Education

Subscription Journals Are Doomed Because of Sci-Hub's Big Cache of Pirated Papers, Suggests Data Analyst (sciencemag.org) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: There is no doubt that Sci-Hub, the infamous -- and, according to a U.S. court, illegal -- online repository of pirated research papers, is enormously popular. But just how enormous is its repository? That is the question biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues recently set out to answer, after an assist from Sci-Hub. Their findings, published in a preprint on the PeerJ journal site on July 20, indicate that Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles, an amount that Himmelstein says is "even higher" than he anticipated. For research papers protected by a paywall, the study found Sci-Hub's reach is greater still, with instant access to 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some major publishers, such as Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog of journal articles is being stored on Sci-Hub's servers -- meaning they can be accessed there for free. In a chat with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein concludes that the results of his study could mark "the beginning of the end" for paywalled research.
Privacy

German Court Rules Bosses Can't Use Keyboard-Tracking Software To Spy On Workers (thelocal.de) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Local: The Federal Labour Court ruled on Thursday that evidence collected by a company through keystroke-tracking software could not be used to fire an employee, explaining that such surveillance violates workers' personal rights. The complainant had been working as a web developer at a media agency in North Rhine-Westphalia since 2011 when the company sent an email out in April 2015 explaining that employees' complete "internet traffic" and use of the company computer systems would be logged and permanently saved. Company policy forbade private use of the computers. The firm then installed keylogger software on company PCs to monitor keyboard strokes and regularly take screenshots. Less than a month later, the complainant was called in to speak with his boss about what the company had discovered through the spying software. Based on their findings, they accused him of working for another company while at work, and of developing a computer game for them. [...] So the programmer took his case to court, arguing that the evidence used against him had been collected illegally. The Federal Labour Court agreed with this argument, stating in the ruling that the keylogger software was an unlawful way to control employees. The judges added that using such software could be legitimate if there was a concrete suspicion beforehand of a criminal offense or serious breach of work duties.
Crime

Feds Crack Trump Protesters' Phones To Charge Them With Felony Rioting (thedailybeast.com) 437

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Officials seized Trump protesters' cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants' locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court. [A] July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were "encrypted" and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that "encrypted" meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen. For the six encrypted phones, investigators were able to compile "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," the filing says. But investigators appear to have bypassed the lock on the two remaining phones to access the entirety of their contents.
Patents

Apple Ordered To Pay $506 Million In Damages For Processor Patent Infringement (hothardware.com) 118

MojoKid writes from a report via Hot Hardware: Apple has been ordered to feed a recognized patent troll hundreds of millions of dollars for infringing on a patent that has to do with technology built into its A-series mobile processors. Initially Apple was on the hook for $234 million, owed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) after it won a patent dispute against the Cupertino tech giant. However, a judge this week more than doubled the fine by tacking on an additional $272 million. U.S District Judge William Conley in Madison ruled that Apple owed additional damages plus interest because it continued to infringe on the patent all the way up until it expired in 2016. WARF is reportedly a non-practicing entity that exists only currently by defending its patents in litigation. The lawsuit filed in 2014 involves U.S. Patent No. 5,871,752, which describes the use of a predictor circuit that can help processors run more efficiently. WARF claimed the technology was used in Apple's A7, A8, and A8X processors that power the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and various iterations of the iPad. Apple is not commenting on the matter, though it's being reported that Apple plans to fight and appeal the ruling.
Businesses

Cloudflare Wants to Eliminate 'Moot' Pirate Site Blocking Threat (torrentfreak.com) 23

Cloudflare is not happy with the RIAA's efforts to hold the company liable for pirate websites on its network. From a report: Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull in 2015. Last year a Florida federal court sided with the RIAA, awarding the labels more than $22 million in damages. In addition, it issued a permanent injunction which allowed the RIAA to take over the site's domain names. Despite the multi-million dollar verdict, MP3Skull continued to operate using a variety of new domain names, which were subsequently targeted by the RIAA's legal team. As the site refused to shut down, the RIAA eventually moved up the chain targeting CDN provider Cloudflare with the permanent injunction. The RIAA argued that Cloudflare was operating "in active concert or participation" with the pirates. Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn't apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering. The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is "in active concert or participation" with the pirate site. [...] Cloudflare now wants the dangerous anti-piracy filtering order to be thrown out. The company submitted a motion to vacate the order late last week, arguing that the issue is moot. In fact, it has been for a while for some of the contended domain names. The CDN provider says it researched the domain names listed in the injunction and found that only three of the twenty domains used Cloudflare's services at the time the RIAA asked the court to clarify its order. Some had never used CloudFlare's services at all, they say.
Iphone

