Social Issues

So·cial iss·ues: of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community; of or pertaining to humans associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes, esp. as a body divided into classes according to status. Posts in this category pertain to matters of human social interaction, classification, and association.

More Music Industry Copyright Lunacy

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Copyright, Fair Use

The bone-headed lawyers for Universal Music Group (UMG) are now claiming that throwing away a promotional CD is a form of unauthorized distribution, and is therefore a copyright violation, and thus illegal. UMG makes this ridiculous claim in a lawsuit filed against an eBay seller for selling promotional CDs [links in original]:

In a brief filed in federal court yesterday, Universal Music Group (UMG) states that, when it comes to the millions of promotional CDs ("promo CDs") that it has sent out to music reviewers, radio stations, DJs, and other music industry insiders, throwing them away is "an unauthorized distribution" that violates copyright law. Yes, you read that right -- if you've ever received a promo CD from UMG, and you don't still have it, UMG thinks you're a pirate.

This revelation came in a brief for summary judgment filed by UMG against Troy Augusto. Augusto (aka Roast Beast Music Collectibles, eBay handle roastbeastmusic) buys collectible promo CDs at used record stores around Los Angeles and resells them on eBay. UMG sued him last year, claiming that the "promotional use only" labels on the CDs mean that UMG owns them forever and that any resale infringes copyright.

The music industry, apparently, will never learn...

(H/T: TSDgeos)

Barack Obama: Pregnancy a “Punishment”

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Democrats, Elections, Fatherhood, Sanctity of Life

On the campaign trail over the weekend, Barack Obama tried to assuage the socially conservative democrats of Western Pennsylvania regarding his pro-abortion stance. He starts with the typical, liberal, stance when confronted by an admonition to stop abortions:

"This is a very difficult issue, and I understand sort of the passions on both sides of the issue," he said. "I have two precious daughters — they are miracles."

But politicians must trust women to make the right decisions for themselves, he said.

"This is an example where good people can disagree," the Illinois senator said. "The question then is, are there areas that we can agree to that everybody can get behind? We can all agree that we want to reduce teen pregnancies. We can all agree that we want to make sure that adoption is a viable option."

This response is, of course, the typical liberal approach of ignoring the biological reality that an abortion impacts not just the woman carrying the unborn child, but also the separate, unique life that is that unborn child. Note also the canard about adoption (the viability of which is a non-issue, but ostensibly sounds good when making such deflection).

Unfortunately for Obama, he continued on with his comments in an attempt to persuade the audience regarding sex education - and in so doing revealed his true beliefs.

Somehow, I don't think his comments will have their intended affect (emphasis added):

"Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old," he said. "I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."

There you have it: babies are a "punishment" resulting from a mistake - the moral equivalent of contracting an STD.

Of course, what else would one expect, from such a radical proponent of abortion such as Barack Hussein Obama?

(H/T: RedState)

Network Solutions Dhimmitude

Filed in Politics, Religion, Social IssuesTags: Internet, War on Terror

Are you in need of web hosting services, but your web site may in some way violate the ever-so-fragile sensibilities of Muslims? If so, don't even think about using Network Solutions.

Dutch lawmaker and filmmaker Geert Wilders made this mistake when developing a website for his forthcoming Fitna movie, which he describes as a "last warning for the West." The movie is critical of the Koran - which means that the adherents to the "Religion of Peace", when not calling for his death and threatening worldwide retaliation, are actively pushing for the movie (and the website) to be censored.

Apparently, they have been successful in that censorship, since Dutch broadcasters have refused to air the movie, and Network Solutions, the company that provides Wilders' web hosting services, has suspended the website. The FitnaTheMovie web site currently has the following notice:

This site has been suspended while Network Solutions is investigating whether the site's content is in violation of the Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy. Network Solutions has received a number of complaints regarding this site that are under investigation. For more information about Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy visit the following URL: http://www.networksolutions.com/legal/aup.jsp

In case you're curious, the only potentially relevant section of that Acceptable Use Policy is the first clause under the "Prohibited Uses" section (emphasis added):

Transmission, distribution, uploading, posting or storage of any material in violation of any applicable law or regulation is prohibited. This includes, without limitation, material protected by copyright, trademark, trade secret or other intellectual property right used without proper authorization, and material that is obscene, defamatory, libelous, unlawful, harassing, abusive, threatening, harmful, vulgar, constitutes an illegal threat, violates export control laws, hate propaganda, fraudulent material or fraudulent activity, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable material of any kind or nature. You may not transmit, distribute, or store material that contains a virus, "Trojan Horse," corrupted data, or any software or information to promote or utilize software or any of Network Solutions services to deliver unsolicited e-mail. You further agree not to transmit any material that encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense, gives rise to civil liability or otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law or regulation.

