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The Almighty Buck

'Legalist' Startup Automates The Lawsuit Strategy Peter Thiel Used To Bankrupt Gawker (gizmodo.com) 216

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmodo: "Two Harvard undergraduates have created a service called Legalist that uses what they call 'data-backed litigation financing,' analyzing civil lawsuits with an algorithm to predict case outcomes and determine which civil lawsuits are worth investing in," reports Gizmodo. The process is very similar to what billionaire Peter Thiel did when he secretly funded a lawsuit from Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media. "Legalist says it uses an algorithm of 58 different variables including, as [Legalist cofounder] Eva Shang told the Silicon Valley Business Journal, who the presiding judge is and the number of cases the judge is currently working on. The algorithm has been fed cases dating back to 1989 and helps people figure out how long a case will last and the risks associated with it. In a presentation at Y Combinator's Demo Day on Tuesday [Legalist was developed as part of Y Combinator's Summer 2016 class], the founders claimed that the startup funded one lawsuit for $75,000 and expects a return of more than $1 million. Shang says the $1.40 is earned for every $1 spent in litigation financing, which can prove to be a profitable enterprise when you're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars." Shang told Business Insider in reference to the Gawker lawsuit, "That's the kind of thing we're staying away from here." The company will supposedly be focusing on commercial and small-business lawsuits, and will not be backing lawsuits by individuals.
HP

HP Hit With Age-Discrimination Suit Claiming Old Workers Purged (mercurynews.com) 175

Hewlett-Packard started laying off workers in 2012, before it separated into HP Inc. and HP Enterprise last year. The company has continued to cut thousands of jobs since. As a result of the "restructuring," an age discrimination lawsuit has been filed by four former employees of HP alleging they were ousted amid a purge of older workers. The Mercury News reports: "The goal 'was to make the company younger,' said the complain filed Aug. 18 in U.S. District Court in San Jose. 'In order to get younger, HP intentionally discriminated against its older employees by targeting them for termination [...] and then systematically replacing them with younger employees. HP has hired a disproportionately large number of new employees under the age of 40 to replace employees aged 40 and older who were terminated.' Arun Vatturi, a 15-year Palo Alto employee at HP who was a director in process improvement until he was laid off in January at age 52, and Sidney Staton, in sales at HP in Palo Alto for 16 months until his layoff in April 2015 at age 54, have joined in the lawsuit with a former employee from Washington, removed at age 62, and one from Texas, out at age 63. The group is seeking class-action status for the court action and claims HP broke state and federal laws against age discrimination." The lawsuit also alleges that written guidelines issued by HP's human resources department mandated that 75 percent of all hires outside of the company be fresh from school or "early career" applicants.
Piracy

Cloudflare Faces Lawsuit For Assisting Pirate Sites (torrentfreak.com) 81

An anonymous reader shares a TorrentFreak report: In recent months CloudFlare has been called out repeatedly for offering its services to known pirate sites, including The Pirate Bay. These allegations have now resulted in the first lawsuit after adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan filed a complaint against CloudFlare at a California federal court. [...] Copyright holders are not happy with CloudFlare's actions. Just recently, the Hollywood-affiliated group Digital Citizens Alliance called the company out for helping pirate sites to stay online. Adult entertainment outfit ALS Scan agrees and has now become the first dissenter to take CloudFlare to court. In a complaint filed at a California federal court, ALS describes piracy as the greatest threat to its business. The rise of online piracy has significantly hurt the company's profits, they argue, noting that "pirate" sites are not the only problem. "The problems faced by ALS are not limited to the growing presence of sites featuring infringing content, or 'pirate' sites. A growing number of service providers are helping pirate sites thrive by supporting and engaging in commerce with these sites," ALS writes.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 85

