens make this an interesting play. This one gets a half-decent 68%.

We then played Pitfall II – Lost Caverns for the Atari 5200. A challenging game with some very narrow margins for error. Spaced out checkpoints adds to this difficulty. Still, there is a nice large level to explore. So, this game ends up with a solid 72%.

Finally, we played Moon Matrol for the Atari 5200. Nicely done graphics and a good level progression. Unfortunately, there is a very limited supply of lives. Still, this game gets a great 84%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Janet Jackson – Black Cat

ZZ Top – My Head’s In Mississippi

Age of Love – The Age of Love (Boeing Mix)

Lhasa – The Attic

Revelation – First Power (Computer Take Over Mix)

Electronic Voodoo – Ohm (Live In Tibet)

Clubstepper – Fiddle (Club Mix)

… and finally, The Rhythm Section – Generation (Electro Laserdance)

Picks of the Month

So, that, leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Vanguard for the Atari 5200. Also, be sure to check out Moon Patrol for the Atari 5200 and Clubstepper – Fiddle (Club Mix).

Oddities

And in other news…

A woman in Missouri found herself to be a bit embarrassed after testing a mattress at a mattress store. While testing it, she apparently fell asleep. She slept through the night and awoke the next morning just before an employee was unlocking the store to open for the next day. Police called it “the best mattress endorsement we’ve ever heard.” Do store employees no longer check the building for lingering customers before locking up for the night?

There are those that argue that the bike theft problem in Portland Oregon has gotten out of hand. This next story likely won’t disprove that case. Police in the city operate what is known as the Bike Theft Task Force. That arm is tasked with prevention and recovery of stolen bikes in the city. In an ironic twist of fate, one of the officers on that force had their bikes stolen. In one tweet, the force posted “Well, this oughta be good for some comments at least… ‘Please help Bike Theft Task Force Officer Sanders find his stolen bike’…” In another tweet, the force also said “Going out on a limb here, but this may support the argument that we still have a slight bike theft problem in the city……”

Well, that’s certainly ironic.

Interestingly, another oddity came out of Portland, Oregon. This time, at the airport. A man travelling through the airport wanted to pass the time between flights. Instead of doing what some would do like reading a book or taking a nap, he decided to be a bit creative with his time. The unidentified man found an airport monitor used to display travel information and hijacked it. He pulled a Playstation 4 out of his carry-on luggage and plugged it into the monitor so he could play Apex Legends. Decked out in a headset so he could communicate with other players, the actions didn’t go unnoticed with airport security. When they approached him, they politely asked him to stop. When the man asked if he could finish his game first, security told him ‘no’. Game over, man, game over.

Outro

Before we close out this months episode, we got a huge announcement to make. After multiple months of hard work, we are proud to announce the unveiling of our new Wiki. The Wiki is designed to open source our entertainment research we’ve been doing. Since plenty of music doesn’t make the cut in our reviews section, we thought the Wiki would be the perfect way to showcase all the music we are aware of out there. It’ll contain live show, label, artist, and other nice pieces of information such as where to legally purchase, preview, and stream said music. The goal is to help others better explore the kinds of music out there. The initial release doesn’t feature much, but we’ll continue to add content as quickly as possible. We hope you enjoy this brand new feature. If you want to go directly to it, it’s at freezenet.ca/wiki

Also, huge shoutout to Nolan for providing mixing services.

If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for January, 2020, I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @freezenetca. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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