Copyright Office Proposes Modest Fixes to DMCA 1201, Leaves Fundamental Flaws Untouched



  • The U.S. Copyright Office just released a long-awaited report about Section 1201, the law that bans circumventing digital restrictions on copyrighted works. Despite years of evidence that the social costs of the law far outweigh any benefits, the Copyright Office is mostly happy with the law as it is. The Office does recommend that Congress enact some narrow reforms aimed at protecting security research, repair activities, and access for people with disabilities.

    We’re sorry the Office didn’t take a stronger stance. Section 1201, part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, makes it illegal to circumvent any “technological protection measure” (often called DRM) that controls access to copyrighted works. It also bans the manufacture and sale of tools to circumvent those digital locks. Although it was pitched as a new legal protection for copyright holders to prevent infringement, the law has given major entertainment companies and other copyright owners lots of control over non-infringing uses of technology, allowing them to lock out competition in repair and re-sale businesses, and to threaten and silence security researchers. The law has some exceptions, but they are far too narrow and complicated.

    Those flaws are one reason EFF is challenging Section 1201 in court on behalf of researcher Matthew Green and technologist Andrew “bunnie” Huang. In the lawsuit, filed last year, we explain why Section 1201 is an unlawful restraint on speech and ask the court to strike the law down. Congress has also considered several fixes to the law over the last few years, ranging from comprehensive fixes to smaller corrections.

    Meanwhile, after the last rulemaking, the Copyright Office asked for public comments and held hearings about Section 1201, leading to the report released on Thursday. In the report, the Copyright Office announces its belief that “the statute’s overall structure and scope . . . remains sound.” The Office also believes that bypassing access controls can violate Section 1201 even when the purpose of the circumvention has nothing to do with copyright infringement. Federal appeals courts are sharply divided on this question, and the Copyright Office seems to be putting its thumb on the scales in favor of rightsholder control and against freedom of expression and innovation.

    If a Section 1201 violation can happen without any connection to copyright infringement, then Section 1201 gives copyright holders (and DRM vendors) vast control over technology users, beyond what copyright law already gave them. According to the Copyright Office’s interpretation, Section 1201 gives copyright holders “control over the terms of access to their works online.” That means that by wrapping software, music, games, video, or text in a layer of DRM, copyright holders gain the ability to dictate when, where, and how we can use those things, and the technology we can use to interact with them. And it means that copyright holders can nullify the public’s fair use rights. The Copyright Office’s approach here is the wrong approach, and it deepens the law’s constitutional problems.

    The report is also notable for what it doesn’t contain: any evidence that we need a ban on circumventing digital locks in the first place. The report points out that “explosive growth in legitimate digital content delivery services” happened “after the enactment of Section 1201,” but it doesn’t attempt to show that the law was what caused that growth. It also mentions a statement by a Senate committee in 1998, that “copyright owners will hesitate to make their works readily available on the Internet without reasonable assurance that they will be protected against massive piracy.” Today, of course, the Internet contains many lifetimes worth of amazing creative work of all kinds, made available by creatives without any DRM, so that prediction did not come true.

    The report doesn’t cite any studies or data showing that Section 1201 has been beneficial to creativity or the digital economy. And the only experts it cites to are entertainment companies with an interest in keeping the control that 1201 provides them, and the same members of Congress who requested the report in the first place—hardly a convincing case.

    The report does make some recommendations for fixing the law, including new and expanded exceptions to the ban on circumvention. The Copyright Office recommends that Congress expand the permanent exemptions for security testing and encryption research, by removing or mitigating restrictions in those exemptions that have made those exemptions too uncertain for many in the computer security community to rely on.

    The report also recommends a new permanent exemption for assistive technologies for people with disabilities. That change is overdue, as advocates for print-disabled people have had to request exemptions for screen-reading and other assistive technologies every three years for nearly two decades.

    In the last rulemaking cycle, EFF and other organizations requested exemptions covering maintenance, repair, and modification of software. One of the unfortunate effects of Section 1201 in recent years has been to cast a cloud of legal uncertainty over repair businesses ranging from cars to smartphones, and to block the re-use of devices like phone handsets and printer cartridges. The Copyright Office report recommends a new permanent exemption covering “diagnosis, maintenance, repair, and obsolescence” activities, not limited to any specific technologies. That would be a positive step. But the report rejects an exemption for modifying software for other reasons, such as to improve or customize the software. That’s a problem, because those activities are largely legal and beneficial, aside from the legal risk created by Section 1201.

