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Transportation

Michigan Lets Autonomous Cars On Roads Without Human Driver (go.com) 162

Companies can now test self-driving cars on Michigan public roads without a driver or steering wheel under new laws that could push the state to the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. From a report on ABC: The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber. It also allows automakers and tech companies to run autonomous taxi services and permits test parades of self-driving tractor-trailers as long as humans are in each truck. And they allow the sale of self-driving vehicles to the public once they are tested and certified, according to the state. The bills allow testing without burdensome regulations so the industry can move forward with potential life-saving technology, said Gov. Rick Snyder, who was to sign the bills. "It makes Michigan a place where particularly for the auto industry it's a good place to do work," he said.
The Almighty Buck

Every US Taxpayer Has Effectively Paid Apple At Least $6 in Recent Years (arstechnica.com) 264

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Apple has received at least $6 per American taxpayer over the last five years in the form of interest payments on billions' worth of United States Treasury bonds, according to a report by Bloomberg. Citing Apple's regulatory filings and unnamed sources, the business publication found "the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest." By taking advantage of a provision in the American tax code, Bloomberg says that Apple has "stashed much of its foreign earnings -- tax-free -- right here in the US, in part by purchasing government bonds." As The Wall Street Journal reported in September, American companies are believed to be holding approximately $2 trillion in cash overseas that is shielded from US taxes. Under American law, companies must pay a 35-percent corporate tax rate on global profits when that money is brought home -- so there is an incentive to keep as much of that money overseas as possible.
Movies

Falsely Accused Movie Pirate Deserves $17K Compensation, Court Says (torrentfreak.com) 58

An Oregon District Court has sided with a wrongfully accused man who was sued for allegedly downloading a pirated copy of the Adam Sandler movie "The Cobbler." According to the court's recommendations, reports TorrentFreak, the man is entitled to more than $17,000 in compensation as the result of the filmmakers "overaggressive" and "unreasonable" tactics. From the article: The defendant in question, Thomas Gonzales, operates an adult foster care home where several people had access to the Internet. The filmmakers were aware of this and during a hearing their counsel admitted that any guest could have downloaded the film. [...] "The Court finds that once Plaintiff learned that the alleged infringement was taking place at an adult group care home at which Gonzales did not reside, Plaintiff's continued pursuit of Gonzales for copyright infringement was objectively unreasonable," Judge Beckerman ruled. "The Court shares Gonzales' concern that Plaintiff is motivated, at least in large part, by extracting large settlements from individual consumers prior to any meaningful litigation. "On balance, the Court has concerns about the motivation behind Plaintiff's overaggressive litigation of this case and other cases, and that factor weighs in favor of fee shifting."
Patents

Supreme Court Rules For Samsung in Smartphone Fight With Apple (reuters.com) 100

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Samsung in its high-profile patent dispute with Apple over design of the iPhone. The justices said Samsung may not be required to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models because the features at issue are only a tiny part of the devices. From a report on Reuters: The justices in their 8-0 ruling sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The decision gives Samsung another chance to try to get back a big chunk of the money it paid Apple in December following a 2012 jury verdict that it infringed Apple's iPhone patents and mimicked its distinctive appearance in making the Galaxy and other competing devices. The court held that a patent violator does not always have to fork over its entire profits from the sales of products using stolen designs, if the designs covered only certain components and not the whole thing.
Patents

Supreme Court Considers When US Patent Violations Are 'Induced' Abroad (arstechnica.com) 31

The US Supreme Court today will take up a case that will determine how much help an overseas manufacturer can get from the U.S. without running afoul of US patent laws. From a report on ArsTechnica: The case originates in a dispute between two competitors in the field of genetic testing. Both Promega Corporation and Life Technologies (selling through its Applied Biosciences brand) make DNA testing kits that can be used in a variety of fields, including forensic identification, paternity testing, medical treatment, and research. Promega licensed several patents to Applied Biosystems that allowed its competitor to sell kits for use in "Forensics and Human Identity Applications." The license forbade sales for clinical or research uses. In 2010, Promega filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that Life Technologies had "engaged in a concerted effort to sell its kits into unlicensed fields," thus infringing its patents. A Wisconsin federal jury found that Life Tech had willfully infringed and should pay $52 million in damages. But the district judge overseeing the case set aside that verdict after trial, ruling that since nearly all of the Life Tech product had been assembled and shipped from outside the US, the product wasn't subject to US patent laws.
The Courts