One little catch, though: the web site, at the time of being suspended, had absolutely no content other than the words ""Geert Wilders presents Fitna, 23 March 2008."

Network Solutions, say hello to Dhimmitude, and say goodbye to business, because you're about to be mass-boycotted.

(H/T: LGF. More from Jihad Watch, Hot Air, Michelle Malkin, Kyros.)

P.S. Apparently, hoax sites and movie trailers are popping up, in an apparent signal-to-noise attack strategy to keep people from seeing the real thing. Don't be fooled. The real site is registered to Geert Wilder. This UK hoax site is registered to one Los Bol. These "trailer" videos on YouTube are also all either fakes or fanpics.

This just in, from Newsbleat: Network Solutions' actions are even more insidious. These coward Dhimmis are not merely doing the bidding of their Islamic overlords; they are also bought and paid for by terrorists. Network Solutions hosts the hizbollah.org website.

TSA Enters the ‘Sphere

Filed in Politics, Social IssuesTags: War on Terror

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) enters the blogosphere, with their Evolution of Security blog.

From the tagline ("Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part.") it would appear that the TSA intends to have significant commenter interaction on the blog. From the response to the welcome post (some 700 comments), it would appear that air travelers (and TSA employees) have much to say.

Based on comments, the TSA appears to have reorganized the blog posts in order to emphasize responses to questions about various TSA policies (removing shoes, the much-vilified liquids restriction, searching grandma, etc.).

Personally, speaking as a fairly seasoned air traveler, I don't have a problem with most security measures (sure, it is a minor annoyance to have to remove my shoes to pass through security - but the annoyance is just that: minor), but I do have a problem with others (e.g. the liquids restriction - especially with respect to water bottles and beverages) and think that many TSA agents would be well-served to take some inter-personal relations training. My general rule is to arrive at the airport two hours before my flight, and to take my time getting through security. I rarely have to wait more than ten minutes to pass through security.

But, if you're interested in some of TSA's thoughts or explanations for their various policies or other security issues - or just want to join the chorus of comment complaints (they seem to be solicited by TSA, after all) - go have a look!

(H/T: Slashdot, Ars Technica)

Beware Sears Spyware

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Computers, Internet, Privacy, Technology

Slashdot posts about Sears installing spyware under the guise of the "My SHC Community" service. Instead of an innocuous service, users who agree to install the software get ComScore spyware, including a software proxy capable of tracking every transaction performed on the internet - from web sites visited, to login credentials, to emails.

More information from the CA Community Advisor Security Research Blog, which indicates that the spyware has been found on the sears.com and kmart.com websites.

If you see a pop-up window soliciting participation in "My SHC Community" do not pass go, do not collect $200, close the pop-up. Better yet, avoid doing business - if at all possible - with companies that would attempt to install spyware (especially companies that do so as deceptively as this).

Update: RIAA Still Completely Insane, Just Not Acting On It (Yet)

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Computers, Copyright, Fair Use, Internet, Music, Technology

Yesterday I wrote about an RIAA lawsuit against someone solely for ripping legally purchased music CDs. Engadget posted an update that the lawsuit is not for ripping CDs, but rather is one of RIAA's garden-variety MP3 distribution lawsuits. A commenter on their previous post linked to the summary judgement that states as much.

While I pointed out in the previous post that the RIAA still states its belief that ripping CDs - even for personal use - is a copyright violation, they (thus far) have yet to make that argument in court. Here is a key statement from the brief (pg. 6, lines 11-20 - emphasis added):

Howell also objects to liability on the grounds that he owns compact discs (“CDs”) containing the disputed sound recordings and that he “translated” them to his computer for personal use. In support of this argument, Howell attached photographs of CDs and cases to his Response. However, the question is not whether Howell owned legitimate copies of some of the sound recordings on CD, but instead whether he distributed copies of the recordings without authorization. Howell’s right to use for personal enjoyment copyrighted works on CDs he purchased does not confer a right to distribute those works to others without Plaintiffs’ authorization. 17 U.S.C. § 106(3). As he admitted that the sound recordings were “being shared by [his] Kazaa account,” Howell is liable for distributing them in violation of the recording companies’ exclusive right.

That said, given the RIAA's rumblings, don't b e surprised when they eventually sue someone merely for ripping legally purchased CDs.

