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Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - November 13th, ’21
November 13th, 2021
Activists (Including the FSF) Helped Secure a New Round of DMCA Anticircumvention Exemptions
We have some good news to share. The FSF was one of several activist organizations pushing for exemptions to the anticircumvention rules under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that make breaking Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) illegal, even for ethical and legitimate purposes. We helped bring public awareness to a process that is too often only a conversation between lawyers and bureaucrats. As of late last week, there are now multiple new exemptions that will help ease some of the acute abuse DRM inflicts on users. However, the main lesson to be learned here is that we should and must keep pushing. Individual, specific exemptions are not enough. The entire anticircumvention law needs to be repealed. We want to thank the 230 individuals who co-signed their names to our comments supporting exemptions across the board. We should take this as a sign that even though it can be difficult, anti-DRM activism yields practical results.
Section 1201 is one of the most nefarious sections of the DMCA. The provisions contained in 1201 impose legal penalties against anyone trying to circumvent the DRM on their software and devices or, in other words, anyone who tries to control that software or device themselves instead of leaving it up to its corporate overlords. Section 1201 opens up those who try to study, repair, or research restricted devices to potentially serious legal penalties. Something that doesn't help matters is the intentionally complex series of hoops concerned citizens, researchers, and activists around the world are forced to jump through to voice objection to current anticircumvention rules, or to propose new exemptions.
This bureaucratic nightmare is the only way to lobby for changes in Section 1201, and the fact that it has to be done every three years makes it a recurring one. Nothing abates the added terror of our being granted use anticircumvention exemptions, but being forbidden to share the tools that make this possible. It takes the hard work of hundreds to secure the anticircumvention use exemptions we already have, and even more work to eke out a few more. Yet thanks to the support of citizens, activists, and researchers around the world, the US Copyright Office has approved a few more, while at the same time demonstrating the DMCA's serious flaws.
In coverage of the new round of anticircumvention exemptions we've seen so far, something that stands out is the US Copyright Office's approval for blind users to break the digital restrictions preventing any ebooks from being processed through a screen reader. At least at first glance, it looks like a big win for all of us concerned with user freedom, but a closer look shows something more sinister, as the US Copyright Office refused to make this exemption permanent. The message this sends to all user freedom activists, but especially the visually impaired among us, is: "we're giving you this now because it would seem inhumane otherwise, but we hope that you'll forget to fight for it later so we can allow corporations to keep on restricting you."
The grueling nature of the anticircumvention exemption hearings and comment process would be enough to burn out any one person, which is why we're grateful that the organizations fighting for user freedom have interrelated work. The Free Software Foundation (FSF)'s work campaigning for a user's right to use, study, share, and modify the software that runs on their device has informed our support of the right to repair movement. We hope that our work has inspired some of the individuals and organizations participating in the comment process. The participating organizations have been able to make progress on other important exemptions, whether that's the right to install free software on wireless routers or the right to repair dedicated devices like game consoles.
It's the coalescing of groups like these that is "chipping away" at Section 1201. At the same time, it's telling that we're forced to fight tooth and nail for the meager exemptions we're granted, even with such a broad base of support. The corporations who have a vested interest in the DMCA and Congress itself are content with the status quo, but we shouldn't be content with patches on a broken system. Incremental progress against Section 1201 is of course a good thing, but we shouldn't lose sight of our goal as user freedom activists: a complete repeal of Section 1201, and all other laws that codify or mandate DRM.
The Defective by Design campaign takes a radical stance when it comes to DRM and the laws that support it. We believe that they should not exist at all, under any circumstance, and we need your help to support this mission. Each year we hold the International Day Against DRM (IDAD) to raise public awareness and rally together anti-DRM activists from around the globe, but we're a year-round campaign. If you're ready to join the fight, here's what you can do to help:
• Join us for the 2021 International Day Against DRM, which will be held on December 10th this year, and participate in its upcoming community planning meeting on November 10th;
• Join the DRM Elimination Crew email list to stay up to date on our work against DRM;
• Let us know about your own anti-DRM activism or anticircumvention work through a session at LibrePlanet 2022;
• Help us improve and revise the Guide to DRM-free Living
Succession-Style Feud Gripping Canada Settled as Court Sides with Edward Rogers
The fight for Rogers Communications has riven one of Canada’s richest families – and began with an accidental butt dial
For weeks, Canadians have been gripped by a messy public feud splintering one of the country’s richest families. Kicked off by an accidental pocket dial that revealed an executive-level coup attempt, the battle has pitted mother against son, ensnared Toronto’s mayor and drawn comparisons to the HBO show Succession.
Two separate groups of directors have proclaimed themselves the rightful stewards of Rogers Communications, a sprawling C$30bn telecommunications and entertainment empire with interests in media, professional hockey, basketball, baseball, football and soccer.
On Friday, a Canadian court ruled that the faction led by Edward Rogers, son of the company’s late founder, had the power to legally replace directors without a shareholder meeting, granting the eldest son immense power over the country’s largest wireless carrier in a ruling viewed as a blow to shareholders’ rights.
