Monday, June 24, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Monday, Mar. 25, 2019
High court won't referee dispute over Michael Jordan images
In this Feb. 12, 2019 file photo, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan speaks to the media about hosting the NBA All-Star basketball game during a news conference in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- 

The Supreme Court said Monday it won't step in to referee a copyright dispute between Nike and a photographer who took a well-known image of basketball great Michael Jordan. That means lower court rulings for the athletic apparel maker will stand.

Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester sued Nike after it used an image he took of Jordan in the 1980s as inspiration for a photograph it commissioned for its own ads. The company's photo, which was used on posters and billboards, then became the basis for the "Jumpman" logo for Nike's Air Jordan shoes. Rentmeester sued Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike in 2015 saying both the Nike photo and logo infringed on his copyright image.

Rentmeester's original photo of Jordan was taken for Life magazine in 1984, while Jordan was a student at the University of North Carolina. It shows Jordan holding a basketball in his left hand and leaping, ballet-like toward a basketball hoop. At the time, Jordan was preparing for the upcoming Summer Olympics, which were being held in Los Angeles. In the photo, Jordan is wearing the U.S. Olympic team uniform.

Both Rentmeester's photo and Nike's photo involve a basketball hoop at the right side of the image and were taken from a similar angle. Jordan's pose is similar in both photos. But in the Nike photo, Jordan is wearing the red and black of the Chicago Bulls, which he joined in 1984, and the Chicago skyline is the background. One other difference: In Rentmeester's photo, Jordan is wearing Converse.

Rentmeester cried foul, argued that the differences between his photo and Nike's were "minor," and said that nearly every original element in his photo also appeared in Nike's. Lower courts ruled for Nike.

  • Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019
Larry Cohen, director of cult horror films, dies at 77
This Oct. 30, 2006, file photo shows writer, director Larry Cohen, left, and wife Cynthia Cohen arriving for the Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate launch party for FEARnet, a multi-platform network dedicated to horror, held at the Boulevard 3 nightclub in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Phil McCarten, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Larry Cohen, the maverick B-movie director of cult horror films "It's Alive" and "God Told Me To," has died. He was 77.

Cohen's friend and spokesman, the actor Shade Rupe, said Cohen passed away Saturday in Los Angeles surrounded by loved ones.

Cohen's films were schlocky, low-budget films that developed cult followings, spawned sequels and gained esteem for their genre reflections of contemporary social issues.

His 1974 "It's Alive," about a murderous mutant baby, dealt with the treatment of children. Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock's frequent composer, supplied the score.

His New York-set 1976 satire "God Told Me To" depicted a series of shootings and murders carried out in religious fervor. Andy Kaufman played a policeman who goes on a shooting spree during the St. Patrick's Day parade. There were also aliens.

In Cohen's 1985 film "The Stuff," Cohen skewered consumerism with a story inspired by the rise of junk food. It's about a sweet yogurt-like substance that's found oozing out of the ground and is then bottled and marketed like an ice cream alternative without the calories. The "stuff" turns out to be a parasite that turns consumers of it into zombies.

"It wasn't just going to a studio like a factory laborer and making pictures and going home every night," Cohen told the Ringer last year. "We were out there in the jungle making these movies, improvising, and having fun, and creating movies from out of thin air without much money."

"You've gotta make the picture your way and no other way," he added, "because it can't be made otherwise."

Cohen's approach — he would often shoot extreme scenes on New York City streets without permits or alerting people in the area — made him, like Roger Corman, revered among subsequent generations of independent genre-movie filmmakers. A documentary released last year, "King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen," paid tribute to Cohen.

"Larry Cohen truly was an independent freewheeling movie legend," the writer-director Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead," ''Baby Driver") said on Sunday, praising him "for so many fun, high-concept genre romps with ideas bigger than the budgets."

The New York-native Cohen began in television, where he wrote episodes for series like "The Fugitive," ''The Defenders" and "Surfside 6." New York would be the setting for many of Cohen's films, including 1982's "Q," in which a giant flying lizard nests atop the Chrysler Building.

Cohen's 1973 blaxspoitation crime drama "Black Caesar," scored by James Brown, was about a Harlem gangster. He and star Fred Williamson reunited the next year for "Hell Up in Harlem."

Cohen later directed Bette Davis' last film, "Wicked Stepmother," in 1989. More recently, he wrote the 2002 Colin Farrell thriller "Phone Booth" and 2004's "Cellular," with Chris Evans.

