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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Federal Judge Questions Validity of RIAA Arguments

Atlantic Records, et al., brought suit against Christopher Brennan just over a year ago. Brennan failed to respond to the complaint, never appearing in court to answer the copyright infringement charges. After an entry of default was entered on August 6, 2007, the RIAA moved the court for a default judgment, which Judge Janet Bond Arterton denied in a ruling earlier this month.

In order to obtain a default judgment, three factors have to be satisfied. First, the default needs to be willful. In so many words, the default has to arise out of the inexcusable neglect of the defendant. Second, there cannot be a "meritorious defense" available to the defendant—a defense that is sufficient, "even if not 'ultimately persuasive.'" Last, the plaintiffs need to be prejudiced if the default is not granted.

The judge had harsh words for the RIAA's argument that making files available on KaZaA equates to copyright infringement. "At least one aspect of Plaintiffs’' distribution claim is problematic, however, namely the allegation of infringement based on 'making the Copyrighted Recordings available for distribution to others."

RIAA fails again to get default judgment in uncontested case

The RIAA has once again been admonished in Federal court for trying to present vague "evidence" to support their claims of infringement. The judge in this case also left the door open to once again leave questions about the constitutionality of the excessive awards demanded in these cases while offering no proof of actual damages. It's not an unreasonable request to have the plaintiff in any litigation to prove the damages actually incurred. The mere act of "making available" as opposed to actual distribution of copyrighted files has been the lynchpin of the RIAA arguments in many cases. It's refreshing to have yet another judge in the federal court system question the merits of this ridiculous argument. If one thinks about it logically, how can you ask for a judgement well in excess of any real damages when you offer no proof the actual act of sharing ever occurred?

The judge in this case also admonished the RIAA for using a "boilerplate" complaint that was vague in it's details. The RIAA afterward, said they would be filing a brief to further clarify their position as they had done in other cases. This legal maneuver is an attempt by RIAA attorneys to give as little information as possible to the court in the hopes that they will get a judgement without ever presenting their flimsy evidence for further scrutiny. One would think that the courts will tire of this shady practice and continue to dismiss their claims as unsubstantiated. It would also be prudent for the court to deny acceptance of any brief filed after the fact. Watch closely to this case as it appears that it may end in another defeat for the RIAA and bring us one step closer to the end of these ridiculous lawsuits and awards.

MIT Panel Trashes Comcast's Network Management

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Comcast has confessed to slowing down certain peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic, but is it being clear enough about what it's doing?
That's perhaps the key question that emerged by the end of a lengthy public forum convened by the Federal Communications Commission on Monday here at Harvard Law School.
While none of the FCC commissioners was willing to solidify an answer to that just yet, two MIT computer scientists on an afternoon panel accused the cable company of behaving badly on multiple levels.

As most readers of this blog know by now, I am in full support of net neutrality. While one has to understand the concept of the need to "manage" network traffic, it is incredibly naive to think even for a second that how to do this should be left to the sole discretion of the ISP's. The internet has flourished thus far as a communication medium that is unfettered by government interference. The ISP's were exstatic that they now had a whole new revenue stream to tap into and they gladly made the investment necessary to profit greatly from it.
With the advent of VOIP, video, bit torrent etc..., the internet has outgrown it's infancy stage and has reached the point of being a young adolesent. The ISP's should have seen this coming when the net was in its toddler stage, but they chose to favor immediate profits over long term viability. They've now come to a point where the existing infrastructure can't keep up with the demand needed for today's services. The ISP's seem to want to punish the consumer for their bad business choices. This stone age mentality seems to mirror the strategy of one of my other "favorite" subjects, the RIAA. Businesses that are unwilling to change, because they refuse to make necessary investments, should not be coddled by the government or further supported by the public.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gut The FCC, So We Can Rip Off Consumers More Easily!

Policy analyst Randolph J. May says the Federal Communications Commission should make needed market reforms to communications policy.

