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19 Apr 05:31

How Bad Are Geolocation Tools? Really, Really Bad

by Andrew 'K'Tetch' Norton

Geolocation is one of those tools that the less technically minded like to use to feel smart. At its core it's a database, showing locations for IP addresses, but like most database-based tools, the old maxim of GIGO [Garbage In, Garbage Out] applies. Over the weekend Fusion's Kashmir Hill wrote a great story about how one geolocation company has sent hundreds of people to one farm in Kansas for no reason other than laziness. And yes, it's exactly as bad as it sounds.

Most people often aren't the most technically minded, give them a tool, tell them it CAN produce an output, and they'll assume that any output that looks like the best quality possible, IS the best one available. It's extremely common with 'forensic evidence' and jurors in court cases, where it's given weight well beyond its actual evidentiary value (to the point that they now distrust cases without it) – there's even a name for it, "the CSI effect", named after one of the TV shows that uses it as a cornerstone.

One of the latest tools to get the blind trust of morons is IP Geolocation. At its basic level, it's a database of IP addresses with latitude and longitude listed, so when you look up an IP address, you get a pair of coordinates you can associate as an 'origin' for that.

However, there's a number of problems with that.:

  • First, what about those that don't have a lat/long listed?
  • Secondly, how often are they updated?
  • Third, how do they deal with cellular or 'mobile' devices?

So let's quickly address them.

Those that don't have a lat/long listed.

Well, there's a few ways to do it, but the way some chose to do, is just to guess. In the article that started me on this, it points out that the company MaxMind decided to guess at the average closest place it could – the geographical center of the US, except 39°50'N 98°35'W. is a messy decimal (39.8333333 N,98.585522W) so it rounded them to 38N, 97W. It's the front yard of a farm in Kansas.

Other times they just guess and get a town and put it somewhere there, although even that can be off a bit. It can be a lot off, as you'll see shortly.

How often are they updated?

There's no telling. With the great shortage of IPv4 addresses now, but with an ever-expanding list of devices, from cell phones to thermostats and even fridges, IP addresses are shifting around everywhere. There's also mergers and splits of companies, bankruptcies and so on. So unless the database is frequently updated, there's no chance that anything it has to say will be accurate – again we'll see that directly.

Finally, how does it deal with cellular devices?

Simply put, they don't. The handoff mechanism means that you'll often carry one IP address from one tower to the next (otherwise you'd have to terminate and restart any data transfer as you shifted between towers. In addition most cellular providers hide their cell customers behind NAT, precisely because of the lack of discreet IPv4 addresses to give out (and their… slowness in migrating to IPv6)

Odds are you're going to get a local network control center, or regional corporate office instead, which means it's practically no use at all.

Oh dear....

This all assumes as well that entries are made in good faith. One of the more common uses of geolocation is for targeted adverts, especially with 'adult websites', where they promise there's a horny woman (or man, if your browsing is detected as such, or the 'content' suggests you may be female) close by. Or you may have seen it in the scam adverts on news sites that should know better than to accept low-rate advertising based on scams (with easy to tell, clickbait headlines about insurance 'tricks' or similar).

This means that if you can 'rig' the database, you can expose the stupidity in parts of it, as was best demonstrated by Randall Munroe in his XKCD comic series.

So just how inaccurate are these systems? The easiest way to tell by far is to run some IP addresses where you know the location through these systems and see how far off they can be. So I did.

The most obvious one to start with is my own home connection's IP address. So I tried the link in the story, and boy was it off! Just for the record, I live on the south side of Atlanta's metro area, near Macon – Walking Dead country in fact

That's right, it put me in Ottawa, capital of Canada, roughly 1900km (1180 miles) and 1 whole country off. Part of that comes from the second question, how current the data is. It's listing my IP as belonging to Nortel networks. Problem is, I'm not a subscriber to Nortel – no-one is, the company was wound down years ago. Yet some databases still have them listed.

Cellphones don't fare much better either. I used the same service on a 4G Verizon phone sitting at my computer. It's location, San Diego. That's 1900 miles (3050km) off. Others services gave locations of New York, Atlanta, and Macon.

Wondering if it's just my semi-rural system that's messed up, I called a few friends who live in the Atlanta suburbs (a few streets from each other) and asked for their IP addresses, one used Comcast, and the other AT&T. Maybe things will be better and more accurate in a big-city environment?

I ran a number of different GeoIP services, and it was a very mixed bag of results.. One thing's certain though, none of the four set of coordinates gave an accurate location for the person (for obvious reasons I'm not going to give you their address, or mine for that matter)

Of them all, only one service – – gave an error circle with a location, (twenty five mile radius), but it didn't do it for all. To me that indicates knowledge of its inaccuracy, but it's lack at other times seems to show it just doesn't care.

The second and third locations are the same coordinates, but they're less certain of the third than the second, despite both being off.

There's also something specific to note. There's 4 providers covered here. Two were done from the exact same location, yet their locations came nowhere near matching. Two more were IP addresses just streets away, but they also didn't match that well, although many went to the same default locations, including two which went to the 'lazy US Center' investigated in the Fusion piece.

More importantly, of the 30+ geolocating attempts made here, not a single one managed to be within a mile of the actual location (although one location was within a mile and a half, while another was within 3 miles – again, I'm not going to give out specifics). So for those who want to rely on them as being a source of where something is, the simple answer is "don't". This applies as much to those tracking down people who are leaving spammy comments, as it does to police officers and lawyers seeking to use them for court actions criminal or civil.

In fact lawyers and the police have absolutely NO excuse to use these kinds of databases in litigation at all as there are better, more accurate tools at their disposal – the courts themselves. In criminal cases a warrant is the preferred method, obtaining subscriber information from the ISP (fixed or cellular) which is far more accurate than any geolocation service because it's data coming from the entity actually providing the connection. In a civil trial you have a discovery subpoena to do pretty much the same thing and for the same reasons.

If you're doing it 'on your own', remember that these tools are as accurate as taking a dart and throwing it not at a map on the wall, but at a Google map display on your computer screen. Sure you'll be out a display, but you won't be potentially facing criminal charges when you go to act on what it basically bullshit data. At the very best, it can be used to advise, but it can be INCREDIBLY off, sometimes thousands of miles.