Cohen was often his own producer, director, writer and sometimes prop-maker and production manager. "Otherwise," he told the Village Voice, "I'd have to sit down with producers, and producers are a real pain in the ass, believe me."

  • Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019
Thousands in Germany protest planned EU internet reforms
People protest against the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market by the European Union in Stuttgart, Germany, Saturday, March 23, 2019. People fear for the freedom of the internet when users content has to pass upload filters to protect copyrights. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP)
BERLIN (AP) -- 

Tens of thousands of people have marched in cities across Germany to protest planned European Union copyright reforms that they fear will lead to online censorship.

The dpa news agency reports the biggest protest Saturday was in Munich, where 40,000 people marched under the motto "save your internet."

Thousands of others took part in smaller demonstrations in the German cities of Cologne, Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin and other cities against the bill that is being voted on this week.

The most controversial section would require companies such as YouTube and Facebook to take responsibility for copyrighted material that's uploaded to their platforms.

Proponents say the new rules will help ensure authors, artists and journalists are paid.

Opponents claim they could restrict freedom of speech, hamper online creativity and force websites to install filters.

  • Saturday, Mar. 23, 2019
Reel-y? New beer can double as motion picture film developer
In this undated photo provided by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, cans of Dogfish's SuperEight beer are displayed on a table in Milton, Del. Kodak says the new beer hitting the market can be used to develop its Super 8 movie film. (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery via AP)
ROCHESTER, NY (AP) -- 

Kodak says a new beer hitting the market can be used to develop its Super 8 movie film.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware created its SuperEIGHT beer after a conversation with people at Kodak, the upstate New York technology company most famous for its photographic roots.

Dogfish learned from Kodak that heightened levels of acidity and vitamin C in certain beers could make them a processing agent for film. That inspired the brewery to design such a beer. Kodak helped by testing it.

Dogfish founder Sam Calagione says he'll document his summer travels on Super 8 film that will be developed in SuperEIGHT beer and turned into a short film.

The beer, made with pear, mango, berries, kiwi, quinoa and salt, is set for national distribution next month.

  • Friday, Mar. 22, 2019
Papa John's scores Shaq to help revive its image
In this June 26, 2018 file photo, Shaquille O'Neal attends the world premiere of "Uncle Drew" at Alice Tully Hall in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Papa John's has a new pitchman: Shaquille O'Neal.

The chain says the basketball Hall of Famer will appear in TV commercials and promote Papa John's in other ways. He will also join the company's board of directors and invest in nine of its restaurants in the Atlanta area.

Papa John's is trying to revive its image after the company's founder and namesake, John Schnatter, was reported to have used a racial slur during a media training session. Schnatter, who was the face of the company, has apologized for the slur and the company scrubbed his face from the company's logo and advertisements last year. Schnatter is still the Louisville, Kentucky-based company's biggest shareholder.

Papa John's International Inc. says it will pay O'Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for a three-year endorsement deal.

Wall Street seems to think it's a winning partnership. Shares of Papa John's soared nearly 6 percent Friday.

  • Friday, Mar. 22, 2019
Fox 2000, arm behind "Hidden Figures," to close under Disney
The exterior of Fox Studios is pictured, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Fox 2000, the specialty unit behind such diverse literary adaptations as "Hidden Figures," ''Love, Simon" and "Life of Pi," is closing shop under the Walt Disney Co.

A person familiar with the decision who was not authorized to speak publicly said Thursday that Disney will complete the films currently in production, but that no more will be made under the label. One under way is "The Woman in the Window" with Amy Adams and Gary Oldman.

Fox 2000 films like "The Fault In Our Stars," ''The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me" will continue to live in Disney's library.

Thursday came with many layoffs for Fox executives in the wake the Disney acquisition, but it remains unclear what's in store for Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler or her team.

  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
MillerCoors sues Anheuser-Busch over Super Bowl corn syrup ads
This undated file image provided by Anheuser-Busch shows a scene from the company's Bud Light 2019 Super Bowl NFL football spot. (Anheuser-Busch via AP, File)
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- 

A fight between beer giants escalated Thursday after MillerCoors filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch that accused its rival of trying to "frighten" consumers into switching to Bud Light with "misleading" Super Bowl ads.