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Patents

US Trade Judge Clears Fitbit of Stealing Jawbone's Trade Secrets (reuters.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone's trade secrets, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled on Tuesday, dashing Jawbone's hopes of securing an import ban against Fitbit's wearable fitness tracking devices. The judge, Dee Lord, said that there had been no violation of the Tariff Act, which gives the commission the power to block products that infringe U.S. intellectual property, because "no party has been shown to have misappropriated any trade secret." The ruling means Jawbone comes away with nothing from a complaint it filed with the trade agency in July 2015, accusing Fitbit of infringing six patents and poaching employees who took with them confidential data about Jawbone's business, such as plans, supply chains and technical details. Jawbone first sued Fitbit last year over trade secret violations in California state court, where the case is still pending. The companies, both based in San Francisco, are also litigating over patents in federal court.
Crime

FBI Authorized Informants To Break The Law 22,800 Times In 4 Years (dailydot.com) 106

blottsie quotes a report from the Daily Dot: Over a four-year period, the FBI authorized informants to break the law more than 22,800 times, according to newly reviewed documents. Official records obtained by the Daily Dot under the Freedom of Information Act show the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave informants permission at least 5,649 times in 2013 to engage in activity that would otherwise be considered a crime. In 2014, authorization was given 5,577 times, the records show. USA Today previously revealed confidential informants engaged in "otherwise illegal activity," as the bureau calls it, 5,658 times in 2011. The figure was at 5,939 the year before, according to documents acquired by the Huffington Post. In total, records obtained by reporters confirm the FBI authorized at least 22,823 crimes between 2011 and 2014. Unfortunately, many of those crimes can have serious and unintended consequences. One of the examples mentioned in the Daily Dot's report was of an FBI informant who "was responsible for facilitating the 2011 breach of Stratfor in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the last decade. While a handful of informants ultimately brought down the principal hacker responsible, the sting also caused Stratfor, an American intelligence firm, millions of dollars in damages and left and estimated 700,000 credit card holders vulnerable to fraud."
Piracy

Cox Denies Liability for Pirating Subscribers, Appeals $25 Million Verdict (torrentfreak.com) 97

Cox Communications insists that it is not responsible for copyright infringements carried out by its subscribers, challenging the ruling by a Virginia federal jury late last year. The court had found Cox Communications guilty and had asked it to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management a sum of $25 in damages. TorrentFreak reports: The verdict was a massive victory for the music company and a disaster for Cox, but the case is not closed yet. After a failed motion for judgment as a matter of law earlier this month, the ISP has now informed the court that it will take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Cox denies any wrongdoing and hopes to get a judgment in its favor at the appeals court. Considering the gravity of the case, Cox's move is not surprising. The liability verdict has come as a shock to the Internet provider industry, as it suggests that providers have to actively disconnect repeat infringers. At the moment, many ISPs don't have a solid policy in place where repeat copyright infringers lose their subscription. In fact, the law doesn't prescribe when and based on what evidence an ISP has to terminate an account.
Piracy

India Threatens 3-Year Jail Sentences For Viewing Blocked Torrents (intoday.in) 95

"It is official now. The punishment for rape is actually less..." writes an anonymous Slashdot reader, who adds that "Some users think that this is all the fault of Bollywood/Hollywood movie studios. They are abusing power, court and money..." India Today reports: The Indian government, with the help of internet service providers, and presumably under directives of court, has banned thousands of websites and URLs in the last five odd years. But until now if you somehow visited these "blocked URLs" all was fine. However, now if you try to visit such URLs and view the information, you may get a three-year jail sentence as well as invite a fine...

This is just for viewing a torrent file, or downloading a file from a host that may have been banned in India, or even for viewing an image on a file host like Imagebam. You don't have to download a torrent file, and then the actual videos or other files, which might have copyright. Just accessing information under a blocked URL will land you in jail and leave your bank account poorer.