    Finally, the report offers some fixes to the rulemaking process for temporary exemptions that happens every three years. Notably, the Copyright Office will offer a way to renew exemptions from previous cycles with what they claim will be minimal time and expense. We’re expecting the Copyright Office to begin a new rulemaking cycle soon, so we’ll get to see how well this works in practice and whether they are able to make the process less expensive. In several places in the report, the Copyright Office offers to try to make temporary exemptions broader and more useful to the populations they affect. We’ll be holding them to that.

    However, the Copyright Office still insists that it should be unlawful for anyone to distribute tools to allow beneficiaries of rulemaking exemptions to take advantage of the exemption, because “it would be impossible to control” subsequent uses of such tools. The real, proven need for circumvention has to take a back seat to the hypothetical scenario where the beneficiary then decides to infringe.

    It’s too bad the Copyright Office won’t address the fundamental flaws of Section 1201, especially given the multitude of problems that the report acknowledges. A simple, comprehensive fix like the Unlocking Technology Act introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren would solve many of the problems that Section 1201 causes for security professionals, tinkerers, people with disabilities, repair and resale businesses, teachers, students, libraries, and many others. A piecemeal approach will solve just a few of the current problems, at the cost of ever more complexity and a continuing demand for massive public interest resources to make the exemption process work. Congress, or the courts, should do more.

    Related Cases: 2015 DMCA Rulemaking

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/06/copyright-office-proposes-modest-fixes-dmca-1201-leaves-fundamental-flaws





Tmux Commands

screen and tmux

A comparison of the features (or more-so just a table of notes for accessing some of those features) for GNU screen and BSD-licensed tmux.

The formatting here is simple enough to understand (I would hope). ^ means ctrl+, so ^x is ctrl+x. M- means meta (generally left-alt or escape)+, so M-x is left-alt+x

It should be noted that this is no where near a full feature-set of either group. This - being a cheat-sheet - is just to point out the most very basic features to get you on the road.

Trust the developers and manpage writers more than me. This document is originally from 2009 when tmux was still new - since then both of these programs have had many updates and features added (not all of which have been dutifully noted here).

Action tmux screen
start a new session tmux OR
tmux new OR
tmux new-session
screen
re-attach a detached session tmux attach OR
tmux attach-session
screen-r
re-attach an attached session (detaching it from elsewhere) tmux attach -d OR
tmux attach-session -d
screen -dr
re-attach an attached session (keeping it attached elsewhere) tmux attach OR
tmux attach-session
screen -x
detach from currently attached session ^b d OR
^b :detach
^a ^d OR
^a :detach
rename-window to newname ^b , <newname> OR
^b :rename-window <newn>
^a A <newname>
list windows ^b w ^a w
list windows in chooseable menu ^a "
go to window # ^b # ^a #
go to last-active window ^b l ^a ^a
go to next window ^b n ^a n
go to previous window ^b p ^a p
see keybindings ^b ? ^a ?
list sessions ^b s OR
tmux ls OR
tmux list-sessions
screen -ls
toggle visual bell ^a ^g
create another window ^b c ^a c
exit current shell/window ^d ^d
split window/pane horizontally ^b " ^a S
split window/pane vertically ^b % ^a |
switch to other pane ^b o ^a <tab>
kill the current pane ^b x OR (logout/^D)
collapse the current pane/split (but leave processes running) ^a X
cycle location of panes ^b ^o
swap current pane with previous ^b {
swap current pane with next ^b }
show time ^b t
show numeric values of panes ^b q
toggle zoom-state of current pane (maximize/return current pane) ^b z
break the current pane out of its window (to form new window) ^b !
re-arrange current panels within same window (different layouts) ^b [space]
Kill the current window (and all panes within) ^b killw [target-window]
  • Criteo is an ad company. You may not have heard of them, but they do retargeting, the type of ads that pursue users across the web, beseeching them to purchase a product they once viewed or have already bought. To identify users across websites, Criteo relies on cross-site tracking using cookies and other methods to follow users as they browse. This has led them to try and circumvent the privacy features in Apple’s Safari browser which protects its users from such tracking. Despite this apparently antagonistic attitude towards user privacy, Criteo has also been whitelisted by the Acceptable Ads initiative. This means that their ads are unblocked by popular adblockers such as Adblock and Adblock Plus. Criteo pays Eyeo, the operator of Acceptable Ads, for this whitelisting and must comply with their format requirements. But this also means they can track any user of these adblockers who has not disabled Acceptable Ads, even if they have installed privacy tools such as EasyPrivacy with the intention of protecting themselves. EFF is concerned about Criteo’s continued anti-privacy actions and their continued inclusion in Acceptable Ads.

