Monday, April 13, 2015

Metallica Sued Napster 15 Years Ago Today

...and the fight between Tech and Media has continued ever since.

from April 13th, 2000. The day the music industry and the internet became best frenemies forever.

That's the day Metallica v. Napster, Inc. was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California — a case that would come to national prominence, pave the way for Steve Jobs and Apple to create the iTunes and iPod juggernaut, and ultimately lock the tech and media industries in a battle that rages on to this day. When Taylor Swift complains about Spotify, the arguments are an echo of Metallica v. Napster. When Jay Z, BeyoncĂ©, Kanye, Rihanna, and all of their friends go on about Tidal, that's an echo of Metallica v. Napster.

The internet upended the media industry, and it's still trying to recover. Metallica v. Napster was just the first attempt.

A very short history: in 1999, a kid named Shawn Fanning created a very simple peer-to-peer music sharing application called Napster. It was essentially just a glorified file browser; the barebones interface showed you MP3 files on various computers connected to the service and allowed you to download them. By default, your files were shared in return.

This, of course, was illegal. You can't distribute copyrighted recordings, even if teenagers and music nerds have been making tapes and mixes forever. The difference was in scale; while handing out a few mixtapes to friends resulted mostly in the industry stamping "HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC" on the backs of cassettes, Napster posed a very real existential threat: if everyone was getting and sharing music for free, no one would ever buy it.

And for a band like Metallica, there were even worse repercussions: a leaked recording of the track "I Disappear" from the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack made its way onto Napster, and then onto the radio before its official release. This so incensed the band that it filed suit against the fledgling company, and drummer Lars Ulrich became an outspoken defender of artists facing the disruption of free internet distribution.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#NASA Creates Open Database of Space Station Research

from NASA is opening its files on research conducted aboard the International Space Station. The space agency hopes the crowdsourcing will stimulate new research on the orbiting laboratory. The information database is called Physical Science Informatics and was created by specialists at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. All search results at the website are sortable and include combustion science, complex fluids, fundamental physics, materials science and biophysics.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Japan Slams Brakes On Uber Taxi Service

from Japan has slammed the brakes on taxi service Uber less than a month after it launched a pilot programme in the country, with a government official saying Wednesday (Mar 4) it likely violates transport laws.

The development marked another blow for the web-based taxi app, which has become an object of scorn from traditional taxi companies in many countries fighting for survival against the rise of the Silicon Valley challenger.

"Last Friday, we met with Uber Japan officials and told them to stop the pilot programme immediately because we suspect it breaches Japanese transport law," a transport ministry official told AFP.

"There are two major problems with their project. First, it could be considered an unlicensed taxi business if they use regular drivers, and second, there are safety concerns" including a lack of insurance.

Responding to the move, Uber said it would continue to talk with officials and said the service would be a plus for urban transport in rapidly-ageing Japan.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Net Neutrality: Triumph of the Ruling Class

from A triumph of “core of free expression and democratic principles”? How stupid do they think we are?

It’s been painful to watch the gradual tightening of government control in the name of net neutrality. 

The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to rewrite the rules and declare the Internet as a public utility seals the deal. It cartelizes the industry and turns a “Wild West” into a planned system of public management — or at least intends to. 

All the rest is a veneer to cover what is actually a power grab. 

This whole plot has had all the usual elements. It has a good name and its supporters say it is about stopping private and public control. It’s had the backing of all the top names in content delivery, from Yahoo to Netflix to Amazon. It’s had the quiet support of the leading Internet service providers. The decision to impose the rule has been declared by a tiny group of unaccountable bureaucrats operating with the support of the executive lame duck. 

The opposition, in contrast, has been represented by small players in the industry, hardware providers like Cisco, free-market think tanks and disinterested professors, and a small group of writers and pundits who know something about freedom and free-market economics. The public at large should have been rising up in opposition but people are largely ignorant of what’s going on. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paris Has A Drone Problem

from Police in Paris yesterday detained three Al Jazeera journalists on charges of flying a drone without a license, marking the latest development in what's been a bizarre week for a city still reeling from last month's terrorist attacks. The arrests come amid growing anxiety surrounding unauthorized drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have been seen hovering above popular tourist sites and government buildings in recent weeks.