I would also point out something that may prove to be the impetus for not only the downfall of the RIAA's war on consumers, but also for the application of current copyright law - and that is the application of current statutory damages for copyright infringement to MP3 distribution. Current law allows for damages from $750 to $30,000+ per infringed work.

Given that the going rate for an MP3 is on the order of $1 per song, awarding a statutory damage of even the minimum $750 per song is absolutely outrageous - especially considering that the lawsuit is a case of distribution-by-making-available claim. Here, the RIAA made no effort to prove any actual distribution, but only that the defendant violated laws against distribution of copyrighted work merely by making it available in a publicly accessible, "shared" folder.

Clearly, the RIAA here cannot show anything close to $750 per song in actual damages - and even if the award is considered punitive rather than statutory, the punishment far outweighs the crime. The RIAA's continual pursuit of these statutory damage awards will not only result in a consumer revolt, but may actually lead to public outcry for a revision of the copyright law in question.

Of course, music labels - and thus, the RIAA - are on the verge of going the way of the dinosaur. More artists will produce and distribute their works independently, cutting out the middlemen represented by the RIAA.

IMO, it can't happen soon enough.

RIAA Officially Gives Paying Customers the Middle Finger

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Computers, Copyright, Fair Use, Music, Technology

Engadget links to a report that the RIAA is suing someone not for distributing digital copies of music, but for making personal digital copies of legally purchased CDs. Some of the quotes from the RIAA and their lawyers are amazing:

"If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said.

Like the defendant in this absurd lawsuit, I am confident that the courts will uphold what is clearly a fair use of copyrighted work. The RIAA will rue the day tha tthey brought this lawsuit - not only for their legal defeat, but also for the public relations nightmare that the suit will become.

Note that this is not the first time the RIAA has made this argument. Of course, the last time it did so, it directly contradicted its own testimony before the U.S. Supreme court, in which RIAA lawyers stated:

"The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod."

Fair-use resources: EFF, Chilling Effects, Stanford Law

Rubin’s Most Recent Libel of ESC Opponents

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Media Bias, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

There are lies, damn lies and anything uttered by Donn Rubin.

--Mark Twain, paraphrased

Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures (sic) chairman Donn Rubin has already proven himself to be a spin master, but his latest screed is downright slanderous.

In this op/ed piece (h/t Secondhand Smoke), Rubin lauds recent advancements in stem cell research, in which differentiated (adult) stem cells have been induced to revert to a pluripotent (i.e. "embryonic") state. He then goes on to claim that Missourians who oppose embryonic stem cell and cloning research (actually, he refers to such opponents as "stem cell research opponents" - as usual, intentionally obfuscating the difference between research with adult and embryonic stem cells) would have stood in the way of the research that led to these advances.

I think now is as good of a time as any for a good, old-fashioned, paragraph-by-paragraph fisking of Dehr Spinmeister.

Anti-stem cell groups would deter successes.

I defy Rubin to identify even one "anti-stem cell group." To my knowledge, no such group exists. If it does, it is by no means mainstream, and is certainly no credible threat to ESC proponents in Missouri.

Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures lauds the stem cell advances occurring around the world as tremendous steps in medical science's ongoing battle to cure disease, and we eagerly await further discoveries as scientists continue the ethical exploration of this new medical frontier.

An excellent example is last month's widely covered advances in Wisconsin and Japan where scientists were able to reprogram an ordinary skin cell to assume much of the versatility of embryonic stem cells. And, even more recently, this month scientists in London used embryonic stem cells to develop a stem cell "patch" to repair scar tissue from heart attacks and American scientists used embryonic stem cells as a novel way to test the safety of drugs.

As the Secondhand Smoke post points out, the development of the "stem cell 'patch' to repair scar tissue from heart attacks" was in a Petri dish only.

All of these advances demonstrate how important Missouri's constitutional protections are, ensuring that our patients and families have the same access as other Americans to whichever approaches prove most successful and lead to the best medical treatments and cures.

Amendment 2 provided no meaningful protection for either the research that led to these advances nor for any potential treatment derived from them. Neither the research nor derived treatments were or have been threatened. The debated has always concerned Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT, a.k.a. cloning) in order to create viable human embryos for the express purpose of being destroyed in order to harvest pluripotent, embryonic stem cells. The research Rubin cited did not involve anything in that debate.

Moving on - all that was just Rubin's wind-up; now we get to his screwball:

If stem cell research opponents had their way, none of this outstanding science would have been possible. Ironically, they would have blocked the very groundwork that led to the technique they now seem to embrace — the reprogramming of ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells.

