Copyright trolls, the NSA, and a Failing Zynga

Copyright troll smackdown, part II

Hated “copyright troll” firm Prenda Law got its just comeuppance this week, when the 9th Circuit tore it a proverbial new one while hearing oral arguments against the ruinous sanctions imposed two years ago by Judge Otis Wright. Continuing their masochistic tour of US courts, Prenda’s principals unsuccessfully argued that Wright’s sanctions were an overreach of his authority, and were effectively criminal sanctions, triggering plaintiff procedural rights that weren’t extended to the defendants.

The 9th Circuit said nope. Well, what they said was far more eloquent and included things like, “you’re not helping yourself by bobbing and weaving”, and “you don’t know anything do you?”. At this point, it would seem that Prenda and its sleazy, unprincipled principals need to give up. We’ll leave you with this delightful exchange between Judge Pregerson and Prenda’s attorney Daniel Voelker:

Pregerson: And you’re a great lawyer.

Voelker: I appreciate you saying that, Your Honor.

Pregerson: I mean, it says so, right there on your web site.


This week in surveillance

On Thursday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA’s wholesale collection of a “staggering” number US citizens’ phone records is illegal and a misinterpretation of Patriot Act Section 215. Acting on a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, the court ruled on the Snowden-exposed, anti-terrorism surveillance and deemed “such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records…an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.”

In a 97-page decision, the court noted that such activity should have been “preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language. There is no evidence of such a debate.“ Judge Gerard Lynch wrote that it was “prudent” to give Congress the opportunity to decide what level of surveillance is acceptable. This ruling not only restores a tiny bit of our faith in humanity, but it also voids the 2013 ruling that the data collection was permissible.

All of this comes mere weeks before the June 1 expiration of portions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which gives the FBI permission to collect citizens’ business records. Section 215 does not, however, address the bulk collection of phone data by the NSA.

The court didn’t address if the surveillance violated the Constitution. We’ll leave you to make your own conclusions about that part.

Apple Pay and the retailers

In the quest to make Apple Pay a household word, there are three major players: consumers, banks, and retailers. Banks have been on board since the beginning, with each one jockeying for that coveted first card position (since the first card you enter will pretty much become your de facto method of payment). Consumers have responded fast, with swaths of rabid Apple fans adopting the technology early. Retailers have been a somewhat trickier business. On one side, you have open antagonists like MCX-member merchants (we’re glaring at you, Rite Aid and CVS) who actively disabled NFC to prohibit shoppers from using Apple Pay in their stores. On the other you have retailers who weren’t supporting Apple Pay but weren’t necessarily prohibiting it either.

This latter position is where Home Depot sat up until this week, when they announced that they’ll now be officially supporting Apple Pay in all their stores. In fact, because Home Depot had NFC registers, there was a chance that you could pay with Apple Pay before now, but this official announcement is a huge win for Apple Pay. Even bigger is Best Buy’s promise that once their contract with MCX is up this year, they’ll go from being open antagonists to absolute supporters of Apple Pay.

Add to that this week’s survey from 451 Research that shows the consumer adoption of Apple Pay continues apace, largely to the detriment of PayPal (with our strong dislike of PayPal, we’re good with this) and it’s clear that the adoption of Apple Pay isn’t stopping any time soon.

Maybe they should ask for more lives on Facebook

Zynga, not too long ago, seemed an indomitable force. Mammoth hits like FarmVille (which, inexplicably, continues to do well), Words With Friends, and Mafia Wars catapulted the San Francisco-based company to great heights, making their 2011 IPO the largest IPO since Google’s in 2004. But a series of missteps (like the $200 million purchase of flash-in-the-pan game Draw Something) and the ephemeral nature of F2P games led to massive layoffs in 2012 and 2013, shrinking the once thriving company’s workforce and driving stock prices to under $3.

This week more layoffs were announced as Zynga plans to cut 18% (roughly 250 positions) of its workforce as well as close one of its studios.

Free-to-Play game success is a fleeting thing. While it’s not impossible to produce hit after hit, it is extremely difficult, and even a few lackluster performances can cripple a successful company. These games rely on a huge amount of spending from a small number of hardcore players (“whales” in gaming parlance). Once the whale pod has moved on to the next best thing, your F2P game isn’t the cash cow it once was. Popularity is fleeting, a lesson Zynga knows all too well at this point. 

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