I'm not sure giving providers free reign to dictate content and pricing for what travels on their networks is a good idea. Take for instance, the other day, when the 3 major carriers came out (within hours of eachother)and all announced $99 unlimited plans. Where's the competition there? How does this collusion benefit the consumer? This is not the market dictating the cost at all, and probably cries for closer scutiny. If the services offered here in the US (some people are still only offered dial-up internet) are years behind the technology offered in developing nations, why should we be deregulating the industry? If a person in Micronesia is getting broadband at 5 times the speeds offered here, at 3 times a cheaper cost, it doesn't make sense to deregulate the industry until these companies prove they've built the infrastructure to support the users beyond a level of third world countries.These companies have made huge profits and made marginal investments on the backs of consumers for years. They need to pony up before we take off the training wheels!

Read More On This Self-Serving Blather Here

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

These Dudes Are Out of Their Minds!

Check out this video of crazy bastards that can fly...sort of.

I'm pretty brave, and I say that I'll try anything once, but I think I'd have to pass on this one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Will the Automotive X-Prize Be Won By The Air Car?

A company named Zero Pollution Motors plans on bringing a car powered by air to the U.S. sometime in 2009 or 2010. The six pistons in the Air Car's engine are pushed by compressed air rather than gasoline combustion, an idea developed by F1 race car engineer Guy Negre.

Air Powered Car Coming to the US

The company claims it's vehicle will get 106mpg and have a top speed of 96mph. It also boasts of zero emissions. The gasoline portion of the system is used to run the onboard compressor that refills the air tanks while driving and produces half the emissions of the Toyota Prius (the current cleanest production hybrid). The vehicle can also be "recharged in about 4 hours using a standard electrical outlet and uses about $2 worth of electricity. The cars air tanks can be filled with an external compressor commonly found in most service stations in about 4 minutes. The tanks themselves are made of a carbon fiber that makes them strong enough to hold the high pressure needed to run the vehicle. In the case of an accident, the tanks will crack instead of exploding like traditional metal compressed air tanks. Thus proving to be a very safe technology for the user.

The company has recently raised $20 million dollars in venture capitol from the India based automaker Tata Motors. This gives it the significant funding needed to enter the highly competitive US car market. The estimated price for the base model is around $18,000. When coupled with the amazing fuel economy, this vehicle appears to be well within the reach of most consumers.

The following video is from an Australian television show called "Beyond Tommorrow" that featured the amazing "Air Car". The second portion of the video features an Australian inventor who has also come up with an incredible invention he calls the "rotary air engine". This amazing engine can be held in your hands, yet produces an incredible amount of power. Is air power the solution to our dependence on fossil fuels and the answer for greatly reduced emmissions? Perhaps, but could they make this technology run in something that isn't so butt-ass ugly?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Industrial Hemp Bill Moves To The Vermont Senate

On Thursday, February 7th, the Vermont House of Representatives passed the Hemp for Vermont bill, with overwhelming support. The vote was 127 to 9! The bill will now pass on to the Vermont Senate where one would expect it will pass. If you would like to read the bill in its present iteration, you can read it at the Hemp Saves the World blog.

I'm glad to see some common sense eminating from Montpelier. This bill paves the way for another business opportunity other than tourism. Our climate is excellent for the production of industrial hemp. Look at how good the non-industrial variety has been grown here...(lol).
The more diversity in agribusiness we have, the better off our economy will be. Once again, Vermonters have the gumption to directly thumb their collective noses at ridiculous Federal regulations. Three cheers for the legislature! I wonder what the opinion of our Congressional delegation in Washington is? Will they support the legislature? Where does the Chamber of Commerce stand on this?

It should be an interesting State vs The Feds battle. My guess is that the Bush DOJ will take the fight to the Federal courts and other Federal agencies will threaten to cut funding. They'll do anything they can get away with to bolster their support of the so-called "war on drugs". George washington and Thomas Jefferson (both hemp farmers) will be rolling in their graves....

