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The Spanish EPO Scandal – Part I

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

El Confidencial

Summary: How García-Escudero Marquez, the sister of a Spanish Senate speaker, got controversially appointed to succeed the (now) EPO’s Vice-President Alberto Casado Cerviño

THIS week we shall turn our attention to a potentially very interesting EPO story. In order to kick-start this series we must provide readers with some background, which means translating an article originally written in Spanish. It is, for the most part, self-explanatory. One just needs to know that Alberto Casado Cerviño is Vice-President of Directorate-General Operational Support at the EPO.

El Confidencial, 17.11.2011 – 06:00 H.

Industry [department] appoints Pío García Escudero’s sister before the application deadline ends

Ten days before the elections of 20 November, the director general of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, Alberto Casado Cerviño, appoints Patricia García-Escudero


Ten days before the general elections of 20 November [2011], the director-general of the Spanish Office for Patents and Trade-Marks, Alberto Casado Cerniño, appointed Patricia García-Escudero Marquez, the sister of the speaker of the [Partido Popular] in the senate, to a civil service position at the highest level. The post attributed is the one of deputy director of the department of Judicial Coordination and International Relations. The seriousness of the matter is that the legal delay was not respected, and the beneficiary’s name appeared of the organisational chart of the entity even though the deadline for applications won’t expire until next Tuesday [22 November 2011].

The vacancy notice which led to García-Escudero’s appointment was published 1 November and provided 15 working days for filing applications. The appointment announcement of the new deputy director who will lead the communications department, dependent on the Presidential Support Unit, managing one of four departments of the Spanish Patents and Trademarks Office, occurred however last Thursday [10 November 2011].

The cat got out of the bag as the Sevach blog on public law, which explained how all positions with open selection are actually a “chronicle of a job award foretold”. The director of the public company [sic - they mean the SPTO] which is subordinated to the Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism designated a person related to the [Partido Popular] precisely at the time when polls show [Partido Popular politician] Mariano Rajoy as the winner of the elections coming next Sunday [against the PSOE incumbent José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero].

In this specific case, the qualifications required to lead the Department of Judicial Coordination and International Relations required a superior command of English and French, but a degree in Law wasn’t deemed essential. Patricia García-Escudera holds a diploma in Biology from the Complutense University in Madrid. Furthermore, the call for applications demanded preferably experience in communications and marketing. Coincidentally, the sister of the [Partido Popular] speaker in the senate came from the public relations department of the [SPTO]. “Computer skills” are also demanded for this high-ranking position for which any civil servant can apply for, but without requiring any corresponding university diploma.

50,000 Euros gross salary per year plus productivity bonus

The position for which Casado Cerviño appointed García-Escudero comes with a specific allowance of 24,332 Euros to which should be added the A-category allowance (13,935 Euros plus 535 euros every three years) as well as the allowance for belonging to level 30, at the top of the scale (11,625 Euros). In addition to this gross annual salary received, a productivity bonus will be included, dependent on the specific personal contract. In many positions of the same category this can often exceed 1,000 Euros per month.

If this favour to the [Partido Popular] isn’t enough for Casado Cerviño to keep his directorial job in case of a change of government, his son Alberto Casado Fernándes will sit on 30 November the fourth selection examination for admission of qualified professionals at the autonomous bodies dependent on the entity where his father works.

Context will be provided in future parts of this series, so stay tuned and protect our right to free speech, e.g. by attending staff protests. It reminds us of the story of Bergot’s controversial appointment, which we covered earlier this month (see part one, part two, part three, and part four of “EPO: It’s Like a Family Business“).

“No government can love a child, and no policy can substitute for a family`s care.”

Hillary Clinton

Media Alert: IAM ‘Magazine’ Does Not Protect Sources

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 7:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: An important discussion regarding the role of IAM (Intellectual Asset Management) in the debate about EPO abuses

TWO days ago we wrote two articles which mentioned how IAM had put at risk a source, despite repeatedly being asked not to do so. It didn’t exactly shock us because we generally view IAM as a pro-patent Establishment (USPTO, EPO management, software patents, large corporations) site. Sharing evidence with them is unwise. There was an article earlier this month (from AOL) titled “Innovating In A World Of Patent Lawsuits”; well, in the view of the likes of IAM, it’s all about “Profiting In A World Of Patent Lawsuits”. The more, the merrier. That’s how they make money.

Why do we write this article? It’s just a word of warning to anyone who deems IAM trustworthy. The EPO is now spending of nearly a million dollars on the media. IAM writers already have a history of receiving money from the EPO, by their own admission.

“It’s just a word of warning to anyone who deems IAM trustworthy.”We already saw IAM relaying EPO management’s talking points. That was a month and a half ago, only two weeks after the EPO had passed around the contract involving the million-dollar contract. The article that IAM published at the time was basically a sort of EPO ‘damage control’, replying to my allegations about preferential treatment of selected large corporations. That was very shortly before the EPO sent me nastygrams — something which IAM dropped hints of (days before it actually happened). The EPO spokesperson said something which only served to insinuate “defamation”. Remember that what I wrote at the time wasn’t inaccurate, it was just strongly-worded. This whole EPO program was created for Microsoft because of Microsoft (EPO effectively, on the balance of probabilities, changed its rules in exchange for Microsoft paying a lot more money in the form of patent applications).

I asked someone in the legal community if IAM was likely doing all of this internationally or even maliciously. “Although you may be right,” I was told, “I’d be personally a little surprised if IAM betrayed a confidential source; Joff Wild is no lover of TechRights, which is a matter of common knowledge…”

Regarding evidence that we shared with IAM (potentially but not necessarily including details about a source), we made some further inquiries as well. We were asked: “Can you be sure that IAM has not received the original documents via another source?”

“It effectively served material to Team Battistelli, on a silver platter, by publishing what I repeatedly told them must not be published.”The item that the EPO was bullying me (with legal threats) over was definitely not provided by another source. I can’t tell for sure if IAM was acting as some kind of courier for the EPO’s management here, but it’s not impossible. It effectively served material to Team Battistelli, on a silver platter, by publishing what I repeatedly told them must not be published.

For those who wonder what this was all about, the gist of the blog post in dispute is as follows:

  • Microsoft uses patent extortion — or racketeering as per RICO Act — to coerce companies (at least 4 companies so far this year) into Microsoft’s Linux-hostile agenda. There are threats of litigation or actual litigation at hand (with conditional settlement) to achieve this. It’s a subject Techrights has been covering extensively since 2006.
  • Microsoft pressured the EPO into the whole preferential treatment farce. We know this for sure.
  • An EPO employee is shown in his (leaked) E-mail pressuring those below him to concentrate on granting patents to Microsoft (before all others), thereby helping Microsoft against European companies like TomTom (see the 2009 lawsuit and ‘settlement’).
  • This EPO employee has been publicly promoting the UPC, despite his job being the granting of worthy patent monopolies (proper, thorough prior art search, never too rushed), not setting or lobbying on matters of law.

That’s all stuff that we can support with concrete evidence, hence I stand by what I said. They just caught me off guard at (almost) midnight on a Friday. My solicitor’s response explains why that’s an act of trickery.

It will be interesting to see if IAM has something to say on this matter. Judging by the many tweets they sent our way yesterday, they still don’t have a very effective rebuttal.

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen on the Microsoft-Red Hat Deal

Posted in FSF, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 6:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen
Photo source: Professor Conrad Johnson

Summary: Founder of Free software and author of the GPL (respectively) comment on what Microsoft and Red Hat have done regarding patents

WE FINALLY GOT some feedback regarding the baffling patent agreement which seemingly affects every user of GNU/Linux. We got this feedback from Stallman and (indirectly) Moglen, two of the Free software world’s most prominent individuals, especially when it comes to the GPL (GNU Public Licence/License).

Coverage of the Red Hat-Microsoft patent agreement can be found in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. We sought feedback from Red Hat and spoke to low(er) level people for weeks, without ever hearing back from high-level management. After weeks of trying and waiting we ended up asking legal professionals to examine whatever legal contracts — even if under NDA or some other secrecy clauses that legally-binding deals may have — were involved. We first wrote to the FSF as follows:

Dear FSF licensing folks,

As discussed earlier in IRC (freenode), I have been pursuing answers from Red Hat regarding an urgent matter. I previously interviewed their CEO regarding patents and last week I spoke to a fairly senior person from Red Hat (unnamed for his own protection), for the third time this month. I wrote about 10 articles on this subject and it led to others writing about it as well, including some prominent bloggers.

“We need to understand what Red Hat agreed on with Microsoft on as Microsoft can use this behind closed doors against other companies, for pressure/leverage.”To put it concisely, Red Hat signed a deal with Microsoft which not only involved technical work but also what they call patent “standstill”. Who is this “standstill” for? Apparently Red Hat and its customers. I strongly doubt, especially in light of Alice v. CLS Bank, that a “standstill” should be needed. Red Hat does not threaten to sue Microsoft, whereas Microsoft did in the past threaten Red Hat (even publicly). This leaves those outside Red Hat in an awkward position and ever since this deal I have taken note of at least two companies being coerced by Microsoft using patents (over “Android” or “Linux” [sic]) or sued by one of its patent trolls, e.g. Intellectual Ventures. This isn’t really a “standstill”. It’s more like the notorious “peace of mind” that Novell was after back in 2006.

Red Hat has also admitted to me that it is still pursuing some software patents in the USPTO — a fact that does not surprising me, especially given the soaring market cap of RHT and the growing budget. This serves to contradict what people like Rob Tiller say to the courts; it shows double standards and no principled lead by example.

“The analysis and the voice of the FSF may be needed at this stage.”I have asked the FSF’s Joshua if it had looked into the patent agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft. Their lawyers in this case, Mr. Piana and Mr. Tiller (probably amongst others whom we don’t know about yet), would probably claim and even insist that it’s GPL-compatible, but the wording in the FAQ make it look exclusionary and there’s no transparency, so one cannot verify these claims.

We need to understand what Red Hat agreed on with Microsoft on as Microsoft can use this behind closed doors against other companies, for pressure/leverage. I am genuinely worried and fellow journalists who focus on GNU/Linux (Sean Michael Kerner for instance) tell me that they are too.

The analysis and the voice of the FSF may be needed at this stage. I have politely urged Red Hat for a number of weeks to become more transparent, whereupon some in the company said they had escalated these requests, but evidently nothing is being done, hence I feel the need to turn to the FSF.

I would gladly provide additional information that I have upon request.

With kind regards,

“In concrete terms,” Stallman responded, “what did they agree to do?”

“It is effectively a technical collaboration,” I told him, “which also involves a ceasefire regarding patents.”

“It is impossible to discuss whether it is good or bad,” he said, “until we know what it is.”

“We know too little about the patent aspects,” I explained.

Referring to Red Hat’s FAQ, Stallman said that I “seem[ed] to be talking about text I [Stallman] have not seen.”

To quote the relevant part for readers:

4. Does the new partnership address patents?

Red Hat and Microsoft have agreed to a limited patent arrangement in connection with the commercial partnership for the benefit of mutual customers.