The following services were used

There were 4 IP addresses used, three residential and one cellular comprising four of the biggest ISP's in the US.

IP addresses

  • 32.99.122 (Charter fixed line cable internet connection – K`Tetch)
  • 193.166.88 (Verizon 4G cellular connection – K`Tetch )
  • 137.147.28 (Comcast fixed line cable internet connection – James)
  • (AT&T gigapower fixed line internet connection, less than 6 months old – David)

The first two were located in south metro Atlanta, near Macon. David and James are located approximately half a mile apart in north Cobb county, Georgia.

Raw coordinates


Charter Verizon Comcast

AT&T 45.4167, -84.3246 32.7977, -117.1322 NOT TESTED BLANK RESULT
IP2Location 33.95621, -83.98796 32.55376, -83.88741 34.02342, -84.61549 34.02342, -84.61549 32.8685, -84.3246 32.8975, -83.7536 34.0247, -84.5033 38.0000, -97.0000
EurekAPI 32.8685, -84.3246 33.7981, -84.3877 34.1015, -84.5194 34.0247, -84.5033
DB-IP 33.9562, -83.988 40.7128, -74.0059 33.9413, -84.5177 ("Marietta (bedroom)") 33.8545, -84.2171 32.8685, -84.3246 (± 25 mile)  NOT TESTED 34.0247, -84.5033 34.0247, -84.5033 (± 25 mile)
MaxMind (geoLiteCity) 32.8685, -84.3246 32.8975, -83.7536 34.0247, -84.5033 38, -97
MaxMind (GeoIP2) 32.8685, -84.3246 33.7844, -84.2135 34.0247, -84.5033 34.0247, -84.5033

If you'd rather see them on a map, they're here. (Legend Charter in green, Verizon in red, Comcast in blue, AT&T in yellow)

NOTE: One data source was extremely interesting in its provision of 11+ decimal places in its results. While this might seek to imply accuracy, it actually underscores how inaccurate it actually is. Eight decimal places gives a resolution of 1.1 millimeters – half the thickness of a CD/DVD. 11 decimal places as given in all their results is going to extremes, with locations given to less than a hair's thickness. It has been rounded down.
The "Marietta (bedroom)" label was actually on the output from their database.

I would like to thank David and James for their help with this. And for obvious reasons, we have forced changes in IP addresses for all our connections (and the release of this article was delayed to ensure that).

This is a repost from Andrew Norton's Politics & P2P blog

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
31 Jul 23:49

American Southern Accent Evolution

723,178 plays!







A truly MINDBLOWING lesson on the origin of American Southern accents.


The gif could not be more perfect in describing what just happened.

yay historical linguistics!

Bruh holy shit

That’s so cool.

oh shit….

2 weeks ago

172,077 notes

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19 Mar 23:36

神楽坂 料理 やま本

by next_step_to
東京都新宿区、神楽坂にある「神楽坂 料理 やま本」というお店です。






































住所 東京都新宿区神楽坂6-8-23 2階
最寄駅 東西線神楽坂駅」、大江戸線「牛込神楽坂駅」
電話 03-5579-2168
19 Mar 22:50


by umebon(梅本ゆうこ)
08 Apr 22:31

Best New Apps: 'FTL' for iPad

by Andrew Webster

FTL: Faster Than Light is one of the most addictive spaceship simulations you can play — and it turns out it's even better with a touchscreen. First released in 2012 for Windows, Mac, and Linux, FTL tasks you with delivering some very important data to the Galactic Federation headquarters. Standing between you and your goal, though, is a whole lot of space, filled with hostile aliens and treacherous asteroid fields. Your hyperspace drive lets you quickly jump from one star to the next, and along the way you'll do battle with space pirates, barter for fuel, and explore abandoned relics, all while trying to move fast enough to avoid the fleet of rebel ships that's on your tail.

Continue reading…

18 Mar 04:40

Forget Satoshi Nakamoto — These Are The Names In Bitcoin That Actually Matter - Seattle Post Intelligencer

Irish Independent

Forget Satoshi Nakamoto — These Are The Names In Bitcoin That Actually Matter
Seattle Post Intelligencer
The Bitcoin community was nearly unanimous in expressing its displeasure at the controversial Newsweek story purporting to out "Satoshi Nakamoto," the anonymous person who coded and created the famous digital currency. The common critique is that it ...
What is Bitcoin?Mother Nature Network

all 59 news articles »
18 Mar 04:22

Top 10 Pies for Pi Day -


Delicious 3.14

Dallas Morning News

Top 10 Pies for Pi Day
A Birthday cake would be appropriate. He'd probably like a pie, because of the symbol π or Pi. Pi is a number that never ends, but it is rounded to the nearest hundredth. This makes Pi 3.14. What is today? March 14! So there is a little math humor to brighten ...
Vancouver celebrates Pi Day with experiments and
Happy Pi Day! Here are 15 vegan pie recipes.Eat. Drink. Better.
6 All-American Pies for a Patriotic Pi Day CelebrationWall St. Cheat Sheet
all 86 news articles »
15 Jan 09:25

hotdiggedydemon: I spent over 7 months working on the PONY.MOV...


I spent over 7 months working on the PONY.MOV finale, SWAG.MOV. Although I’m really proud of the end result, I was never able to monetize on it’s release in any way; on the day it was put out, youtube’s automated copyright software linked it to some random sound effect on a public domain sound library. And so, all 3+ million of it’s views went unmonetized by me. 

Recently, there has been some kind of surplus of copyright claims on youtube. A lot of people are very upset about it, but coupled with it came a way to dispute the claims and have them overturned. This means that SWAG.MOV can, at long last, be monetized by me. 

I worked very hard for many months on this cartoon and it’ll be nice to finally see some adrev. If you wish to support me or my livelihood, please watch it again and show it to your friends!

21 Dec 09:17

peterpayne: Loafers. (source:




11 Dec 05:32

randyliedtke: Baked some iPhone cookies to trick cops into...




Baked some iPhone cookies to trick cops into pulling me over, then I just take a bite and ask if cookies are against the law.