Embedding Isn't Copyright Infringement, Says Italian Court (arstechnica.co.uk) 25

The appeal court of Rome has overturned one of the 152 website blocks another court imposed last month, and ruled that embedding does not constitute a copyright infringement. From an ArsTechnica report: The order against the Italian site Kisstube is annulled, but the other websites remain blocked. Kisstube is a YouTube channel, which also exists as a standalone website that does not host any content itself, linking instead to YouTube. Both the channel and website arrange content by categories for the convenience of users. The Italian court's decision was informed by an important ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). In the BestWater case, the CJEU held that embedding or framing a video or image from another website is not copyright infringement if the latter is already accessible to the general public. However, another CJEU judgment ruled that posting hyperlinks to pirated copies of material is only legal provided it is done without knowledge that they are unauthorised versions, and it is not carried out for financial gain.
Microsoft

How Microsoft Lost In Court Over Windows 10 Upgrades (digitaltrends.com) 121

In June a California woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 over forced Windows 10 upgrades, and she's now written a 58-page ebook about her battle (which she's selling for $9.99). But an anonymous Slashdot reader shares another inspiring story about a Texas IT worker and Linux geek who got Microsoft to pay him $650 for all the time that he lost. "Worley built a Windows 7 machine for his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's Disease, [customized] to look like Windows XP, an operating system his grandfather still remembered well..." writes Digital Trends. "But thanks to Microsoft's persistent Windows 10 upgrade program, Worley's grandfather unknowingly initiated the Win 10 upgrade by clicking the 'X' to close an upgrade window." After Worley filed a legal "Notice of Dispute," Microsoft quickly agreed to his demand for $650, which he donated to a non-profit focusing on Alzheimer's patients.

But according to the article, that's just the beginning, since Worley now "hopes people impacted by the forced Windows 10 upgrade will write a complaint to Microsoft demanding a settlement for their wasted time and money in repairing the device," and on his web page suggests that if people don't need the money, they should give it to charities fighting Alzheimer's. "If Microsoft isn't going to wake up and realize that lobbing intentionally-tricky updates at people who don't need and can't use them actively damages not only the lives of the Alzheimer's sufferer, but those of their whole family, then let's cure the disease on Microsoft's dime so their tactics and those of companies that will follow their reckless example aren't as damaging."

Worley suggests each Notice of Dispute should demand at least $50 per hour from Microsoft, adding "If recent history holds steady they might just write you a check!"
United States

Sysadmin Gets Two Years In Prison For Sabotaging ISP (bleepingcomputer.com) 133

After being let go over a series of "personal issues" with his employer, things got worse for 26-year-old network administrator Dariusz J. Prugar, who will now have to spend two years in prison for hacking the ISP where he'd worked. An anonymous reader writes: Prugar had used his old credentials to log into the ISP's network and "take back" some of the scripts and software he wrote... "Seeking to hide his tracks, Prugar used an automated script that deleted various logs," reports Bleeping Computer. "As a side effect of removing some of these files, the ISP's systems crashed, affecting over 500 businesses and over 5,000 residential customers."

When the former ISP couldn't fix the issue, they asked Prugar to help. "During negotiations, instead of requesting money as payment, Prugar insisted that he'd be paid using the rights to the software and scripts he wrote while at the company, software which was now malfunctioning, a week after he left." This tipped off the company, who detected foul play, contacted the FBI and rebuilt its entire network.

Six years later, Prugar was found guilty after a one-week jury trial, and was ordered by the judge to pay $26,000 in restitution to the ISP (which went out of business in October of 2015). Prugar's two-year prison sentence begins December 27.
The Courts

It Will Soon Be Illegal To Punish US Customers Who Criticize Businesses Online (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader writes: Congress has passed a law protecting the right of U.S. consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama's signature.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act -- full text available here -- voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews.