The heart of the arrangement is a patent standstill that provides that neither company will pursue a patent lawsuit or claim against the other or its customers, while we are partnering. Neither company acknowledged the validity or enforceability of the other’s intellectual property; it is not a patent license or a covenant not to sue and no payment was made or will be made for intellectual property.

The partnership is between commercial companies related to their common customer offerings, spurred by customer demand. Both parties carefully designed for FOSS licensing compliance in building the arrangement and each party’s relationship to the FOSS community stands on its own.

“Covering only customers and not downstream users,” Stallman said, “it is not a good thing, but it may not do a lot of harm.”

“Covering only customers and not downstream users is not a good thing, but it may not do a lot of harm.”
      –Richard Stallman
I responded by saying “I hope that a thorough look into it will help remove uncertainty and get some hard answers. Right now it’s too vague or me and some fellow developers to conclude anything from.”

Days ago I asked whether “there been any progress on this case” because “I just want[ed] to be sure that licensing is looking for answers regarding the matter.”

Stallman, by that stage, seemed to have already spoken to a colleague and friend. “Eben Moglen,” he explained, “told me it doesn’t violate GPLv3. Other than getting that information, I don’t know what progress we could hope for.”

Well, as GPLv3 co-authors, their take on this sure counts. We therefore got an answer without taking a look at the contract itself (they had made access to it highly privileged information).

Assuming the case won’t go any further than this, we believe it helps set the record straight on the Microsoft-Red Hat situation.

Links 30/11/2015: Linux 4.4 RC3, Zaragoza Moving to FOSS

Posted in News Roundup at 6:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Historians and detectives keep track of data with open source tool

    Segrada is a piece of open source software that allows historians (and detectives) to keep track of their data. Unlike wikis or archival databases, its focus lies on information and interrelations within it. Pieces of information might represent persons, places, things, or concepts. These “nodes” can be bidirectionally connected with each other to semantically represent friendship, blood relation, whereabouts, authorship, and so on. Hence the term “semantic graph database,” since information can be displayed as a graph of semantically connected nodes.

  • 5 open-source alternatives to Slack

    Here are five full-featured Slack alternatives — tools that go beyond IRC, in other words — that are open-source software, which means you can download it and run it on whatever server you want. That implies that you’re in charge of security, for better or worse, instead of, say, Slack.

  • KTU exams to run on open source software

    All examinations of the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU) — which run on an online platform — would switch to open source software from the second semester onwards. For the first semester examinations, the KTU would use a proprietary, Microsoft, software.

    In response to demands from student organisations, the KTU has pushed back its first semester examinations by two days. The first of the examinations would now begin on December 4 instead of December 2. The first of the results would be published on December 19.

  • KTU goes ahead with exam outsourcing
  • What is hacker culture?

    Eric Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar (an important work describing the effectiveness of open collaboration and development), recently wrote a piece calling for “Social Justice Warriors” to be ejected from the hacker community. The primary thrust of his argument is that by calling for a removal of the “cult of meritocracy”, these SJWs are attacking the central aspect of hacker culture – that the quality of code is all that matters.

  • #HROS project: putting the open source into HR

    The #HROS project was launched in back in May of 2015 to bring the worlds of human resources (HR) and open source (OS) together, hence the name: HROS.

  • 3 reasons open source needs Open Badges

    The Fedora Badges system, which is interoperable with Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI), lists more than 17,000 contributors who have been issued digital badges. And, at the top of the leaderboard is Kevin, who has been issued 142 badges—less than half of the overall number of badges available! Those badges Kevin has achieved are a mix of Content, Development, Community, Quality, and Event badges, with some easier, and some harder, to obtain.

  • Will Open Source HR Make Life Easier For Companies?
  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • IceCat 38.4.0 release

        GNUzilla is the GNU version of the Mozilla suite, and GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser. Its main advantage is an ethical one: it is entirely free software. While the Firefox source code from the Mozilla project is free software, they distribute and recommend non-free software as plug-ins and addons. Also their trademark license restricts distribution in several ways incompatible with freedom 0. https://www.gnu.org/software/gnuzilla/

  • SaaS/Big Data

    • Telefonica, Huawei Team on OpenStack-based Cloud Initiative

      Huawei has a new deal with giant Spanish telecom company Telefonica through which the two firms will work on helping enterprises move infrastructure onto Telefonica’s OpenStack-based cloud. It’s yet another indicaton of the global phenomenon that OpenStack has become.

  • CMS

  • Healthcare

    • How I ended up working in open source healthcare

      I am prepared and excited to take on that challenge, and to make sure my chosen FOSS project, with the wind of open source as a dominate model in the world to drive us, tries to change the world of healthcare IT for the better.

      Viva la FOSS!

  • Pseudo-/Semi-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • A few thoughts on OpenBSD 5.8

      I’ve been using OpenBSD since way back at release 2.3 in 1998, so I’ve gone through upgrades that took a fair amount of work due to incompatible changes, like the switch from ipf to pf for host firewalling or the change to ELF binaries. The upgrade from 5.7 to 5.8 was a pretty smooth and easy one, for the most part. The two most painful changes for me were the replacement of sudo with doas and the dropping of support in the rc.conf for the pf_rules variable. While sudo is still available as a package, I like the idea of reducing attack surface with a simpler program, so I made the switch. The two things I miss most about sudo are the ability to authenticate for a period of time and the ability to have a single config file across a whole set of servers. The former I’m just living with, the latter I’ve adjusted to by having a single config file that has lines commented out depending on which server it’s on. I did have one moment of concern about the quality of doas when it incorrectly reported the line number on which I had a syntax error in the config file–fortunately, this was just a failure to increment the line count on continuation lines (ending with a “\”) which is fixed in the -current release.


    • GIMP 2.10 Development Started, Will Bring GEGL-Based Tools, OpenEXR Support

      After turning 20 years of activity, the GIMP developers have been happy to announce that the development cycle of the upcoming GIMP 2.10 open-source and cross-platform image editor software has started with the immediate availability of GIMP 2.9.2.

    • GCC 5.2 vs. GCC 6.0 On An Intel Haswell-E Linux System

      With GCC 6 feature development now over I decided to run some benchmarks comparing GCC 5.2.0 against GCC 6.0.0 (the 20151124 snapshot) on an Intel Haswell-E Xeon system running Ubuntu.

    • GIMP 2.9.2 Released With GEGL Technical Preview

      Days after celebrating the project’s 20th birthday, GIMP 2.9.2 has been released as the latest development snapshot towards the GIMP 2.10 image editor.

    • Do You Like What I Do For a Living?

      But software freedom is not merely an ideology for me. I believe the ideology matters because I see the lives of developers and users are better when they have software freedom. I first got a taste of this IRL when I attended the earliest Perl conferences in the late 1990s. My friend James and I stayed in dive motels and even slept in a rental car one night to be able to attend. There was excitement in the Perl community (my first Free Software community). I was exhilarated to meet in person the people I’d seen only as god-like hackers posting on perl5-porters. James was so excited he asked me to take a picture of him jumping as high as he could with his fist in the air in front of the main conference banner. At the time, I complained; I was mortified and felt like a tourist taking that picture. But looking back, I remember that James and I felt that same excitement and just were expressing it differently.

    • FixedMisc [MirOS] for GNU GRUB2
    • The GNU General Public License is not magic pixie dust
    • Software Freedom Conservancy

      Some projects receive support from or are managed by companies or trade associations that benefit from the software the community produces. That is great as long as the community objectives and the company profit motives are aligned. Free Software is a great way for companies to work together. The services that the Conservancy provides allows projects to define their own terms and conditions for the community to work together. And companies can then join on equal terms. Making sure the project and community will work together for the public benefit.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Zaragoza continues its transition to open source

      The Spanish city of Zaragoza continues to expand its use of free and open source software. The city administration now has 1200 of its 3000 PCs running the AZLinux desktop, which is based on Ubuntu Linux. On all workstations, LibreOffice is the default office suite, and the city by default uses the Open Document Format ODF.

    • What’s behind Europe’s love affair with open-source?

      Government IT departments in Europe, over the past several years, have been eager to trumpet their interest in open-source software – and have been backing their interest up with action. Open-source has become a matter of national policy in the U.K., a critical part of the infrastructure at the European Commission, and the standard for the city of Munich.

    • Portugal offers IT training to government workers

      Portugal’s Agency for Administrative Modernisation (AMA) is offering IT training that is open to all public administration staff members. The courses are intended to help modernise public administrations and to speed up the introduction of eGovernment services.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Data

      • 3 Open Source Alternatives to Using the Google Maps API

        The rise of data mining, mobile applications and social media, among many others, has dramatically changed the face of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and what they can accomplish. This has led to the creation of tools suited to various use cases. The most obvious place to begin when thinking about GIS is the web maps available through the Google Maps API.

  • Programming

    • GCC Working On ARMv8.1, Clang Working On ARMv8.2 Support

      ARM’s Matthew Wahab posted the new patch series yesterday, “ARMv8.1 includes an extension to ARM which adds two Adv.SIMD instructions, vqrdmlah and vqrdmlsh. This patch set adds support for ARMv8.1 and for the new instructions, enabling the architecture with –march=armv8.1-a. The new instructions are enabled when both ARMv8.1 and a suitable fpu options are set, for instance with -march=armv8.1-a -mfpu=neon-fp-armv8 -mfloat-abi=hard.”

    • Forum PHP in Paris 2015

      First, a huge thanks to AFUP for the organization of this great event, as always, reception was beyond reproach.

    • PHP version 5.6.16

      RPM of PHP version 5.6.16 are available in remi repository for Fedora ≥ 21 and remi-php56 repository for Fedora ≤ 20 and Enterprise Linux (RHEL, CentOS).


  • Hardware

  • Security

    • Friday’s security updates
    • Researchers poke hole in custom crypto built for Amazon Web Services

      Underscoring just how hard it is to design secure cryptographic software, academic researchers recently uncovered a potentially serious weakness in an early version of the code library protecting Amazon Web Services.

      Ironically, s2n, as Amazon’s transport layer security implementation is called, was intended to be a simpler, more secure way to encrypt and authenticate Web sessions. Where the OpenSSL library requires more than 70,000 lines of code to execute the highly complex TLS standard, s2n—short for signal to noise—has just 6,000 lines. Amazon hailed the brevity as a key security feature when unveiling s2n in June. What’s more, Amazon said the new code had already passed three external security evaluations and penetration tests.

    • Social engineering: hacker tricks that make recipients click

      Social engineering is one of the most powerful tools in the hacker’s arsenal and it generally plays a part in most of the major security breaches we hear about today. However, there is a common misconception around the role social engineering plays in attacks.

    • Judge Gives Preliminary Approval to $8 Million Settlement Over Sony Hack

      Sony agreed to reimburse employees up to $10,000 apiece for identity-theft losses

    • Cyber Monday: it’s the most wonderful time of year for cyber-attackers

      Malicious attacks on shoppers increased 40% on Cyber Monday in 2013 and 2014, according to EnigmaSoftware.com, an anti-malware and spyware company, compared to the average number of attacks on days during the month prior. Other cybersecurity software providers have identified the December holiday shopping season as the most dangerous time of year to make online purchases.