10 Dec 01:05

Republicans Remember 'Terrorist Commie' Nelson Mandela

by mattbinder

Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon who emerged as South Africa’s first black President after spending 27 years as a political prisoner, passed away at the age of 95.

While human beings around the planet Earth mourned the loss of a hero, the vile repugnant slime monsters, whom also go by aliases such as "Conservatives," "Republicans," and the "Right Wing" had a different outlook on the passing of a man who changed a nation and inspired a world…





Don’t forget: President Ronald Reagan too thought Nelson Mandela was a terrorist commie. However, as usual, upon realizing history found them on the wrong side at the time, the right wing is now trying to co-opt Nelson Mandela and act as if they were always behind him.

Over on Ted Cruz’s official Facebook page, a post went up in remembrance of Nelson Mandela. However, while the professional right tries to fix their image, the Republican base is more than happy to pull back the curtain and show how true Conservative ‘patriots’ feel about Nelson Mandela…


From the GOP’s official Facebook page, comments left on their Nelson Mandela in memory of post:


On’s Facebook post, because don’t let Libertarianism fool you into pretending Libertarians are anything anything but right wingers with a “hipster” look to appeal to younger people:


And of course, how can any good Conservative speak of Nelson Mandela without PRESIDENT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA coming to mind! Because, as we all know, Nelson Mandela’s death is all about Obama…



Gotta’ hand it to Shelly for the above comment, she managed to invoke Trayvon Martin in her tweet too!



Did you know that Nelson Mandela died to distract us all from the problems with Obamacare?! Why, let these patriots clue you in!…




However, after all you just saw, I think Fox News contributor Todd Starnes' tweet takes the cake. You see, Todd here was livetweeting President Obama's statement on Nelson Mandela's passing. It seems Obama was a little late to addressing the nation. Todd Starnes was PISSED. How dare Obama disrespect the great Nelson Mandela!…


Todd Starnes must really respect Nelson Mandela, right?

lmao. Check out this tweet from just a year ago where Todd Starnes complains about President Obama…SHOWING NELSON MANDELA SOME RESPECT.


05 Dec 15:23

mikefalzone: Helpful


Typography and helpful design notes.



18 Nov 21:44

Oops! BitTorrent Forgets to Strip Piracy Terminology From uTorrent

by Ernesto

bittorrent-crimeInvented more than a decade ago by Bram Cohen, BitTorrent has become the protocol of choice for file-sharers. This includes those who download copyrighted material.

While BitTorrent is used by many pirates, the technology itself is neutral and does a lot of good for content creators as well. This is also the message BitTorrent Inc, the parent company of the popular uTorrent client, has tried to communicate over the past year.

On numerous occasions the company has distanced itself from those who download infringing content, including the majority of their 150+ million users.

“We do not endorse piracy. We do not encourage it. We don’t point to piracy sites. We don’t host any infringing content,” BitTorrent’s CEO said previously. In addition, the company launched a website to show the public that BitTorrent does not equal piracy.

BitTorrent is right to stress the legal use of its software, but whether that’s successful is another question. It only draws attention to a connection that they want people to believe is not there, which is the opposite of what they want to achieve.

For example, when we tried to setup uTorrent’s RSS downloader at TorrentFreak headquarters the other day we couldn’t help but notice a list of “pirate” terms that were included.

The RSS feature allows users to add RSS feeds for various torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, and filter downloads based on search phrases, episode numbers and video quality. This last option includes a dropdown box with several quality options, including DSRip, DVBRip, DVDScr, DVDRip, PDTV, Satrip and WebRip.

Most of these terms originate from piracy release groups and have little or no legal use.

DVDScr, for example, identifies a ripped copy of DVD screeners that are sent out to reviewers and are not intended for public viewing. Likewise, the terms DVBRip/PDTV are used exclusively by TV-piracy groups to identify the source of a recording.

Piracy references in uTorrent / BitTorrent


Given BitTorrent’s efforts to distance itself from all things piracy, it was quite a surprise for us to see these references in their most popular software. We can’t think of any RSS feeds with legal content where these filters would come in handy.

To find out why these terms were included TorrentFreak asked the company for clarification a couple of weeks ago, but we have yet to receive a response.

The listing of these “pirate” terms in uTorrent’s RSS downloader is of course not a crime by itself. However, should the company ever run into legal trouble it won’t be hard for outfits such as the MPAA and RIAA to argue that the feature is facilitating illegal downloading.

And that’s exactly what BitTorrent Inc has been trying to avoid with their recent marketing campaigns.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

15 Nov 21:09

Google Books suit dismissed: more affirmation of public interest in copyright

by nasims
DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I worked at the University of Michigan Libraries for several years during the beginning of the book scanning project with Google that is the subject of this lawsuit. The University of Minnesota Libraries, my current employer, is also affiliated with the Google scanning project and HathiTrust Digital Library. This post represents only my own opinions and thoughts on the case, not that of any current or past employer or co-worker.

This morning, Judge Denny Chin issued an opinion in the massive, many-year lawsuit between the Author's Guild and Google over the Google book scanning project. Just a couple years ago, many possible outcomes were anticipated - and few of them would have provided much clarity for anyone except Google.

Instead, we got a ruling today which dismissed the case, ruled several different research and public interest activities were fair use, and in general, was very positive about the public benefits that this project has produced.

Quick Aside on Court Procedure

Despite the many years of booting around various class action certifications and possible settlements, the end result is that this case was dismissed fairly early in the full court process. As with the HathiTrust ruling from last fall, this opinion dismisses the case on summary judgment - that means the court has determined that there are no substantial factual points in contention, and the legal arguments so clearly favor one party that there is no need for a trial. Appealing a dismissal on summary judgment is generally a weaker place to be than appealing an opinion after a trial. (Though of course, in the HathiTrust case, the Authors Guild has indeed decided to appeal, and it will likely do so here as well.)

Fair Use Analysis

The main issue on summary judgment here was whether Google's book scanning was fair use. Judge Chin affirms that it is, for several different reasons. He appears to have been influenced both by amicus briefs from a variety of public interest organizations, as well as the HathiTrust ruling from last fall.

