Ouch: Romney Calls Tesla a ‘Loser’

In the back and forth in Wednesday night’s presidential debate over tax breaks to energy companies, Republican nominee Mitt Romney argued that President Obama’s grants and tax breaks to renewable energy companies equalled 50 years of the tax breaks to gas companies.

Romney then name-dropped a few beneficiaries including the bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra and Tesla Motors, the car maker that has gotten a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy, which it is paying off.

Romney then quipped that “One of my friends said, ‘You don’t pick the winners and losers. You pick the losers.’”

Snap. And ouch.

It’s a bit premature to call Tesla a loser – especially as the company is building cars it hopes will revolutionize transportation.

Moreover, founder Elon Musk says it will accelerate its payment of the principal in the spring — and the Department of Energy isn’t complaining it’s not getting its money back.

While Tesla Motor’s future remains deeply uncertain, the Tesla Model S has gotten fantastic reviews, and Musk is inarguably one of Silicon Valley’s visionaries.

So calling Tesla a loser might be one of those “zingers” that everyone looks for in these kind of debates, but it’s certainly not a way to win the respect of the tech world.

YouTube Alters Copyright Algorithms, Will ‘Manually’ Review Some Claims

Photo: Smokeghost / Flickr

Google-owned YouTube said Wednesday it is altering its algorithms to reduce invalid copyright infringement claims on its video-sharing site and will begin manually reviewing some claims instead of the system automatically blocking disputed footage.

UPDATE 10/5/2012: Actually Google subsequently ‘clarified’ its blog post to reflect that YouTube will *not* be doing any manual reviews of questionable algorithmic copyright matches.

The development comes a month after First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention was wrongly flagged by algorithms just after it aired. YouTube, the official streaming partner of the Democratic National Convention, automatically put a copyright blocking message on the livestream video of the event shortly after it ended.

Thabet Alfishawi, rights management product manager for YouTube, said “mistakes can and do happen” due to the volume of uploaded videos and the sheer number of copyrighted clips uploaded into its automated Content ID service. We at Wired have labeled the algorithm “streaming video’s robotic overlord.”

To address the issue of false positives and outright abuse of the system, he said, “We’ve improved the algorithms that identify potentially invalid claims. We stop these claims from automatically affecting user videos and place them in a queue to be manually reviewed.”

YouTube five years ago engineered a filtering system enabling rights holders to upload music and videos they own to a “fingerprinting” database — 500,000 hours of reference files to date. When YouTube account holders upload their videos, the algorithm known as Content ID scans new uploads against the copyright database for matches.

If a full or partial match is found, the alleged rights holder can have the video automatically removed, or it can place advertising on the video and make money every time somebody clicks on the video.

The idea was to solve the problem of large copyright holders constantly complaining about copyright violations. The compromise lets people submit homemade videos set to one of their favorite musicians’ songs or a snippet from a movie and allow the original creator to benefit from the exposure and ad dollars if they so choose.

But if Content ID overmatches or a rogue manages to feed the filter content it doesn’t own, a YouTube user could see her video hijacked through a false copyright claim because Content ID had largely functioned on auto-pilot.

Under the new rules announced Wednesday, however, if the uploader challenges the match, the alleged rights holder must abandon the claim or file an official takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (Falsely representing ownership in a DMCA flap may expose one to potential monetary damages.)

“Prior to today, if a content owner rejected that dispute, the user was left with no recourse for certain types of Content ID claims (e.g., monetize claims). Based upon feedback from our community, today we’re introducing an appeals process that gives eligible users a new choice when dealing with a rejected dispute,” Alfishawi said. “When the user files an appeal, a content owner has two options: release the claim or file a formal DMCA notification.”

Under U.S. copyright law, Google is not required to deploy copyright filters. But rights holders are embracing it as a way to make money online. Even Viacom, which is suing YouTube for $1 billion for copyright violations, uses Content ID and its lawsuit only covers alleged copyright violations before the filter’s deployment.

A month before the Michelle Obama bungle, an official NASA recording of the Mars landing was blocked hours after the successful landing, due to a rogue complaint by a news network.

Google only allows large media companies and video networks to join the Content ID program, which has about 3,000 registered participants.


LifeLock’s IPO Is Unimpressive, But Not as Bad as Its Checkered Past

LifeLock, a company that promises to protect consumers from identity theft for $25, debuted on the public markets Wednesday, just two and a half years after the nation’s top consumer protection authorities fined the company $12 million for making false claims to Americans.

The IPO didn’t go very well, according to the AP.

The Tempe, Ariz., company dropped 30 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $8.70 in morning trading on Wednesday. The shares opened at $8.38, down 7 percent from the $9 per share that the initial public offering was priced at. The broader markets were mostly higher.

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission levied a fine of $12 million against the company for deceptive business practices and for failing to secure sensitive customer data.