      “The attackers know that there are more people online, so there will be more attacks,” said Christopher Budd, Trend Micro’s global threat communications manager. “Cyber Monday is not a one-day thing, it’s the beginning of a sustained focus on attacks that go after people in the holiday shopping season.”

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • UK could be prosecuted for war crimes over missiles sold to Saudi Arabia that were used to kill civilians in Yemen

      Britain is at risk of being prosecuted for war crimes because of growing evidence that missiles sold to Saudi Arabia have been used against civilian targets in Yemen’s brutal civil war, Foreign Office lawyers and diplomats have warned.

      Advisers to Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, have stepped up legal warnings that the sale of specialist missiles to the Saudis, deployed throughout nine months of almost daily bombing raids in west Yemen against Houthi rebels, may breach international humanitarian law.

    • Stop The War: Thousands Protest Against Plans To Join Air Strikes Against Islamic State In Syria
    • The Charge of the Blairite Brigade

      Supporting neo-con military attacks in the Middle East is one of two prime articles of faith of a Blairite.

    • Terror Junkies: The West’s Addiction to Funding Radical Groups

      Despite all the grandstanding and rhetoric from the French President and Western leaders, a critical point that needs to be emphasised is that Western governments are complicit in the Paris attacks and any future terror attacks (there will be more). If we put aside for a second the thesis that the Paris attack was a false flag operation or that French intelligence simply allowed it to happen, what can’t be disputed is that Western foreign policy has directly resulted in the rise of terrorism globally, most notably the rise of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

    • ISIS’ Grip on Libyan City Gives It a Fallback Option

      One manifestation of the shift is a turn toward large-scale terrorist attacks against distant targets, including the massacre in Paris and the bombing of a Russian charter jet over Egypt, Western intelligence officials say. But the group’s leaders are also devoting new resources and attention to far-flung affiliate groups that pledged their loyalty from places like Egypt, Afghanistan, Nigeria and elsewhere. There are at least eight in all, according to Western officials.

    • David Cameron, there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria – and whoever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov, anyway?

      Not since Hitler ordered General Walther Wenck to send his non-existent 12th Army to rescue him from the Red Army in Berlin has a European leader believed in military fantasies as PR Dave Cameron did last week. Telling the House of Commons about the 70,000 “moderate” fighters deployed in Syria was not just lying in the sense that Tony Blair lied – because Blair persuaded himself to believe in his own dishonesty – but something approaching burlesque. It was whimsy – ridiculous, comic, grotesque, ludicrous. It came close to a unique form of tragic pantomime.

  • Transparency Reporting

    • Obama’s War on Truth

      The four USAF military drone operators who recently blew the whistle and exposed the callousness and complete lack of concern for civilian casualties of the US drone assassination programme, (and received very little mainstream media exposure), yesterday found their bank accounts and credit cards all blocked by the US government. The effects of that on daily life are devastating. My source is their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, through the Sam Adams Associates (of which we are both members).

      No criminal charges have been brought against any of the men, despite numerous written threats of prosecution. Their finances appear to have been frozen by executive action under anti-terrorist legislation. This is yet a further glaring example of the use of “anti-terror” powers against people who are not remotely terrorist.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Beijing residents told to stay inside as smog levels soar

      Beijing’s residents have been advised to stay indoors after air pollution in the Chinese capital reached hazardous levels.

      The warning comes as the governments of more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change.

    • EU-US trade deal will unleash oil sands and fatally undermine climate efforts

      The prospects for a meaningful agreement at the UN climate change talks beginning on Monday are bleak. As a result, so too are the prospects for the 100 million more people predicted to be living in poverty by 2030 as a result of global warming.

      Though framed by record high temperatures and an increasing number of extreme weather events, the Paris talks are already beset by the same problems that repeatedly dog climate change negotiations: the richest countries steadfastly refuse to meet legal commitments and shoulder their share of responsibility, preferring to uphold the desires of all-powerful corporate lobbies. Meanwhile, the poorest countries meet or exceed their responsibilities.

    • Ban On Tuna Labeled Dolphin-Safe Shows How TPP Will Crush Consumer Rights

      In the last 25 years, dolphin-safe labeling of tuna managed to reduce unnecessary annual deaths of the mammals from over 100,000 to only 3,000—an astounding 97% reduction—but the World Trade Organization just effectively nullified this critical program.

      In order to placate Mexico as a member nation of the upcoming (and seemingly inevitable) Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the WTO deemed dolphin-safe labeling a “technical barrier to trade”—even though that environmentally-conscious label is voluntary and applies equally to domestic and foreign companies. At issue are fishing methods that exploit the as-yet-unexplained symbiotic relationship between tunas and dolphins.

    • Paris climate activists put under house arrest using emergency laws

      At least 24 climate activists have been put under house arrest by French police, accused of flouting a ban on organising protests during next week’s Paris climate summit, the Guardian has learned.

      One legal adviser to the activists said many officers raided his Paris apartment and occupied three floors and a staircase in his block.

      French authorities did not respond to requests for comment but lawyers said that the warrants were issued under state of emergency laws, imposed after the terror attacks that killed 130 people earlier this month.

    • Prominent climate scientist offers scathing critique of Obama’s Paris plans

      Three days before the beginning of a critical international climate conference in Paris, one of the world’s most famous climate scientists, James Hansen, has written a withering criticism of President Obama’s approach.

      The Paris meeting will be attended by the heads of state of more than 130 countries, including Obama. Heading in, the United States has adopted a policy of calling for each country to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, and will push for the adoption of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. That approach, Hansen wrote in a new letter posted on his web site, “is so gross, it is best described as unadulterated 100 percent pure bullshit.”

      In his “communication” published on Friday, Hansen argued that world leaders are eager to avoid the embarrassment of the last major climate meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, which was largely ineffectual. This time, world leaders will reach a deal, Hansen says, and pat themselves on the back. This deal will likely include pledges to cut emissions by 2025. For example, the United States is expected to aim for cuts of 25 percent based on 2005 carbon levels.

    • Suharto’s fires

      During the 1990s, the scale of the burning grew each year as the forestland converted into tree plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan expanded. Plantation firms and the land-clearance contractors they hired almost exclusively use fire to clear land. Scientists assessing the forest fire damage say that approximately five million hectares of land were burned in 1997. Of this, 20 per cent was estimated to be forest, 50 per cent agricultural land, and 30 per cent non-forest vegetation and grasslands. Putting this in financial terms, scientists working for Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia have calculated that the direct and indirect short-term impacts of 1997/1998 have exceeded US$ 4 billion, equivalent to total annual health spending by both the public and private sectors.

    • Indonesia is burning – but how responsible is the palm oil industry?

      Indonesia’s forests are being ravaged by forest and peatland fires that are sparking a public health and environmental crisis – but how responsible is the palm oil industry?

    • VW knew fuel usage in some cars was too high a year ago: report

      Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) top executives knew a year ago that some of the company’s cars were markedly less fuel efficient than had been officially stated, Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag reported, without specifying its sources.

      VW in early November revealed that it had understated the level of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel usage in around 800,000 cars sold mainly in Europe.

      The scandal, which will likely cost VW billions, initially centered on software on up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide that VW admitted was designed to artificially suppress nitrogen oxide emissions in a test setting.

      The Bild am Sonntag report contradicts VW’s assertion, however, that it only uncovered the false CO2 emissions labeling as part of efforts to clear up the diesel emissions scandal, which became public in September.

  • Finance

    • Saru Jayaraman on Outlawing the Tipped Minimum Wage

      This week on CounterSpin: While many folks go to family or friends for Thanksgiving dinner, somewhere around 15 million Americans have that holiday meal at a restaurant, with more millions ordering food to eat at home. What that means is that millions of restaurant workers don’t have a choice about where to have their Thanksgiving. And of course that’s only a small part of the things that make work in that industry difficult and, for many, precarious.

    • HSBC whistleblower given five years’ jail over biggest leak in banking history

      Hervé Falciani sentenced in his absence for financial espionage by federal court for exposing wrongdoing at HSBC’s private Swiss bank

    • TTIP talks: EU alleged to have given ExxonMobil access to confidential strategies

      The EU appears to have given the US oil company ExxonMobil access to confidential negotiating strategies considered too sensitive to be released to the European public during its negotiations with the US on the trade agreement TTIP, documents reveal.

      Officials also asked one oil refinery association for “concrete input” on the text of an energy chapter for the negotiations, as part of the EU’s bid to write unfettered imports of US crude oil and gas into the trade deal.

      The employers’ confederation BusinessEurope was even offered “contact points” with US negotiators in the State Department and Department of Energy, according to the cache of material which was released under access to documents laws.

    • SMEs want a TTIP rethink

      What would drive the boss of a Bavarian mechanical engineering company to launch a business initiative against TTIP? Martina Römmelt-Fella detailed her concerns about it to EurActiv Germany.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Pentagon Must Be Thankful for the Turkey Washington Post Gave Its Readers

      So here we have US claims that Russian airstrikes are killing civilians backed up by statistics from a presumably independent human rights group. Meanwhile, when the US government claims to killed almost no civilians in its air attacks, the Post just takes the Pentagon’s word for it.

    • Sex and Death

      Having been sat the last three hours in a lounge at Stansted, with a Sky News screen in front of me, it has been fascinating to watch them six times cover the Grant Shapps resignation and never mention the word sex. It was all apparently just about “office bullying.” There has also been some pontification about why, over Shapps and Coulson, Cameron is such a bad judge of people.

    • Dylann Roof Is Not a “Terrorist” — But Animal Rights Activists Who Free Minks From Slaughter Are

      The FBI on Friday announced the arrests in Oakland of two animal rights activists, Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, and accused the pair of engaging in “domestic terrorism.” This comes less than a month after the FBI director said he does not consider Charleston Church murderer Dylann Roof a “terrorist.” The activists’ alleged crimes: “They released thousands of minks from farms around the country and vandalized various properties.” That’s it. Now they’re being prosecuted and explicitly vilified as “terrorists,” facing 10-year prison terms.

  • Censorship

    • Swedish court: ‘We cannot ban Pirate Bay’

      After considering the case for almost a month, the District Court of Stockholm ruled that copyright holders could not make Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget block Pirate Bay.

      The court found that Bredbandsbolaget’s operations do not amount to participation in the copyright infringement offences carried out by some of its ‘pirate’ subscribers.

      Pirate Bay is blocked by many European ISPs but anti-piracy outfits have always hoped that one day the notorious site would be restricted in Sweden.

    • Divya Dutta on Censorship: Director Has Every Right to Express
    • Censorship and Control

      Recent events in Punjab are consistent with the Indian government’s strategy of public silence and local repression.

    • Censorship in the age of social media irrelevant: Divya Dutta

      Actress Divya Dutta feels at a time when everything is easily available online, the relevance of censorship on films in the country is questionable.

      The 38-year-old “Bhaag Milkh Bhaag” actress says she agrees with filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who recently said that censorship should be abolished.

      Divya says the audience today is quite sorted and should have the right to choose what they want to watch.