Judge Chin's fair use discussion begins by reminding us that it is "copyright's very purpose, '[t]o promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts.''" He cites a variety of case law (as well as Leval's seminal fair use article) affirming that both incentives to authors -and- opportunities for others to use "protected works" are necessary to achieve that purpose (p. 16-17). As an advocate for the public interest in copyright, it is always heartening to see courts acknowledging that progress is the main goal, and that protection for creators is only one part of a considerably larger equation. (A frequent theme of my teaching is that we are all users and creators - creativity is an ecosystem.)

Judge Chin does dig in to the traditional four fair use factors, although on more than one occasion he notes that they are non-exclusive, and that other relevant considerations should also be weighed (p. 18, p. 25).

For the purpose factor, Judge Chin focuses quite a bit on transformative use, and notes approvingly that "Google's use of the copyrighted works is highly transformative" (p. 19). He approves of  "the use of book text to facilitate search through the display of snippets" (p. 19), as well as turning "book text into data for purposes of substantive research, including data mining and text mining" (p. 20) as transformative uses.

Chin's fair use analysis follows a line of cases from the 9th Circuit that looked at thumbnail uses of images as transformative fair use - and one outcome that the publisher/plaintiffs may have been looking for by bringing this lawsuit in the generally-more-conservative 2nd Circuit was to create a "Circuit split" on this issue (which often opens up avenues for Supreme Court appeal.) This could possibly still happen on appeal, but it seems pretty unlikely at this point. Instead, as commentator/law prof James Grimmelmann summed it up in a tweet: "I feel safe in saying that search indexing and snippet display are now definitely fair uses."

Another aside: I am very glad to see that these purposes were ruled transformative and in favor of fair use. However, I was also glad to see affirmed that "transformative use is not 'absolutely necessary' to a finding of fair use" (p. 19). Multiple avenues for arguing fair use is a good thing.

The court also discusses Google's commercial purpose, finding that it "does [...] benefit commercially" but "does not engage in the direct commercialization of copyrighted works" (p. 22). Even considering Google's profit motive, the educational and transformative purposes of the scanning project led Judge Chin to conclude "the first factor strongly favors a finding of fair use." (p. 22)

As to the nature of the copyrighted works, Judge Chin only briefly engages with the factual/creative angle on this question, noting that the "vast majority" of the books are non-fiction. He also notes that all the books have been published, and concludes that this factor favors fair use.

As to the amount used, Judge Chin notes that Google does scan the full text of books, and does reproduce the books verbatim. But, he notes, copying an entire work -can- be fair use sometimes, and "full-work reproduction is critical to the functioning of Google Books" (p. 23).  He notes approvingly that only limited amounts of text are ever displayed, and concludes that the amount factor does weigh "slightly against" fair use (p. 24).

Finally, Judge Chin considers the possibility of market harm. He directly rejects the publisher-plaintiffs' argument that people could use Google Books to piece together a whole book for reading, and states that "a reasonable factfinder could only find that Google Books enhances the sales of books to the benefit of the copyright holders" (p. 25).  Notably, he does not engage with the argument discussed in HathiTrust, that scanning without a license harms sales of licenses to scan (although I'm not sure if that was argued in the summary judgment briefs.) He concludes that the fourth factor "weighs strongly in favor" of fair use (p. 25).

After looking to the four factors in detail, Judge Chin enumerates the "significant public benefits" of the project as another relevant consideration. (p. 26) The various benefits he highlights includes that it makes books more findable, that it allows text-mining, that it preserves books (especially out of print ones), that it facilitates access to books for people with print disabilities and for "remote or underserved populations", and that it generates income for copyright holders. "[A]ll society benefits." (p. 26)

Because the plaintiffs also argued in their summary judgment motion that Google was committing contributory infringement by providing scanned copies of books to libraries, Judge Chin also (in quite short order) affirms that library uses are lawful uses, transformative uses, and that they advance the arts and sciences, etc. (p. 27). He states that the fair use analysis of the HathiTrust decision "applies here as well" (p. 28), so neither the libraries receiving the scans, nor Google in providing the scans to libraries, are doing anything wrong.

Library and Cultural Institution Implications

The great thing about this case moving away from class action settlement and towards actual court rulings on the substantive legal issues, is that the resulting rulings do not just apply to Google. If it's fair use for Google to do this kind of stuff, it probably is for others as well.

Like a lot of recent fair use cases, this case affirms the public interest elements of copyright, and how closely fair use is connected to those public interest elements, in kind of screamingly strong language. For institutions that have been reluctant to engage with fair use, this opinion, and the HathiTrust opinion of last year, are extremely strong grounds for contemplating the application of fair use to digitization projects, exhibits, and other such publicly beneficial uses. (The more so because most libraries and cultural institutions are entirely non-profit, unlike Google which has acknowledged commercial purposes.)

This decision, by again affirming the 9th Circuit precedents in a different circuit, also lends weight to many recent best practices or other statements on use of materials in research or museum contexts that have relied on transformative use and related arguments. Examples include the ARL Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Research Libraries, the AAMD Policy on the use of thumbnail images, the VRA Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study, and several others.

One fun thing to note is that if you've been thinking, "Well, Section 108 gives us broad preservation digitization rights, but then we can't do anything with the resulting digital files" - hey, making those files searchable, and sharing snippets at least, is looking like a strong fair use! (What's more, digitizing some things that you don't think would be covered by section 108 preservation rights might be fine, too! It might have been before these rulings - but if you were feeling timid before, for goodness' sakes, GET OVER THAT now. If your institution has been reluctant to embrace the risks and uncertainties of fair use, these decisions are reducing the uncertainty, a lot. Or, you know, stick your head in the sand and wait for appeal, or wait for a Supreme Court ruling, or...)

Edited to add: also, negotiating for preservation of statutory use rights in ALL of our licensing agreements is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT than it was before, GLAM folks!!!!

I'm sure there's more to think about here. I note that several colleagues have posted analyses of the decision that I haven't yet had time to read. My reading list now:
14 Nov 08:44

peterpayne: In Japan there are certain jobs that best performed...