Apple Sued By State Farm Over Alleged iPhone Fire (cnet.com) 165

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Insurer State Farm and one of its customers, Wisconsin resident Xai Thao, allege that one of Apple's older iPhones had a defective battery that led to a fire last year. A lawsuit filed on Thursday by both State Farm and Thao claims that her iPhone 4S "failed" and "started a fire at Thao's home." The lawsuit further claims that "preliminary investigations show evidence of a significant and localized heating event in the battery area of the iPhone." It also declares that there were "remnants of internal shorting, indicating that an internal failure of the iPhone's battery caused the fire"... The State Farm lawsuit says that Thao's iPhone was "in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition" when she bought it in 2014. The suit is claiming in excess of $75,000 in damages.
Microsoft

Microsoft Launches A Counterattack Against Russia's 'Fancy Bear' Hackers (thedailybeast.com) 97

Kevin Poulsen writes on the Daily Beast: It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow's malware: Lawyers. Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft's trademarks... Since August, Microsoft has used the lawsuit to wrest control of 70 different command-and-control points from Fancy Bear... Rather than getting physical custody of the servers, which Fancy Bear rents from data centers around the world, Microsoft has been taking over the Internet domain names that route to them. These are addresses like "livemicrosoft[.]net" or "rsshotmail[.]com" that Fancy Bear registers under aliases for about $10 each. Once under Microsoft's control, the domains get redirected from Russia's servers to the company's, cutting off the hackers from their victims, and giving Microsoft a omniscient view of that servers' network of automated spies. "In other words," Microsoft outside counsel Sten Jenson explained in a court filing last year, "any time an infected computer attempts to contact a command-and-control server through one of the domains, it will instead be connected to a Microsoft-controlled, secure server."
Businesses

Are Nondisparagement Agreements Silencing Employee Complaints? (cnbc.com) 188

cdreimer writes, "According to a report in the New York Times, 'nondisparagement agreements are increasingly included in employment contracts and legal settlements' to hide abuses that would otherwise be made public." The Times reports: Employment lawyers say nondisparagement agreements have helped enable a culture of secrecy. In particular, the tech start-up world has been roiled by accounts of workplace sexual harassment, and nondisparagement clauses have played a significant role in keeping those accusations secret... Nondisparagement clauses are not limited to legal settlements. They are increasingly found in standard employment contracts in many industries, sometimes in a simple offer letter that helps to create a blanket of silence around a company. Their use has become particularly widespread in tech employment contracts, from venture investment firms and start-ups to the biggest companies in Silicon Valley, including Google... Employees increasingly "have to give up their constitutional right to speak freely about their experiences if they want to be part of the work force," said Nancy E. Smith, a partner at the law firm Smith Mullin.
Three different tech industry employees told the Times "they are not allowed to acknowledge that the agreements even exist." And Google "declined to comment" for the article.
The Courts

Intel Accuses Qualcomm of Trying To Kill Mobile Chip Competition (cnet.com) 50

Intel has jumped into the fray surrounding the Apple-Qualcomm patent spat by accusing the world's biggest maker of mobile phone chips of trying to use the courts to snuff out competition. From a report: The chip giant made the allegation late Thursday in a public statement (PDF) to US International Trade Commission. The commission had requested the statement as part of its investigation into Qualcomm's accusation that Apple's iPhones of infringe six of Qualcomm's mobile patents. Specifically, Intel said, the case is about quashing competition from Intel, which described itself as "Qualcomm's only remaining competitor" in the market for chips for cellular phones. "Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm's only remaining rival," Intel said in its statement. "This twisted use of the Commission's process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits."
Movies

Disney Facing VFX Firm's Injunction Bid on Three Blockbuster Films (hollywoodreporter.com) 95

From a report: 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and 'Beauty and the Beast' are now under the microscope for use of facial capture technology. Upping the stakes over a technology called "performance motion capture," Rearden LLC is going after The Walt Disney Company in a lawsuit filed this week. The plaintiff, a firm incubated by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Perlman, is demanding an injunction prohibiting Disney from distributing Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Beauty and the Beast. The new lawsuit comes a year after Rearden scored a startling injunction against two Chinese firms that purchased allegedly stolen technology known as MOVA, which was being licensed by Digital Domain 3.0. At the time, some legal observers were reading the ruling as notice to Hollywood studios that the facial motion capture technology was out of play. According to Rearden's latest lawsuit in California federal court, Disney didn't listen. "Disney used the stolen MOVA Contour systems and methods, made derivative works, and reproduced, distributed, performed, and displayed at least Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Beauty and the Beast, in knowing or willfully blind violation of Rearden Mova LLC's intellectual property rights."
The Courts