“These family squabbles are an interesting backdrop to this dispute that would be more in keeping with a Shakespearean drama,” wrote Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick in her judgment, adding the feud has “no doubt added a voyeuristic element on the part of many into the lives of a very wealthy Canadian family”, but that the public quarrel was a “distraction” to the narrow legal question at hand.
Since the company’s founder, Ted Rogers, died in 2008, the company has been forced to fend off criticism that it has underperformed industry peers. And with no clear successor named before Rogers’ death, questions over who in the family would eventually take charge have lingered for more than a decade.
While Rogers is publicly traded, it has a dual share structure, with voting control still held by the family.
The saga began last month after Ted’s son Edward Roger covertly tried to replace the company’s chief executive, Joe Natale, with its chief financial officer, Tony Staffieri.
The plan was foiled after Staffieri accidentally called Natale while discussing the plot with someone else – leading to perhaps the first use of the phrase “butt dial” in a headline by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, which broke the story.
As the power struggle spilled out of the boardroom and into public view, family matriarch Loretta Rogers and her daughters Martha Rogers and Melinda Rogers-Hixon publicly backed Natale.
The trio, exercising their role as directors, ousted Edward as chairman of the Rogers board.
But Edward pushed back, announcing the replacement of five board directors with his own handpicked candidates, who swiftly re-elected him.
“I see Ed has appointed himself the chairman. LOL. This should be taken as seriously as if he appointed himself the king of England,” tweeted Martha.
But in Friday’s ruling, the British Columbia supreme court sided with Edward, ruling that his unilateral changes were permitted.
The bitter rivalries, power-grabs and scorched-earth battles waged through social media are reminiscent of Succession, the hit HBO show that chronicles members of an ultra-rich family clamouring for power. But Martha instead sees the situation more akin to Game of Thrones – a show defined by the swift and often brutal demise of central characters.
Revelations that Ed Rogers “actively fought plans” to re-sign Masai Ujiri, head of the Toronto Raptors, in which the company owns a significant stake, did little to foster goodwill for the embattled executive. Rogers was alleged to have called the immensely popular Ujiri “arrogant” and expressed skepticism that he was worth his salary.
As the feud deepened, Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, was tapped to mediate. But Tory was himself a board member and and longtime friend of the Rogers family, and revelations that he had drawn C$100,000 (US$80,000) in annual compensation from the board over the past seven years drew swift criticism from local papers.
Overshadowing the public tussle for control of the company is the pending C$26bn takeover of a rival telecoms firm, Shaw Media. While the deal still needs regulatory approval, if successful, the combined company would become a Canadian media and sports behemoth.
On Thursday, citing “recent family and board-level disagreements and related management uncertainties”, credit-rating agency Moody’s warned the company could be downgraded if the board issues continued to have a “sustainable detrimental effect” on the company.
In a statement, Loretta Rogers, Martha Rogers and Melinda Rogers-Hixon called the court judgment a “black eye for good governance and shareholder rights” that “sets a dangerous new precedent for Canada’s capital markets by allowing the independent directors of a public company to be removed with the stroke of a pen”.
This Alaskan Town is Finally Getting High-Speed Internet, Thanks to the Pandemic
Lena Foss thought she got lucky when she salvaged a dryer from the dump in Akiak, a Yup'ik village in Western Alaska.
She knew it was broken, but figured she could fix it by looking at tutorials online.
"First thing I did was YouTube how to replace a belt," Foss said. "But the internet was so slow and I thought it was wasting gigabytes so I turned that off before I completely finished how to fix the dryer."
Akiak sits along the Kuskokwim River, which transforms into a frozen highway in the winter. The only other way to get there is on a four-seater plane.
The village's remote location has made high-speed internet, which is typically delivered through cables, a fantasy for its 460-some residents. Now, it's about to become a reality in Akiak and rural communities around the nation, thanks in part to the pandemic.
For Shawna Williams, getting broadband will mean being able to see her teachers and classmates. During the pandemic, Williams decided to get her college degree, while holding down her full-time job as a childcare worker, and raising five kids. She has the fastest internet plan available in Akiak, but she says it can't handle video all the time, which means she attends her remote classes by phone.
"The internet is so unreliable, and it's usually too slow, especially in the evenings when I get off of work, to load even a PowerPoint," Williams said.
She says she pays $314 a month for internet service now. But once Akiak gets high-speed broadband later this month, Williams' bill will become a quarter of what it is now, according to the tribal government, and her internet speeds and data limits will more than double.
Similar advances in broadband access are happening across the nation, largely because of Covid, says Blair Levin, a broadband expert and non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, says the main reason is COVID.
"It really focused the mind of everyone, Democrats, Republicans, governors, Senators, on the importance of getting broadband everywhere and making sure that everybody can afford to get on," Levin said.
Since the pandemic hit, the federal government made billions of dollars available to expand broadband. It dedicated a large portion of the money to rural tribal lands, which are some of the least connected areas in the country. Akiak used the coronavirus relief funding to pay for its broadband project.
But money was only one piece of the puzzle for the village. The tribe is also relying on satellite technology that just became available in Alaska this year. Low-Earth orbit satellites, operated by a company called OneWeb, can deliver high-speed internet to rural areas that cables can't reach.