In Japan there are certain jobs that best performed by gaijin, a word that means foreigner, though in practice it nearly always refers to Westerners rather people from nearby Asian countries. Someone playing Santa Claus for Japanese children will have more of an aura of wonder and mystery if he’s a foreigner, and the same is true of the cast members at Disneyland, since having an American or European actress playing Cinderella is just more magical than a Japanese person would be. Near J-List there’s a wedding hall called Georgian House which attempts to recreate the splendor of early 18th century England in its architecture. In addition to having real gaijin ministers to marry couples (though they’re just English conversation teachers making some money on the side, I know a few of them), the photography staff is also made up of foreigners, which lends an extra je ne sais quoi to the atmosphere of the place. Recently Japanese consumer products company Sunstar started running TV commercials for fluoride-enriched mouthwash. The commercial features a foreigner wearing a white lab coat and holding a clipboard, so you know the product must be effective.

14 Nov 08:44

peterpayne: A couple of updates ago I wrote about the word 常識...


A couple of updates ago I wrote about the word 常識 joshiki, meaning ‘common sense,’ and how one of the worst things a company can do is attempt to do business in one country while operating under the joshiki of another. Doing this creates a kind of “perceived schizophrenia” which causes stress among fans, who wonder what in the hell Japanese companies are thinking when in reality they’re just operating by a different set of mental rules. While J-List is loaded with awesome 2014 calendars from Japan, don’t bother looking for AKB48, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or Johnny’s-kei calendars, as the companies that manage these artists have found it more profitable to force fans to join fee-based fanclubs and sell calendars to them directly. (No, non-residents of Japan are never allowed to join these clubs.) The reason for those $100 Sailor Moon T-shirts is similar: Bandai decided to sell these direct to customers, jacking the price way up and removing distribution to third-party shops like J-List. (It’s not our fault!) I remember hearing that Japanese companies excelled at “long-range thinking” but this is a real knee-slapper: in reality they’re terribly conservative and would rather make too few of a product than risk it sitting around in a warehouse, which is why we encourage fans go get your Sailor Moon preorders in as early as you can, lest the item(s) you want be removed from the site. Other things that can be frustrating to dedicated fans include when Japanese companies sell products via lottery, or when they make limited edition Gundam models or Pokemon 3DS units but make no way for people outside Japan to buy. The Japanese companies aren’t trying to frustrate us on purpose, they’re just handicapped by trying to operate a global business with fans all over the world while maintaining a “common sense” that’s only compatible with the Japan domestic market.

14 Nov 08:30

Houston Republican Dave Wilson Pretends He's Black, Wins Race - Opposing Views


And that's why you should purely vote on policy and look beyond race and other categorizations.

ABC News

Houston Republican Dave Wilson Pretends He's Black, Wins Race
Opposing Views
Dave Wilson, a white Republican, had little chance of winning over his mostly African-American district in Houston for a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. Using an unusual marketing strategy, however, Wilson managed to displace ...
How to Win an Election as a Republican? Pretend to be
White, Anti-Gay Republican Wins Local Election After Pretending To Be BlackHuffington Post

all 66 news articles »
14 Nov 02:42

peterpayne: Sony gets Doge.


Sony gets Doge.

13 Nov 22:43

Amazon begins deliveries to US and UK customers on a Sunday

by Matt Brian

My problem with is is whether USPS will leave things on the doorstep like UPS and Fedex. It would not be favorable if they leave me that orange slip instead of my package as always...

If you can't wait for the working week to begin again in order to receive your latest Prime delivery, Amazon has some good news for you. The company says it has teamed up with the US Postal Service (USPS) to deliver packages to Prime customers on Sundays, starting this week in New York and Los ...
08 Nov 22:34

Wayback Machine web archive survives destructive fire but needs help to recover

by Sharif Sakr
If you're one of the many people who've relied on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine recently, for example when government websites were taken offline during the shut down, then the non-profit organization is now calling for your help in return. A fire broke out at its main scanning center in ...
24 Sep 11:52

How a Bad Supreme Court Decision Could Have Good Constitutional Consequences for Copyright

by Parker Higgins

Is it possible that last year's disastrous Supreme Court decision affirming the withdrawal of millions of works from the public domain (at least in the U.S.) might set the stage for good constitutional challenges to bad copyright law? That's the argument that copyright scholar Neil Netanel makes in a recent article on the impact of that case on the First Amendment.

According to Netanel, one often-overlooked aspect of the opinion is that the Court explicitly identified fair use as an essential “First Amendment accommodation” that cannot be disturbed if copyright law is to survive First Amendment scrutiny. In the process, the Court may have poked a hole in the already shaky constitutional justifications for anti-user sections of copyright law.

First things first: the opinion in Golan v. Holder, released the same day as the historic anti-SOPA blackout protests, was definitely bad for the public domain. At issue was a law that restored copyright restrictions on millions of non-U.S. works that had already become part of the public domain for a variety of reasons, such as the copyright owner’s failure to comply with various formalities. The petitioner Lawrence Golan, a music professor and conductor adversely affected by that law, argued that by destabilizing the public domain that law impinged on his free speech interest in using those works. In its disagreement, the Court said that fostering the public domain is not a requirement for a copyright law to be constitutional. But, importantly, it also said that fair use is such a requirement.

That may turn out to be a bright spot in the decision. After all, we've seen copyright enforcement that doesn't acknowledge the "safety valve" of fair use, and the result is silenced or chilled speech. Whether it's individuals and organizations abusing the takedown process as the shortest road to censorship, or overzealous algorithmic enforcement that ensnares legitimate expression, a failure to consider fair use has serious consequences for speech.

So it's actually a good thing that, as Netanel argues, the Court's precedent has changed significantly with Golan. Prior to the Golan decision, there was some question as to whether undermining fair use right might raise a constitutional issue. By contrast, Golan explicitly calls out fair use as one of the “traditional contours” of copyright that must be accommodated to bring copyright law into line with the First Amendment.

This point is important, because there are currently copyright laws on the books that do not adequately accommodate fair uses. Chief among them is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act—specifically section 1201, the "anti-circumvention clause" that prohibits users from interfering with "digital rights management" software designed to control access to a copyrighted work, and from distributing tools that could help others get around those software controls. The restrictions in section 1201 of the DMCA apply even if the user's purpose in circumventing the software would otherwise be considered a fair use, leading to all sorts of unintended consequences.