    • Censor Board Chairman seeks Dr. D’s advice on censorship
    • Snipping the kissing scene in ‘Spectre’ was illogical: Emraan Hashmi

      Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi has termed the censor board’s move to trim the length of kissing scene in the new James Bond film “Spectre” illogical and “going back to dark ages”.

    • Abolish censorship: Shyam Benegal

      Censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani has been criticised on social media as well as by his colleagues and Bollywood actors after it was revealed that board had shortened the length of kissing scenes in James Bond movie “Spectre”.

    • Can Myanmar leave censorship behind as it enters a new era?

      Following the landslide election result for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) earlier this month, Myanmar appears to be transforming from one of the world’s most repressive regimes to a relatively free country.

      But signs of regression towards old habits by the military over the past year, and their continued presence and power of veto in parliament even after the election result, the future for democratic freedoms – including freedom of expression – is far from guaranteed.

    • Censorship by satellite

      Kissing is also expunged, presumably on the assumption that lip-to-lip congress is a gateway behaviour that, if glimpsed even briefly, will inspire the innocent to fornicate in the streets like frenzied simians. Unobstructed cleavage is likewise a harbinger of civilisation’s demise.

    • Identity and Censorship: A Life of Doing Standup in China

      Speaking of which, we are living in one of the most censored countries. Have you personally, or the club you are part of, ever run into any censorship issues?

      Oh yes, of course. There was a whole series of shows that was banned because one joke was heard by, I don’t know, some censor from the government. But the joke was totally harmless. The thing is they never have a standard, like which line you can not cross. If they think you are not right, and then they can just ban you. Another time we were supposed to have an open mic and a couple of officials from the Cultural Bureau [Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture] said “OK you can have shows here, but we are going to censor you for the whole thing. If you guys are OK, then that will be OK. But if something happens we have to report it.” So we decided not to do the show.

    • China’s latest censorship battlefield is global beauty pageants

      The organizers of a Miss Earth beauty pageant have refused to allow its Taiwanese contestant on stage or to be photographed by the press, after she refused to wear a sash bearing “Chinese Taipei,” according to an online post written by the contestant.

    • Tech Firms and Users Partner Up for Censorship Dance

      At China File, Professor Hu Yong from Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication looks at China’s censorship of personal media, emphasizing the rise of pre-publication censorship by new media platforms, which in turn encourages self-censorship by users.

    • Chinese Activist Sentenced to 6 Years for Protesting Censorship

      China has sentenced three human rights activists to harsh prison terms for participating in an anti-censorship protest in 2013.

      The attorney for the three, Zhang Lei, told VOA that he is “shocked and angered” by the verdict, which gave a sentence of six years to activist Guo Feixiong.

      Zhang said the court added an extra criminal charge to his client’s case just moments before Friday’s trial started.

    • China Jails Civil Rights Activist Guo Feixiong For 6 Years Over Censorship Protest

      China has jailed a leading civil rights activist for six years on charges of disturbing public order — in part for his role in protests against censorship at a popular liberal newspaper in Guangzhou. A court in southern Guangdong province on Friday passed the sentence on 48-year-old Guo Feixiong in a hearing off-limits to foreign media, his lawyer said. Two other activists were also jailed, in what human rights groups said was a sign of a deepening crackdown on civil liberties in China.

      Guo, a former university lecturer who has campaigned for greater freedoms in China for the past two decades, was detained after taking part in protests in January 2013 outside the offices of the Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou. The protests were a response to the spiking of the paper’s New Year’s editorial, which had called for more thorough implementation of China’s constitution, including its promise of freedom of speech for all.

    • Chinese rights activist jailed for six years

      A prominent Chinese rights activist, Guo Feixiong, was sentenced to six years imprisonment on Friday by a court in southern China, amid a continuing crackdown on human rights advocates across the country, his lawyer said on Friday.

      Two other activists, Liu Yuandong and Sun Desheng, were sentenced to three years and two-and-a-half years respectively, according to Guo’s lawyer, Zhang Lei.

    • Protests in Turkey after reporters arrested for ‘spying’ over arms report

      Hundreds of people demonstrated in Turkey Friday in support of two journalists from a leading newspaper being held on spying charges over a report suggesting Ankara shipped arms to rebels in Syria.

      Over 1,000 demonstrators, including a number of journalists and opposition MPs, gathered outside the Istanbul offices of Cumhuriyet daily shouting slogans such as “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism,” and “Tayyip thief, Tayyip liar, Tayyip killer”, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    • Third Turkish journalist arrested amid fears of Ankara censorship: reports

      Local media has reported that a third Turkish reporter has been arrested, amid concern Ankara is cracking down on free speech. Yesterday, protesters took to the streets following the arrest of two other journalists.

    • District of North Vancouver harassment policy stokes fears of censorship

      The District of North Vancouver is looking to rein in “inappropriate, offensive, misleading, harassing or threatening” letters and emails sent to district staff and council members.

      The move however has some council watchers crying censorship.

    • Project Censored 2015

      Ten news items the media ignored

    • The Secret Censorship of Online Porn

      As long as credit cards are the dominant way to purchase items online, Visa and MasterCard will still hold this power over the smut peddlers of the world. So unless Bitcoin, or another relatively unregulated digital currency, happens to take off, banks will continue to have the power to silently shape the landscape of porn, enforcing their view of acceptable sex on the rest of us, whether we like it or not.

    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Orders Censorship Of ‘Man In The High Castle’ Ads

      The advertisements for the show wrap seats on New York subways. They feature an American flag with a German eagle and iron cross in place of the stars. There is also a flag with imperial Japanese imagery. The crimes against humanity by the Nazis during World War II were so gruesome that it’s a pretty shocking thing to see upon entering a subway car and Democratic mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio fielded complaints. He called the advertising campaign “irresponsible” and “offensive” and called for their removal.

    • That Was a False Alarm on Millennials and Free Speech

      Last week, I wrote about a new Pew poll that showed that 40 percent of millennials would be in favor of government bans on speech offensive to minority groups. Many people took this as a dire sign that kids these days are Nae Nae–ing themselves straight into an authoritarian future, especially given all the recent talk about young people’s coddling and fragility.

    • Poll: Censorship More Popular Among Millennials

      Forty percent of millennials believe the U.S. government should be able to censor speech that is considered offensive to minority groups, a new poll from Pew Research Center finds.

      The Pew poll identified a notable disparity in opinion between millennials—those ages 18 to 34—and those surveyed from three other age groups.

      The poll found that 27 percent of Generation X, those ages 35 to 50, favor such government censorship, as did 24 percent of baby boomers, ages 51 to 69.

      By comparison, only 12 percent of the so-called Silent Generation, ages 70 to 87, agreed.

    • Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s doors explore censorship at the Aga Khan Museum

      Exhibition highlights celebrated Iranian director’s approach to living and working under censorship.

    • New Zealand police accused of censorship

      The move has been roundly criticized by the country’s academic community and opposition politicians who say it amounts to censorship.

      A New Zealand police spokesman says that the contract was designed to protect the police and the data from misrepresentation by researchers who could potentially “misunderstand” the data they were analyzing.

      Police also justify the agreement by pointing out that requests often involve access to confidential information and personal identifiers.

      “The research agreement which academics are expected to sign with police sets out our expectations, including that research is accurate, balanced and constructive,” said Mark Evans, the police force’s Deputy Chief Executive of Strategy, in a statement.

    • Police censorship of crime research “an outrage”

      The Green Party is calling on Police Minister Michael Woodhouse to ensure Police scrap controversial contracts that place onerous restrictions on academic researchers’ access to Police data, the Green Party says.

    • NGOs condemn imprisonment and nationality revocation of photographer

      Award-winning photographer Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi was sentenced on Monday, 23 November 2015, to 10 years in prison and had his nationality revoked, along with 12 others, after covering a series of demonstrations in early 2014. Security forces detained Al-Mousawi for over a year without trial or official charges, accused him of being a part of a terrorist cell and subjected him to torture. The undersigned NGOs condemn the government’s continued attacks on independent journalism, policy of media censorship and severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Bahrain.

    • TPP allows Internet censorship to favour big corporations, say Pakatan MPs

      PKR’s Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen and Parti Amanah Negara’s (Amanah) Kuala Krai MP Dr Hatta Ramli said that Internet service providers (ISP) would be given the role of “internet police” in the new trade pact when it comes to copyrighted content.

    • MP warns of widespread Internet censorship under TPPA

      The Internet could face widespread censorship under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as Internet service providers (ISPs) would be free to remove copyrighted online content without having to face the music, warned Amanah lawmaker Mohd Hatta Ramli.

  • Privacy

    • Huge Security Flaw Can Expose VPN Users’ Real IP-Adresses

      A newly discovered vulnerability can expose the real IP-addresses of VPN users with relative ease. The issue, which affects all VPN protocols and operating systems, was uncovered by Perfect Privacy who alerted several affected competitors to the threat before making it public.

    • [Enigmail] Recover GPG password remembered by Thunderbird (passphrase in session)

      For future people, here’s how you can recover your PGP key if stored in your GNOME session.

    • Updated: Green Light or No, Nest Cam Never Stops Running

      In-brief: Alphabet’s Nest Cam continues to run even after users have turned it “off,” the company acknowledged on Tuesday, raising questions about transparency and the potential for privacy abuses using the popular home surveillance device.

    • UK ISP boss points out massive technical flaws in Investigatory Powers Bill

      The head of the UK ISP Andrews & Arnold, Adrian Kennard, has pointed out a number of major technical issues with the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snooper’s Charter). Kennard and other representatives of the UK Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) met with the Home Office on Tuesday, where they presented a number of ethical, technical, and privacy related issues with the incoming new law. These issues, plus some of the Home Office’s responses, can be found in written evidence (PDF) penned by Kennard.

    • NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday

      The U.S. National Security Agency will end its daily vacuuming of millions of Americans’ phone records by Sunday and replace the practice with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the Obama administration said on Friday.

      As required by law, the NSA will end its wide-ranging surveillance program by 11:59 p.m. EST Saturday (4:59 a.m. GMT Sunday) and expects to have the new, scaled-back system in place by then, the White House said.

    • Dear ZDNet: Comcast Has Been Sketchily Injecting Messages Into User’s Browsers For Years

      None of that is to say that the privacy and security concerns aren’t very real, of course, and ZDNet does a nice job of discussing those concerns. But it’s not new. Perhaps the better conversation to be had is why anyone in their right minds would think that Comcast deserves anyone’s trust to the level where users’ browsers should be injected with copyright violation notices in a system rife with abuse from pretty much every player involved.

    • Stop the anti-encryption propaganda now

      I paused a TV show last week as one of those lower-third ads promoting the local newscast was displayed. It screamed, “Encryption preventing police from catching criminals, more at 11.” There’s nothing subtle about that, I pointed out to my wife, nothing at all. Clearly, this “encryption” stuff is very dangerous and should be made illegal, right?