Again, there are no such "stem cell research opponents" but rather opponents of human cloning and embryo-destructive research. In fact, many of us in that camp have very adamantly expressed that we must center our debate not on the ethical nature or efficacy of research involving embryonic stem cells themselves, but rather on the ethical nature and necessity of human cloning and the destruction of viable human embryos for the purpose of that research.

Further, "reprogramming of ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells" in no way involves either human cloning or the destruction of viable human embryos; rather, it involves induction of a normal, differentiated skin cell into a pluripotent state.

But Rubin doesn't stop there:

For years, anti-stem cell groups in Missouri have discounted the unique lifesaving potential of embryonic stem cells, dismissing evidence presented by the vast majority of leading medical and patient organizations. We're glad to see that they are beginning to accept this lifesaving potential.

(Still waiting for Rubin to identify one of these "anti-stem cell groups in Missouri"...) To the contrary, we have not "discounted the unique lifesaving potential of embryonic stem cells" - with the exception of the uniqueness of that potential. Again, we do not oppose research involving pluripotent (even embryonic) stem cells; rather, we oppose the cloning and/or destruction of human life in order to obtain those stem cells.

As for the "unique lifesaving potential" of ESCs, if that potential had been demonstrated sufficiently, the research would have support from the normal means of funding: the private sector; however, the private sector has indicated - by virtue of the direction of its funding - that it believes in the potential of adult stem cell research. Ironically, it is Rubin and his ilk that continue to ignore and discount the future potential and already proven efficacy of adult stem cells.

They may have joined the bandwagon in celebrating a single technique, but they fail to acknowledge that the advance with reprogrammed cells was merely an initial step that can only achieve its medical potential through additional embryonic stem cell research. The scientists who led these advances, James Thomson of Wisconsin and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan, have stated clearly and unequivocally that all stem cell research must continue. It would be a tragedy if their successes were misused to cut off other important avenues of medical research.

Rubin makes absolutely no sense here. Why would research that neither started nor ended with embryonic stem cells require "additional embryonic stem cell research"? And Rubin outright lies about Yamanaka's beliefs on the subject of continued embryonic stem cell research. This International Herald-Tribune article (h/t ProLifeBlogs) quotes Yamanaka (emphasis added):

Yamanaka was an assistant professor of pharmacology doing research involving embryonic stem cells when he made the social call to the clinic about eight years ago. At the friend's invitation, he looked down the microscope at one of the human embryos stored at the clinic.

The glimpse changed his scientific career.

"When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters," said Yamanaka, 45, a father of two and now a professor at the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University. "I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."

And again (emphasis added):

He said he had never handled actual embryonic cells himself, and the American lab uses them only to verify that the reprogrammed adult cells are behaving as true stem cells. "There is no way now to get around some use of embryos," he said."But my goal is to avoid using them."

Far from having stated "stated clearly and unequivocally that all stem cell research must continue," Yamanaka clearly and unequivocally wants to eliminate the need for the use of embryos for stem cell research - in fact, by his very words, it is his goal. Rubin's misuse of Yamanaka's research advances and intent in order to bemoan the alleged misuse of those advances moves beyond irony into audacity. It is simply beyond the pale for Rubin - who repeatedly dismisses embryos as "cells in a Petri dish" - to mis-characterize the intent of Yamanaka - who has stated that he sees little difference between a research embryo and his own daughters.

Not only has Rubin no respect for the sanctity of all human life, but he also has no shame.

In the following statement, Rubin hoists his over-used canard, in this case, a tripartite reiteration:

If those seeking to repeal Missouri's constitutional stem cell protections get their way now, they would block the important research required to bring the new technique to its full lifesaving potential.

Those whose aim it is to ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to oppose the very research that is required to achieve the lifesaving goals that they now claim to embrace.

Those who threaten to repeal Missourians' access to stem cell research should step back and allow scientists to conduct the work necessary to achieve the goals that I hope we all share — to cure disease and improve the lives of patients and families.

There you have it: Rubin's imagined opponents desire to "repeal Missouri's constitutional stem cell protections," to "ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri," and to "repeal Missourians' access to stem cell research."

We've covered this one, but one more time, for the sake of thoroughness: we do not wish to repeal Missouri's constitutional stem cell protections (per se - I have no problems with protecting stem cell research, though I don't believe such an issue has any place in a state constitution; it is a constructionist matter, not a moral one). We do, however, wish to repeal Missouri's constitutional protection of human cloning. Further, the repeal of that protection would in no way whatsoever impact research such as Dr. Yamanaka's, since his research neither began with nor resulted in an embryonic cell of any kind - much less, one procured through the destruction of a cloned human embryo.

