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Photojournalist Awarded Millions in Twitter Copyright Case

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Photojournalist Awarded Millions in Twitter Copyright Case

Twitter is a great place to gather information. Throughout my week, I read about the top tech news and receive tips on what we should cover on the site. One of the problems with Twitter, however, is how easy it makes it for the big guys to steal content from the little guys.

For example, freelance photojournalist Daniel Morel took photos of the results of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Some of those photos he shared with the world through Twitter, probably expecting to affect people's feelings about the tragedy. What he didn't expect to have happen was for some of the big guys to see his photos and take them, add them to their collections and provide them to media outlets for distribution.

Unfortunately for Morel, his wishes would not be, as that is precisely what happened. Agence France-Presse retweeted his photos and then handed them to Getty Images, who is responsible for those photos making their way to ABC, CBS, CNN, The Washington Post and other media outlets. These media outlets quickly settled with Morel over the obvious infringement, but not the original offenders.

Those two went through a three year legal battle, ultimately resulting in a $1.2 million settlement against the willful infringers: AFP and Getty. Does this seem like a fair judgment against a company distributing photos from Twitter? Sound off in the comments.

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Most US Carriers Agree to Stop Scam Texts

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Most US Carriers Agree to Stop Scam Texts

We all know the scourge of premium text messaging companies; services that send you an unsolicited message and charge you for that privilege. Since the creation of the short messaging services, almost everyone has had the opportunity to fight with their service provider over the charges incurred because of these services.

Fortunately for customers, 3 of the 4 major US carriers have recognized the cost of these calls to their bottom line and are doing something about it. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop charging their customers for these insidious text messages.

Well, maybe it isn't as easy as all of that. In fact, these three carriers are responding directly to requests from 45 of the 50 states to end this business model. The official announcement even came from Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, not from any of the carriers themselves.

There is one obvious, glaring omission: Verizon Wireless. VZW is also in the process of closing up their PSMS business, though it was not part of this announcement. Verizon says that it had previously decided to close down this business itself, but not because of state or customer complaints. Instead, they say they are exiting because of a change in the way customers retrieve information.

So, are you one of the many people who has been afflicted by this wireless disease? Are you excited to hear about the end of this business? Let us know in the comments.

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Nokia Workers in China Factory on Strike After Deal with Microsoft

posted Sunday Nov 24, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Nokia Workers in China Factory on Strike After Deal with Microsoft

Nokia's devices and services division becoming part of Microsoft is a great thing for consumers. It streamlines the Nokia handsets that features Windows Phone 8 and gives Microsoft a dedicated partner for its flagship operating system. That being said, there's a large group of people who are less than thrilled with this deal, that being Nokia workers in one of the company's manufacturing plants in China.

After having been forced to agree and sign to new contracts that contained "very undesirable" terms, several hundred Nokia workers did not go to work this week, and instead went on strike. This contracts were drawn up after Nokia came to terms with Microsoft on the new deal. As of now, almost 100 employees have lost their jobs from not showing up to work, which has caused the remaining workers to be joined by new strikers who have all said they will strike until something is done about these new contracts. One employee said that, "They have no grounds for firing us. We've already chosen this road to walk on, so we'll stick with it."

Now, a no-call no-show is grounds for firing in any state I have worked in, although rules in China might be a bit different; I'd imagine they'd be more harsh, though. At any rate, Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson has said that these employees were terminated because they didn't come to work, plain and simple. He did add that Nokia has already spoken with employees over the past couple of days to "explain the situation and dispel the many rumors and false statements." Naturally, a handful of workers have said that did not occur.

On the issue, Nokia said in a statement,

We continue our efforts to engage a small group of employees in our Dongguan facility who are demanding a severance package - for jobs they have not lost and which continue to offer the same salary and benefits. The vast majority of employees are at work. Our manufacturing operations in Dongguan continue. We have also adjusted our operations in our other manufacturing facilities.

So what happens next? All of the employees might be fired, or adversely, Nokia will draw up new contracts in order to limit the damage from this making the news. Either way, it looks like the protests will continue until one of those two things happen.

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Sony to Cut $250 Million from Media Budget

posted Saturday Nov 23, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony to Cut $250 Million from Media Budget

Kaz Hirai has been at the head of the Sony ship for quite some time now, and has led the charge of turning around the company. His idea of a revival plan coupled with several purchases that were key to Sony's future success made everything appear like Hirai would be able to right the ship. However, after numbers were still in the red and Sony's board rejected the proposal to spin off its media division, Sony has taken to drastic measures to save the company. The solution? Slashing the budget for the media division.

While the consumer electronics side of Sony has leveled off over the past year, movies like Smurfs 2 has seen Sony's media division plummet, and the numbers show in the box office. The board of directors must be confused as they have first decided to maintain the branch within Sony yet are now rumored to be cutting the budget by over $250 million after outspoken and prolific investors have made their concerns known. So the fix is that we'll see Sony take a "significant shift" from making terrible movies and will start putting more eggs into the television business.

Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal has said that "we are reducing the number of films we make." For consumers, that means a reduction of five movies released each year, down to 18 total that we'll see in theaters beginning in 2015. We'll also see the company reduce its summer blockbusters, if they can be called that, from nine to four, beginning next summer.

So what all is included in a $250 million budget cut? According to Sony Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton it's "overhead and procurement" items being slashed from the expenditures.

We are in discussions with experts to help identify more efficient ways to do business in the future.

However, according to other sources close to the matter, it could be that Sony will be auctioning off some of its properties on the movie-side of things, specifically, Marvel brands. It's definitely beneficial to both Sony and Disney if Sony wants lots of money for things like Spider-Man, and Disney has the blank check ready to make all of it happen. And, if that rumor comes to fruition, we'd finally get the Civil War that we all know and need in our lives.