MillerCoors said in the lawsuit filed in Wisconsin federal court that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch has spent as much as $30 million on a "false and misleading" campaign, including $13 million in its first commercials during this year's Super Bowl . The ad showed a medieval caravan pushing a huge barrel of corn syrup to castles for MillerCoors to make Miller Lite and Coors Light. The commercial states that Bud Light isn't brewed with corn syrup.

Chicago-based MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have the biggest U.S. market share at 24.8 percent and 41.6 percent, respectively, but they've been losing business in recent years to smaller independent brewers, imports, and wine and spirits, according to the Brewers Association.

Anheuser-Busch's ad drew a rebuke from the National Corn Growers Association, which thanked MillerCoors for its support. In its lawsuit, MillerCoors said it's "not ashamed of its use of corn syrup as a fermentation aid."

Corn syrup is used by several brewers during fermentation. During that process, corn syrup is broken down and consumed by yeast so none of it remains in the final product. Bud Light is brewed with rice instead of corn syrup, but Anheuser-Busch uses corn syrup in some of its other beers, including Stella Artois Cidre and Busch Light.

Responding to the lawsuit, Anheuser-Busch said its campaign is truthful and designed to bring consumers "transparency" about what's in the beer they drink.

"MillerCoors' lawsuit is baseless and will not deter Bud Light from providing consumers with the transparency they demand," said Gemma Hart, the vice president of communications at Anheuser-Busch. "We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising."

MillerCoors maintains Anheuser-Busch is preying on health conscious consumers who have negative connotations of corn syrup, sometimes confusing it with the high-fructose corn syrup in sodas.

"Anheuser-Busch is fearmongering over a common beer ingredient it uses in many of its own beers, as a fermentation aid that is not even present in the final product. This deliberate deception is bad for the entire beer category," Marty Maloney, a MillerCoors spokesman, said in a statement.

MillerCoors wants a judge to order Anheuser-Busch to stop the ads and to give MillerCoors any profits it earned as a result of the campaign. Besides the television commercials, Anheuser-Busch has spread its campaign through social media, full-page newspaper ads, and billboards placed in Milwaukee.

MillerCoors said its competitors campaign is intended to "irreparably harm" the company's reputation.

The feud threatens to disrupt an alliance between the two companies to work on a campaign to promote the beer industry amid declining sales.

  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
Facebook left millions of passwords readable by employees
In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo a Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. Facebook said Thursday, March 21, 2019, that it stored millions of its users’ passwords in plain text for years. The acknowledgement from the social media giant came after a security researcher posted about the issue online. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

Facebook left millions of user passwords readable by its employees for years, the company said Thursday , an acknowledgement it offered after a security researcher posted about the issue online.

By storing passwords in readable plain text, Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices. Those call for organizations and websites to save passwords in a scrambled form that makes it almost impossible to recover the original text.

"There is no valid reason why anyone in an organization, especially the size of Facebook, needs to have access to users' passwords in plain text," said cybersecurity expert Andrei Barysevich of Recorded Future.

Facebook said there is no evidence its employees abused access to this data. But thousands of employees could have searched them. The company said the passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them.

The incident reveals yet another huge and basic oversight at a company that insists it is a responsible guardian for the personal data of its 2.2 billion users worldwide.

The security blog KrebsOnSecurity said Facebook may have left the passwords of some 600 million Facebook users vulnerable. In a blog post , Facebook said it will likely notify "hundreds of millions" of Facebook Lite users, millions of Facebook users and tens of thousands of Instagram users that their passwords were stored in plain text.

Facebook Lite is a version designed for people with older phones or low-speed internet connections. It is used primarily in developing countries.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted a new "privacy-focused vision " for the social network that would emphasize private communication over public sharing. The company wants to encourage small groups of people to carry on encrypted conversations that neither Facebook nor any other outsider can read.

The fact that the company couldn't manage to do something as simple as encrypting passwords, however, raises questions about its ability to manage more complex encryption issues — such in messaging — flawlessly.

Facebook said it discovered the problem in January. But security researcher Brian Krebs wrote that in some cases the passwords had been stored in plain text since 2012. Facebook Lite launched in 2015 and Facebook bought Instagram in 2012.

Recorded Future's Barysevich said he could not recall any major company caught leaving so many passwords exposed internally. He said he's seen a number of instances where much smaller organizations made such information readily available — not just to programmers but also to customer support teams.