Judge Rules That Government Can Force Glassdoor To Unmask Anonymous Users Online (arstechnica.com) 130

pogopop77 shares a report from Ars Technica: An appeals court will soon decide whether the U.S. government can unmask anonymous users of Glassdoor -- and the entire proceeding is set to happen in secret. Federal investigators sent a subpoena asking for the identities of more than 100 anonymous users of the business-review site Glassdoor, who apparently posted reviews of a company that's under investigation for potential fraud related to its contracting practices. The government later scaled back its demand to just eight users. Prosecutors believe these eight Glassdoor users are "third-party witnesses to certain business practices relevant to [the] investigation." The name of the company under investigation is redacted from all public briefs. Glassdoor made a compromise proposal to the government: it would notify the users in question about the government's subpoena and then provide identifying information about users who were willing to participate. The government rejected that idea. At that point, Glassdoor lawyered up and headed to court, seeking to have the subpoena thrown out. Lawyers for Glassdoor argued that its users have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously. While the company has "no desire to interfere" with the investigation, if its users were forcibly identified, the investigation "could have a chilling effect on both Glassdoor's reviewers' and readers' willingness to use glassdoor.com," states Glassdoor's motion (PDF). The government opposed the motion, though, and prevailed in district court.
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 79

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.
EU

EU Court to Rule On 'Right to Be Forgotten' Outside Europe (wsj.com) 182

The European Union's top court is set to decide whether the bloc's "right to be forgotten" policy stretches beyond Europe's borders, a test of how far national laws can -- or should -- stretch when regulating cyberspace. From a report: The case stems from France, where the highest administrative court on Wednesday asked the EU's Court of Justice to weigh in on a dispute between Alphabet's Google and France's privacy regulator over how broadly to apply the right (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), which allows EU residents to ask search engines to remove some links from searches for their own names. At issue: Can France force Google to apply it not just to searches in Europe, but anywhere in the world? The case will set a precedent for how far EU regulators can go in enforcing the bloc's strict new privacy law. It will also help define Europe's position on clashes between governments over how to regulate everything that happens on the internet -- from political debate to online commerce. France's regulator says enforcement of some fundamental rights -- like personal privacy -- is too easily circumvented on the borderless internet, and so must be implemented everywhere. Google argues that allowing any one country to apply its rules globally risks upsetting international law and, when it comes to content, creates a global censorship race among autocrats.
The Courts

California Lawsuit Wants To Weaken Noncompetes (axios.com) 125

An anonymous reader shares a report: California already prohibits companies from enforcing noncompetes within the state, but a Bay Area life sciences company is asking a state court to go even further. Veeva Systems is suing three of its East Coast-based competitors and asking a California Superior Court judge to declare that it has the right to hire employees who have signed such agreements. Veeva also wants a court to limit the use of non-disparagement and confidentiality agreements. "Non-compete agreements are bad," the company said in its suit. "These agreements limit employment opportunities. They suppress wages. They keep employees trapped in jobs they do not want, and they keep employees from fairly competing with their former employers. These agreements restrict fair and robust competition for employees."
The Almighty Buck

$12 Billion In Private Student Loan Debt May Be Wiped Away By Missing Paperwork (nytimes.com) 399

New submitter cdreimer shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source): Tens of thousands of people who took out private loans to pay for college but have not been able to keep up payments may get their debts wiped away because critical paperwork is missing. The troubled loans, which total at least $5 billion, are at the center of a protracted legal dispute between the student borrowers and a group of creditors who have aggressively pursued them in court after they fell behind on payments. Judges have already dismissed dozens of lawsuits against former students, essentially wiping out their debt, because documents proving who owns the loans are missing. A review of court records by The New York Times shows that many other collection cases are deeply flawed, with incomplete ownership records and mass-produced documentation. Some of the problems playing out now in the $108 billion private student loan market are reminiscent of those that arose from the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago, when billions of dollars in subprime mortgage loans were ruled uncollectable by courts because of missing or fake documentation. And like those troubled mortgages, private student loans -- which come with higher interest rates and fewer consumer protections than federal loans -- are often targeted at the most vulnerable borrowers, like those attending for-profit schools.

At the center of the storm is one of the nation's largest owners of private student loans, the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts. It is struggling to prove in court that it has the legal paperwork showing ownership of its loans, which were originally made by banks and then sold to investors. National Collegiate is an umbrella name for 15 trusts that hold 800,000 private student loans, totaling $12 billion. More than $5 billion of that debt is in default, according to court filings.