For two consecutive nights this week, small, non-military drones were spotted above some of Paris’ most famous landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides military museum, as well as the US embassy and major traffic junctions along the city's border. At least five drones were reported by witnesses and police each night, but their operators have yet to be identified. Paris police obtained video footage of some of the drones Tuesday night and are studying it as part of the ongoing investigation. At this point, it's unclear whether the drones were flown as a prank, a harmless flyover, or part of a coordinated or sinister operation, but French authorities are taking no chances.

"There's no need to worry, but we should be vigilant," government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters Wednesday. "It's a subject being taken very seriously."

The journalists arrested Wednesday don’t appear to be linked to the drones seen overnight Monday and Tuesday. In a statement to The Guardian, an Al Jazeera spokesman said the journalists were actually filming a report on the drones seen earlier in the week. The journalist who operated the drone will appear in court next week, while the other two have been freed.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#NSA's SIM Card Scandal Bigger Than You Think

from On February 16, researchers at the Moscow-based security group Kaspersky Lab announced the discovery of the ultimate virus which has virtually infected all spheres of military and civilian computing in more than 40 countries around the world. They’ve managed to discover a piece of malware that must have been installed on hard disks while they were still being manufactured, and due to its complexity and a certain number of features that it shares with Stuxnet, it’s safe to assume that it was created by US secret services.

On February 18, The Guardian confirmed that for the last 7 years Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had been sharing personal intelligence data en masse with America’s national security agencies, regardless of the fact that it had intercepted millions of foreign citizens' conversations. The ruling of a UK court clearly suggests that these actions were illegal on top of being carried out in violation of the the European Convention on Human Rights.

On February 19, it was announced that the National Security Agency (NSA) along with its British partner in crime –GCHQ, has manged to steal encryption keys from Gemalto – the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM-cards. This allowed the above named intelligence agencies to tap any phone and intercept data from any mobile device that was using a SIM-card produced by Gemalto. This conspiracy was unveiled by The Intercept, which added that Gemalto was created nine years ago when the French company Axalto merged with Gemplus International which was operating in Luxembourg. Today Gemalto has more that 85 offices across the globe along with a total of 40 factories, working in close cooperation with leading telecommunication corporations, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, along with many others. Representatives of the three aforementioned companies refused to comment on this scandal.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Ad Company Is Flying Surveillance Drones Over Los Angeles

from An ad company’s drones have been quietly collecting location information from Los Angeles residents’ cell phones for nearly a month, and there’s likely not much anybody can do about it without regulations in place that cover what kinds of data drones can hoover up.

Adnear, a global marketing company that specializes in collecting location data from people for companies looking to create targeted ad campaigns, has been flying a modified version of the DJI Phantom II drone over the San Fernando Valley in LA since February 4th, according to a company blog post. A sensor on the drone tracks devices by collecting data from WiFi connections and cell tower signals and uses that information to obtain their unique device IDs.

“The usage of drones for location data collection would tremendously reduce human intervention and ease the process of collating data in inaccessible regions,” the company wrote in a blog post. 

“Drones will also enable quick assimilation of a large-scale location data, which would mean faster new market entry for us, since it does take much higher effort at present. We are talking a new level of scale all together.”

Adnear wants to use the data to serve you hyperlocal ads based on what you’re near at the moment. 

The company did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment, and we will update this post if we hear from them.

If this still all sounds just a little ominous, that’s because it is. The sensors on Adnear’s drone are likely the same kind they’ve used on “bikes, cars, trains, and even walking up the stairs,” except now they’re flying over you. Using cell tower signals to uncover a device’s ID sounds pretty close to what a StingRay used by police to track suspects by mimicking cell towers does. That technology works by scooping up all location information from cell phones in the area, including those from innocent people.

While Adnear’s approach may not be exactly the same as a StingRay, it’s close enough to cause discomfort—although, of course, Adnear is using their technology for commercial gain, not to catch criminals. The company claims that it doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information, but it’s hard to see how your phone’s ID is anything but.