Crime

Lawyer Sues 20-Year-Old Student Who Gave a Bad Yelp Review, Loses Badly (arstechnica.com) 90

20-year-old Lan Cai was in a car crash this summer, after she was plowed into by a drunk driver and broke two bones in her lower back. She didn't know how to navigate her car insurance and prove damages, so she reached out for legal help. Things didn't go as one would have liked, initially, as ArsTechnica documents:The help she got, Cai said, was less than satisfactory. Lawyers from the Tuan A. Khuu law firm ignored her contacts, and at one point they came into her bedroom while Cai was sleeping in her underwear. "Seriously, it's super unprofessional!" she wrote on Facebook. (The firm maintains it was invited in by Cai's mother.) She also took to Yelp to warn others about her bad experience. The posts led to a threatening e-mail from Tuan Khuu attorney Keith Nguyen. Nguyen and his associates went ahead and filed that lawsuit, demanding the young woman pay up between $100,000 and $200,000 -- more than 100 times what she had in her bank account. Nguyen said he didn't feel bad at all about suing Cai. Cai didn't remove her review, though. Instead she fought back against the Khuu firm, all thanks to attorney Michael Fleming, who took her case pro bono. Fleming filed a motion arguing that, first and foremost, Cai's social media complaints were true. Second, she couldn't do much to damage the reputation of a firm that already had multiple poor reviews. He argued the lawsuit was a clear SLAPP (strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Ultimately, the judge agreed with Fleming, ordering the Khuu firm to pay $26,831.55 in attorneys' fees.
The Courts

French Man Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Visiting Pro-ISIS Websites (theverge.com) 414

According to French media, a court in the department of Ardeche on Tuesday sentenced a 32-year-old man in France to two years in prison for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites -- even though there was no indication he planned to stage a terrorist attack. Police raided his house and found the man's browsing history. They also found pro-ISIS images and execution videos on his phone, personal computer, and a USB stick, an ISIS flag wallpaper on his computer, and a computer password that was "13novembrehaha," referencing the Paris terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead. Slashdot reader future guy shares with us an excerpt from The Verge's report: In court, the man argued that he visited the sites out of curiosity. "I wanted to tell the difference between real Islam and the false Islam, now I understand," he said, according to FranceBleu. But the man reportedly admitted to not reading other news sites or international press, and family members told the court that his behavior had recently changed. He became irritated when discussing religion, they said, and began sporting a long beard with harem pants. A representative from the Ardeche court confirmed to The Verge that there was no indication that the man had any plans to launch an attack. In addition to the two-year prison sentence, he will have to pay a 30,000 euros (roughly $32,000) fine.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Exchange Ordered To Give IRS Years of Data On Millions of Users (gizmodo.com) 203

Last month, instead of asking for data relating to specific individuals suspected of a crime, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanded America's largest Bitcoin service, Coinbase, to provide the identities of all of the firm's U.S. customers who made transactions over a three year period because there is a chance they are avoiding paying taxes on their bitcoin reserves. On Wednesday, a federal judge authorized a summons requiring Coinbase to provide the IRS with those records. Gizmodo reports: Covering the identities and transaction histories of millions of customers, the request is believed to be the largest single attempt to identify tax evaders using virtual currency to date. As a so-called "John Doe" summons, the document targets a particular group or class of taxpayers -- rather than individuals -- the agency has a "reasonable basis" to believe may have broken the law. According to The New York Times, the IRS argued that two cases of tax evasion involving Coinbase combined with Bitcoin's "relatively high level of anonymity" serve as that basis. "There is no allegation in this suit that Coinbase has engaged in any wrongdoing in connection with its virtual currency exchange business," said the Justice Department on Wednesday. "Rather, the IRS uses John Doe summonses to obtain information about possible violations of internal revenue laws by individuals whose identities are unknown." In a statement, Coinbase vowed to fight the summons, which the company's head counsel has previously characterized as a "every, very broad" fishing expedition.
United States

Trump Will Get Power To Send Unblockable Mass Text Messages To All Americans (nymag.com) 555

