[Plura-list] Who Has Your Face?, Monkey law firm vs covid, Blurred Lines sharpened, Consumer Reports on covid, Right to Repair during pandemics, secret GOP senate panic trading, Trump is outbidding state agencies for medical supplies, Coronavirus Sean of the Dead, Ifixit medical device guides

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Mar 20 12:21:12 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Patent trolls spin their shakedown of covide testing tech: Monkey law
firm hired by Softbank patent-trolls to use Theranos patents to attack
covid testing engages in spin.

* Who Has Your Face? A short and sobering quiz from EFF.

* Judge overturns terrible copyright decision against Katy Perry:
Sharpening up the "Blurred Lines" principle.

* Consumer Reports' covid-19 guide: Consistently the most reliable
source of unbiased product info.

* Right to Repair during pandemics: Hospitals are the new farms:
isolated, with systems that need to be fixed NOW.

* Republican senators told us everything was fine as they secretly
panic-sold their stocks: But they made sure to clue in the donor class.

* Trump is outbidding state agencies for medical supplies: He says
federal coordination would turn him into "a shipping clerk."

* Simon Pegg's coronavirus Sean of the Dead remake: "What's the plan?"

* Ifixit's new database of med-tech repair guides: They need your help.

* Open source hardware ventilator enters testing: From zero to prototype
in 7 days.

* Dafoe's plague diaries: Party like it's 1665.

* This day in history: 2005, 2010, 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming
appearances, current reading


👩🏿‍🔬 Patent trolls spin their shakedown of covide testing tech

Remember the garbage-matrioshke of a story in which a Softbank-funded
patent troll was using bogus patents bought from the wreckage of
Theranos to shut down covid testing, through a firm that once claimed to
represent a monkey for copyright purposes?


It gets worse!

Irell and Manella, the monkey lawfirm, has been claiming it's all a
nonstory because their Softbank-backed patent-troll client offered a
"royalty free license" to their garbage Theranos patent.

But this is worthless. Labrador (patent troll who make nothing but
lawsuits) has offered a royalty-free license to only some of things that
Biofire (biotech company that makes covid tests) needs, while banning
the rest.


They're "offering to allow a royalty-free license for the COVID-19 test…
[but] they're still trying to block the technology that's needed to run
the COVID-19 test."

What's more, that license doesn't extend to other companies working on
covid tests.

Even by the low standards of deceptive spin from predatory lawfirms,
this is garbage behavior. Not as bad as hastening the extinction of the
human race by blocking covid testing, but worse than anything you or I
are likely to do in our lifetimes.



👩🏿‍🔬 Who Has Your Face?

Who Has Your Face? is a new interactive from EFF that tells you where
the biometrics you had to give up – for a driver's license, say – have
proliferated. We are in "perpetual lineups," our faces being
continuously assessed by algorithmic guilt systems.


The project announcement delves into this in depth:


There is a stunning lack of transparency on biometric sharing. And the
pandemic is making it worse – even as grifty beltway bandits are
promising to use mass surveillance to prevent the spread of the
disease…for a price.

It's time for a national ban of government use of facial recognition tech!



👩🏿‍🔬 Judge overturns terrible copyright decision against Katy Perry

Here's some rare good copyright news! A judge has overturned a copyright
claim against Katy Perry that would have had her paying $2.3m because
she recorded a song in which eight notes were similar to many other
songs, including an obscure piece of Christian hiphop.

The ruling does not overturn the jury's finding of fact – that Perry's
song had similarities to this other, obscure song – but rather, it
overturns the legal principle that this similarity constitutes a
copyright infringement.


And although the copyright trolls who came after Perry might appeal,
this decision chips away at an even worse copyright precedent, the
"Blurred Lines" argument that a pop song is illegal if it reminds the
listener of Martin Gaye, even if it was not copied from a Gaye song.