Monday, February 18, 2008

U.S. Court Wields the Censorship Hammer on Wikileaks

Wikileaks, a website that has brought to light many scandalous acts by giving whistleblowers a forum to expose wrong doing anonomously, has been ordered by US District Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California to display blank pages and goes even further by barring them from redirecting traffic to offshore servers. It also bars them from transfering ownership of the domain name wikileaks.org. Once again, a Bush appointed judge has over-extended the government's conrtrol over our essential freedoms. If ever there were any doubt about our Constitution being under attack, this would be a shining example.

Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by people from a host of countries, including the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. It has generated headlines by hosting documents exposing several high-profile scandals, including those related to the collapse of the UK's Northern Rock bank and to prisons in Iraq and and Guantanamo Bay. The site says it has posted more than 1.2 million documents.
In the case in dispute, Wikileaks claimed a bank located in the Cayman Islands engaged in money laundering and tax evasion. The latest agreement came in a lawsuit brought by Bank Julius Baer, the parent company of the accused Cayman bank. After trying unsuccessfully to get Wikileaks to remove the documents, Swiss-based Julius Baer went after Dynadot, the California web hosting company, which according to this copy of the court order, agreed to roll over in exchange for the suit against it being dismissed. Dynadot also agreed to turn over records related to Wikileaks, including "IP addresses and associated data used by any person, other than Dynadot, who accessed the account for the domain name". Wikileaks claims that it is an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis". But this is true only if its webhosts can be trusted not to pull the plug on its customers or divulge sensitive client information.

Wikileaks lawyers were given only a few hours notice of this latest hearing, and amazingly the judge allowed the hearing to proceed and issued the injunction without hearing any counter-claim from Wikileaks lawyers. One would hope that this type of shotgun injunction will be overturned on appeal based on the patent unfairness of the proceedings. It would also appear that the court is engaging in what amounts to Government sanctioned censorship. It all is a fascinating story to follow.

Wikileaks has also been banned in China and Thailand. Apparently they have pissed off many rich and powerful people around the world. It will be interesting how this plays out in the U.S. courts, as I'm sure this is only round number one. Stay tuned for more on this one.....

Wikileaks.org under injunction - Wikileaks
(you may get a certificate error from this link, but it is safe to follow)

This is the main site: (hosted outside of the U.S. of course)

(you may get a certificate error from this link, but it is safe to follow)

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back on the Grassy Knoll...

It would seem that some highly suspect documents have surfaced from the Dallas DA's office that suggest JFK's assasination was ordered by the Mafia. The current DA has decided to reveal these documents to the public to maintain the appearance of transparency in his office....or he just wants some headlines and publicity.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cops Don't Like It When the Camera Turns On Them

Recent video footage of an out of control Baltimore cop wrestling a 14 year-old skateboarder to the ground has added fire to a growing debate about police misconduct. Then to add even more fuel to the fire, another man has come forward with an equally outrageous video of the same cop acting in an unreasonable manner.
Apparently police departments accross the country don't like it when the camera is turned on them....

A bill currently proposed in the Utah Legislature would prevent the public from finding out about police misconduct. The proponents of this bill believe that the cops should be able to handle police misconduct investigations internally, outside the watchful eye of the public. In essence, this bill would leave policing the police to themselves. It's this kind of legislation that further deteriorates our Constitution and takes us one step closer to a big brother-like police state. Ever since the Bush administration began the "war on terror", our civil rights and our Constitution have been systematicly eroded by lawmakers who buy into every wacky idea that purports to strengthen law enforcement. Supporters of this bill claim that police misconduct needs to be kept from the public in order to "preserve the integrity of the police". They also claim that public police misconduct scandals weaken the credibility of police testimony in court. A reasonable person would come to the conclusion that the police need to clean up their own act and get rid of the bad apples, not simply move the problem out of the public arena. They obviously have no interest in cleaning up their act. So, instead they want to hide it to preserve the status quo.

