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United States

Federal Wiretaps Down Slightly, Encryption Impact Decreases 24 24

coondoggie writes: According to the 2014 Wiretap Report, released today by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts a total of a total of 3,554 wiretaps were reported as authorized, with 1,279 authorized by federal judges and 2,275 authorized by state judges. Compared to the applications approved during 2013, the number approved by federal judges decreased 13% in 2014 and the number approved by state judges increased 8%. One state wiretap application was denied in 2014, the report stated.
Privacy

Surveillance Court: NSA Can Resume Bulk Surveillance 157 157

An anonymous reader writes: We all celebrated back in May when a federal court ruled the NSA's phone surveillance illegal, and again at the beginning of June, when the Patriot Act expired, ending authorization for that surveillance. Unfortunately, the NY Times now reports on a ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which concluded that the NSA may temporarily resume bulk collection of metadata about U.S. citizens's phone calls. From the article: "In a 26-page opinion (PDF) made public on Tuesday, Judge Michael W. Mosman of the surveillance court rejected the challenge by FreedomWorks, which was represented by a former Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican. And Judge Mosman said that the Second Circuit was wrong, too. 'Second Circuit rulings are not binding' on the surveillance court, he wrote, 'and this court respectfully disagrees with that court's analysis, especially in view of the intervening enactment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act.' When the Second Circuit issued its ruling that the program was illegal, it did not issue any injunction ordering the program halted, saying that it would be prudent to see what Congress did as Section 215 neared its June 1 expiration."
The Courts

Apple Loses Ebook Price Fixing Appeal, Must Pay $450 Million 97 97

An anonymous reader writes: A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 today that Apple indeed conspired with publishers to increase ebook prices. The ruling puts Apple on the hook for the $450 million settlement reached in 2014 with lawyers and attorneys general from 33 states. The Justice Dept. contended that the price-fixing conspiracy raised the price of some e-books from the $10 standard set by Amazon to $13-$15. The one dissenting judge argued that Apple's efforts weren't anti-competitive because Amazon held 90% of the market at the time. Apple is unhappy with the ruling, but they haven't announced plans to take the case further. They said, "While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps."
The Courts

8 Yelp Reviewers Hit With $1.2 Million Defamation Suits 205 205

New submitter goodboi writes: A Silicon Valley building contractor is suing 8 of its critics over the reviews they posted on Yelp. The negative reviews were filtered out by Yelp's secretive ranking system, but in court documents filed earlier this month, Link Corporation claims that the bad publicity cost over $165,000 in lost business.
Communications

European Government Agrees On Net Neutrality Rules, With Exemptions 37 37

An anonymous reader writes: The European Union's three main legislative bodies, the European Council, the European Parliment, and the European Commision, have reached an agreement on "Open Internet" rules that establish principles similar to Net Neutrality in the EU. The rules require that all internet traffic and users be treated equally, forbidding paid-for prioritisation of traffic. However, exemptions are permitted for particular "specialised services" where the service is not possible under the open network's normal conditions, provided that the customer using the service pays for the privilege. (The examples given are IPTV, teleconferencing, and telepresence surgery.) Zero-rating — exempting particular data from traffic caps — is also permitted, but will be subject to oversight. Notably, this means (if all goes as promised) the elimination of cellphone roaming fees within the EU; however, that's been promised and delayed before.
The Courts

Lawsuit Filed Over Domain Name Registered 16 Years Before Plaintiff's Use 189 189

HughPickens.com writes: Cybersquatting is registering, selling or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else's trademark. It generally refers to the practice of buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intent to sell the names for a profit to those businesses. Now Andrew Allmann writes at Domain Name Wire that New York company Office Space Solutions, Inc. has filed a cybersquatting lawsuit against Jason Kneen over the domain name WorkBetter.com that Kneen registered in 1999 although Office Space Solutions didn't use the term "Work Better" in commerce until 2015. "Workbetter.com is virtually identical to, and/or confusingly similar to the WORK BETTER Service Mark, which was distinctive at the time that the Defendant renewed and/or updated the registration of workbetter.com," says the lawsuit. But according to an Office Space Solutions' filing with the USPTO, it didn't use the term "Work Better" in commerce until 2015. Office Space Solutions is making the argument that the domain name was renewed in bad faith. According to Kneen, Office Space previously tried to purchase the domain name from him and after it failed to acquire the domain name, is now trying to take it via a lawsuit.
Advertising