One of the best things about this decision is that it cites the
plaintiffs' expert witness's own testimony – the musicologist the
copyright trolls hired basically admitted that this was not a copyright

This case is a victory for fairness and Fair Use, though Warner
Chappell, Perry's publisher, has not covered itself in glory during this
affair. Most notably, they attacked a prominent supporter of their cause
with a fraudulent copyright claim.



👩🏿‍🔬 Consumer Reports' covid-19 guide

The most consistently reliable US source of unbiased product reviews and
information is Consumer Reports, and now they've published a covid-19 guide.


Included: products believed to be effective at destroying the virus on
skin and surfaces, guides to sanitizing your devices, how to work from
home, what kinds of novel scams have popped up, and what to do if you
feel unwell.


👩🏿‍🔬 Right to Repair during pandemics

Farmers lead in Right to Repair is because when you're isolated and need
to get the crops in, you can't wait for a distant part or service tech
to come to your site – that's why farms have workshops (even forges!).


Pandemic puts us all in situations like those farmers, with important
things to do that can't wait for the authorized tech or official parts.

But especially, it puts hospitals in this situation.

That's why Right to Repair is so urgent at this moment.

The right person to decide whether a field repair should be attempted,
and whether the repair is solid enough to rely upon are medical
professionals, not the shareholders of med-tech companies or the lawyers
who write their terms of service and patent applications.


👩🏿‍🔬 Republican senators told us everything was fine as they secretly
panic-sold their stocks

The Senate and Congress have incredibly lax insider trading rules. They
let elected politicians use the private information they glean from
closed-door hearings and legislative planning sessions to take market
positions that enrich themselves when the rest of us are clued in.
That's how GOP lawmakers cleaned up in 2017, buying up health insurance
stocks before announcing the full-court press to kill Obamacare, which
sent the insurers' stocks skyrocketing.


But it's not just Congress and the Senate! Lawmakers have a long
tradition of laundering their insider information for politically
connected types: rich donors, lobbyists, party bosses.


It's no surprise that Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr [R-NC]
secretly sold off $1.7m of his stocks after being briefed on
coronavirus, even as he was publicly reassuring people that Trump was
right, it was no biggie, and everything would be fine.


Not just Burr, either. Even as he was publicly claiming that coronavirus
would fizzle, he was briefing North Carolina's elite $10,000/person
members that they, too, should be panic-selling before us plebs got wind
of the real scale of the crisis. The secret recording of that meeting
has Burr saying "There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is
much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen
in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

That's what he told plutes. Here's what he was saying for public
consumption: "he United States today is better prepared than ever before
to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus."


It wasn't just Burr, either. Other GOP senators who panic-sold while
telling us that Trump had it all under control and nothing bad would
happen include Kelly Loeffler [R-GA], Ron Johnson [R-WI], and Jim Inhofe


This insider trading is so egregious that it might have actually
breached the Senate" s="" farcically="" loose="" rules.="" aoc="" is=""
calling="" for="" burr="" to="" resign.<="" p="">



👩🏿‍🔬 Trump is outbidding state agencies for medical supplies

Trump has refused to coordinate federal procurements of emergency
supplies for states, saying the fed is not "a shipping clerk" for state


Now, state agencies are routinely getting outbid by FEMA when they try
to buy things like masks.

Trump brought Mass Gov Charlie Baker onto a FEMA videoconference to
boast about his performance, only to be told that Baker's officials had
been outbid by FEMA. Three times.

Baker (to Trump: "I've got a feeling that if someone has the chance to
sell to you and to sell to me, I am going to lose on every one of those."

Trump: "Prices are always a component of that also. And maybe that's why
you lost to the feds, OK, that's probably why."


👩🏿‍🔬 Simon Pegg's coronavirus Sean of the Dead remake

Gorbless Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for this delightful
coronavirus-themed reenactment of "the plan" call from Shaun of the Dead.