Akiak Chief Mike Williams, Sr. said his tribe was motivated to act quickly on these opportunities after seeing the pandemic's effect on learning in the village.
"The kids have lost between a year and a year-and-a-half of their education, because of no technology, no internet at the home, and no remote learning," Williams said. "We may be forced to do a lockdown again. But we're going to be prepared this time."
As technicians install broadband receivers in her living room, Lena Foss watches eagerly, standing next to her broken dryer.
"When I have internet, everything I need for this dryer will be ordered," she said, adding that she could learn to repair her neighbors' appliances too.
"All this broken stuff would probably be fixed by YouTube. I would probably start a small business calling it YouTube-Fix-It-All," Foss said.
That's just the beginning of her online goals. Foss wants to google the laws on her native allotment lands, research grants for her village and file her taxes online.
"Internet will open my eyes," Foss said. "I know it will."
MoviePass Cofounder Stacy Spikes has Bought the Company Back and is Planning a Relaunch
• MoviePass cofounder Stacy Spikes has bought back the company.
• His bid was approved by a Southern District of New York bankruptcy court judge on Monday.
• Spikes said he hopes to relaunch the movie-ticket subscription service next year.
MoviePass, the movie theater ticket subscription service that became a sensation in the summer of 2017 before collapsing in epic fashion, is coming back.
MoviePass cofounder Stacy Spikes was granted ownership of the company by a Southern District of New York bankruptcy court judge who approved the sale on Monday, according to court documents reviewed by Insider. The financial transaction took place on Wednesday.
Spikes had placed a bid of an undisclosed amount to the trustee handling the bankruptcy of Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY), the former parent company of MoviePass.
"I can confirm that we acquired MoviePass out of bankruptcy on Wednesday," Spikes said in a statement to Insider. "We are thrilled to have it back and are exploring the possibility of relaunching soon. Our pursuit to reclaim the brand was encouraged by the continued interest from the moviegoing community. We believe, if done properly, theatrical subscription can play an instrumental role in lifting moviegoing attendance to new heights."
MoviePass was part of a bankruptcy auction of Helios and Matheson assets in June 2020, but there were no competitive bids at the time the auction ended. The minimum bid set by the trustee was $250,000. HMNY listed the estimated value of MoviePass between $1 million and $10 million, according to Variety.
Spikes told Insider that since this summer, he'd been working on putting the money together to place a bid to get the company back. He said he made the offer last month. Though Spikes would not disclose the amount, he said his bid was lower than the $250,000 minimum the trustee set in 2020. Customer data and email addresses were not part of the sale, Spikes said.
Spikes hopes to relaunch MoviePass sometime next year. A new site has been created for the relaunch, iwantmoviepass.com, and its logo will now feature a black background with white lettering, ditching its previous red background. Here is the new logo:
Spikes founded MoviePass with Hamet Watt in 2011, creating a service that let moviegoers see a certain number of movies a month in theaters for one monthly price. After struggling to stay afloat for years, in 2017 the company was bought by HMNY.
Under the leadership of HMNY CEO Ted Farnsworth and new MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe, the company launched a $10 a month subscription price to see a movie a day. Within two days, subscriptions went from 20,000 to 100,000. In less than a year, MoviePass had over 3 million subscribers.
With Farnsworth and Lowe at the helm, MoviePass blew through hundreds of millions of dollars, and Spikes — who said he'd raised concerns internally about the sustainability of the $10 price point — was fired in 2018.
HMNY was delisted from the Nasdaq in 2019 and both MoviePass and HMNY filed for bankruptcy in 2020. At the time of MoviePass' bankruptcy filing, it said it was under pending investigations by the FTC, SEC, four California district attorneys, and the New York attorney general.
After Spikes left MoviePass, he founded PreShow Interactive, which offers gamers the ability to unlock in-game currency by viewing branded content. It's unclear if PreShow tech will be part of MoviePass going forward.
Mark Wahlberg's non-fiction production company Unrealistic Ideas is currently developing a documentary on the rise and fall of MoviePass based on award-winning reporting by Insider.
Did You Know that You are Being Watched in Movie Theaters?
If you think lights out at the movies means the coast is clear, think again. At least some movie theaters are on the lookout with cameras and vision night goggles.
TikToker @.no1headache, who appears to be working at a movie theater in the video below, shows us what we show them when sitting and staring (or not) at the big screen: a panel of live CCTV images from multiple screening rooms capture just about every member in each audience doing their thing — whatever that may be.
And as if that isn't enough, she said theater employees also wear night vision goggles, according to Daily Dot. So nothing anyone does in that big dark room is left to the imagination.
And what, exactly, are movie theaters paranoid about?
According to safenow.org, the top four reasons theater managers look at their monitors are to see if people are: 1) pirating the movie; 2) sneaking food and beverages into the theater; 3) making out (even kissing is not permissible in some theaters!); and 4) committing a crime such as theft or worse.
Whether or not cameras are set up in every US movie theater isn't clear, but safenow.org says AMC and Regal are two theater chains that do have them, for better or worse.
Until next week,
Current Week In Review
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November 6th, October 30th, October 16th, October 9th
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