    Safari Shuts out Third Party Cookies…

    All popular browsers give users control over who gets to set cookies, but Safari is the only one that blocks third-party cookies (those set by a domain other than the site you are visiting) by default. (Safari’s choice is important because only 5-10% of users ever change default settings in software.) Criteo relies on third-party cookies. Since users have little reason to visit Criteo’s own website, the company gets its cookies onto users’ machines through its integration on many online retail websites. Safari’s cookie blocking is a major problem for Criteo, especially given the large and lucrative nature of iPhone’s user base. Rather than accept this, Criteo has repeatedly implemented ways to defeat Safari’s privacy protections.

    One workaround researchers detected Criteo using was to redirect users from sites where their service was present to their own. For example, if you visited wintercoats.com and clicked on a product category, you would be first diverted to criteo.com and then redirected to wintercoats.com/down-filled. Although imperceptible to the user, this detour was enough to persuade the browser that criteo.com is a site you chose to visit, and therefore a first party entitled to set a cookie rather than a third party. Criteo applied for a patent on this method in August 2013.

    …And Closes the Backdoor

    Last summer, however, Apple unveiled a new version of Safari with more sophisticated cookie handling—called Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)—which killed off the redirect technique as a means to circumvent the cookie controls. The browser now analyzes if the user has engaged with a website in a meaningful way before allowing it to set a cookie. The announcement triggered panic among advertising companies, whose trade association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, denounced the feature and rushed out technical recommendations to work around it. Obviously the level of user “interaction” with Criteo during the redirect described above fails ITP’s test, which meant Criteo was locked out again.

    It appears that Criteo’s response was to abandon cookies for Safari users and to generate a persistent identifier by piggybacking on a key user safety technology called HSTS. When a browser connects to a site via HTTPS (i.e. a site that supports encryption), the site can respond with an HTTP Strict Transport Security policy (HSTS), instructing the browser to only contact it using HTTPS. Without a HSTS policy, your browser might try to connect to the site over regular old unencrypted HTTP in the future—and thus be vulnerable to a downgrade attack. Criteo used HSTS to sneak data into the browser cache to produce an identifier it could use to recognize the individual’s browser and profile them. This approach relied on the fact that it is difficult to clear HSTS data in Safari, requiring the user to purge the cache entirely to delete the identifier. For EFF, it is especially worrisome that Criteo used a technique that pits privacy protection against user security interests by targeting HSTS. Use of this mechanism was documented by Gotham City Research, an investment firm who have bet against Criteo’s stock.

    In early December, Apple released an update to iOS and Safari which disabled Criteo’s ability to exploit HSTS. This led to Criteo revising down their revenue forecasts and a sharp fall in their share price.

    How is Criteo Acceptable Advertising”****?

    "… w__e sort of seek the consent of users, just like we had done before_."__1_ - Erich Eichmann, CEO Criteo

    _"Only users who don’t already have a Criteo identifier will see the header or footer, and it is displayed only once per device. Thanks to [the?] Criteo advertisers network, most of your users would have already accepted our services on the website of another of our partner. On average, only 5% of your users will see the headers or footers, and for those who do, the typical opt-out rate is less than .2%._" - Criteo Support Center

    Criteo styles itself as a leader in privacy practices, yet they have dedicated significant engineering resources to circumventing privacy tools. They claim to have obtained user consent to tracking based on a minimal warning delivered in what we believe to be a highly confusing context. When a user first visits a site containing Criteo’s script, they received a small notice stating, _"_Click any link to use Criteo’s cross-site tracking technology." If the user continues to use the site, they are deemed to have consented. Little wonder that Criteo can boast of a low opt-out rate to their clients.

    Due to their observed behaviour prior to the ITP episode, Criteo’s incorporation into the Acceptable Ads in December 2015 aroused criticism among users of ad blockers. We have written elsewhere about how Acceptable Ads creates a clash of interests between adblocking companies and their users, especially those concerned with their privacy. But Criteo’s participation in Acceptable Ads brings into focus the substantive problem with the program itself. The criteria for Acceptable Ads are concerned chiefly with format and aesthetic aspects (e.g. How big is the ad? How visually intrusive? Does it blink?) and excludes privacy concerns. Retargeting is unpopular and mocked by users, in part because it wears its creepy tracking practices on its sleeve. Our view is that Criteo’s bad behavior should exclude its products from being deemed “acceptable” in any way.