👩🏿‍🔬 Ifixit's new database of med-tech repair guides

The latest Ifixit project is a database of indepedent repair manuals for
medical devices:


They need your help to improve it. If you have photos, manuals, etc
related to medical device repair, please submit them:


They're carrying on the work of Frank's Hospital Workshop, an amazing,
one-person site based in Tanzania:


Ifixit turns crowdsourced photos, tips and guides into easy-to-read,
consistently formatted, tested manuals that are aimed at both laypeople
and skilled technicians.


As supply chains break and parts and technicians become scarce,
hospitals need to carry on their long tradition of effecting field
repairs on their own – but these repairs may need to be longer-lived and
serve more urgent needs than ever before.



👩🏿‍🔬 Open source hardware ventilator enters testing

7 days ago, a group of open source hardware enthusiasts put out an open
call for help in designing OSHW ventilators. After contributions from
300+ engineers, med techs and researchers, they have a prototype ready
for testing.


Ireland's Health Services Executive, which regulates medical devices, is
evaluating the prototype.

The group has since changed its name to "the Open Source COVID19 Medical
Supplies community" and has broadened its focus to "masks, sanitizer and
protective face guards."


👩🏿‍🔬 Dafoe's plague diaries

I spent 13 years in London, off Pitfield Street (named for the plague
pits that still line it), near Bunhill Cemetary (a "hill of bones" made
from the plague dead). Bunhill has some incredible inmates, including
Thomas Bayes, but also Daniel "Robinson Crusoe" Dafoe.

Dafoe was five in 1665, when the bubonic plague came to London. It made
an impression on him. 57 years later, he published "A Journal of the
Plague Year," featuring his recollections of the time.


This excerpt, dealing with the economic terrors of the city shutdown –
and the ways these exacerbated the health crisis – bears reading now.


The economy froze up: sailors couldn't sail, so shipwrights couldn't
build, so tavern keepers couldn't pour, so brewers couldn't brew.
Centuries later, it's pretty familiar stuff.

But this longer excerpt is even more fascinating and relevant. As the
plague loomed, people hallucinated angels and devils, sought out
prophecies, blamed it on foreigners, and sought out scapegoats.


They were terrified that they would die, that they would be cast out,
that they would be denied care, that they would be left to die. They
panicked, and it spread.

Also eerily familiar sounding.

Dafoe says out that the only reason London survived is that it had a
crude safety net, which kept absolute chaos at bay.

People lost their jobs, or panicked thinking they would, and left the
city, carrying plague through the land.


👩🏿‍🔬 This day in history

#15yrsago Yahoo! bought Flickr!

#10yrsago Peter Watts may serve two years for failing to promptly obey a
customs officer https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=1186

#5yrsago Suspicious people, American Airlines edition

#1yrago Sponsor of the "Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act" sues
Twitter cow-account for $250 million

#1yrago More Than 130 European Businesses Tell the European Parliament:
Reject the #CopyrightDirective

#1yrago California's Right to Repair Bill, killed by Big Ag and Apple,
has been reintroduced

#1yrago Health industry lobbyists are posing as "ordinary citizens who
don't want Medicare for All"

#1yrago IBM supplied surveillance gear to Davao while Duterte was mayor
and cheering on the city's police-linked death-squads


👩🏿‍🔬 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (nakedcapitalism.com/), Slashdot
(https://slashdot.org), Geekologie (https://geekologie.com), Geoffrey
MacDougall (https://twitter.com/taliesan).

Currently writing: I've just finished rewrites on a short story, "The
Canadian Miracle," for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of
my next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. I've also just completed "Baby Twitter," a piece of
design fiction also set in The Lost Cause's prehistory, for a British
think-tank. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel next.

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland:
it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs.
Last month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; it's a
magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they
cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting really into
Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just loaded Matt
Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm listening to
it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: The Masque of the Red Death and Punch Brothers Punch

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book
about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies
and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the
monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583

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