By Greg Tang
TSA Offends Travelers with Body Scanners, Fails to be Accountable
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) commented on the TSA’s use of body scanners in airports across the country, which has raised serious public concerns over the indignity and invasiveness of the body scanners and pat-down searches. The EFF expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of the body scanners in detecting terrorist attacks like the Christmas Day Bomb of 2009, citing various sources, including a TSA document, that have shown materials such as liquid, powder, and thin plastic — as well as passenger clothing — to be undetectable by the scanners. The EFF also reported on the Government Accountability Office’s criticisms of the TSA. The TSA has routinely refused to release test results to the public or perform cost-benefit analyses before adopting new technologies, despite estimated direct costs of $2.4 billion over a 7-year life cycle for the body scanners.
FCC Commissioner Casts Doubt Over Net Neutrality Rules
Ars Technica reported on comments that FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell made regarding the likelihood of FCC-issued net neutrality rules in a talk to the Federalist Society last Monday. The Commissioner expressed uncertainty regarding the substance and timing of any potential rules. The comments came just one week after FCC Chair Julius Genachowski spoke at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, promising to make the rules happen and lambasting Google and Verizon for proposing their own version of open Internet rules back in August. McDowell cautioned against “taking a giant leap into a potentially dark and dangerous regulatory abyss,” and instead advocated cooperation with the FTC, trade associations, consumer groups, and Internet engineers to use existing consumer protection and antitrust laws to punish bad actors and help consumers — a proposal similar to the self-regulatory approach suggested by Comcast last week.
Novell Acquired by Attachmate; IP Goes to Microsoft
Enterprise Linux provider Novell announced last Monday that it would merge with Attachmate, with some intellectual property assets going to a consortium organized by Microsoft. InfoWorld reported on speculations that Microsoft would acquire core Unix IP from the deal, but ComputerWorld confirmed that Attachmate retains control over Novell’s copyrights for the Unix operating system. Since SCO Group launched its attack on Linux in 2003, claiming ownership of Unix intellectual property and copyright infringement by the open-source Linux operating system, Novell has defended the Linux community by defeating SCO in court and declining to pursue copyright action against Linux users. However, Novell has been subjected to criticism from the open-source community in 2006 for reaching a patent agreement with Microsoft over claims that Linux infringed upon Microsoft’s patents.
Jury Awards $1.3 billion in Copyright Damages from SAP to Oracle
Ars Technica reported on the record $1.3 billion that German software maker SAP was ordered to pay rival Oracle in their copyright infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of California. Oracle sued SAP in March 2007 for allegedly using customers’ login credentials to download software and technical support materials from Oracle’s servers. Despite admitting to the inappropriate downloads, SAP had hoped for damages of $41 million from the jury. Several jurors have stated that the award was determined by focusing on how much SAP would have paid if it simply licensed the rights from Oracle, a common method for determining losses in piracy cases.
US Government Cracks Down on Piracy by Seizing Over 70 Domain Names
The New York Times reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division seized over 70 websites suspected to be involved in file-sharing and counterfeiting goods early Friday morning. The popular file-sharing blog TorrentFreak explained that the websites were shut down by ordering ICANN, the non-profit corporation responsible for mapping human-understandable domain names into numeric IP addresses, to redirect traffic from the seized domains to ICE’s takedown notice. OSNews raised concerns that the method used by the ICE could escalate to censorship of websites outside the US (such as whistleblower site WikiLeaks), as ICANN operates the root domain name servers for the entire Internet. The domain name seizures resemble actions authorized under the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.