While it's not clear how this will be enforced, visiting a blocked URL in India now leads to a warning that "Viewing, downloading, exhibiting or duplicating an illicit copy of the contents under this URL is punishable as an offence under the laws of India, including but not limited to under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act, 1957 which prescribe imprisonment for 3 years and also fine of up to Rs. 3,00,000..."
AI

Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working (theverge.com) 191

The U.S. will phase out private prisons, a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses, reports the BBC. But when it comes to reducing arrests for violent crimes, police officers in Chicago found themselves resorting ineffectively to a $2 million algorithm which ultimately had them visiting people before any crime had been committed. schwit1 quotes Ars Technica: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics --- the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city's futuristic "heat list" -- an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

The police argue they've updated the algorithm and improved their techniques for using it. But the article notes that the researchers began following the "heat list" when it launched in 2013, and "found that the program has saved no lives at all."
The Courts

Tesla Owner in Autopilot Crash Won't Sue, But Car Insurer May (bloomberg.com) 93

Dana Hull, reporting for Bloomberg: A Texas man said the Autopilot mode on his Tesla Model S sent him off the road and into a guardrail, bloodying his nose and shaking his confidence in the technology. He doesn't plan to sue the electric-car maker, but his insurance company might. Mark Molthan, the driver, readily admits that he was not paying full attention. Trusting that Autopilot could handle the route as it had done before, he reached into the glove box to get a cloth and was cleaning the dashboard seconds before the collision, he said. The car failed to navigate a bend on Highway 175 in rural Kaufman, Texas, and struck a cable guardrail multiple times, according to the police report of the Aug. 7 crash. "I used Autopilot all the time on that stretch of the highway," Molthan, 44, said in a phone interview. "But now I feel like this is extremely dangerous. It gives you a false sense of security. I'm not ready to be a test pilot. It missed the curve and drove straight into the guardrail. The car didn't stop -- it actually continued to accelerate after the first impact into the guardrail." Cozen O'Connor, the law firm that represents Molthan's auto-insurance carrier, a unit of Chubb Ltd., said it sent Tesla Motors Inc. a notice letter requesting joint inspection of the vehicle, which has been deemed a total loss.
Media

Gawker.com To End Operations Next Week (gawker.com) 133

After nearly 14 years of operations, Gawker.com will be shutting down next week, the company's outgoing CEO Nick Denton told the staff Thursday. The decision comes days after Univision said it would buy Gawker Media properties -- Gizmodo, Jezebel, Kotaku etc (but not Gawker.com) -- for a sum of $135 million. The publication is currently in the middle of multiple lawsuits, with billionaire Peter Thiel revealing his clandestine legal campaign against the company. In a blog post, Gawker made the announcement. From the story:Nick Denton, the company's outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site's fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision's bid for Gawker Media's other assets. Staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision. Near-term plans for Gawker.com's coverage, as well as the site's archives, have not yet been finalized.
Nintendo

Nintendo Shuts Down 'Pokemon Uranium' Fan Game After 1.5 Million Downloads (thewrap.com) 138

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wrap: The fan-made "Pokemon Uranium" game took a pair of programmers more than nine years to develop. Nintendo needed just about nine days to kill it. "After receiving more than 1,500,000 downloads of our game, we have been notified of multiple takedown notices from lawyers representing Nintendo of America," the creators of "Pokemon Uranium" said in a statement. "While we have not personally been contacted, it's clear what their wishes are, and we respect those wishes deeply. Therefore, we will no longer provide official download links for the game through our website," they continued. "We have no connection to fans who re-upload the game files to their own hosts, and we cannot verify that those download links are all legitimate. We advise you to be extremely cautious about downloading the game from unofficial sources." The role-playing game was free, though creators @JVuranium and Involuntary Twitch were open to suggested PayPal donations of $2-$10. Set in the tropical Tandor region, "Uranium" players can encounter more than 150 all-new species of Pokemon in their quest to collect all eight Gym Badges and triumph over the Tandor League, per the official description. Along the way, the players must battle against a sinister threat that's causing Nuclear Meltdowns.
Android

Companies Can't Legally Void the Warranty For Jailbreaking Or Rooting Your Phone (vice.com) 128

Reader Jason Koebler writes: Manufacturers that threaten to void the warranties of consumers who jailbreak or root their phones are violating federal law.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, manufacturers cannot legally void your hardware warranty simply because you altered the software of an electronic device. In order to void the warranty without violating federal law, the manufacturer must prove that the modifications you made directly led to a hardware malfunction.
"They have to show that the jailbreak caused the failure. If yes, they can void your claim (not your whole warranty—just the things which flowed from your mod)," Steve Lehto, a lemon law attorney in Michigan, wrote in an email. "If not, then they can't."