President-elect Donald Trump will have access to a system which can send unblockable texts to every phone in the United States once he becomes the president. From a report on NYMag: These 90-character messages, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (or WEAs), are part of a program put in place after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, in 2006. WEAs allow for targeted messages to be sent to every cell phone getting a signal from certain geographically relevant cell towers (or, in a national emergency, all of them). While it'd be a true nightmare to get screeching alerts from your phone that "Loser Senate Democrats still won't confirm great man Peter Thiel to Supreme Court. Sad!", there are some checks and balances on this. While President-elect Trump hasn't shown much impulse control when it comes to his favorite mass-messaging service, Twitter, the process for issuing a WEA isn't as simple as typing out a 90-character alert from a presidential smartphone and hitting "Send." All WEAs must be issued through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert Warning System, meaning that an emergency alert from the president still has at least one layer to pass through before being issued. While FEMA is under control of the executive branch (the head of FEMA is selected by the president, and reports to the Department of Homeland Security), the agency would have a vested interest in not seeing their alert system bent toward, uh, non-emergency ends.
Communications

The UK Is About to Legalize Mass Surveillance [Update] (vice.com) 394

From a report on Motherboard: On Tuesday, the UK is due to pass its controversial new surveillance law, the Investigatory Powers Act, according to the Home Office. The Act, which has received overwhelming support in both the House of Commons and Lords, formally legalizes a number of mass surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. It also introduces a new power which will force internet service providers to store browsing data on all customers for 12 months. Civil liberties campaigners have described the Act as one of the most extreme surveillance laws in any democracy, while law enforcement agencies believe that the collection of browsing data is vital in an age of ubiquitous internet communications. "The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will ensure that law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need in a digital age to disrupt terrorist attacks, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight," a statement from the Home Office reads. Much of the Act gives stronger legal footing to the UK's various bulk powers, including "bulk interception," which is, in general terms, the collection of internet and phone communications en masse. In June 2013, using documents provided by Edward Snowden, The Guardian revealed that the GCHQ taps fibre-optic undersea cables in order to intercept emails, internet histories, calls, and a wealth of other data. Update: "Snooper's charter" bill has become the law. The home secretary said:"The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation, that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection. "The government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement and security and intelligence services have the power they need to keep people safe. The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight."
Businesses

Uber Drivers Demand Higher Pay in Nationwide Protest (cnet.com) 306

Uber drivers will join forces with fast food, home care and airport workers in a nationwide protest on Tuesday. Their demand: higher pay. From a report on CNET: Calling it the "Day of Disruption," drivers for the ride-hailing company in two dozen cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, will march at airports and in shopping areas carrying signs that read, "Your Uber Driver is Arriving Striking." The protest underscores the dilemma Uber faces as it balances the needs of its drivers with its business. Valued at $68 billion, Uber is the highest-valued venture-backed company worldwide. But as it has cut the cost of rides to compete with traditional taxi services, Uber reportedly has experienced trouble turning a profit. Unlike many other workers involved in Tuesday's protests, Uber drivers are not members of a union. In fact, Uber doesn't even classify its drivers as employees. Instead the company considers drivers independent contractors. This classification means the company isn't responsible for many costs, including health insurance, paid sick days, gas, car maintenance and much more. However, Uber still sets drivers' rates and the commission it pays itself, which ranges between 20 percent and 30 percent. "I'd like a fair day's pay for my hard work," Adam Shahim, a 40-year-old driver from Pittsburgh, California, said in a statement. "So I'm joining with the fast-food, airport, home care, child care and higher education workers who are leading the way and showing the country how to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the few at the top."
Education

Schools Funded By Gates and Zuckerberg Ordered Closed In Uganda (cnn.com) 89

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are two investors in Bridge International Academies. But in Uganda, the group's 63 schools have been "ordered to shut down in a matter of weeks, leaving the lives of thousands of pupils in limbo." An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Uganda's High Court has described the Bridge International Academies...as unsanitary and unqualified, and has ordered it to close its doors in December because it ignored Uganda's national standards and put the "life and safety" of its 12,000 young students on the line. The Director of Education Standards for the Ministry, Huzaifa Mutazindwa, told CNN that the nursery and primary schools were not licensed, the teachers weren't qualified and that there was no record of its curriculum being approved.
Bridge's Uganda director denies the allegations, says the government hasn't even granted them an audience, and "suggested that the opposition against BIA was because the campuses competed against local state-run and private schools," according to CNN. Their reporter also found two educator advocates who complained that Bridge's schools were actually a privatized, profit-making entity targeting the poor. There's strong arguments on both sides, but it's all raising a lot of questions about how technology should be used in school programs, as well as how they should be funded.
Security

