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Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Open Source Hardware to Tinker With?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 06:40 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's weekend-projects department:
This question comes from an anonymous Slashdot reader who just got an Arduino and started tinkering with electronics:
I'm quite amazed at the quality of the hardware, software, and the available tutorials and (mostly free) literature. A very exciting and inexpensive way to get a basic understanding of electronics and the art of microcontroller programming.
Now that I'm infected with the idea of Open Source hardware, I'm wondering if the Slashdot community could suggest a few more things to get for a beginner in electronics with experience in programming and a basic understanding of machine learning methods. I was looking at the OpenBCI project [Open Brain Computer Interface], which seems like an interesting piece of hardware, but because of the steep price tag and the lack of reviews or blog posts on the internet, I decided to look for something else.
Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best open source hardware to tinker with?

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Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Are Ripping $80,000 Drones Out of the Sky
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 04:03 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's very-angry-birds department:
schwit1 found this story in the Wall Street Journal:
Daniel Parfitt thought he'd found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber. There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle. Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt's drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground... "It ended up being a pile of splinters"...
These highly territorial raptors, which eat kangaroos, have no interest in yielding their apex-predator status to the increasing number of drones flying around the bush. They've even been known to harass the occasional human in a hang glider... Camouflage techniques, like putting fake eyes on the drones, don't appear to be fully effective, and some pilots have even considered arming drones with pepper spray or noise devices to ward off eagles.
One mining survey superintendent said he's now lost 12 different drones to eagle attacks, costing his employer $210,000. Another drone was actually attacked by nine different eagles, and its pilot estimates eagles are now attacking 20% of all drone flights in rural Australia.

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Donate Your Noise To Xiph/Mozilla's Deep-Learning Noise Suppression Project
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 04:03 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's can-you-not-hear-me-now? department:
Mozilla-backed researchers are working on a real-time noise suppression algorithm using a neural network -- and they want your noise! Long-time Slashdot reader jmv writes:
The Mozilla Research RRNoise project combines classic signal processing with deep learning, but it's small and fast. No expensive GPUs required -- it runs easily on a Raspberry Pi. The result is easier to tune and sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems (been there!). And you can help!
From the site:
Click on this link to let us record one minute of noise from where you are... We're interested in noise from any environment where you might communicate using voice. That can be your office, your car, on the street, or anywhere you might use your phone or computer.
They claim it already sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems, and even though the code isn't optmized yet, "it already runs about 60x faster than real-time on an x86 CPU."

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Laser Light Forges Graphene Into the Third Dimension
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 02:43 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's farewell-Flatland department:
Big Hairy Ian quotes New Atlas: The wonder material graphene gets many of its handy quirks from the fact that it exists in two dimensions, as a sheet of carbon only one atom thick. But to actually make use of it in practical applications, it usually needs to be converted into a 3D form. Now, researchers have developed a new and relatively simple way to do just that, using lasers to 'forge' a three-dimensional pyramid out of graphene... By focusing a laser onto a fine point on a 2D graphene lattice, the graphene at that spot is irradiated and bulges outwards. A variety of three-dimensional shapes can be made by writing patterns with the laser spot, with the height of the shape controlled by adjusting the irradiation dose at each particular point. The team illustrated that technique by deforming a sheet of graphene into a 3D pyramid, standing 60 nm high. That sounds pretty tiny, but it's 200 times taller than the graphene sheet itself.

"The beauty of the technique is that it's fast and easy to use," says one of the researchers. "It doesn't require any additional chemicals or processing."

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Google Plans Upgrade of Two-Factor Authentication For Politicians and CEOs
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 02:43 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's phishing-the-famous department:
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Google plans on upgrading its two-factor authentication tool with an improved, physical security measure aimed at protecting high-profile users from politically motivated cyberattacks, according to a report from Bloomberg. The new service, to be called Advanced Protection Program and potentially slated to launch next month, will trade out the standard authentication process for services like Gmail and Google Drive with physical USB security keys. The service would also restrict the types of third-party apps and services that could connect to a user's Google account. The changes are not likely to affect standard Google account owners, as Bloomberg reports that Google "plans to market the product to corporate executives, politicians and others with heightened security concerns."