Google

Oracle Says Trial Wasn't Fair, It Should Have Known About Google Play For Chrome (arstechnica.com) 181

Two and a half months after a federal jury concluded that Google's Android operating system does not infringe Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use," Oracle's attorney says her client missed a crucial detail in the trial, adding that this detail could change everything. ArsTechnica reports: Oracle lawyers argued in federal court today that their copyright trial loss against Google should be thrown out because they were denied key evidence in discovery. Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that the launch of Google Play on Chrome OS, which happened in the middle of the trial, showed that Google was trying to break into the market for Java SE on desktops. In her view, that move dramatically changes the amount of market harm that Oracle experienced, and the evidence should have been shared with the jury. "This is a game-changer," Hurst told U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who oversaw the trial. "The whole foundation for their case is gone. [Android] isn't 'transformative'; it's on desktops and laptops." Google argued that its use of Java APIs was "fair use" for several reasons, including the fact that Android, which was built for smartphones, didn't compete with Java SE, which is used on desktops and laptops. During the post-trial hearing today, Hurst argued that it's clear that Google intends to use Android smartphones as a "leading wedge" and has plans to "suck in the entire Java SE market. [...] Android is doing this using Java code," said Hurst. "That's outrageous, under copyright law. This verdict is tainted by the jury's inability to hear this evidence. Viewing the smartphone in isolation is a Google-gerrymandered story."In the meanwhile, Google attorney said Oracle was aware of Google's intentions of porting Android to laptops and desktops, and that if Oracle wanted to use this piece of information, it could have.
Government

Transfer of Internet Governance Will Go Ahead On Oct. 1 (computerworld.com) 154

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Computerworld: The U.S. says it will proceed with its plan to hand over oversight of the internet's domain name system functions to a multistakeholder body on Oct. 1. Computerworld reports: "The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), under contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce, operates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which enables the operation of the internet domain name system (DNS). These include responsibility for the coordination of the DNS root, IP addressing and other internet protocol resources. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Commerce Department, said in March 2014 that it planned to let its contract with ICANN expire on Sept. 30, 2015, passing the oversight of the functions to a global governance model. NTIA made it clear that it would not accept a plan from internet stakeholders that would replace its role by that of a government-led or intergovernmental organization or would in any way compromise the openness of the internet. The transfer was delayed to September as the internet community needed more time to finalize the plan for the transition. The new stewardship plan submitted by ICANN was approved by the NTIA in June. NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said Tuesday that the agency had informed ICANN that 'barring any significant impediment,' NTIA intends to allow the IANA functions contract it has with ICANN to expire as of Oct. 1, said Strickling, who is also assistant secretary for communications and information."
Crime

Maker of Web Monitoring Software Can Be Sued (cio.com) 99

Reader Presto Vivace shares a CIO report: The maker of so-called spyware program WebWatcher can be sued for violating state and federal wiretap laws, a U.S. appeals court has ruled, in a case that may have broader implications for online monitoring software and software as a service. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected WebWatcher vendor Awareness Technologies' motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the company. The appeals court overturned a lower court ruling granting the motion to dismiss. The appeals court, in a 2-1 decision rejected Awareness' claims that WebWatcher does not intercept communications in real time, in violation of the U.S. wiretap act, but instead allows users to review targets' communications. While plaintiff Javier Luis' lawsuit doesn't address real-time interception of communications, his allegations "give rise to a reasonable inference" of that happening, Judge Ronald Lee Gilman wrote. Awareness pitches WebWatcher as monitoring software for parents and employers. "All WebWatcher products install easily in 5 minutes or less, are undetectable (thus tamper proof) and all recorded data is sent to a secure web-based account which allows you to monitor kids and employees at your convenience from any computer," the company says.
Businesses