In hindsight, it seems that selling off the media division to Daniel Loeb's Third Point Hedge Fund, the leading shareholder of Sony, would've been the best option. Second best option would be to make better movies, because when films featuring Channing Tatum don't sell well, it's apparent that there's some serious problems in other places. So what'll happen in real life? We're not really sure but I'm sure we'll have an answer on an impromptu conference call that's supposed to take place next week. We'll be here to report any news coming our way.

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Sony PlayStation 4 Problems Could Be Due to Sabotage by Foxconn Student Interns

posted Thursday Nov 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony PlayStation 4 Problems Could Be Due to Sabotage by Foxconn Student Interns

All of Sony's problems with the PlayStation 4 that I reported on last week might stem from one place: Foxconn. It would appear that the Chinese university students who were interning at the production facility and being subjected to extremely rough working conditions have fired back at the company. It's being rumored that these kids were responsible for hardware sabotage at Foxconn, including the PS4s and other high-end tech products.

A forum thread showed up with a person saying he was one of the students. The post has since been deleted but read,

Since Foxconn are not treating us well, we will not treat PS4 console well. The ps4 console we assemble can be turned on at best.

Judging from the problems we are seeing so far, that appears to be par for the course for some of the PS4s in the wild. 4Chan users have obviously been discussing these failures in the hardware since even before launch of the console, and have been heavily discussing the alleged sabotage as well.

A chinese guy posted on here like 2 weeks ago in really fractured english or translation, I can't remember and even had an image. He mentioned "PheonixStation 4" and that they have put a trace amount of lead in a good majority of the thermal paste used in the PS4 batches. He said this will mean heat won't dissapate quick enough for standby mode when the fans are programmed to a low RPM, and this will degrade the life of the CPU/GPU dramatically and also raise temps during operating by a few degrees more than normal.

Of course, you have to take everything on 4Chan with a grain of salt, however, someone later in the thread followed up by verifying the contents of the images posted.

...indeed there was a diagram with a clear mention of lead + thermal grease, which is obviously a bad (expletive) thing. Ideally, a genius thing, as the problem won't arise in QA shotgun tests of consoles as they're built, as the individual systems would need to be tested for more than an hour to really notice a difference in temps.

And, if you wanted proof in the pudding, a review by YouTuber Rick the Electronic Guy showed that the thermal paste was in pretty bad shape.

All right guys, to be frank, I was very disappointed with the thermal paste. The thermal paste was already a little hard and that's not good. That just means we're going to have problems right off the bat. So I'm actually very happy that I took mine apart...I knew Sony was going to go cheap on the thermal paste it was already hard on the inside, now there (sic) already having gpu issues on day one.

Other sources have also reported that students have sabotaged iPads, Macbooks and other Apple products as well, but those threads have since been deleted. All of this does seem to coincide with the many issues the PS4 is having already, and, the user has since updated the situation with a second thread on the matter that hasn't been deleted. You can check that out in the source link below. What do you think of all this? Can this be the thing that changes the economic future for China, now that so many problems with Foxconn have come down to true sabotage in American-purchased products? Sound off in the comments section below.

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Canonical Responds to Ubuntu Trademark Issue

posted Sunday Nov 17, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Canonical Responds to Ubuntu Trademark Issue

Last week, an interesting thing happened in the Linux community. Canonical, the owners of Ubuntu and one of the leaders of the open data movement, threatened a critical website over trademark issues. Something they either didn't expect or didn't research was that the website, Fix Ubuntu, is owned an operated by Micah Lee from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

While the EFF has taken some cases that have been questionable, their involvement in this case has been a positive. They contacted Canonical and we have received an interesting response from Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical.

In a blog post on his website, Shuttleworth said,

Last week, someone at Canonical made a mistake in sending the wrong response to a trademark issue out of the range of responses we usually take. That has been addressed, and steps are being taken to reduce the likelihood of a future repeat...

We do have to "enforce" those trademarks, or we lose them. That means:

  • we have an email address, trademarks@ubuntu.com, where people can request permission to use the name and logo
  • we actively monitor, mostly using standard services, use of the name and logo
  • we aim to ensure that every use of the name and logo is supported by a "license" or grant of permission

The only problem here is that, of course, you don't HAVE to enforce all issues. For example, a website being critical of a corporation falls under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, and through fair use has the ability to use said corporation's name and logo. This issue has been tried and settled in court many times, leaving Canonical with no real recourse.

The excuse given by Shuttleworth was that of a company whose Twitter was mixed up for a personal one. He said in the same blog post,

In order to make the amount of correspondence manageable, we have a range of standard templates for correspondence. They range from the "we see you, what you are doing is fine, here is a license to use the name and logo which you need to have, no need for further correspondence," through "please make sure you state you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of the company or the product," to the "please do not use the logo without permission, which we are not granting unless you actually certify those machines," and "please do not use Ubuntu in that domain to pretend you are part of the project when you are not."

Last week, the less-than-a-month-at-Canonical new guy sent out the toughest template letter to the folks behind a "sucks" site. Now, that was not a decision based on policy or guidance; as I said, Canonical's trademark policy is unusually generous relative to corporate norms in explicitly allowing for this sort of usage. It was a mistake, and there is no question that the various people in the line of responsibility know and agree that it was a mistake. It was no different, however, than a bug in a line of code, which I think most developers would agree happens to the best of us. It just happened to be, in that analogy, a zero-day remote root bug.

So, the new guy did it, not we're mad that someone is criticizing our business model. It will be interesting to see what the EFF has to say about Shuttleworth's response.

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