Courts have relied on the earlier Supreme Court precedent to dismiss legitimate concerns about that particular law. In a case concerning the distribution of software that could read DVDs despite their "content scrambling system," a federal judge in New York acknowledged that there is no fair use defense in the DMCA, but dismissed claims that the lack of that defense made the law unconstitutional. Instead, he noted that the "Supreme Court has never held that fair use is constitutionally required."

Netanel makes the compelling argument that Golan changed the rules. Under Golan, laws like the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause may be unconstitutional. Indeed, even the other safeguards found in the DMCA—like the triennial rulemaking procedure for excluding certain forms of circumvention for certain purposes—are too limited to bring the DMCA into line with the First Amendment.

Instead, the law itself should explicit provide for a broad fair use exception. There have been proposals to amend the DMCA to that effect; most recently, Rep. Zoe Lofgren's "Unlocking Technology Act" has been written to do just that. We've set up a tool to allow you to urge your representatives in Congress to support it.

But the argument extends beyond anti-circumvention clauses to other areas of copyright law, too. For example, as Netanel points out, proposals from the copyright lobby to eliminate "safe harbors" and expand liability for Internet service providers may also be problematic. Expanding intermediary copyright liability could result in "censorship by proxy," where risk-averse platforms could refuse to carry First Amendment-protected speech just because it relies on fair use.

Fair use has always been a critical component of copyright law, and if Netanel's argument is correct, that's now got firm constitutional recognition. So what comes next? It's up to us to fix existing copyright law to include those protections for speech, and reject new laws and international agreements that don't.

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20 Sep 21:38

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the man who built Nintendo, dies aged 85

by Sharif Sakr
The man who took Nintendo from card games to video games, Hiroshi Yamauchi, diesHiroshi Yamauchi was Nintendo's third and arguably most important president. When he took the reins from his grandfather in 1949, the Japanese company specialized in the manufacture of playing cards for its home market -- first Japanese-style cards and then, under Yamauchi's guidance, Western-style ones too. By the time he handed over control to Satoru Iwata 53 years later, he'd overseen the creation of all Nintendo's game consoles up to the GameCube and become one of Japan's richest men -- in other words, not a bad innings for a man who passed away today at the ripe old age of 85.

Filed under: Gaming, Nintendo


Source: Hiroko Tabuchi (Twitter), Nikkei (Japanese)

17 Sep 06:55

Full-Time Sexist, Misogynistic, Libertarian Jerk Has Side Gig as Business Insider CTO

by mattbinder

Meet Pax Dickinson. He’s the Chief Technology Officer at Business Insider, a fast growing tech news website. The CTO is a pretty high-level position. They are pretty much responsible for the technology side of a business.

Along with being the CTO of a large web company, Pax Dickinson just happens to also be a mega sexist asshole.

No, scratch that. Pax Dickinson is a mega sexist asshole, who just happens to be the CTO of a large web company.

Cool shades, tech bro.

At first glance, Pax Dickinson just seems to be your classic straight white male brogrammer. Perhaps he’s casually sexist; come on lighten up and take a joke, ladies; and believes that there is absolutely no gender problem in the tech world. It’s not his fault girls are into girly things and don’t have an interest in learning manly code.

It seems like sometime in the past 24 hours, Pax Dickinson discovered the online outrage over Titstare dot com, the app that was presented at TechCrunch Disrupt yesterday that encourages man to take creepshots of themselves staring at tits. Pax Dickinson did not take kindly to the claims that this app, which he has no connection to whatsoever and one could assume it’s sort of odd someone with no vested interest in the damn thing would take to heart such claims, was sexist and misogynistic.

Look at the grown man say thinks such as it’s OK to “not take a woman seriously” and “enjoy boobies.”

As you can imagine, the rant of a sexist madmen who holds a high position at a growing web company in an industry that runs rampant with misogyny caught the attention of many people on Twitter.

So, while Pax Dickinson was busy being an Internet tough guy, my fingers went ahead and looked through Pax Dickinson’s 4 year plus Twitter history. I thought, there is no way this guy who says acts of sexism and misogyny are not, in fact, acts of sexism and misogyny would actually partake in even more blatant acts of sexism and misogyny. There is NO WAY.

Ooo, look! He’s homophobic and classist too!

Now, you may have seen some of these tweets on Valleywag or on Twitter. But, come on, that’s it? WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER, PEOPLE. Deep, deep into the history of one Pax Dickinson’s Twitter history. And when you do, you find this…

P.S. As you can see from this tweet, and to no surprise whatsoever, our sexist tech bro Pax Dickinson, is also a freedom and liberty (for privileged straight white males) libertarian.

This tweet is especially funny juxtaposed with his tweet about starting a family on minimum wage. The libertarian mind doth not think very much.

As you read this next tweet, remember Pax Dickinson is a CTO at a tech company and the tech industry certainly does not have a gender problem…

And while Business Insider doesn’t seem to care that Pax Dickinson says these things as the CTO of their company, I leave you with this…

Pax Dickinson, perhaps realizing he went too far, followed that tweet with this…

Pax Dickinson: CTO of Businesser Insider, tech bro, and proof that libertarianism is a scourge.

17 Sep 06:38

What The Continuous Flourishing Of New Cocktails Can Teach Us About Intellectual Property

by Timothy Geigner

Ok, time to make a brief admission, oh Techdirt faithful. You see, we talk a great deal on this site about intellectual property and, while it certainly isn't a 100% thing, the most common topics in the discussion are movies, music, and books, particularly when it comes to copyright. Here's the problem: I'm not much of a customer for any of those things. I listen to almost no music as a talk radio junkie, my movie-viewing habits amount to seeing perhaps 3 films or so a year, and I write way more than I read these days. Even then, my reading habits tend to be from sources that are either free or in the public domain. So, while I care a great deal about intellectual property laws in this country, I tend not to have much interest in the practical applications as discussed here.

But that doesn't mean I don't still run into an IP law topic that does involve something I love dearly, something for which I could find no replacement in this little life of mine. Something that, were it to find itself suddenly locked up in a way that prevented me easy access, I might just lose my mind. I am speaking, of course, about alcohol. Cocktail recipes, thankfully, are famously not covered by copyright, which is why it's fun to see a legal explanation about how they're flourishing anyway.