Security analyst Troy Hunt, who runs the 'haveibeenpwned.com' data breach website, said that the situation is embarrassing for Facebook, but that there's no serious, practical impact unless an adversary gained access to the passwords. But Facebook has had major breaches, most recently in September when attackers accessed some 29 million accounts .

Jake Williams, president of Rendition Infosec, said storing passwords in plain text is "unfortunately more common than most of the industry talks about" and tends to happen when developers are trying to rid a system of bugs. He said the Facebook blog post suggests storing passwords in plain text may have been "a sanctioned practice," although he said it's also possible a "rogue development team" was to blame.

Bajak reported from Boston.

  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
Lee Daniels: "Pain and anger" around "Empire" in recent weeks
In this Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017 file photo, Lee Daniels, co-creator of the Fox series "Empire," poses for a portrait during the 2017 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Ron Eshel/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

"Empire" co-creator and executive producer Lee Daniels says the weeks since cast member Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with fabricating a racist and homophobic attack have been "a freakin' rollercoaster."

In an Instagram video that doesn't refer to Smollett by name, Daniels says since "the incident" he and his cast have "experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don't know how to deal with it."

Daniels had been among the first to voice his support for Smollett after he made the report in January.

Daniels says the situation nearly made him forget to tell audiences that the Fox drama returns to the air Wednesday. Daniels and other producers removed Smollett's character from the season's final episodes after his arrest in Chicago.

Smollett has pleaded not guilty.

  • Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2019
Europe fines Google $1.7 billion in antitrust case
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. European Union regulators have hit Google with a 1.49 billion euro ($1.68 billion) fine for abusing its dominant role in online advertising. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
BRUSSELS (AP) -- 

Europe's antitrust regulators slapped Google with a big fine Wednesday for the third time in less than two years, ordering the tech giant to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for freezing out rivals in the online advertising business.

The ruling brings to nearly $10 billion the fines imposed against Google by the European Union. And it comes at a time when big tech companies around the world are facing increasing regulatory pressure and fierce political attacks over privacy violations, online misinformation, hate speech and other abuses.

Still, the latest penalty isn't likely to have much effect on Google's business. It involves practices the company says it already ended, and the sum is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit that its parent, Alphabet, made last year.

Alphabet stock rose 2 percent on Wall Street on Wednesday.

The EU ruling applies to a narrow portion of Google's ad business: when Google sells ads next to Google search results on third-party websites.

Investigators found that Google inserted exclusivity clauses in its contracts that barred these websites from running similarly placed ads sold by Google's rivals.

As a result, advertisers and website owners "had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers," said the EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

Anyone who suffered from Google's behavior can seek compensation through national courts, she said.

EU regulators opened their investigation in 2016 — seven years after Microsoft filed a complaint — though by that time, Google had already made some changes to give customers more freedom to show competing ads. For that reason, regulators did not require a specific remedy to restore competition.

But Vestager said it appeared rivals haven't been able to catch up, and some are "quite small." By contrast, the EU said, Google has more than 70 percent of the European market for selling ads that run alongside search results on third-party websites.

Google did not say whether it would appeal.

"We've already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission's concerns," Google's senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a statement. "Over the next few months, we'll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe."

E-marketing analyst Bill Fisher noted a "growing wave of sentiment" toward curbing the influence of Big Tech and said that even if the EU's rulings apply only to Google's European operations, Google should "begin to open up, become more transparent and possibly look to alter some of its business practices" worldwide.

Earlier this month, a British expert panel recommended the government curb the dominance of giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. In the U.S., Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up the biggest American tech companies, accusing them of wielding too much power.

This week, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists, Facebook agreed to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

The EU has led the way in promoting tougher regulation of big tech companies. Besides cracking down on antitrust breaches by Microsoft and Intel, it has enforced stricter data privacy rules that affect Facebook and other social media companies.

U.S. regulators haven't been as tough, though the Federal Trade Commission recently created a task force focused on anti-competitive behavior in the industry.

Last year, Vestager fined Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion at the time) for forcing cellphone makers using the company's Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

In 2017, she penalized Google 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for manipulating online shopping search results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping, at the expense of its rivals.

Google, which is appealing those two earlier fines, has said it has since made adjustments to its shopping results and will start asking European users of Android phones if they want to use other search or browser apps.

Chan reported from London. Tali Arbel in New York contributed to this report.

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