Law360 FAIL

wtf?, chilling effects, usability, legal

Well, IP lawyers, like those at ip.law360, should know enough about tech. to know when they've purchased a broken system, right?

exasperating... see if you can spot the problem here:

The only other non-academic email address I have is from gmail. Turns out they won't allow that either:

A Small Quest Involving Creative Commons and Berkeley Theses

copyright, open source, berkeley, research, policy, legal, education, iSchool

Last Summer, I wanted to slap a Creative Commons license on my dissertation. A good friend, Ping, had used another license (GFDL) by simply changing the copyright page and including the legal terms of the license in an appendix. So, I slapped a note on my copyright page and then included the full terms of CC's Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License in Appendix F.

Then I forgot about it... as the last bits of my thesis fell into place and some other things fell out of place.

About a week before I wanted to file, I was contacted by staff at Berkeley and told that my copyright page wasn't up to snuff. I figured that they had me nailed as some sort of rabble-rouser and that this could quickly blow up into a legal licensing mess. I was concerned that I didn't want to delay filing my thesis, but I also knew that I was probably the best person to fight this particular fight. Sigh. However, when I talked to the Berkeley staffer, it was clear that they simply expected the copyright page to look a specific way. Mine didn't look right. The rub was this: I couldn't make my copyright page "conform" without using the phrase "All Rights Reserved". Sigh.

We settled, via a formal appeal to the Graduate Division Dean, on a simple solution that you can see in my thesis: the copyright page says "Some Rights Reserved" and there is a reference to the full legal license in Appendix F. Hurray!

However, it became clear that other students might want to do this too. When danah went to file her dissertation, even though she followed the same scheme as me, the staff hadn't heard of the above exception. With a few mad text messages back and forth, I was able to give danah the name of the staffer I had worked with. This blessed staffer cleared everything up for danah. After that, hers was (probably) the second Berkeley PhD dissertation filed under a CC license. (I'd love to know of others!)

I decided to write a letter to the Graduate Division Dean asking his help to ensure that in the future using CC licenses wasn't difficult.

As reported yesterday in an op-ed, "Copyright and Copyleft in Publications", in the Daily Californian by Ian Elwood, Dean Szeri responded encouragingly a week later:

Two recent Berkeley students to file their dissertations using a Creative Commons license are Joseph Lorenzo Hall and danah boyd. Hall navigated through much bureaucratic red tape, but found that most of his difficulty came from simple formatting issues, not any ideological disagreement by the univerisyt [sic]. Another School of Information graduate, danah boyd, also filed her dissertation under Creative Commons shortly thereafter.

On Jan. 28, the Dean of the Graduate Division committed to make Creative Commons licensing available to future students. All students interested in contributing to the effort to make education more affordable and accessible should consider using Creative Commons instead of traditional copyright.

A couple quibbles: Dean Szeri didn't "commit" to making CC licenses available. In essence the exception I sought to use a CC license was the key event that will allow others to do this in the future. In his response to my letter, Dean Szeri said that my letter was timely because his staff was reviewing this and other options. As I outlined in my letter, what I would like to see happen is that students know that CC licensing is an option and know how to apply this kind of license in an informed way that doesn't run afoul of any formatting rules, let alone legal restrictions.

Also, CC uses copyright to do what it does... so maybe that last sentence would have been better as "...should consider using Creative Commons licenses instead of blindly reserving all rights."

Trapcall: Defeat ID Blockage or Easiest Wiretap Ever?

hacks, chilling effects

(cross-posted at Localoaf)

Trapcall can unmask callers who have blocked caller ID. trapcall

From Wired?s Kevin Poulsen:

The service, called TrapCall, is offered by New Jersey?s TelTech systems, the company behind the controversial SpoofCard Caller ID spoofing service. The new service is likely to be even more controversial ? and popular.

?What?s really interesting is that they?ve totally taken the privacy out of Caller ID,? says former hacker Kevin Mitnick, who alpha-tested the service.