      Then the world was scarred by the attacks in Paris a few days later. Before any real news about the attacks made it to the mainstream media, we were already hearing how encryption was the reason these attacks succeeded. The New York Times posted a story to that effect, then pulled it and redirected the link to a completely different article about France’s retaliation. The Wayback Machine still has the original, which states, “The attackers are believed to have communicated using encryption technology.” This is the functional equivalent of stating, “The attackers are believed to have communicated using words or sounds.”

    • Never mind Internet Connection Records, what about Relevant Communications Data?

      It was always a good bet that the draft Investigatory Powers Bill would broaden data retention obligations to cover more categories of communications data. That was at the core of the Communications Data Bill, blocked in 2012 during the Coalition government and vowed after the May 2015 election to be resurrected.

      The draft Bill has duly delivered, accompanied by a blizzard of commentary about the propriety of forcing communications service providers to retain users’ browsing histories.


      Internet connection records and the proposed restrictions on accessing them (clause 47 of the draft Bill) have become a lightning rod for the ensuing discussion: not just the rights and wrongs of requiring browsing data to be retained, but whether internet connection records as defined in the draft Bill can be matched to real categories of data processed by service providers.

      The focus on internet connection records is understandable. The Home Office’s Guide to the powers in the draft Bill focuses on internet connection records. The estimated cost increase in the Data Retention Impact Assessment mentions only internet connection records as a new category of retained data.

    • The NSA’s bulk metadata collection authority just expired. What now?

      The language in the US Justice Department statement is far from inspiring, written in bland legalese, but it still represents an important victory for the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    • At 11:59pm tonight, the NSA will stop in-house phone metadata collection

      The Obama administration said on Friday that it would go ahead with the scheduled closure of the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records collection program. The USA Freedom Act, which passed in early June, outlined this weekend’s deadline.

    • NSA will stop collecting bulk phone data by the end of the day

      At 11:59PM ET tonight, the NSA will shut down its systems that collect bulk phone call data from Americans across the US. The move comes as planned, precisely six months after the USA Freedom Act was signed into law.

    • NSA ends bulk phone surveillance programme; replaces it with targeted monitoring
    • The NSA Will Finally Kill Its Metadata Snooping Program This Weekend
    • “Snowden Effect” in Action: NSA Authority to Collect Bulk Phone Metadata Expires
    • The NSA Says It Will Finally Stop Spying On Millions of Americans at Midnight on Saturday
    • At midnight, the NSA will no longer keep bulk records of telephone calls
    • NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program =
    • Ex-NSA chief pleads guilty to killing 3-year-old adopted S. Korean son
    • Former NSA division head pleads guilty to beating adopted special-needs son, 3, to death at his Maryland home
    • Former NSA Employee Pleads Guilty in Adopted Son’s Death
    • Former NSA analyst pleads guilty to beating adopted son to death
    • Can the EU beat Big Data and the NSA? An Overview of the Max Schrems saga
    • Federal Judge Rules Against NSA Telephone Surveillance Program
    • Spy court appoints new advisers under NSA reform law
    • US spy court appoints lawyers to panel of advisers
    • NSA bungling deserves scrutiny

      But instead of being rewarded for developing a cutting-edge electronic spy system on the cheap, Binney and his crew were bureaucratically sandbagged by then-NSA Director Michael Hayden and his signals intelligence director, Maureen Baginsky.

      THINTHREAD’S deployment was officially canceled by Baginsky three weeks before the 9/11 attacks. Baginsky instead put American taxpayer money into a far more expensive, and ultimately failed, program named TRAILBLAZER.

    • Could the Third Amendment be used to fight the surveillance state?

      The Third Amendment to the United States Constitution is just 32 words: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

      Amongst very nerdy constitutional law circles, the Third Amendment is practically a joke. It’s never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision, and it only turns up rarely in legal cases. The reality is that the federal government isn’t going to be sending American soldiers to individual homes anytime soon. Even The Onion tackled the issue in 2007: “Third Amendment Rights Group Celebrates Another Successful Year.”

    • John McAfee: The NSA is running on ‘sheer luck’ — and that’s a travesty

      This past week, a report came out that suggests “sheer luck” was one of the elements an NSA program needed to find useful info in the sea of surveillance data. The info came from an NSA in-house newsletter leaked by Edward Snowden, called SIDtoday. Dated March 23, 2011, it was written by a signals development analyst within the operation. In it, the author says that “by sheer luck, (and a ton of hard work) I discovered an important new access to an existing target and am working with TAO to leverage a new mission capability.” TAO stands for Tailored Access Operations, through which the NSA hacking team had collected 900 usernames and passcodes. The target in question was reportedly PDVSA, a Venezuelan state oil company also known as Petróleos de Venezuela.

    • NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company

      The U.S. National Security Agency accessed the internal communications of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela and acquired sensitive data it planned to exploit in order to spy on the company’s top officials, according to a highly classified NSA document that reveals the operation was carried out in concert with the U.S. embassy in Caracas.

      The March 2011 document, labeled, “top secret,” and provided by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, is being reported on in an exclusive partnership between teleSUR and The Intercept.

    • Venezuela’s State Oil Company to Sue US Over Spying
    • Venezuela Could Pursue Legal Action against US over PDVSA Spying Scandal
    • Venezuela’s Oil Sector Condemns U.S. Espionage
    • NSA shuttered bulk email program in 2011, replaced with similar initiatives

      By the time the National Security Agency (NSA) nixed its email surveillance program in December 2011, other surveillance initiatives that could “satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements” had taken its place, according to a report in The New York Times.

      The Times caught wind of the alternative programs after obtaining documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. Included in the documents are inspector general reports that say the NSA ended the email program because it could meet requirements through other efforts—three other reasons for the program’s demise were redacted. The Times report said while the agency no longer conducts the bulk collection data from telecom companies, under the replacement initiatives the NSA still analyzes the social links found in email patterns.

    • BND and Merkel enabled NSA to Spy on German and French Companies

      It is difficult to believe that Chancellor Angela Merkel believes her own words because sprouting the international terrorist card and national security, in relation to spying on France, EU targets, and German companies, appears absurd. Indeed, her comments about the role of German intelligence (BND) assisting a non-European Union entity, is truly untrustworthy and irresponsible. After all, why was the BND assisting the US National Security Agency (NSA) in spying on German companies and nations like France?

    • NSA Leaker Thomas Drake Praises Report Showing U.S.’ Failure Toward Whistleblowers

      Whistleblower Thomas Drake, who in 2010 became the first American charged with espionage in almost 40 years and who was a predecessor of Edward Snowden, applauds a new report by the PEN American Center accusing the government of failing to protect whistleblowers.

      The report comes after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at last month’s Democratic debate that NSA whistleblower Snowden “could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower” instead of leaking materials to the press. PEN’s report shows that Clinton is wrong and that the U.S. government gives employees and contractors little assurance that they won’t be prosecuted, even if they go through sanctioned channels.

    • Oakland Tribune editorial: Electronic snooping by NSA won’t stop ISIS

      It’s increasingly clear since the Paris terrorist attacks that the future of Americans’ privacy is largely in Silicon Valley’s hands.

      Valley leaders such as Apple’s Tim Cook, and Alphabet/Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Sundar Pichai are going to need the technology community’s full support to ward off political pressure from the FBI and NSA, who want government access to encrypted data on mobile devices.

      The United States needs to aggressively pursue terrorists. But it must not allow emotions of the moment to result in an ill-conceived security policy undermining not only Americans’ privacy but also the success of the nation’s driving industry.

    • Paris terrorist attacks no excuse to roll back civil liberties

      And never mind that the Paris terrorists don’t appear to have relied upon encrypted messages, despite some misleading early reports.

    • Choice between security and liberty a false one

      As our opinion leaders, lawmakers and intelligence community officials reflect on the events leading up to these terrible attacks, and what the appropriate response should be to better detect and thwart terrorist plots in the United States and throughout the world, it is critical that we first step back and take a deep breath.

    • Rolling back mass surveillance

      Under Schneier’s proposed policy, companies could not take away your rights to your data without your explicit permission…

    • Moving Microsoft’s Data Overseas May Not Keep NSA Out

      Earlier this month Microsoft announced the building and expansion of data storage facilities in Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom after an EU court invalidated a key U.S.-EU data transfer agreement in October — a response to mass National Security Agency surveillance programs revealed in the last two years.

      While the move represents the first time a major U.S tech company has admitted it can’t protect user data inside U.S. borders, the question of whether it will allow Microsoft to skirt the U.S. government’s ability to obtain user data is still very much in the air.

      “In terms of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), whether giving the data over to another company would avoid whatever legal obligations they’re under here is a very fact-specific question,” American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Alex Abdo told InsideSources. “I’m sure that the federal government would argue that so long as Microsoft has effective control over the data, they could still be subpoenaed for it or they could still be ordered or compelled to turn it over.”

      Microsoft has been fighting such a battle with the Justice Department since last year, when the government ordered the Silicon Valley giant to turn over user emails stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin, Ireland as part of an FBI drug trafficking investigation.

    • Judge Grants Injuction Against NSA Bulk Surveillance Program That Is Ending Anyway

      On June 5, 2013, the Guardian published a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order from the National Security Agency directing Verizon Business Network Services to provide daily records for a three month period of the “telephony metadata” for all telephone calls on its network. The order was part of thousands of documents stolen by Snowden while employed by a NSA contractor. In the months that followed, the government acknowledged it had been receiving this kind of data since at least 2006.

    • When the spooks get it wrong [Ed: even when they bomb hospital, gun down survivors]

      Washington is awash in intelligence agencies, some of civilians and others of the military services, 17 by one count, and a lot of what they produce is gobbledygook. Like all bureaucracies, the intelligence agencies want to protect their turf first, and writing in words (many coined on the spot) that only a small audience can understand is a way of protecting the turf.

    • The next interface moment in computing could be chip implants

      The next big thing in computing could be a glass-encased chip embedded under the skin of your left hand.

      Think of it as an extension of the wearables that can track your movement, your sleep, your heart and pulse rate now. Chip implants can do so much more.

      In its early stages today, it can store data that can be read by Near Field Communication (NFC) readers. Technically speaking you can open your door, your car just by scanning your hand in the NFC reader. It can serve as your key or access pass to the gym, the library, the office, or wherever is it that requires identification.

    • Paris attacks a wake-up call for US intelligence?

      For example, the Islamic State was using encrypted apps and websites before the NSA’s surveillance operations were uncovered, John Chase, a cybersecurity specialist who has worked with the hacking group Anonymous, told The Washington Times Friday.

    • Israël obtains the release of the spy Jonathan Pollard

      He is said to have transmitted to the Mossad an impressive quantity of US documents, sometimes concerning the Near East, but particularly concerning the surveillance methods used by the US to spy on the Soviet Union. Tel-Aviv later sold some of these documents to Moscow, particularly NSA codes, in exchange for the immigration of a million Soviet citizens who claimed to be Jewish.

    • When Top Feds Cash In, They Lead by Example

      Alexander’s IronNet has stirred allegations that he is profiting from the privileges of his former government post. Fueling the controversy was IronNet’s prospective collaboration with NSA’s Chief Technology Officer, a deal IronNet ultimately scuttled after it came to light last fall. While eyes are on the top brass, little attention has been paid to IronNet’s recruitment of young engineers, an issue that acutely plagued the NSA during Alexander’s tenure.