Microsoft

US Appeals Court Upholds Nondisclosure Rules For Surveillance Orders (reuters.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: A U.S. federal appeals court on Monday upheld nondisclosure rules that allow the FBI to secretly issue surveillance orders for customer data to communications firms, a ruling that dealt a blow to privacy advocates. A unanimous three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with a lower court ruling in finding that rules permitting the FBI to send national security letters under gag orders are appropriate and do not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's free speech protections. Content distribution firm CloudFlare and phone network operator CREDO Mobile had sued the government in order to notify customers of five national security letters received between 2011 and 2013.
Media

Free Speech vs Billionaires: Netflix Streams A New Documentary About The Gawker Verdict (businessinsider.com) 199

Speaking of Netflix, last month they began streaming "Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press" -- a new documentary by Brian Knappenberger about the Gawker verdict. An anonymous reader shares this description from Business Insider: Knappenberger -- who previously made the movies "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz," on internet activist Aaron Swartz, and "We Are Legion," about the hacker group Anonymous -- got in touch with Nick Denton and Gawker editor-in-chief (who also posted the Hogan sex tape video) A.J. Daulerio to be in the film as well as Hogan's lawyer David R. Houston... Knappenberger said he also tried to get Peter Thiel to be in the movie, but Thiel declined Knappenberger's numerous requests. And the movie shows how other people with money and influence can and do silence the media.

Knappenberger also showcases what happened to the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the end of 2015. The paper's staff was suddenly told that the paper had been sold, though they were never told who the new publisher was. A group of reporters found that the son-in-law of Las Vegas casino titan Sheldon Adelson was a major player in the purchase of the paper. According to the movie, Adelson had a vendetta with the paper's columnist John L. Smith, who wrote unflattering things about him in a 2005 book. Smith was even ordered after the paper was bought that he was never to write about Adelson in any of his pieces. For Knappenberger, there's no other way to look at it: The suppression of the media by billionaires is happening.

Knappenberger said if any legal documents arrive from the billionaires discussed in his movie, "We're ready for it." But he added that the bigger issue is getting people to understand that the loss of the free press is "the most important thing facing our country." Or, as a former Gawker editor says in the film, "If you're not pissing off a billionaire, what's the point?"
Businesses

Are America's Non-Compete Laws Too Strict? (nrtoday.com) 167

Slashdot reader cdreimer shared an article from the New York Times: Idaho achieved a notable distinction last year: It became one of the hardest places in America for someone to quit a job for a better one. The state did this by making it easier for companies to enforce noncompete agreements, which prevent employees from leaving their company for a competitor... The result was a bill that shifted the burden from companies to employees, who must now prove they have "no ability to adversely affect the employer's legitimate business interests." The bar for that is so high that Brian Kane, an assistant chief deputy in the Idaho attorney general's office, wrote that this would be "difficult if not impossible" for an employee to do...

For the most part, states have been moving toward making it easier for people to switch teams... The most extreme end of the spectrum is California, which prohibits noncompete agreements entirely. Economists say this was a crucial factor behind Silicon Valley's rise, because it made it easier for people to start and staff new businesses. But as states like Utah and Massachusetts have tried to move closer to this approach, legislators have run into mature companies trying to hold onto their best employees... A recent survey showed that one in five American workers is bound by a noncompete clause. They cover workers up and down the economic spectrum, from executives to hairdressers.

Two economists tell the newspaper that since 2000, U.S. workers have changed their jobs less and less, which is sometimes blamed on strict employment contracts as well as the occupational licensing laws which affect a third of America's workforce. The Times reports that noncompete clauses ultimately end up keeping workers' salaries lower, "because most people get raises when they switch jobs."
United Kingdom

UK Wifi Provider Tricks Customers Into Agreeing To Clean Sewers (upi.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes UPI: Unwitting customers in the United Kingdom who didn't read the terms and conditions for use of a public WiFi hotspot agreed to perform 1,000 hours of community service, including unclogging sewers and scraping gum off the street. The gag was conceived by WiFi provider Purple. The company inserted the clause into its terms and conditions -- the technically legally binding agreement consumers approve in exchange for use of free Internet, though virtually few actually read the terms. The company said it did so to call attention to the fact consumers are regularly agreeing to terms that they may not actually like, including granting access to private information and data about their web browsing habits.
Other community service tasks agreed to by users included "providing hugs to stray cats and dogs" and "painting snail shells to brighten up their existence." The agreement also promised a prize to anyone who actually became aware of the prize's existences after reading the terms and conditions -- yet after two weeks only one person came forward to claim the prize.
Businesses

BetterWorks and CEO Sued By Ex-employee For Alleged Sexually Suggestive Assault (techcrunch.com) 79

From a report: Beatrice Kim is suing her former employer, BetterWorks, and its CEO Kris Duggan for allegedly assaulting her in a sexual manner during a company retreat. The lawsuit also implicates the performance management software startup's regional VP Matt Hart and VP of People Operations Tamara Cooksey for allowing sexual harassment in the workplace and not taking action against Duggan after the alleged assault was reported to the company. Kim is suing over sexual harassment and discrimination, assault and battery, demanding a jury trial, Kim's lawyer Conor D. Mack of Arena Hoffman LLP told TechCrunch.

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