    The fact that the Acceptable Ads Initiative has approved Criteo’s user-tracking-by-misusing-security-features ads is indicative of the privacy problems we believe to be at the heart of the Acceptable Ads program. In March this year, Eyeo announced an Acceptable Ads Committee that will control the criteria for Acceptable Ads in the future. The Committee should start by instituting a rule which excludes companies that circumvent explicit privacy tools or exploit user security technologies for the purpose of tracking.

    1. http://criteo.investorroom.com/download/Transcript_Q3+2017+Earnings_EDITED.pdf

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/12/arms-race-against-trackers-safari-leads-criteo-30

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  • Have you ever sent a motivational text to a friend? If you have, perhaps you tailored your message to an activity or location by saying “Good luck in the race!” or “Have fun in New York!” Now, imagine doing this automatically with a compuuuter. What a great invention. Actually, no. That’s not a good invention, it’s our latest Stupid Patent of the Month.

    U.S. Patent No. 9,069,648 is titled “Systems and methods for delivering activity based suggestive (ABS) messages.” The patent describes sending “motivational messages,” based “on the current or anticipated activity of the user,” to a “personal electronic device.” The patent provides examples such as sending the message “don’t give up” when the user is running up a hill. The examples aren’t limited to health or exercise. For example, the patent suggests sending messages like “do not fear” and “God is with you” when a “user enters a dangerous neighborhood.”

    The patent’s description of its invention is filled with silly, non-standard acronyms like ABS for “activity based suggestive” messages or EBIF for “electronic based intelligence function.” These silly acronyms create an illusion of complexity where plain, descriptive language would reveal the mundane nature of the supposed invention. For example, what the patent grandly calls EBIF appears to be nothing more than standard computer processing.

    The ’648 patent is owned by Motivational Health Messaging LLC. While this may be a new company, at least one of the people behind it has been involved in massive patent trolling campaigns before. And the two named inventors have both been inventors on patents that trolls have asserted hundreds of times. One is also an inventor listed on patents asserted by infamous patent troll Shipping and Transit LLC. The other named inventor is the inventor on the patents asserted by Electronic Communication Technologies LLC. Those two entities (with their predecessors) brought over 700 lawsuits, many against very small businesses. In other words, the ’648 patent has been issued to Troll Co. at 1 Troll Street, Troll Town, Trollida USA.

    We believe that the claims of the ’648 patent are clearly invalid under the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, which held abstract ideas do not become eligible for a patent merely because they are implemented in conventional computer technology. Indeed, the patent repeatedly emphasizes that the claimed methods are not tied to any particular hardware or software. For example, it states:

    The software and software logic described in this document … which comprises an ordered listing of executable instructions for implementing logical functions, can be embodied in any non-transitory computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions.

    The ’648 patent issued on June 30, 2015, a full year after the Supreme Court’s Alice ruling. Despite this, the patent examiner never even discussed the decision. If Alice is to mean anything at all, it has to be applied to an application like this one.

    In our view, if Motivational Health Messaging asserts its patent in court, any defendant that fought back should prevail under Alice. Indeed, we would hope that the court would strongly consider awarding attorney’s fees to the defendant in such a case. Shipping & Transit has now had two fee awards made against it for asserting patents that are clearly invalid under Alice. And the Federal Circuit recently held that fee awards can be appropriate when patent owners make objectively unreasonable argument concerning Alice.

    In addition to the problems under Alice, we believe the claims of the ’648 patent should have been rejected as obvious. When the application was filed in 2012, there was nothing new about sending motivational messages or automatically tailoring messages to things like location. In one proposed embodiment, the patent suggests that a “user walking to a hole may be delivered ABS messages, including reminders or instructions on how to play a particular hole.” But golf apps were already doing this. The Patent Office didn’t consider any real-world mobile phone applications when reviewing the application.

    If you want to look for prior art yourself, Unified Patents is running a crowdsourcing contest to find the best prior art to invalidate the ’648 patent. Aside from the warm feelings that come from fighting patent trolls, there is a $2000 prize pool.

    Despite the weakness of its patent, Motivational Health Messaging LLC might still send out demand letters. If you receive such a letter, you can contact EFF and we can help you find counsel.

    We have long complained that the Patent Office promotes patent trolling by granting obvious and/or abstract software patents. The history of the ’648 patent shows how the Patent Office’s failure to properly review applications leads to bad patents falling into the hands of trolls.

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