    • Where’s the Evidence That Mass Surveillance Actually Works?

      Current and former government officials have been pointing to the terror attacks in Paris as justification for mass surveillance programs. Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan accused privacy advocates of “hand-wringing” that has made “our ability collectively internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging.” Former National Security Agency and CIA director Michael Hayden said, “In the wake of Paris, a big stack of metadata doesn’t seem to be the scariest thing in the room.”

      Ultimately, it’s impossible to know just how successful sweeping surveillance has been, since much of the work is secret. But what has been disclosed so far suggests the programs have been of limited value. Here’s a round-up of what we know.

  • Civil Rights

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • Your ISP Limit Bandwidth? Here Is What You Can Do To Improve Internet Speed

      It is very annoying when our fast Internet connection goes down. Sometimes it is due to some technical error or sometime in case of wired Internet the wires damage causes the Internet completely shutdown. But, it’s all unexpected. We can’t go and fix it. Our ISP (Internet Service Provider) fixes it as soon as possible. But what if your ISP is limit bandwidth and block you to access some sites or the whole Internet world upto a limited speed.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Russian court bans Scientology church due to trademark use

        A Russian court has ordered a Church of Scientology branch in Moscow to close after a dispute over its registered US trademarks.

        The Moscow City Court backed calls from Russia’s Ministry of Justice to close the church after accepting the department’s argument that the church cannot call itself a religious organisation if it owns a registered trademark.

      • Scientology church says Russian trademark ruling is ‘disease’ of justice system

        The Church of Scientology has said it will appeal against a decision by a Russian court to close its Moscow branch, describing the ruling as a “disease of the justice system”.

        In a statement sent to WIPR, the church said it will appeal against the decision to the country’s Supreme Court.

    • Copyrights

      • Copyright Industry Still Doesn’t Understand This Fight Isn’t About Money, But Liberty

        With a lot of people streaming music and video from services such as Spotify, Pandora and Netflix, torrenting is less of a visible conflict than ten years ago. But similar fights continue in the shape of net neutrality and privacy, with the same values: it was never about the money.

      • Cox Can’t Describe Rightscorp As “Extortionists” and “Trolls” During Trial

        Internet provider Cox Communications is not allowed to use derogatory terms to describe Rightscorp during their upcoming trial. Terms such as “copyright troll,” “blackmailer,” and “extortionist” are off-limits and the same is true for Rightscorp’s dire financial position.

      • No Copyright Trolls, Your Evidence Isn’t Flawless

        If you get a letter through the post accusing you of Internet piracy, you must be guilty. That’s the message from most copyright trolls and infuriatingly, even some ‘neutral’ lawyers commenting on these cases. But while it might seem daunting, putting up a fight is not only the right thing to do, but can also cause claimants to back off.

      • Pirate forced to make anti-piracy film to avoid being sued

        A 30-YEAR-OLD MAN accused of piracy has had to make a solemn confession mini-movie to avoid being sued.

        The video is bleak at the start, reminiscent of a hostage video or one of those confessions you might have read about in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is earnest, and perhaps a bit scary, but a storyline soon develops.

        It is not in the English language, which makes the message slightly hard to understand, but ultimately it warns that you do not want to be caught pirating anything. It appears to be a short rags-to-riches story of a man who enjoyed piracy, then met the police, and was sad. Tom Hanks might try for a US remake.

      • It’s illegal to make private copies of music in the UK—again

        The UK’s 2014 private copying exception, which allowed you to make personal copies of your own music, including format-shifted versions, has now been definitively withdrawn, according to The 1709 Blog. As a result, it is once more illegal to make personal backups of your own music, videos or e-books, rip CDs and DVDs to standalone digital files, or upload your music to the cloud.

      • Judge Worries That Piracy Lawsuits Will Flood Courts

        The chief judge of an IP court in Finland has expressed concern that ‘copyright-troll’ piracy lawsuits will cause chaos if a law firm follows through with threats to sue hundreds of Internet users. Using the courts is the ultimate weapon to make alleged pirates settle but experts believe that copyright owners could have an uphill battle.


Public Protests by European Patent Office (EPO) Staff Weaken the EPO’s Attacks on the Media

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

People Power [1, 2] is power in numbers

Tahrir Square
Over 1 Million in Tahrir Square demanding the removal of the regime and for Mubarak to step down.
Photo source: Jonathan Rashad

Summary: Where things stand when it comes to the EPO’s standoff against publications and why it’s advisable for EPO staff to stage standoffs against their high-level management, which is behind a covert crackdown on independent media (while greasing up corporate media)

THERE is an occasional need for us to remind readers that the EPO besieges Web sites that upset its agenda, which judging by its priorities is to appease large corporations even when these are foreign (outside the EU). This is further exacerbated by privatisation of some key/core functions of the EU, such as litigation, investigation, and PR (the EPO has those internally, but it hires or contracts ‘reinforcement’ from the outside, where accountability is even worse or non-existent, and different laws may apply, e.g. in the US).

In the first two parts of this mini-series [1, 2] we showed how the EPO had been trying to silence us.

What has really become of the EPO? It doesn’t seem to behave like a public service run by public servants. It operates recklessly, misuses or poorly uses public funds, and has established a rogue reign of occupation over Europe, enjoying exemptions from laws and regulations that are consistent with human rights.

“How can it be?”

Some people actually ask that. They’re rather shocked by the very idea that this is even possible. But it is. Moreover, this rogue institution is becoming so threatening (menacing its opposition) that it sometimes seems untouchable even to European politicians. It’s like a very effective occupation of an institution, which revels in immunity/impunity and flaunts the privilege.

Back when the first batch of threats were no longer being dispatched I sent the following message to just a couple of people whom I trust:

A letter came in today. It seems like the EPO dumped their lawyers who sent me the bullying letters, perhaps realising that these did not comply with protocols and only caused an embarrassment to the EPO.

It looks as though the EPO is now approaching another firm; it’s not clear if anything will come out of it, but for the time being, I shall carry on writing as usual.

“Thanks for the update,” told me one person. “If they get better lawyers, those should understand proceeding is not a good idea.”

“The previous [legal] firm’s attempt did seem somewhat amateurish…”
“The previous firm’s attempt did seem somewhat amateurish,” told me another person, who is a professional in this field.

Please note that in our coverage no names have been mentioned, no sentences quoted from legal letters, no legal documents shown and so on.

For those who follow the EPO scandals, don’t expect legal documents to be published. I’m not getting down to the low level of the EPO’s thugs (who ‘leaked’ allegations from an ongoing ‘investigation’ to the media, in order to float the ‘armed Nazis’ narrative, thus discrediting critics). I am also not going to name people who are responsible for this, as that would make personal an institutional kind of abuse.

Judging by what I saw online two weeks ago, the vultures were still circling around me, as the following screenshot was taken from my LinkedIn account, showing that the EPO’s lawyers were keeping themselves occupied.


“Mishcons are an aggressive firm,” one person said to us. Well, the EPO itself is aggressive, so there’s no surprise there.

“Actions by staff (in the form of showing of public/internal backlash) help shield journalists and bloggers from retaliatory tactics, SLAPP, etc.”A little update from the EPO would be appreciated, but they refused to even supply the media with a comment, based on the WIPR article. They probably don’t know what to say as it can only make things worse. Basically, there’s no update and there has been no update for nearly a month. A legal firm (as above) said it had taken control of the matter, which probably meant the previous firm got dumped. It has been over 3 weeks now. I did notice that one secretarial (I think) member of staff at that firm was ‘checking me out’ in LinkedIn, but that too was almost three weeks ago; maybe an effort to get some additional ‘information’ on me or just innocent curiousness? Given the context, it is unpleasant curiosity. I haven’t added anything meaningful to LinkedIn since 2006 when a ‘friend’ had me set up an account there (I am in principle against such ‘social’ media, which gets more intrusive and privacy-infringing over time, after changing terms of services for people to waive away more their basic rights).

Given what Techrights has been writing and publishing recently (not to mention the EPO’s ‘spontaneous protests’) we hope they’ll realise that going after bloggers isn’t a wise decision. The math doesn’t add up as they have more points to lose than to gain in the long run. Actions by staff (in the form of showing of public/internal backlash) help shield journalists and bloggers from retaliatory tactics, SLAPP, etc. This is why we urge everyone at the EPO (except high-level management) to attend the imminent protests.

“They don’t seem to know what they are doing and what they’re up against, hence they hired peripheral union busters like CRG (Control Risks).”The EPO’s high-level management is really struggling these days; it took them no less than 4 days to come up with an answer to the basic question of who’s behind the SLAPP, as it was invalid a claim to begin with, so they had to try and use some dubious artistic interpretation of the law. They don’t seem to know what they are doing and what they’re up against, hence they hired peripheral union busters like CRG (Control Risks).

Tomorrow we start covering another (new) EPO scandal and we encourage staff to attend the public demonstration, at the very least to protect staff representatives if not journalists too. The more people attend, the more scared the high-level management will feel. It’s getting out of hand because they cannot just fire thousands of their highly-qualified specialist staff (examiners for example). Power comes from and is proportional to absolute numbers.

“I am Legion, for we are many”

New Testament

Why the European Patent Office Cannot Really Sue and Why It’s All — More Likely Than Not — Just SLAPP

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“A SLAPP is a lawsuit, filed for the improper purpose of trying to silence criticism, or to prevent someone from pursing their own right of redress. The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not care whether he wins the lawsuit, and often knows he has no chance of prevailing. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. As a bonus, if the SLAPP plaintiff can garner notice in the media, or even among the defendant’s circle, a SLAPP suit may also intimidate others from participating in the debate.”

Aaron Morris

Summary: Legal analysis by various people explains why the EPO’s attack dogs are all bark but no bite when it comes to threats against publishers

THE EPO‘s dubious attack on our free speech appears to be a lot more dubious than people even care to recognise because they don’t know about the EPO’s immunity and impunity (it’s effectively above the law, but just conditionally). UK Defamation Law does not permit the EPO to do what it threatens to do. As some of our readers pointed out to us:

We saw the article about the EPO’s legal threat against you.

Here are a few comments off the top of our heads.

First of all we noticed that the article objected to contained a reference to Grant Philpott. The “edit” to the WIPR article involved removing Philpott’s name (as he was named in the original WIPR report).

For what it’s worth, Philpott is British and he used to be in the British Army (many years ago). This is no secret. We have no idea what significance if any this might have to anything or if it’s just coincidental. [...] However, we think that all of this may (hopefully) backfire on Battistelli and his crew. [...] Our understanding of the situation is that if the EPO does go to court it will have to lift its immunity. That could be quite dangerous for them.

You need to be aware of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities (PPI) [...] look at the PPI in particular Article 20: “(1) The Organisation shall co-operate at all times with the competent authorities of the Contracting States in order to facilitate the proper administration of justice, to ensure the observance of police regulations and regulations concerning public health, labour inspection or other similar national legislation, and to prevent any abuse of the privileges, immunities and facilities provided for in this Protocol.