If it has been accepted for at least two centuries that – absent state intervention – the fruits of intellectual labor are non-rivalrous and non-excludable, who but “a blockhead” would invest effort in concocting a commendable cocktail? Why, the free-riding barman next door is simply going to pilfer your tipple, put a foolish little umbrella in it and call it his own! Hence, new cocktails ought to be in scarce supply. But the problem is, they’re not. Even after we largely wiped out our collective wisdom of creative imbibing with 14 years of Prohibition, we’re knee-deep in cocktail recipes. Why is this?
Part of the answer can be found in Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman's wonderful book, The Knockoff Economy, which lawyer Matt Schruers goes into with a nice little nod. It isn't just the absence of copyright that separates the world of cocktails from major media entertainment, the entire culture of alcohol and bartending is like a music and movie bizarro world, where the entire culture depends on freely sharing drink recipes, garnishment strategies, and success rates with different drinks. The result is not only that great drinks find notoriety, new or otherwise, but the other result is industry norms in bartending springing up organically to take the role of what otherwise would be government intrusion.
Like fashion, the industries for both stand-up comedy and culinary art, including cocktails, see considerable development of new ideas. In both cases, industry norms – not laws – govern copying. The formal code of ethics of culinary professionals, Raustiala and Sprigman note, requires attribution. (This has not forestalled the occasional demand for a sort of recipe copyright, designed to overturn the conventional rule that recipes do not qualify for copyright.). A second cause for cocktail innovation is that recipes sell the product. Here, the intellectual labor is undertaken at a loss to promote a spirit. Today, many spirits manufacturers employ “brand ambassadors,” generally bartenders, to evangelize their product by devising and demonstrating new applications for it. Third, cocktails may be developed for reputational gain. A bartender may want his work to spread, because being known for his craft draws patrons to his establishment, and improves his job marketability. Of course, this why in cocktail arts, as in cuisine, attribution norms receive greater emphasis.
If any of this is beginning to sound familiar to you, it should be, because this is the exact route the music and movie industries are being pushed into. You could replace "cocktail" above with "recorded music" or "film" and most of the statement would still work without any further edits. Musical sharing and attribution to drive up notoriety, with recordings given away to promote scarce seats at concerts, while creative output is achieved to build up the brand as well. The synergy is quite striking.

But the real point is that creative output is flourishing without copyright. Of course no industry is exactly the same as another, but who is really ready to say they're sure the same wouldn't occur with music and movies? After all, copyright is supposed to "promote the progress" and it seems like there are places where we judge it to be unnecessary to achieve that goal. Why not try it in music and movies?

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11 Sep 01:33

China's Ships Near Islands on Eve of Japan Purchase Anniversary - Bloomberg


China being dicks.


China's Ships Near Islands on Eve of Japan Purchase Anniversary
Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) --Seven Chinese ships entered Japanese-controlled waters near an island chain claimed by both nations, a day before the one-year anniversary of Japan's purchase of the territory that sparked protests across China. The Chinese Coast ...
China: Congrats Tokyo on Olympic win amid spatKansas City Star
China economic resilience reassures
Japanese Self-Defense Force jets scramble Chinese bombersThe Japan Daily Press

all 104 news articles »
09 Sep 21:00

peterpayne: The origin of the “shimapan” meme is a show called...


The origin of the “shimapan” meme is a show called Stellvia of the Universe. It also helped make kompeito a thing.

09 Sep 18:29


09 Aug 22:57

Alyssa Milano Claiming Trademark And Copyright On 'Hacktivist'

by Mike Masnick
So, last week at San Diego ComiCon, you may have heard about how actress Alyssa Milano was launching her very own comic book along with Archaia Entertainment, called Hacktivist. As their press release explains:
Inspired by current events from around the world and Milano’s own philanthropic endeavors, Hacktivist is a fast-paced cyber-thriller about friendship and freedom in a time of war. The story follows Ed Hiccox and Nate Graft, the young founders of the world’s most innovative social media company who moonlight secretly as one of the most notorious black-hat hacker teams on the planet. When the U.S. government discovers their operation, they must face the real world beyond the code and choose between loyalty and what they believe to be is right.
Okay. Sure. At SDCC, to promo this, apparently they gave out 500 copies of a limited edition comic previewing some of the content from this upcoming title. The preview content... might not be my cup of tea and feels a bit too much like the hacking dialog in Swordfish (i.e., what Hollywood thinks hacking is) for my taste, but anything that takes the concept of hacktivism more mainstream certainly is a good thing. For what it's worth, I've heard from a few people that Milano is actually fairly up on these things, and the press release description of the inspiration behind the comic is not bad:
“I’m very involved with in global activism and philanthropy. I like the idea of everyday people doing good,” explained Milano. “My inspiration for Hacktivist is actually Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter and Square. I picture him leaving the office at night and going home, where he locks himself in his room and starts hacking to change the world.
Okay, I don't generally think of Dorsey as a hacktivist so much, but that's cool. Better than some other folks. Of course, during the SOPA fight, Milano spoke out against SOPA, so it might have been slightly cooler if she'd used someone like Aaron Swartz -- for whom the term is actually accurate -- as an inspiration, but Dorsey's definitely more well known.

But then there's this: Look closely and you'll see:
HACKTIVIST™ is © and TM 2013 by Alyssa Milano.
Er... considering just how closely hacktivism is associated with fighting back against the abuse of intellectual property like copyright and trademark to wall off the commons, this seems like a bit of a mistake. I'm sure this wasn't done to close off the term on purpose -- it's just "what you do" when you're releasing the comic book. But, you'd think that maybe, just maybe, when putting together a comic book called Hacktivist, you'd be a bit more sensitive to the fact that many hacktivists are fighting situations like this one. Now, to be fair, there doesn't seem to be any registered trademark application on the word yet -- so it could just be that the "trademark" refers to things like the specific logo used (though, then they shouldn't have needed to put that ™ after the word), and the copyright could refer to the specific content (though, given the subject matter, you'd think at least some sort of Creative Commons license might be more appropriate -- but that's their call). But, even if there's no ill intent here, just trying to get that trademark seems potentially questionable -- and it wouldn't be entirely surprising to find out down the road, years from now, that someone coming into possession of the trademark claims much more widespread ownership of the term, and that would be a big problem.