Univision To Buy Gawker Media For $135 Million (recode.net) 137

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Univision has won the auction for Gawker Media. The TV network and digital publisher has agreed to pay $135 million for the bankrupt blog network, according to a person familiar with the deal. Univision's offer will encompass all seven of Gawker Media's sites, including Gawker.com. Ziff Davis and Univision were the only two bidders for Gawker, which filed for bankruptcy after Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel won a $140 million judgment in a privacy case. Ziff Davis had originally offered $90 million for Gawker Media. Here's a statement from Gawker Media owner Nick Denton: "Gawker Media Group has agreed this evening to sell our business and popular brands to Univision, one of America's largest media companies that is rapidly assembling the leading digital media group for millennial and multicultural audiences. I am pleased that our employees are protected and will continue their work under new ownership -- disentangled from the legal campaign against the company. We could not have picked an acquirer more devoted to vibrant journalism." The deal won't be official for a bit. For starters, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge needs to sign off on the transaction. When it is final, the judgment funds will be set aside while Gawker appeals its court case; eventually the money will go to the side that wins.
Cellphones

FCC Complaint: Baltimore Police Breaking Law With Use of Stingray Phone Trackers (baltimoresun.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Baltimore Sun: Civil rights groups have complained to the FCC over the Baltimore Police Department's use of stingray phone tracking devices. They claim that "the way police use it interferes with emergency calls and is racially discriminatory." Baltimore Sun reports: "The complaint argues that the police department doesn't have a proper license to use the devices and is in violation of federal law. It calls on regulators at the Federal Communications Commission to step in and formally remind law enforcement agencies of the rules. 'The public is relying on the Commission to carry out its statutory obligation to do so, to fulfill its public commitment to do so, and to put an end to widespread network interference caused by rampant unlicensed transmissions made by BPD and other departments around the country,' the groups say in the complaint. Police in Baltimore acknowledged in court last year that they had used the devices thousands of times to investigate crimes ranging from violent attacks to the theft of cellphones. Investigators had been concealing the technology from judges and defense lawyers and after the revelations Maryland's second highest court ruled that police should get a warrant before using a Stingray. The groups argue that surveillance using the devices also undermines people's free speech rights and describe the use of Stingrays as an electronic form of the intrusive police practices described in the scathing Justice Department report on the police department's pattern of civil rights violations."
Canada

Canada's Police Chiefs Want New Law To Compel People To Reveal Passwords (www.cbc.ca) 209

Reader DaveyJJ writes: CBC is reporting that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, has passed a resolution calling for a legal measure to unlock digital evidence, saying criminals increasingly use encryption to hide illicit activities. The chiefs are recommending new legislation that would force people to hand over their electronic passwords with a judge's consent. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Joe Oliver is using the usual scare tactics "child-molesters and mobsters live in the 'dark web'" in his statement today to drum up public support in his poorly rationalized privacy-stripping recommendation. A few years ago, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that police must have a judge's order to request subscriber and customer information from ISPs, banks and others who have online data about Canadians. I guess that ruling isn't sitting too well with law enforcement and Canada's domestic spy agencies.
Crime

LinkedIn Sues 100 Individuals For Scraping User Data From the Site (betanews.com) 112

Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: Professional social network LinkedIn is suing 100 anonymous individuals for data scraping. It is hoped that a court order will be able to reveal the identities of those responsible for using bots to harvest user data from the site. The Microsoft-owned service takes pride in the relationship it has with its users and the security it offers their data. Its lawsuit seeks to use the data scrapers' IP addresses and then discover their true identity in order to take action against them. LinkedIn says that a botnet has been used to gain access to user data which is then passed on to third parties. The site has a number of measures in place to prevent this type of data harvesting, but it seems that scrapers have found a way to circumvent these security restrictions. A series of automated tools -- FUSE, Quicksand, Sentinel, and Org Block -- are used to monitor suspicious activity and blocking scraping.

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