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Donate You Noise To Xiph/Mozilla's Deep-Learning Noise Suppression Project
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 01:23 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's can-you-not-hear-me-now? department:
Mozilla-backed researchers are working on a real-time noise suppression algorithm using a neural network -- and they want your noise! Long-time Slashdot reader jmv writes:
The Mozilla Research RRNoise project combines classic signal processing with deep learning, but it's small and fast. No expensive GPUs required -- it runs easily on a Raspberry Pi. The result is easier to tune and sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems (been there!). And you can help!
From the site:
Click on this link to let us record one minute of noise from where you are... We're interested in noise from any environment where you might communicate using voice. That can be your office, your car, on the street, or anywhere you might use your phone or computer.
They claim it already sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems, and even though the code isn't optmized yet, "it already runs about 60x faster than real-time on an x86 CPU."

Read Replies (0)
ICANN Delays KSK Rollover Because of Lazy ISPs, Technical Faults
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 12:03 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's losing-your-keys department:
ICANN had planned to change the master key used to sign secure Domain Name System records next week for the first time in history. But now an anonymous reader writes:Inattentive ISPs and technical faults have led the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to delay the KSK Rollover for next year. ICANN was supposed to remove the root encryption KSK key from core DNS servers on October 11 and allow a new one to take effect. The key is used for the DNSSEC protocol. According to ICANN, between 6% to 8% of ISPs did not install the new KSK key to replace the one issued in 2010. The organization says that if it had gone forward with the original KSK Rollover plan, over 60 million Internet users would have been unable to make DNS requests. For the vast majority, ICANN blames lazy ISPs, which failed to update their existing keys. ICANN also believes that many ISPs may not be aware they had not installed the latest KSK. ICANN also distributed software to automatically pull down and install the new KSK. Some ISPs opted to use this software, which apparently had some bugs and failed to download and install the new KSK, in some situations. Because of this, ICANN announced this week it would delay the KSK Rollover final step — of removing and revoking the original KSK key -- to the first quarter of 2018. ICANN has not decided yet on a precise date.

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Meet The Next Major Operating System: Amazon's Alexa
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 10:43 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa-OS department:
ZDNet's editor-in-chief warns that Amazon has ambitious plans for its new Echo Plus:
Amazon is making an explicit play to be the home hub because it can automatically discover and set up lights, locks, plugs, and switches without the need for additional hubs or apps. And the Alexa 'routines' feature will be able to tie all of this together by allowing you to automate a series of actions with a single voice command: saying "Alexa, good night," and having it turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV, for example. A platform that other apps and devices can connect into? This starts to sound a lot like an operating system for the home to me.
It's not just the home, either; Amazon announced a deal to make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app. Travellers will also have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, allowing them to order their coffee while driving and thus skip the line. Back in January, Amazon and Ford said they were working together to allow voice commands to turn on the engine, lock or unlock the doors as well as play music and use other skills...
It's still early days but I think Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers -- an operating system for the home, if not more, if the automotive tie-ups take off too. All of this will make Amazon a serious force to be reckoned with. Windows has the desktop, and Android and iOS can fight it out for the smartphone, but right now Alexa has a lock on the smart home.

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Russia Suspected In GPS-Spoofing Attacks On Ships
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 10:43 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's global-re-positioning-signal department:
How did a 37-ton tanker suddenly vanish from GPS off the coast of Russia? AmiMoJo shares a report from Wired:
The ship's systems located it 25 to 30 miles away -- at Gelendzhik airport... The Atria wasn't the only ship affected by the problem... At the time, Atria's AIS system showed around 20 to 25 large boats were also marooned at Gelendzhik airport. Worried about the situation, captain Le Meur radioed the ships. The responses all confirmed the same thing: something, or someone, was meddling with the their GPS...

After trawling through AIS data from recent years, evidence of spoofing becomes clear. GPS data has placed ships at three different airports and there have been other interesting anomalies. "We would find very large oil tankers who could travel at the maximum speed at 15 knots," said a former director for Marine Transportation Systems at the U.S. Coast Guard. "Their AIS, which is powered by GPS, would be saying they had sped up to 60 to 65 knots for an hour and then suddenly stopped. They had done that several times"...
"It looks like a sophisticated attack, by somebody who knew what they were doing and were just testing the system..." says Lukasz Bonenberg from the University of Nottingham's Geospatial Institute. "You basically need to have atomic level clocks."
The U.S. Maritime Administration confirms 20 ships have been affected -- all traveling in the Black Sea -- though a U.S. Coast Guard representative "refused to comment on the incident, saying any GPS disruption that warranted further investigation would be passed onto the Department of Defence." But the captain of the 37-ton tanker already has his own suspicions. "It looks like the Russians define an area where they don't want the GPS to apply."