TrapCall?s basic unmasking service is free, and includes the option of blacklisting unwanted callers by phone number. It also allows you to listen to your voicemail over the web. It?s currently available to AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers, with support for the other major carriers due within weeks, says TelTech president Meir Cohen.

It works pretty well, I must say. I signed up with the service that then left a voicemail for me with a PIN number. I used that to confirm I have the cell phone on their web site. Then I dialed a cryptic authorization number that trapcall used to reprogram my phone to redirect blocked calls which I send to voicemail. This sends them through trapcall?s system and then the call gets forwarded back to me with the blockage removed.

I tested this by dialing from a friends phone blocking caller ID with the ?*67? block and it worked well: the call came through as blocked, I pressed the iphone power button twice (to normally redirect to voicemail) and the call came back seconds later as from my friends phone. And the indication on the other line is noticable, but not by much.

The best part about their basic service is that it?s free. The paid options include voicemail transcriptions (where you obviously consent to have humans listen to your messages) as well as call recording. I wonder a bit about the last capability? it would seem that I could steal someone?s phone, program it with a beartrap account (the more expensive trapcall account) and have access to call recordings from that phone. It?s not clear to me that there is any necessary indication to the user of the cellphone that all of this is happening.

Audio Plugin Test

music, blogging

Just a quick test of a flash-based audio plugin...

Not sure exactly how I'll use this yet...

The Role of Randomness in California's Redistricting Process

elections, research

California voters passed Proposition 11 last November, which modified the state constitution and enacted laws to establish a Citizen's Redistricting Commission. As Tony Quinn says in a new article, "Proposition 11---What Will It Do?", from the fledgling California Journal of Politics and Policy:

The 10th time was the charm after all. Passage of Proposition 11 marks the first time California voters have supported redistricting reform. They had defeated various proposals to reform the way we draw district lines nine times over the past 80 years.

The idea embodied by the new regime seems fairly simple, but, like all good ideas, it gets a bit complex when the rubber hits the road:

In essence, three auditors employed by the State that are each registered to different political parties are chosen at random. Meanwhile, any California citizen can submit an application to the State Auditor to serve on the Commission. The three auditors, called the Review Panel, will then whittle down this large pool of applicants into a smaller pool of 60: 20 from the largest political party in California (by registration), 20 from the second largest and 20 from the remaining political parties.1 Then, the four senior legislators from the State legislature are allowed to strike as many as two names out of each of these three pools. Finally, the state auditor will randomly choose three applicants from the first pool, three from the second and two from the third. These eight Commissioners will, via a complex voting process, elect the remaining six members of the 14-member Commission.


It sounds a bit complicated and it is. The Bureau of State Audits (BSA), seeking to implement the Voter's First Act (Prop. 11) in an inclusive and well-informed manner, has asked for input via a number of meetings around the State and via written comments submitted to their team.

When this was first brought to my attention by Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation, the first thing to catch my eye was the "bootstrapping" use of random selection to eliminate bias from both the Review Panel and the initial eight members of the Commission. (Full disclosure: I sit on Kim's Board of Directors.)

Random selection is a subject dear to my heart. In that vein, I've submitted comments (PDF) to the BSA recommending they use a simple, physical source of randomness---i.e., not a computerized random number generator---and conduct the drawing in public. I pointed out that such public random selection has wide precedent in California government: from the Fair Political Practices Commission's Audit Program, to the California Secretary of State's random selection of ballot ordering to the random selections conducted after each election in California counties to randomly choose the 1% of precincts to manual tally. I also included a set of procedures the BSA could use to conduct a high-integrity lottery-style public random drawing to select the eight initial Commissioners.

I should note that I heed the wisdom of Calandrino et al.'s defense of PRNGs. However, I think this case is distinct in a number of ways: it's orders of magnitude more important of a process and the number of selections to be performed is small.

I look forward to watching how this develops.

1 I guess if you're not registered to vote, you can't serve?

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