So, again, I don't think there's anything nefarious going on here, with anyone trying to really stake claim to "ownership" of a very common and widely used word -- but just the fact that Milano and Archaia didn't even seem to think about this or how it would look to actual hacktivists, seems, at the very least, careless. And, at worst, it might actually tick off a bunch of hacktivists, who won't look kindly at all at any suggestion that a Hollywood actress is suddenly claiming copyright and trademark on "hacktivist."

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12 Jul 23:49

To Honor Doug Engelbart, Who Passed Away Last Night, Please Go Watch His 1968 Demo

by Mike Masnick
On the the 40th anniversary of Doug Engelbart's famous 1968 demo of a personal computer system, we urged everyone to find some time to watch the video of his demo. Now, with the news that Engelbart passed away last night in his sleep, at age 88, we'll once again suggest you find the 100 minutes necessary to rewatch the demo. This is the birth of modern personal computing on so many levels. Engelbart, and his staff at SRI, more or less invented the very concept of a personal computer, including the mouse, the graphical user interface, hyperlinks, and so much more that is now standard today. So many of those concepts are now ubiquitous, in part, because of Engelbart's brilliance, and his openness in sharing what he was working on and inspiring so many of those who came into contact with him over the years. Engelbart shared these concepts with the world, and the world took them and built so many useful things with them. The computing world we live in today would likely be very, very different if there had never been a Doug Engelbart.

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08 Jul 15:47

The Morals of Grabbing Free Content From the Web

by Andy

download-keyboardAs most people reading this post will be aware, free media of all kinds is just a few clicks away.

No matter what content is required, a quick Google search (or a Bing one if the relentless pace of DMCA notices is spoiling results) is the only thing required to get almost anything without paying.

But just because one can, does it necessarily follow that one should?

Last evening during a barbecue I found myself chatting with the owner of a manufacturing company about some of what I believe to be the driving forces behind piracy. He told me that his business doesn’t suffer from copyright infringement in any meaningful way and it soon became apparent that with his computing ability he wouldn’t know how to share a file even if i’d taken the time to show him.

Nevertheless, we discussed the issue of availability, of how pirated content is readily and simply on tap. This, versus many of the comparatively off-putting and complex solutions offered by entertainment companies.

We chatted about the possibility that many pirates would not have bought the content in the first place and therefore no real damage had been done by them downloading a copy.

The guy, already into his 70s, was also fascinated by the “sharing is caring” idea, where people gift content in order to enrich the lives of others and society as a whole.

And then he dropped the bombshell. Had I heard of Matza and Sykes? No, I responded. Were they coming to the barbecue? “Unlikely,” he said.

Ipad in one hand and a burger in the other, I searched for these gentleman and discovered that they’d come up with an interesting theory in the 1950s.

The duo theorized that people are well aware of their moral obligations to abide by the law so therefore, when those people commit crimes, they have to employ techniques in order to overcome their inbuilt desire to do the “right thing”. They do this, Matza and Sykes said, through denial and by justifying their behavior.

So how does their theory apply to what we’d just been discussing, I asked. Well, it may not, my beer-drinking friend explained, but he gave me his interpretation anyway.

On the first point, that for many years content providers have failed to make media easily available, I was informed that Matza and Sykes may have explained this in two ways:

Denial of responsibility: The offender (in this case a copyright infringer) would justify his actions by stating that he’d been forced into a situation beyond his control (needed content, but stupid movie studio didn’t make it easily available).

Denial of the victim: The offender (file-sharer) believes that the victim (movie studio) deserved an offense to be committed against them – in this case due to their incompetence in making content available.

So what about the notion that many file-sharers would never have bought the content they download? Yep, Matza and Sykes apparently have an explanation for that too.

Denial of injury: The offender justifies his behavior due to a belief that no harm has been caused by their action. These huge companies don’t need any more money, do they?

But Sharing must be Caring, right? Well maybe, but there’s a theory on that too.

Appeal to higher loyalties: The offender believes that their ‘crime’ was actually for the greater good, with positive long-term consequences. Enrichment of society via the sharing of culture, perhaps?

Playing devil’s advocate, I questioned whether a person’s moral obligations in these instances should always be aligned with the law of the land. For example, if a law existed today but was abolished tomorrow, should individuals immediately change their moral values to suit?

In this case, would today’s justification for committing a crime become tomorrow’s straightforward reason for carrying out a legal activity? Are all laws necessarily moral anyway, or do we sometimes have a moral obligation to fight back?

With more than a few beers consumed and definitely no psychology or sociology degree to fall back on, the conversation was already running away from me – but then it struck me. Most people grabbing free content from the Internet aren’t required to justify their behavior to anyone. They click – and obtain – and there’s rarely any subsequent debate over morals.

However, that doesn’t mean that people won’t play fair. At TF earlier this week we were discussing the new ‘Downloaded’ movie which tells the story of Napster. The reviews aren’t very good and none of us here have yet seen it, but perhaps we should. Despite its availability on dozens of torrent sites, Ernesto put his hand in his pocket and tried to buy it from Amazon. He was informed that it wasn’t available in his location. Clearly the makers of the movie haven’t learned very much.

What this shows is that people can and will do the “right thing” but in order to capitalize on that content providers must also do their bit. It’s easy for Matza and Sykes to say that those committing social wrongs are merely trying to ease consciences with their denials, but their ‘excuses’ in the file-sharing space are valuable indicators of where file-sharers’ morals lie.

So maybe if all the soul-easing excuses uttered by file-sharers were taken away – by making content available, by not being a greedy corporation, by not lobbying for aggressive laws that conflict with social norms – perhaps we’d be left with a situation in which many more people would buy content freely.

Whether that would be through guilt or simply because their service requirements (sorry, excuses) had been listened to would be here nor there. Content would be bought and after all, isn’t that what the fight’s all about?

Source: The Morals of Grabbing Free Content From the Web