Avira Wins Case Upholding Its Right To Block Adware 63 63

Mark Wilson writes: Security firm Avira has won a court case that can not only be chalked up as a win for consumer rights, but could also set something of a precedent. Germany company Freemium.com took Avira to court for warning users about "potentially unwanted applications" that could be bundled along with a number of popular games and applications. Freemium.com downloads included a number of unwanted extras in the form of browser toolbars, free trial applications, adware, and other crapware. Avira's antivirus software warned users installing such applications; Freemium took objection to this and filed a cease and desist letter, claiming anti-competitive practices. But the court ruled in Avira's favor, saying it could continue to flag up and block questionable software.
Google

SCOTUS Denies Google's Request To Appeal Oracle API Case 179 179

New submitter Neil_Brown writes: The Supreme Court of the United States has today denied Google's request to appeal against the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's ruling (PDF) that the structure, sequence and organization of 37 of Oracle's APIs (application program interfaces) was capable of copyright protection. The case is not over, as Google can now seek to argue that, despite the APIs being restricted by copyright, its handling amounts to "fair use". Professor Pamela Samuelson has previously commented (PDF) on the implications if SCOTUS declined to hear the appeal. The Verge reports: "A district court ruled in Google's favor back in 2012, calling the API "a utilitarian and functional set of symbols" that couldn't be tied up by copyrights. Last May, a federal appeals court overturned that ruling by calling the Java API copyrightable. However, the court said that Google could still have lawfully used the APIs under fair use, sending the case back to a lower court to argue the issue. That's where Google will have to go next, now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the issue over copyright itself.
Censorship

BBC Curates The "Right To Be Forgotten" Links That Google Can't 145 145

An anonymous reader writes, quoting the BBC's Internet Blog: "Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals." The BBC, however, is not obligated to completely censor the results, and so has taken an approach that other media outlets would do well to emulate: they're keeping a list of those pages delisted by the search engines, and making them easy to find through the BBC itself. Why? The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top. We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the “right to be forgotten” can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to the debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC's online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.
Government

79% of Airbnb Listings In Barcelona Are Illegal 103 103

dkatana writes: Barcelona has more than 16,000 Airbnb listings and, according to reports on Cities of the Future, 79% could be illegal. "In April, Airbnb's European General Manager Jeroen Merchiers confirmed, during the Student Tourism Congress in Barcelona, that the platform has more than 85,000 listings in Spain alone." But most Airbnb hosts do not apply for a permit, fail to pay insurance and tourist tax, and ignore Catalonian law that forbids short-term rentals of rooms in private homes. "Residents," says the article, "had been complaining about the rising number of tourist apartments and the conduct of the mostly student-age renters. The majority from Italy, Germany and the UK were partying all night, some running around naked, and generally trashing their neighborhoods."
Transportation

After Protest, France Cracks Down On Uber 177 177

An anonymous reader writes: Just a day after taxi drivers began a high-profile protest of Uber in France, the nation's interior minister has issued a ban on the car-sharing service UberPop. The minister stated that the service was illegal, and ordered police to begin seizing vehicles defying the order. French president Francois Hollande agrees that UberPOP "should be dismantled," but says the state isn't legally permitted to seize cars itself without court authorization. "UberPOP is a car-sharing service offered by Uber, which brings together customers and private drivers at prices lower than those charged by both traditional taxi firms and even other Uber services. UberPOP differs because it allows non-professional drivers to register their car and transport other passengers. It has been illegal in France since January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce and the service continues to operate, AFP news agency reports."
Government

Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage 1080 1080

The U.S. Supreme Court issued Friday a landmark decision, ruling that marriage is a Constitutionally protected right to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples. The New York Times notes that last year, by refusing to hear appeals to decisions favoring same-sex marriage in five states, the court "delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19." (In the time since, several more states have expanded marriage to include gay couples.) Reuters expains a bit of the legal and political history of the movement which led to today's decision, and points out some of the countries around the world which have made similar moves already.
The Courts

Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Subsidies 591 591

HughPickens.com writes: Retuers reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 6 — 3 in favor of the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, handing a major victory to the president. It marked the second time in three years that the high court ruled against a major challenge to the law brought by conservatives seeking to gut it.

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," wrote Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion (PDF). He added that nationwide availability of the credits is required to "avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid." The ruling will come as a major relief to Obama as he seeks to ensure that his legacy legislative achievement is implemented effectively and survives political and legal attacks before he leaves office in early 2017. Justice Antonin Scalia took the relatively rare step of reading a summary of his dissenting opinion from the bench. "We really should start calling the law SCOTUScare," said Scalia referencing the court's earlier decision upholding the constitutionality of the law.
Businesses

New Zealand ISPs Back Down On Anti-Geoblocking Support 50 50

angry tapir writes: A number of New Zealand Internet service providers will no longer offer their customers support for circumventing regional restrictions on accessing online video content. Major New Zealand media companies SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox and MediaWorks filed a lawsuit in April, arguing that skirting geoblocks violates the distribution rights of its media clients for the New Zealand market. The parties have reached an out-of-court settlement.
Earth

Judge Orders Dutch Government To Finally Take Action On Climate Promises 242 242

New submitter Errol backfiring writes: Although the Dutch government has promised to make sure carbon emissions are lowered considerably, they have consistently failed to take action. Dutch climate group Urgenda and Dutch citizens have gone to court to force the government to take action, and the verdict (linked page is in Dutch) is that the government must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 leves.