If the EPO decides to go to court, then it will be obliged under Article 20(1) PPI to “co-operate [...] with the competent authorities of the [U.K.] in order to facilitate the proper administration of justice [...] and to prevent any abuse of the privileges, immunities and facilities provided for in this Protocol.

On that basis, we suppose that you could lodge requests for discovery of documents etc. and that the EPO would have to comply if they want to pursue any action against you.

They shouldn’t be allowed to misuse a UK (or other national) court in an attempt to prosecute you while at the same time being allowed to hide behind their cloak of immunity. Refer to the legal principle of “equality of arms” which should apply in a UK court.

If the EPO tries to get “serious” about court proceedings, then maybe you can request that the court obtains a binding undertaking from the EPO that it waives its immunity from jurisdiction and execution for all matters relating to the case including any counter-claims that you may make against them.

This could be the biggest mistake that Battistelli has made so far.

By trying to muzzle free speech outside the EPO he is moving outside of his normal “comfort zone” where he gets to make and break the rules as he pleases. There is also a high probability that this attempt to take legal action against a “blogger” could attract a lot more “mainstream” interest in the whole affair (à la Streisand).

We are sceptical that Battistelli really wants to go before a national court with stuff like this. It sounds more like scare tactics – but maybe he is sufficiently bonkers to try it…

We will be following developments with close interest. [...] we are not experts in UK defamation law but we had a quick look at the Defamation Act of 2013 and we noticed a few things that might be relevant for your situation.

Under Section 1 of the Act, “harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

The EPO is not a “body that trades for profit” so it is not covered by that Section to begin with. Anyway, it’s doubtful that they could show any “serious financial loss” from Techrights publications.

We also noted that according to the Wikipedia page relating to the Defamation act: “Non-natural persons performing a public function do not have an action in defamation against any statement concerning that function.”

If that interpretation of the law is correct – which it seems to be – then it’s difficult to see how the EPO could possibly have any success in trying to initiate a defamation action against Techrights in a UK court.

That’s just our opinion but hopefully lawyers can confirm.

“You might find this amusing,” they added later, “click on the photo of the author at the top of the article.” (posted by this person just one week after the threatening letters started to come)

One person asked us: “Can you tell me if [this person] is on the EPO staff or if they have engaged an outside firm? It might be worth investigating the nature of his previous practice record.”

“Hitherto, external entities have become richer thanks to undisclosed budget from a public purse.”Well, what’s perhaps troubling here is that private companies are again being used by the EPO. The EPO already has its own (in-house) lawyers. Hitherto, external entities have become richer thanks to undisclosed budget from a public purse.

The above isn’t out of the ordinary. We recently learned that WIPO too tried to silence a blog with legal threats. It happened some years ago. The blog received, according to what we learned, “a phonecall from one of the Deputy Directors-General followed by two legal letters before action, only to discover that, as a body established under an international convention, WIPO didn’t have the legal power to sue or be sued in any national court. This may be so for the EPO, one way or other.”

Well, apparently, based on what PatentBuddy wrote in Twitter last week, WIPO also threatened Gene Quinn (another blogger) in a similar way. It happened not too long ago. Why the overreach? Was this SLAPP as well?

“By this point, we have written nearly 400 articles about the EPO (we have focused on deeper affairs for over a year now).”Well, many states in the US have anti-SLAPP laws (not all states, but see for instance California SLAPP Law). There are also things like blogger protections (depending on definition of journalist, blogger, forum etc. with salaried/non-salaried being a factor). Why are public bodies taking the risk of trying to keep bloggers quiet? Can they not foresee backlash?

By this point, we have written nearly 400 articles about the EPO (we have focused on deeper affairs for over a year now). There seems to be serious institutional abuse there and in recent months the British media too started covering these matters (in big numbers, citing Techrights). Private Eye picked up this story and publicised the scandals (using evidence from Techrights). That’s why the EPO must be so worried. English-speaking media has very broad reach, unlike Croatian media for example. We therefore assume that they just try to intimidate or silence the site. Well, the site is already BLOCKED (for the first time in history) from within EPO offices. They clearly try to keep it quiet, to keep staff unaware of it, but the harder they try, the more sources (whistleblowers) turn to to the site with new and explosive leaks. We even got some more earlier today… we’re now drowning in material.

“This behaviour from the EPO is intended to discourage writing (they start by nitpicking on one article, only to try others later).”Based on the wrong name being in the legal letter (they address me by a completely wrong surname*), they’re on some kind of a new campaign to silence the media. I’m not the only target and I was warned about this recently. More people now come out (privately at least) and speak about growing pressure from the EPO (see what was posted here last month, there is a long history to it and the story of unitary-patent.eu may be one of very many). For reactionary leverage, some suppose, victims of EPO bullying could invoke the Streisand Effect and let people raise awareness of what EPO is attempting to do here. That kind of coverage would definitely annoy the majority of EPO workers (there are around 7,000 of them), and maybe lead to more effective and much broader a standoff/demonstration.

This behaviour from the EPO is intended to discourage writing (they start by nitpicking on one article, only to try others later). Based on the letters, this is action from the EPO itself, not an individual. SUEPO’s site was also recently silenced (back in September), probably using a similar kind of letter, maybe even from the same firm.

“There is an atmosphere of fear and terror at the EPO and we can’t help thinking of FIFA and Volkswagen for parallels.”We often wonder if, even after publication, a lot of publishers silently censor their articles (removing words or entire paragraphs) without us even noticing it. We started saving articles about the EPO for this reason (for later comparison, as recently shown here). Journalists and publishers are made afraid to the point where very serious violations can go on and on. People commit suicide and next month we are going to write about what motivates (at least some of) these suicides. We have more damning information about the EPO, but we keep it under the wraps because it’s so damning that it would put people’s careers at risk if published (the subject of the articles being at risk, not the sources). There is an atmosphere of fear and terror at the EPO and we can’t help thinking of FIFA and Volkswagen for parallels.
* Wrong name being addressed to indicates they may have reused a template, as they have been muzzling other people as well (this other name too is German and the EPO is based in Munich).

How the EPO Twisted Defamation Law in a Failed Bid to Silence Techrights

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The European Patent Office (EPO) is strong-arming bloggers

Twisted fingers

Summary: Using external legal firms (not the EPO’s own lawyers), the EPO has been trying — and failing — to silence prominent critics

THE EPO‘s war on journalists has been covered here for almost a week. 5 days after WIPR broke the story it is still the most popular topic at that news site and this story has since then attracted wider and further media attention. There are 5 large threads in Reddit right now, in five different sections, posted by numerous individuals and groups we don’t know and aren’t typically focused on legal matters. This is going mainstream!

We are starting to find out some interesting things from interesting people. Another news site told us, “you are not the only person coming under pressure from the EPO right now.” It also prudently responded and advised us by saying “do assume, if you are not already, that your private e-correspondence is being monitored and read.” Recall the following older articles of ours:

This article will present my solicitor’s response to the EPO’s lawyers, who are actually — like much of the EPO's staff these days — from a private company that we won’t even mention. What the EPO has done here is amazing. It’s amazingly stupid. They took a crisis that mostly involved the ‘IP’ community into a mainstream audience. The EPO is now a laughing stock in many circles and emergency funds are now being retrieved from the taxpayers’ pot to hopelessly undo the damage (it will only backfire again, we can guarantee it).

“They took a crisis that mostly involved the ‘IP’ community into a mainstream audience.”As we know that not only Techrights was subjected to legal bullying by the EPO, we wish to make as much information as possible widely available. It can help any future victims of EPO bullying, as it includes legal material which shows how to respond to the EPO and call their bluff.

I spent 6 hours this morning going through piles of material. I was hoping to get a full E-mail trail (in and out, incoming and outgoing) suitably picked and redacted where required. It all started with a legal letter from a firm contracted by the EPO. Readers are advised to remember that we start this chronology a month and a half ago (15/10/2015 onwards), so some of the text below should be treated and read in contextual relation to the time and what was known back in October, well before additional information got leaked and covered on the Internet.

“The original/seminal nastrygram from the EPO was sent at 22:57 (local time) on Friday.”THREE LEGAL LETTERS have been sent by the EPO’s first law firm and another by the second one. We’re not talking about one legal letter here, contrary to some belief (as witnessed on the Web). Today’s publication of facts will be split into 3 PARTS in order to better organise the material and make it easier to cross-reference in the future.

The original/seminal nastrygram from the EPO was sent at 22:57 (local time) on Friday. It was sent not just to one E-mail address of mine but to several, saying: “Please see attached legal letter for your urgent attention.”

How the legal firm found several of my E-mail addresses is itself a bit of a mystery, but either way, these people were very eager to ensure that I read this mail late at night on a Friday. We won’t name the firm or the people who sent those letters. Also, as they demand confidentiality in all of their letters, we cannot or will not publish them. We won’t break the rules like the EPO so habitually does. We leave the dirty tricks to the EPO. We’re cleaner than them.

“We won’t break the rules like the EPO so habitually does.”Techrights wishes to thank David Allen Green (Preiskel & Co.) not just for doing a sterling job but also doing this out of goodwill. “I should be able to do this one pro bono,” he wrote to us at a very early stage, “still finding out.” David Allen Green was upset at the EPO’s behaviour and was immediately engaged in helping us, even on a weekend (remember that nastygram was sent late on a Friday night). David asked me for permission to respond to the lawyers and state that: 1. the letter sent was not in accordance with the pre-action protocol; 2. it is denied EPO has capability to sue; 3. the post was taken down without any admission of liability; 4. you require 14 days to provide a substantive response.

We ask dear readers to carefully consider the situation these people put me in late on a Friday night. It’s a kind of entrapment. If David Allen Green didn’t jump in as early as Saturday, the course of action from the EPO would probably have been more severe, not because it’s permissible but because they can exploit lack of awareness of the law, or even misrepresent the law (a familiar EPO trick). Here is the first response sent to the EPO’s contracted (external) lawyers, who seem to have sent similar nastygrams to other people.

Dear [Anonymised]

I have been approached by Roy Schestowitz in respect of your letter which was attached to the email below.

Your letter is remarkable. The letter does not accord with the relevant pre-action protocol. Indeed, it looks like that you are not even aware that there is a pre-action protocol.

But that is not the worst thing. The “urgent” letter was sent at 22:57 on a Friday, with a supposed deadline of noon the following Monday (that is, today). This is akin to simple legal bullying. It was clearly intended that Mr Schestowitz would be intimidated and be forced to act without proper access to legal advice.

It gets worse. Not only do you seem unaware of the pre-action protocol, you do appear to know that the Defamation Act 2013 is in force, which requires your clients to meet a test under section 1. You don’t even mention the appropriate statutory test, let alone attempt to show how your clients meet it.

And finally: the European Patent Office is a public body. Under the Derbyshire principle it would not be able to maintain an action in defamation.

I am currently putting the paperwork in place so that I can be formally instructed by Mr Schestowitz. As such this email is sent on his behalf but I anticipate to be formally acting for him very shortly. I am only writing now because of the misconceived deadline you selected.