In this day and age, the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words couldn't be more true. I would bet the supporters of this bill feel that the folks with the video cameras were to blame for the Rodney King incident and the riots that ensued. While it's true that video can be taken out of context and used to present only one side of complicated confrontations with the police (as it is alleged by police in the recently publicized case of an Ohio woman), more often than not, a video can be a useful tool in determining whether or not police or citizens act in a responsible, law-abiding manner. The old notion that police always act as we all would expect is simply a fairy tale. Cops are people too. They are prone to poor judgement just as much as the rest of us. When they do they should be held accountable. This being said, there is no reason that we should believe every thing a police officer offers as testimony in court proceedings as the absolute truth.

There is a counter movement currently under way in Utah. A defense attorney has proposed that a bill be introduced that would require all police interrogations to be video taped. The intent is to protect people from police coercion while being interrogated. Too often we have seen people who claim they confeesed to a crime they didn't commit simply because the police lied to them or used exaustive interrogation techniques designed to break a persons will. The folks that are against this bill say it would be too costly for small rural police departments to comply. They claim that the cost of video equipment installation would take money out of already strained budget. One police official claimed that "If he were forced to spend $20,000 on video taping equipment, he would have to eliminate his D.A.R.E. program". It's this kind of rhetoric that should make everyone suspect of the real reasons that cops don't want cameras in police stations. As far as I can tell, a PC with a webcam and a dvd burner would probably suffice. That's hardly a $20,000 investment. I also don't recall these people arguing that onboard dash cams were prohibitively expensive when it was put to them that it would protect the police and serve as a valuable prosecution tool.

I would recommend that everyone follow this argument closely, as it could have a chilling effect on our civil rights that are more frequently coming under attack. The concept of less government transparency should be a major concern to us all. The notion that broader police powers and less accountability somehow protect our way of life is completely against the democratic fundamentals our constitution is founded upon.

New Bill To Allow Police Misconduct Be Hidden From Public

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Clothes Dryer Device to Make EnergyStar Rating

New energy saving technologies are finally making it to the consumer market. A new device called the Dryermiser promises that it will dry clothes up to 41% faster than conventional gas or electric dryers and conserve 50% more energy.

The new device can be adapted to most consumer brands of dryers. It uses a technology called Hydronic Drying. Instead of usinhg hot air to dry clothes, the hydronic technology heats a specialized oil that enables it to dry faster and more efficiently than conventional dryer technology. This new device claims to be more environmentaly friendly and also will reduce the carbon footprint of your home. It will also reduce the risk of fire and eliminate that "burnt lint" smell emitted by current models. The company claims their amazing new product can reduce fabric shrinkage because of the way it heats. The units allow a consumer to dry their clothes using 110 volts instead of 220 volts.

The units will cost around $300 dollars and can be installed by a technician in about 20 minutes. The inventor of this incredible device invented it in his garage and is set to hit the market later this fall. The copper and aluminum system heats a fluid, which mixes with air that is then blown hot into the clothing drum. Each unit would use about three cups of a nontoxic, hydrocarbon-based oil.

Of course the old-fashioned clothe line is still the most eco-friendly clothes dryer.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The RIAA Wants to Monitor Your PC!

Once again, RIAA President Cary Sherman shows us how scary his organization really can be. He now lends his support to filters installed on our PC's and cable/dsl modems to detect copyright infringement. Look how quickly they are trying to backpedal from this ridiculous position already.

These folks are bound and determined to alienate every potential consumer of their crappy products that they can. I hope that when the time comes to look back on this whole debate, after he has single-handedly burnt the recording industry to the ground, people will realize what a fucking idiot this guy is. Tell me who the hell would want any company or government monitoring what you do in the privacy of your own home? What's next, the porno industry making your monitor a two way screen so they could see who's whacking off to illegally downloaded porn? Would anyone accept a device installed in your car that would alert the police when you've broken the speed limit? The big brother implications here are really scary. As Mr. Bean would say, people should "be afraid, very afraid".

If the world doesn't wake up to the corporations and governments infringing on our rights to privacy and presumed innocence we will all be living in a place far worse than George Orwell could ever have imagined. If you really want a glimpse of where we are headed and what a slippery slope we are on, I suggest reading the book Farenheight 451.