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Equifax CEO: All Companies Get Breached
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 09:23 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's especially-if-they're-named-Equifax department:
An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:There are two kinds of companies, according to a saying that former Equifax CEO Rick Smith shared in a speech at the University of Georgia on August 17. "There's those companies that have been breached and know it, and there are those companies that have been breached and don't know it," he said. Though it was still 21 days before his company would reveal that it had been massively hacked, Equifax, at that time, had been breached and knew it...
Smith's fastest growing area of security concern was state-sponsored hacking and espionage, he said. "It's countries you'd expect -- you know it's China, Russia, Iran, and Iraq -- and they're being very aggressive trying to get access to the know-how about how companies have built their capabilities, and transport that know-how back to their countries," said Smith. "It's my number one worry." he added.
"In a speech at the University of Georgia last month, he described a stagnating credit reporting agency with a 'culture of tenure' and 'average talent", reports Bloomberg, adding that the Equifax CEO also bragged that the company's data-crunching business nonetheless earned a gross profit margin of 90%.

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Britain Opens Its First Subsidy-Free Solar Power Farm
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 08:03 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sunny-forecasts department:
AmiMoJo quotes Reuters: Britain's first solar power farm to operate without a government subsidy is due to open in eastern England on Tuesday, as a sharp fall in costs has made renewable energy much more economical. Britain needs to invest in new energy capacity to replace aging coal and nuclear plants that are due to close in the 2020s. But it is also trying to reduce subsidies on renewable power generation... The 10 megawatt (MW) solar farm, in Clayhill, Bedfordshire, can generate enough electricity to power around 2,500 homes and also has a 6 MW battery storage facility on site.

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US Prisons Have a Cellphone Smuggling Problem
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 04:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's can-you-hear-me-now? department:
An anonymous reader quotes NBC:
Cellphones smuggled into prisons -- enabling inmates to order murders, plan escapes, deal drugs and extort money -- have become a scourge in a bloc of states where corrections officers annually confiscate as many as one for every three inmates... In South Carolina, prison officers have found and taken one phone for every three inmates, the highest rate in the country. In Oklahoma, it's one phone for every six prisoners, the nation's second-highest rate... Cellphones are prized because they allow inmates to avoid privatized jailhouse phone and visitation services that charge up to $15 for a two-minute call home to friends and family. "Inmates call their mothers like most of us do on holidays," said Dr. John Shaffer, former executive deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Corrections Department.
But for some, the phones serve a darker purpose. "Most of these guys are just chitchatting with their girlfriends, but some of these guys are stone-hardened criminals running criminal enterprises," said Kevin Tamez of the MPM group, a litigation consulting firm that specializes in prison security... Meth rings operated by prisoners with cellphones, some with ties to prison gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, the Irish Mob Gang and the United Blood Nation, have been discovered in at least five Southern facilities. Phones have also played a role in breakouts, with one South Carolina inmate dialing up drone delivery of wire cutters and cash for his escape in July. Cellphones are so prevalent in the prison system, Tamez said, that "if you don't have them, you would look like a loser."

The article reports convicts have actually uploaded in-prison videos to Facebook Live and to Snapchat. "Georgia inmates used phones to take photos of themselves tying up or beating other prisoners, then texted the horrifying images to the victim's family and demanded cash.

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Should Zambia Allow The Testing of Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 01 '17 at 01:20 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mobilizing-against-malaria department:
More than 400,000 lives are lost every year to malaria, reports the New York Post. But Thursday Science published two new studies on promisings ways to fight malaria -- with genetic engineering.
The first study focused on whether mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to be more resistant to the malaria-causing parasite would become weaker and less able to mate and breed... The study, led by mosquito vector biologist George Dimopoulos, found that one type of genetically modified mosquito not only bred well, but became more attractive to normal mosquitoes... Within one generation, the mosquito population was becoming 90 percent genetically modified... The results suggest the genetically modified mosquitoes would not just thrive but could possibly drive their genetic immunity to the malaria parasite into mosquito populations to which they are introduced.