It is not accepted that your letter is a valid letter of claim, and so my client’s position on this point is reserved. However, and without limitation to the foregoing sentence, you will now get a formal and substantive response to your letter within the 14 days set out in the protocol (that is, by 30 October 2015). In the meantime my client has taken the posts down without any admission of liability.

If your clients are daft and ill-advised enough to issue proceedings before receiving the formal and substantive response (and in breach of the protocol), I will advise my client to seek indemnity costs against your clients, in addition to his other rights and remedies.

My client’s position is reserved.

Yours sincerely

David Allen Green

The EPO’s goons then sent another nastygram. By that time, David Allen Green had already consulted specialists/domain experts, who brought up a legitimate point, so he responded as follows:

Thank you for this latest letter. I will take instructions.

In the meantime, I have now discovered the European Patent Office has no legal personality. If the EPO is not a legal person it cannot maintain an action in defamation or otherwise.

Can you please tell me exactly who your client is in respect of the threatened claim by EPO?

“They are becoming comical,” I said, at the very least “because yet another article which is factually correct they are trying to get removed now. Even large broadcasters serve to support my claim — hence they want to retaliate. They don’t like the bad publicity, which now [at that stage] reache[d] everyone in Munich.”

Remember that all of this was happening while the press was still hammering hard on the EPO for preferential treatment favouring large applicants. The EPO was hoping I would retract what I showed and perhaps help them censor the media (which was always linking to Techrights for evidence). Attempts to censor the original source of leaks or force a public apology/restraction is a classic censorship strategy. I just had to fight back.

Here is what my solicitor then wrote:

Dear [Anonymised]

We have read the second letter, and I am still taking instructions and will reply substantially by the stipulated deadline tomorrow.

In the meantime, however, note the following, including the renewed request for information.

So far: you have sent an initial letter which did not mention the relevant protocol, including making a threat on behalf of one named client (“EPO”) who cannot maintain an action in defamation (under the Derbyshire rule) and does not even have legal personality. You also forget to set out anything at all about the section 1 test in the initial letter.

With respect, you do not seem to actually know what you are doing. It looks like you are dabbling in defamation law. You are making basic errors almost every paragraph.

You have now – desperately – come up with “malicious falsehood” and “confidentiality” – but you do not set out the bases of your claims in respect of either claim. You should have realised the significance of the Derbyshire rule before you sent your threatening letter. But you failed to do so, and now you are now threatening actions in “malicious falsehood” and “confidentiality” without even providing basic information about how you clients make out the elements of either cause of action. It just looks ridiculous.

I asked you earlier today at 10:40 (below) to set out who your “EPO” client was; and despite the supposed “urgency” I have not had a reply, some five hours later.

Please respond by 1700 today stating which legal person your “EPO” client actually is. Otherwise I will assume you actually do not know.

Yours helpfully

David Allen Green

A later letter stated:

Dear [Anonymised]

Further to the below, this is the response to your second letter (of today’s date).

There is nothing whatsoever in the second letter to justify a deadline of tomorrow. So your client(s) can wait until the letter we are sending to you on or before 30 October 2015, in which we will deal substantially with both letters.

You said this morning this matter was “urgent”. I immediately sent you a straightforward query about the identity of one of your named clients, who is not even a legal person. Despite the purported “urgency” neither of you have bothered to respond at all, in over six hours.

In the interests of keeping costs proportionate, I do not propose to correspond further with you on either of the letters sent until the substantive response on or before 30 October 2015.

For completeness, and also in the interests of inter partes co-operation to control costs, I can tell you that my client reserves his right to plead a defence of truth to the claims, and this means that any pre-trial injunction you might seek would not be granted, pursuant to the rule in Bonnard v Perryman [1891] 2 Ch 269.

And, as I set out in the email below, if your clients are daft and ill-advised enough to issue proceedings before receiving the formal and substantive response (and in breach of the protocol), I will advise my client to seek indemnity costs against your clients, in addition to his other rights and remedies.

Yours sincerely

David Allen Green

Without much regard to the part about “keeping costs proportionate”, the EPO continued rather than relented with legal letters. Another one “came in on Friday,” my solicitor told me, “just an attempt to recover on the “no legal personality” point.”

Finally, here is the detailed letter sent to summarise all the points, including some of the above:

Dear [Anonymised]

I refer to my email below. I have looked at your letters carefully, and I have also discussed the contents with specialist counsel.

As you are both aware, the purpose and intention of the pre-action protocol is to facilitate the early exchange of information, so that cases can be properly dealt with. Accordingly, I am writing this email so as to obtain additional information which we require to consider your claim.

1. Legal personality

In respect of the European Patent Office, I am still not clear as to which legal person is seeking to threaten and maintain an action in defamation. In your first letter you said you were acting for the European Patent Office. Now you are saying you are acting for the European Patent Organisation. (It is just as well they have the same initials!) But the position of the European Patent Organisation is not what you set out in your initial letters, and now the position is confused and nees further clarification, as I set out below.

2. EPO Immunity from suit, from and costs and disclosure orders

Is your “EPO” client (whoever it is) formally waiving its legal immunity to countersuit and, more importantly, to liability for any costs and disclosure (and other) orders? Are you even aware that your EPO client’s immunity from suit (and to comply with costs and final orders) is at stake here? The position on your “EPO” client’s immunity from costs orders needs to be clarified as a matter of urgency, as it affects the costs sanctions and disclosure regime.

3. Derbyshire

In any case, the Derbyshire rule provides a complete defence to any claim your EPO client can bring.

If your “EPO” client is daft enough to put this trite proposition to the test, then I will seek indemnity costs from your client from the moment this obvious truth was pointed out to them. You say (in your 20 October 2015 letter) that you “reserve” your position on Derbyshire, as if some magical proposition will somehow appear which allows you to get around it. You will not get round it; your “EPO” client simply cannot maintain an action in defamation, as a matter of public policy.

4. Meanings

In respect of alleged meanings, it is currently impossible to work out your clients’ respective positions. This is for two reasons.

First, as mentioned above, your letter of claim does not mention the European Patent Organisation, and nor do the words complained of. You need to set out how my client’s words refer or relate to an organization which is not named by him, and how you say the words complained of apply to the European Patent Organisation. There is an “identification” issue which you simply have not addressed.

Second, your letters do not separate out the potential claimants, and indeed your inconsistent use of the apostrophe when mention your clients’ (or client’s) makes it impossible for us (and the court) to work out which of your clients you are talking about at different parts of your letters. Perhaps you did not know; but this needs to be clear at the earliest possible stage.

5. Libel bullying and the public interest

Without limitation to any of the above, there remains the horrible and discrediting issue of libel bullying. Here I want to raise the issue of the public interest. The work of the EPO is a matter of legitimate public concern. There is, as your client knows, a significant public debate as to the work of the EPO; a debate to which the EPO is itself contributing, and which is taking The effect of sending libel threats such as yours will be to inhibit that debate.

This is plain in your demands that entire articles be taken down, rather than just the words complained of. This cannot be justified. In essence this appears to be an exercise by a public body to discourage public criticism.

6. Further information now required

In essence, before we can properly reply to any threat that either of your clients may wish to bring, we now need the following information:

a. Separate letters before action for each client in respect of defamation, separating out their respective alleged meanings and words complained of;

b. An explanation as to why the EPO is not covered by the Derbyshire rule;

c. Confirmation that your EPO client is waiving immunity from countersuit, and waiving immunity in respect of compliance with costs and disclosure orders and final orders (together with an executed legal instrument by the President of the European Patent Organisation confirming this formal waiver);

d. A separate explanation in respect of each client of how that client meets the section 1 test in respect of defamation;

e. An explanation as to why your clients were demanding entire articles should be brought down rather than just the words complained of, and how this does not constitute “libel bullying”.

Please provide this information within seven days, by 6 November 2015, so that the aims of the protocol can be achieved.

7. Next steps

Once we have the information requested, and subject to what it says, we can then in turn set out the relevant defences under sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Defamation Act 2013. Facts will be defended as facts; honest opinions will be defended as honest opinions; and a public interest defence will also be set out. My client intends to defend his words on the bases available to him under the Defamation Act 2013.

So that the protocol will be complied with, I would then provide the defence(s) to you within 14 days of your provision of the information requested above, that is by 20 November 2015. In the event that your clients issue proceedings immaturely, and before 20 November 2015, your clients are put on notice of the costs consequences. I am acting within the scope and spirit of the protocol so as to resolve this at pre-action stage, and so should your clients.

If you do not provide the requested information by 6 November 2015, then we will regard the matter as having come to a close.

My client’s position is reserved.

Your sincerely

David Allen Green

In the next couple of parts we intend to show where things stand. It looks as though the EPO ran away with its tail between its legs. We thank David Allen Green (of Preiskel & Co.) for that.

East Texas and Its Cautionary Tale: Software Patents Lead to Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 5:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Lessons from US media, which focuses on the dire situation in Texas courts, and how these relate to the practice of granting patents on software (the patent trolls’ favourite weapon)

OUR primary concern about the EPO has always been the effort to expand the scope of patents to software (so as to make more money and help multinational oligopolies which constantly lobbied Europe for it).

“At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders.”
      –The Atlantic
It has always been pointed out, on numerous occasions in fact, that patent trolls rely mostly on software patents. These trolls already knock on Europe's door, having been extremely damaging to the economy of the US, where they crushed a lot of small businesses. This new and very long article from The Atlantic recalls how things changed more than three decades ago, with so-called inventors like Martin Goetz. The article speaks of “dramatic changes in the treatment of what, in the 1980s, came to be known as “intellectual property,” combined with the general retreat from antitrust enforcement” (to benefit oligopolies).

The article says this “had the effect of vastly concentrating the geographical distribution of power in the technology sector. At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders. In 1991, Bill Gates reflected on the change and noted in a memo to his executives at Microsoft that “[i]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.””

Well, how ironic it must be that Microsoft is now the world’s biggest patent bully (in some respects) and it even managed to make the EPO more megacorporations-leaning.

“Well, how ironic it must be that Microsoft is now the world’s biggest patent bully (in some respects) and it even managed to make the EPO more megacorporations-leaning.”Public complaints in the US are mostly over patent trolls these days. The complaints rightly focus on East Texas, the trolls' docket. Another new article says: “East Texas is known for its Piney Woods, Caddo Lake, maybe for sweet potatoes. It’s also the patent lawsuit capitol of the country. More patent infringement cases are brought to Eastern District courts than anywhere else. There’s pressure to root out the so-called “patent trolls”.”

Published on the same day, this new article rightly observes that “software technology is becoming a treasure trove for Patent trolls.” To quote in context: “In furtherance to my recent post on Patent trolls or the Non Practicing Entities (NPEs), I would like to discuss here in this post about how software technology is becoming a treasure trove for Patent trolls. Cloud based business products are one of the major business fields today. Software-oriented platforms such as C (SaaS) providers are primary targets for the Patent trolls.”

It is vital to realise the strong correlation between software patents (patents on abstract concepts) and patent trolls in order to ensure that the failings seen in East Texas don’t reach Europe as well.

“Americans learn only from catastrophe and not from experience.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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