Below you will see an edited version of a video taken at a recent conference where Cary Sherman is on the panel. The video was edited from the full hour and a half taken at the conference down to 6 minutes to point out some of the highlights of the draconian ideas the RIAA ass monkeys support. If you are interested in seeing it in it's entirety, I would certainly recommend you do so.

If we all educate ourselves as to what we are up against, perhaps enough people will scream as loudly as possible so that the morons in Washington, and politicians around the world, will stop listening to the intense lobbying efforts these jokers are making. They are completely within their rights to distribute and protect their copyrights as they see fit. Just as we are well within our rights to not buy their junk. But, if they are able to pursuede lawmakers into passing legislation that allows them to monitor us 24/7, it sets a very dangerous precedent. Once something is written into law, it is difficult or impossible to change. What the RIAA is now proposing is a right to monitor activities in our home. The police or FBI aren't even granted such a right. Why should a corporation be granted such access? I particularly don't buy Sherman's assertion that this all could be done "anonomously". How long would it be before the RIAA folks persuade lawmakers to give them the right to have access to this "anonomous" information in order to bring more lawsuits? I also found it amusing how quickly the woman at the end of the forum was cut off when she tried to point out that Sherman never said they wouldn't sue people for ripping legally purchased CD's to their mp3 player...

Again, I can't urge you enough to contact your representatives and demand that they not cave in to pressure from these groups. Keep in mind that most of our folks in Washington are too old to be "net savy", so they listen with great interest to lobbyists who represent these media dinosaurs. The problem is that they don't really understand the technology or the dangers of its misuse. If you doubt this, all you need to do is revisit the Ted Stevens "the internet is a series of tubes" speech. Lawmakers may not understand the "internets", but the two things they do understand is the power of money (from these lobbying organizations) and the power of votes (from the likes of you and me). This is where the battle will ultimately lie. Remember, the politicians don't bother to read my blog, or the millions of others like it, but they do read polls and they do count votes!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Whoops—Italy inadvertently legalizes some P2P music

The Italian parliament has passed a new copyright law that would decriminalize the sharing of "degraded" music on the Internet for educational and scientific purposes. Apparently, lawmakers didn't realize that 256kbps MP3s are degraded.

Read more from ARS Technica

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I thought the intent of this law was an interesting concept. What they are trying to say is that an mp3 is not the same as sharing the original quality commercial release. Therefore there is no infringement. Of course, here in the states, this concept would never get any legs as it is clearly in violation of the DMCA which covers reproduction of a copyrighted material in any form.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Are Undersea Cable Cuts a Coincidence?

DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)--A third undersea fibre optic cable running through the Suez to Sri Lanka was cut Friday, said a Flag official.
Two other fiber optic cables owned by Flag Telecom and consortium SEA-ME-WE 4 located near Alexandria, Egypt, were damaged Wednesday leading to a slowdown in Internet and telephone services in the Middle East and South Asia.

Third undersea cable reportedly cut between Sri Lanka, Suez - MarketWatch

I hate to be one to fan terrorist paranoia, but it would seem highly implausible that three undersea cable cuts in two days are mere coincidence. When one considers the areas these cable are laid and the areas they serve, one has to wonder if this is an act of terrorism designed to "cut off" the Islamic world from the west. As the Taliban did in Afghanistan, many of these groups view modern technology as an evil afront to radical Islam. It would make sense to wreak havoc by disrupting modern communications if this was your goal.

In fairness this sort of activity could be used to further any number of criminal activities. The finacial implications alone could rise into the billions. The variety of "reasons" given for this happening, leads to many different scenarios playing out in the court of public opinion. A reasonable person should have a hard time swallowing that three seperate cable cuts were caused by ships dragging their anchors. Why hasn't this happened more frequently before now? Why would it happen on three seperate occasions in the span of two days?

It will probably be quite some time, if ever, that we find out all the circumstances around these incidents. In the mean time it certainly makes one wonder....