The FTC said that Lifelock, which advertises itself as “#1 In Identity Theft Protection,” engaged in false advertising by promising customers that if they signed up with its service their personal information would become useless to thieves.

“In truth, the protection they provided left such a large hole … that you could drive that truck through it,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz at the time, referring to a LifeLock TV ad showing a truck painted with the CEO’s Social Security number driving around city streets. Despite LifeLock’s promise to guarantee your good name, the CEO suffered identity fraud and the founder quit amidst allegations over his checkered past.

The FTC said the company used scare tactics to convince potential customers they would be unprotected from identity theft without its service, and of warning them in letters that they were at a high risk of identity theft.

Americans who want to protect themselves from identity theft can take some simple steps to protect themselves, including shredding documents with sensitive personal information, putting a security freeze on your credit reports, and checking your free credit report every four months.

MPAA Chief Says SOPA, PIPA ‘Are Dead,’ But ISP Warning Scheme Lives On

MPAA Chairman Christopher Dodd. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

Former Sen. Christopher Dodd, now chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act aren’t going to be floated again in Congress.

“My own view, that legislation is gone. It’s over. It’s not coming back,” Dodd told Wired in an interview after an appearance at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club Tuesday night.

Still, he said the massive protest against the measures, which included online petitions and massive e-mail campaigns, “was over the top.”

SOPA, the more draconian of the two failed bills, would have required ISPs to prevent Americans from visiting blacklisted sites by altering the system known as DNS that turns site names like Google.com into IP addresses such as Instead, for the blacklisted sites, ISPs would have had to lie to their customers and tell their browsers that the site doesn’t exist — a feature online security experts said would leave the internet insecure.

During the post-talk interview, Dodd also spoke of the anti-piracy cooperation from the nation’s major internet service providers, which have agreed to disrupt internet access for online copyright scofflaws.

After an internet subscriber’s fourth copyright offense, the historic plan calls for these companies to initiate so-called “mitigation measures” that might include reducing internet speeds and redirecting a subscriber’s service to a landing page about infringement.

The internet companies may eliminate service altogether for repeat file-sharing offenders, although the plan does not directly call for such drastic action.

The plan, pushed by the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America, is expected to begin by year’s end. He labeled the deal largely “educational.”

He said no backdoors would be installed in the internet’s backbone to detect copyright scofflaws. Instead, because of the public nature of BitTorrent file sharing, peer-to-peer users’ IP addresses are often exposed in the process, allowing private companies to capture them and forward them to the appropriate internet service providers.

“It’s P-to-P,” Dodd said when asked about backdoors. He said he was concerned about the possibility of backdoors until he was briefed on how the program works.

He also praised the UltraViolet initiative, backed by many of the motion picture studios. It’s a DRM platform granting movie buffs the ability to store their content in the cloud, once they have registered their name and birthdate. They can then watch their purchased movies on a wide range of approved devices. It’s the latest entertainment industry attempt to create an environment that both locks down content to prevent piracy, while trying to keep some convenience for users.

“It’s exciting,” Dodd said.

As for a legislative solution, that’s no longer an option as Dodd and the MPAA’s attempt to ram bills through a Congress elected thanks in part to hefty donations from Hollywood were stymied by a grassroots coalition of internet users.

“These bills are dead. They are not coming back,” Dodd said on stage at Commonwealth Club. He served 30 years as a Democratic senator from Connecticut, so he’s obviously in the know.

He said he has never seen a bigger protest to proposed legislation, which was killed in January after a huge online protest and internet blackout amid fears the anti-piracy legislation went too far in fighting online copyright and trademark infringement.

Many have feared the legislation would raise its ugly head again.

“I think it changed forever how people are going to address their elected representatives,” he said to a radio and 200-member live audience. Moments later, he said, “It was a transformative event.”

Dodd, who took the MPAA’s helm more than a year ago, said the MPAA is instead seeking cooperation with Silicon Valley to help reduce piracy.

“I think all of us agree,” he said, “that it’s fundamentally wrong to steal the genius of someone’s creations.”

He lauded Google for its August unveiling of altering its algorithm to lower search rankings of sites with high numbers of copyright-infringement removal notices, “which I applaud,” he said. Google has been striking deals with content providers in order to sell and rent movies, tv shows and books to Android users — though many of those companies have long considered Google’s stance on copyright to be a serious danger to their business models.

“That’s exactly the type of efforts we need,” he said during his 70-minute discussion, led by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. “It didn’t require a law to pass. Getting that type of cooperation is important.”

“You’re saying you’re not interested in a legislative solution?” Newsom asked.

“Absolutely,” Dodd replied.

Nearing his retirement from the Senate in January last year, he said, Hollywood approached him to replace the retiring Dan Glickman, also a former politician.

“The industry came and asked me to get involved,” he said.

Federal conflict-of-interest rules prevent him from lobbying his colleagues for two years from the day he left the Senate, he said.

“There are moments,” he said, “when I wished it were 10.”