This 25% cut is seen as the minimum effort needed to keep the people safe from climate change dangers. 25% to 40% is the norm in international climate policy. The verdict is also important for similar climate groups in other countries.
Censorship

Australia Passes Site-Blocking Legislation 57 57

ausrob writes: Cementing their position as Australia's most backwards and dangerous government in recent memory comes this nasty bit of legislation, riddled with holes (which is nothing new for this decrepit Government): "The legislation allows rights holders to go to a Federal Court judge to get overseas websites, or "online locations", blocked that have the "primary purpose" of facilitating copyright infringement. If a rights holder is successful in their blocking request, Australian internet providers, such as Telstra and Optus, will need to comply with a judge's order by disabling access to the infringing location." Adds reader Gumbercules!! links to another story on the legislation, writing: Aside from the sheer inefficiency of trying to spot piracy by blocking individual sites, there's also the risk that servers which house other, more legitimate sites, will be caught up in the net. Unsurprisingly, the bill does nothing to remedy the fact that Australians pay far more for access to media than other places in the World or that media is often not available or extremely delayed, here.
Google

DOJ Vs. Google: How Google Fights On Behalf of Its Users 78 78

Lauren Weinstein writes: While some companies have long had a "nod and wink" relationship with law enforcement and other parts of government -- willingly turning over user data at mere requests without even attempting to require warrants or subpoenas, it's widely known that Google has long pushed back -- sometimes though multiple layers of courts and legal processes -- against data requests from government that are not accompanied by valid court orders or that Google views as being overly broad, intrusive, or otherwise inappropriate. Over the last few days the public has gained an unusually detailed insight into how hard Google will fight to protect its users against government overreaching, even when this involves only a single user's data. One case reaches back to the beginning of 2011, when the U.S. Department of Justice tried to force Google to turn over more than a year's worth of metadata for a user affiliated with WikiLeaks. While these demands did not include the content of emails, they did include records of this party's email correspondents, and IP addresses he had used to login to his Gmail account. Notably, DOJ didn't even seek a search warrant. They wanted Google to turn over the data based on the lesser "reasonable grounds" standard rather than the "probable cause" standard of a search warrant itself. And most ominously, DOJ wanted a gag order to prevent Google from informing this party that any of this was going on, which would make it impossible for him to muster any kind of legal defense.
Space

Mauna Kea Telescope Construction Slated To Resume 65 65

After an earlier halt to the work of constructing the "world's most advanced and powerful telescope" (and subsequent loss of support from an organization acting on behalf of native Hawaiians,) the Thirty Meter Telescope is again in "on again" mode. From the Associated Press article as carried by U.S. News & World Report: The Mauna Kea site provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year, with little air and light pollution. The telescope project was developed as a collaboration between U.S. and Canada universities and the national institutes of Japan, China and India. Gov. David Ige in April said the Thirty Meter Telescope board is legally entitled to "use its discretion to proceed with construction." He said he respected the rights of protesters to appeal in court.
The Courts

Illinois Supreme Court: Comcast Must Identify Anonymous Internet Commenter 233 233

An anonymous reader writes: In 2011, an anonymous person on the internet posted a comment to the Freeport Journal Standard newspaper's website implying that a local political candidate was a pedophile. The candidate, Bill Hadley, took offense to this, and tried to get Comcast to tell him who the commenter was. Comcast refused, so Hadley took it to the courts. The Illinois Supreme Court has now ruled (PDF) that Comcast must divulge the commenter's identity. "Illinois' opinion was based in large part on a pair of earlier, lower-court decisions in the state, which held that the anonymity of someone who makes comments in response to online news stories isn't guaranteed if their opinions are potentially defamatory, according to Don Craven, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association."
Music

UK's Legalization of CD Ripping Is Unlawful, Court Rules 301 301

Last year the UK finally passed legislation to make the copying and ripping of CDs for personal use legal. After the legislation passed, several groups of rightsholders applied for a judicial review, arguing that the change would cause financial harm to them. (They suggested an alternative: taxing blank CDs and storage devices, sharing the resulting funds among rightsholders.) Now, the UK's High Court issued a ruling that agrees with them: "the decision to introduce section 28B [private copying] in the absence of a compensation mechanism is unlawful." The exceptions in place for private copying are now unlawful, and the UK government will need to amend the legislation if it is to have any meaningful effect.