Edward Snowden Loses Norway Safe Passage Case (bbc.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Edward Snowden's bid to guarantee that he would not be extradited to the U.S. if he visited Norway has been rejected by the Norwegian supreme court. The former spy contractor filed the lawsuit in April, attempting to secure safe passage to Norway to pick up a free speech award. It had already been rejected by Oslo District court and an appeals court. Mr Snowden's lawyers have previously said if he were extradited to the U.S., it would be "a foregone conclusion" that he would be convicted and jailed. Mr Snowden has been living in Russia, out of reach of the U.S. authorities, since the leaks in 2013. He had hoped to travel to Oslo to receive the Ossietzky Prize, for "outstanding efforts for freedom of expression." The award was due to be presented earlier this month. But the Norwegian Supreme Court said it could not rule on the legality of any move to extradite Mr Snowden as the U.S. had so far made no such request.
Businesses

Iceland is Suing a Supermarket That's Using Its Name (cnn.com) 102

In a case which could puzzle copyright, trademark, and intellectual property offices, Iceland (the country) is not happy with a Britain supermarket chain, which is also called Iceland. From a CNN report:On Friday, Iceland, the country, took legal action against Iceland (the retailer), saying its enforcement of a trademark has prevented local firms from marketing their products using the name. Iceland Foods holds a Europe-wide trademark for the name Iceland, which it has been trading under for 46 years. "Iceland Foods has aggressively pursued and won multiple cases against Icelandic companies which use 'ICELAND' in their representation or as part of their trademark, even in cases when the products and services do not compete," the government said in a statement. The Icelandic government is now asking the European Union Intellectual Property Office to invalidate the trademark.
EU

Uber Is About to Face a Landmark Battle in Europe (fortune.com) 106

In a case which could affect other app-based startups, Uber will seek to convince Europe's top court next week that it is a digital service, not a transport company. The outcome could determine whether app-based startups should be exempt from strict laws meant for regular companies. From a report on Fortune:The European Commission is trying to boost e-commerce, a sector where the EU lags behind Asia and the United States, to drive economic growth and create jobs. The U.S. taxi app, which launched in Europe five years ago, has faced fierce opposition from regular taxi companies and some local authorities, who fear it creates unfair competition because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules. Supporters however say rigid regulatory obligations protect incumbents and hinder the entry of digital startups which offer looser work arrangements to workers in the 28-country European Union looking for more flexibility, albeit without basic rights.
Piracy

$1 Billion Getty Images Public Domain Photograph Dispute is Over (torrentfreak.com) 99

Earlier this year, photographer Carol Highsmith received a $120 settlement demand from Getty Images after she used one of her own public domain images on her website (which is she had donated to the Library of Congress and made available to the public to reproduce and display for free). Highsmith responded with a $1bn lawsuit but after a few short months, as TorrentFreak reports, the case is all over, with neither side a clear winner. From the report: To begin, on October 28, US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed each of Carol Highsmith's federal copyright claims. "Defendants Getty Images (US), Inc., License Compliance Services, Inc., Alamy, including that Inc., and Alamy Ltd. collectively moved to dismiss all claims of plaintiffs Carol Highsmith and This is America!, Inc. under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act,... the Lanham Act,... New York General Business Law,... and New York common law of unfair competition," the Judge wrote. "Upon consideration, the Court grants defendants' motions,â he added. With the federal claims gone, three state law claims were including that Getty charged licensing fees for images when it shouldn't have and collected settlements from alleged infringers when it had no right. However, these claims have now also been dismissed, along with the rest of the case. "It is hereby stipulated and agreed, by and among the parties, that this action shall be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(a)(l)(A)(ii) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, each party to bear its own costs and fees," the Judge wrote in his dismissal. Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, it is done and cannot be brought back to court.

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