The second study published Thursday uses genetic modification of bacteria found inside mosquitoes to fight malaria. Researchers genetically modified a type of bacteria, which caused it to secrete a substance inside the mosquitoes' gut that kills off the malaria-causing parasite before it can develop properly... the genetically modified versions of the bacteria automatically spread to offspring in generation after generation, the researchers found. The next step for both approaches -- the genetically modified mosquitoes and bacteria -- is to test if they work outside the lab in conditions simulating nature. Johns Hopkins has built a "mosquito house" research facility in Zambia designed specifically for such experiments... But the researchers must first convince the Zambian government to allow their genetically modified subjects into its borders.

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New 'Illusion Gap' Attack Bypasses Windows Defender Scans
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 09:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's evasive-exploits department:
An anonymous reader writes: Security researchers have discovered a new technique that allows malware to bypass Windows Defender, the standard security software that comes included with all Windows operating systems. The technique -- nicknamed Illusion Gap -- relies on a mixture of both social engineering and the use of a rogue SMB server. The attack exploits a design choice in how Windows Defender scans files stored on an SMB share before execution. For Illusion Gap to work, the attacker must convince a user to execute a file hosted on a malicious SMB server under his control. This is not as complex as it sounds, as a simple shortcut file is all that's needed. The problems occur after the user double-clicks this malicious file. By default, Windows will request from the SMB server a copy of the file for the task of creating the process that executes the file, while Windows Defender will request a copy of the file in order to scan it. SMB servers can distinguish between these two requests, and this is a problem because an attacker can configure their malicious SMB server to respond with two different files. The attacker can send a malicious file to the Windows PE Loader, and a benign file to Windows Defender. After Windows Defender scans the clean file and gives the go-ahead, Windows PE Loader will execute the malicious file without Windows Defender realizing they're two different things. Microsoft declined to patch the bug, considering it a "feature request."

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Squabble With Contractor Delayed Equifax's Response To Data Breach
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 06:40 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fighting-in-a-burning-house department:
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg's report on the contractor Equifax first hired to investigate their breach:
Equifax and Mandiant got into a dispute just as the hackers were gaining a foothold in the company's network... Mandiant warned Equifax that its unpatched systems and misconfigured security policies could indicate major problems, a person familiar with the perspectives of both sides said. For its part, Equifax believed Mandiant had sent an undertrained team without the expertise it expected from a marquee security company...
That rift, which appears to have squelched a broader look at weaknesses in the company's security posture, looks to have given the intruders room to operate freely within the company's network for months. According to an internal analysis of the attack, the hackers had time to customize their tools to more efficiently exploit Equifax's software, and to query and analyze dozens of databases to decide which held the most valuable data. The trove they collected was so large it had to be broken up into smaller pieces to try to avoid tripping alarms as data slipped from the company's grasp through the summer... By the time they were done, the attackers had accessed dozens of sensitive databases and created more than 30 separate entry points into Equifax's computer systems. "They may not have immediately grasped the value of their discovery, but, as the attack escalated over the following months, that first group -- known as an entry crew -- handed off to a more sophisticated team of hackers," reports Bloomberg, suggesting that the attack may have been sponsored by a nation-state.

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Bill Gates Has An Android Phone. Has Microsoft Changed?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 04:03 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's where-do-you-want-to-go-today department:
Bill Gates uses an Android phone now. "It may not be the most surprising revelation, given profits are sinking faster than a boat without a hull and big-name partners are jumping ship left and right, but the founder of Microsoft has presumably left Windows Mobile," reports Neonwin. Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates (no relation) writes:
I would assume this is the final nail in the coffin for Windows Phone and the rumored Surface Phone which may never see the light of day. Over the past few months we have seen a change in Microsoft with them being friendly to Linux with stories of porting .NET core over to Linux, helping write a custom Linux kernel, as well as introducing the not-so-popular-on-slashdot WSL Ubuntu for WIndows 10.
Noting the Android emulators in Visual Studio, he's wondering if the company's ambitions go beyond developers, and if they're planning a Microsoft version of Android, "as the tools are in place with Ubuntu, Node.js, Python, Microsoft Code editor, and the Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition."

His original submission points out that 10 years ago these stories would have been unimaginable, but he also asks a second question: has Microsoft really changed? "Could we be seeing a new Microsoft now that the world is moving to mobile and they have no operating system in it?"

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Best Open Source Software Identified By InfoWorld Listicles
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 04:03 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you-won't-believe-what-happens-next department:
An anonymous reader writes: InfoWorld announced the winners of this year's "Best of Open Source Software Awards" -- honoring 68 different projects, spread across five categories. Besides the 15 best software development tools, they also recognized the best cloud computing software, machine learning tools, and networking and security software (as well as the best databases and analytics tools).