Neither do we wish to ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri. We do wish to ban all human cloning, and oppose the destruction of human embryos for such research. Further, we oppose public funding of such research - and therein lies the key issue, and the Stowers (and other ESC researchers) cannot get sufficient private-sector funding, and want the government to foot the bill.

Likewise, we in no way wish to repeal Missourians' access to stem cell research. We fully support research involving adult stem cells, and any other research not involving the destruction of human embryos. We also support their right to seek private funding for whatever legal research they wish to pursue.

Rubin shows his usual lack of honesty and forthrightness; however, in this piece Rubin displays outright slander of his "opponents" and an intentional misrepresentation of Dr. Yamanaka's intentions.

Donn Rubin is a liar. I only wish I could see what Mark Twain would actually have said about him.

Facebook, Beacon, and Privacy Rights

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Internet, Privacy, Technology

Recently, social networking site Facebook has undergone intense scrutiny and backlash for the implementation of its third-party advertising system called Beacon.

For those unaware of the Beacon application, here's a brief primer. Beacon is a JavaScript application used by third-party web sites (such as epicurious, travelocity, blockbuster, etc.) in conjunction with Facebook. The third-party website implements JavaScript code that sends certain data to Facebook. These data may include movies rented at Blockbuster, recipes searched at epicurious, or travel plans booked on travelocity. The websites send these data to Facebook, and if the user of the third-party website can be identified as a Facebook user, the data are published in that user's update feed.

Without re-hashing the explanations given elsewhere, see here for more technical details of the application. Others have listed the third-party websites that have implemented Beacon.

You may be asking yourself why you should care; well, here's why: these third-party websites are sending your personally identifiable user data to Facebook - whether or not you are a Facebook member (as is demonstrated by the previous link explaining the technical details).

It appears that much of the scrutiny has been on Facebook's implementation of the application, and the site's publishing of user-identifiable data. That scrutiny was much-deserved, and Facebook has made significant changes both to the implementation of Beacon and to their privacy policy. In fact, Facebook users can now opt-out of the application entirely - at least on the Facebook side.

However, it appears to me that a lot of heat has been placed on Facebook, and not enough on the third-party websites. While it is somewhat more comforting to know that Facebook will not publish user-identifiable information without my approval, the fact remains that all those data are still sent from the third-party websites to Facebook. If those data are tied to a user who has opted out of the application, Facebook has simply indicated that it will discard, not save, and not publish those data.

While I think Facebook has handled the implementation of Beacon poorly, I have a far greater problem with the third-party websites, who have implemented the Beacon application without any notice to or prior approval from its users. (In fact, one lawyer has speculated that Blockbuster is in clear violation of a law that prohibits the release of movie rental data.)

Facebook would certainly be in the wrong for publishing such data without user permission; however, the third-party websites that gather and send those data to Facebook have committed a far more egregious wrong. Sending to a third party data about my purchases and other activities without my permission has to be a clear violation of any worthwhile privacy policy.

Personally, I don't have a problem with the Beacon application; I only oppose its current implementation. Websites should be free to implement the application, but it should be done openly, and in an opt-in manner. If BrandNameWebsite wants to implement Beagle, and send data about my purchases to Facebook, it should give prior notice to its users, update its privacy policy, and require users to opt-in to having their data collected and sent.

Fortunately, you have options to control your experience with the Beagle application. As mentioned previously, you can opt-out entirely on the Facebook side. You can also use various browser plug-ins to notify you of websites using the Beagle application and to block the application altogether. (Websites that use the application put a few lines of JavaScript code into their website. That code makes a remote call to a known directory on the Facebook website. The plugins work by detecting and/or blocking the URL for the JavaScript code on the Facebook website.)

Fascist Nanny State in Nebraska

Filed in Religion, Social IssuesTags: Christianity

Unbelievable:

Rush talked about the atrocity committed in Nebraska, in which the State removed a five-week-old baby from the home of his parents for a week, in order for the baby to undergo state-mandated blood tests. The parents objected to the testing on religious grounds, so the state prosecutors went to a judge and then sent armed sheriff's deputies to the house to remove the baby.

The baby, still nursing from his mother, was placed in foster care not only for the blood to be drawn, but also to await the return of the results of the bloodwork.

Hey, Nebraska: do you remember the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

Such blatant disregard for the First Amendment is the very reason we have the Second Amendment.