"Open source software isn't what it used to be," writes Doug Dineley, the site's executive editor. "The term used to conjure images of the lone developer, working into the night and through weekends, banging out line after line of code to scratch a personal itch or realize a personal vision... But as you wend your way through our Bossie winners, you're bound to be struck by the number of projects with heavyweight engineering resources behind them... Elsewhere in the open source landscape, valuable engineering resources come together in a different way -- through the shared interest of commercial software vendors."
More than 10% of the awards went to the Apache Software Foundation -- 7 of the 68 -- though I was surprised to see that five of the best software development tools are languages -- specifically Kotlin, Go, Rust, Clojure, and Typescript. Two more of the best open source software development tools were Microsoft products -- .Net Core and Visual Studio Code. And in the same category was OpenRemote a home automation platform, as well as Ethereum, which "smells and tastes like an open source project that is solving problems and serving developers."

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US Consumer Groups Warn 'Robot Car Bill' Threatens Safety
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 02:43 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's steering-committees department:
"If you don't place a Capable Engineering crew to oversee a project that involves lives, you're asking for trouble," writes Slashdot reader Neuronwelder. Consumer Reports writes:
Congress is moving ahead with plans to let self-driving cars be tested on U.S. roads without having to comply with the same safety rules as regular vehicles... The House passed its version of the legislation earlier this month with little opposition. The Senate is expected to vote on its bill in the coming weeks... "Federal law shouldn't leave consumers as guinea pigs," said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union. "We were hopeful that this bill would include much stronger measures to protect consumers against known emerging safety risks. Unfortunately, in the bill's current form, it doesn't."
The legislation, which would take effect in 18 months, would allow the deployment of up to 50,000 self-driving vehicles per company in the first year of its application, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually by the third year, exempt from essential federal safety standards... Automakers might be able to go beyond the limits by getting exemptions for more than one model. The bill also creates a means to go beyond 100,000 cars for each company, by allowing automakers to petition the NHTSA after five years for more vehicles.
"The bill pre-empts any state safety standards," argues the group Consumer Watchdog, "but there are none yet in place at the national level."

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Why Google's Gmail Phishing Warnings Give False Positives
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 01:23 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's green-alert department:
Vortex.com is one of the oldest domains on the internet -- one of the first 40 ever registered, writes Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein. So why does Google sometimes block the email he sends?
Here's why. First, my message had the audacity to mention "Google Account" or "Google Accounts" in the subject and/or body of the message. And secondly, one of my mailing lists is "google-issues" -- so some (digest format) recipients received the email from "google-issues-request@vortex.com"... Apparently what we're dealing with here is a simplistic (and frankly, rather haphazard in this respect at least) string-matching algorithm that could have come right out of the early 1970s...! [A]t least in this case, it appears that Google is basically using the venerable old UNIX/Linux "grep" command or some equivalent, and in a rather slipshod way, too.
In addition, the article concludes, "I've never found a way to get Google to 'whitelist' well-behaved senders against these kinds of errors, so some users see these false phishing warnings repeatedly.

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Hollywood's International War on Kodi Plugins And Video-Streaming Boxes
Posted by News Fetcher on September 30 '17 at 12:03 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Pirates-of-the-Kodi-Media-Players:-On-Stranger-Tides department:
An anonymous reader quotes the EFF:
In the past few years, the sale of pre-configured Kodi boxes, and the availability of a range of plugins providing access to streaming media, has seen the software's popularity balloon -- and made it the latest target of Hollywood's copyright enforcement juggernaut. We've seen this in the appearance of streaming media boxes as an enforcement priority in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, in proposals for new legislation targeting the sale of "illicit" media boxes, and in lawsuits that have been brought on both sides of the Atlantic to address the "problem" that media boxes running Kodi, like any Web browser, can be used to access media streams that were not authorized by the copyright holder...
The difficulty facing the titans of TV is that since neither those who sell Kodi boxes, nor those who write or host add-ons for the software, are engaging in any unauthorized copying by doing so, cases targeting these parties have to rely on other legal theories. So far several legal theories have been used; one in Europe against sellers of Kodi boxes, one in Canada against the owner of the popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, and two in the United States against TVAddons and a plugin developer... These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.

The EFF details the specific lawsuits in each region, and concludes that their courts "should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits."

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