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  1. A federal court in Seattle has clarified that all third party intermediaries must cut their ties to a group of Nintendo 'piracy hack' stores. The order was prompted by GoDaddy's refusal to transfer the Stxwitch.com domain to Nintendo. While the new order applies to any “variant or successor” of the stores, it's not clearly defined what this actually means. Nintendo is doing all it can to stop the distribution of piracy enabling hacks and modchips, including SX Core and SX Lite. Earlier this year, the company sued a group of known ‘offenders’ that sell these tools. After the stores failed to show up in court, Nintendo requested a default judgment and permanent injunction, which was granted soon after. Injunction ‘Shuts Down’ Modchip Stores The injunction was a clear victory as it allowed the Japanese gaming giant to shut down several sites, including TXswitch.com, SXflashcard.com and Axiogame.com. These domain names were later transferred to the company as well. That success wasn’t permanent though. While some stores may have vanished permanently, others have continued under new names. In the case of Txswitch.com that was pretty obvious. A day after Txswitch.com was pulled offline, the store made a comeback on Stxwitch.com. This site looks nearly identical to the old one and even uses the same logo and code. GoDaddy Refuses to Take Down New Domain This type of ‘domain hopping’ is common in pirate circles and Nintendo was somewhat prepared for it. The injunction includes a section which states that “any variant or successor” of the stores is also covered, so Nintendo swiftly asked domain registrar GoDaddy to suspend the new domain as well. However, GoDaddy refused. Despite the mention that successors are covered, the domain registrar requested a new court order which specifically mentions Stxwitch.com. To resolve this standoff Nintendo went to court again, requesting clarification, which came this week in the form of a new order, issued by US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly. STXWITCH.COM Has to Go Offline “STXWITCH.COM is a ‘variant or successor’ domain name as that term is used in the Judgment,” Judge Zilly writes, stressing that all intermediaries have to cut their ties with the site. “Defendants and all third parties acting in active concert and participation with Defendants, including registrars, are ENJOINED from supporting or facilitating access to STXWITCH.COM, and are ORDERED to cease to use the domain name STXWITCH.COM and immediately transfer STXWITCH.COM to Nintendo’s control.” At the time of writing the store is still online, but with this order in hand, that likely won’t be the case for long. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t reappear under yet another new domain. All ‘Variants and Successors’ are Covered If that happens, Nintendo doesn’t have to go to court again, Judge Zilly clarifies. GoDaddy and all other domain registrars, registries, and other intermediaries will have to take action against sites operated by the defendants, no matter what domain they use. “For avoidance of doubt, the Court’s Judgment applies to all domain names controlled by Defendants through which Defendants engage in the conduct found to be unlawful in this lawsuit, whether or not the exact domain name is explicitly listed in the Judgment,” the order reads. While this sounds very clear and obvious, it does raise some questions. When is a new domain a ‘variant or successor’? Questions Remain In the case of Txswitch the similarities were rather striking, as the same code and design were used. But what if Nintendo ‘suspects’ that the defendants are making a comeback from a different domain with a different look? What evidence does Nintendo need to show that a new domain is a ‘variant or successor’ and is it then up to a company such as GoDaddy to ‘judge’ whether this is enough? These are all hypothetical situations but it is likely that GoDaddy refused Nintendo’s initial request because they don’t want to be the arbiter. Future refusals will come at a price, however, as Judge Zilly ruled that failing to comply opens the door to punitive and monetary sanctions. Legal uncertainty aside, this order doesn’t necessarily end the ‘whack-a-mole.’ There are plenty of foreign registrars and registries that don’t fall under the jurisdiction of US courts. Some of these will demand a local court order from Nintendo, which will start the process all over again. TorrentFreak reached out to Stxwitch to ask what their plans are for the future. We have yet to hear back, but at the time of writing, they are still accepting new orders. — A copy of the order from US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  2. The Seattle Police Department launched a program this week to let the public notify them they could be potential victims of a “swatting” hoax, according to Ars Technica. Swatting is a crime in which a malicious party deceives police into thinking a dangerous situation is developing at someone else’s address in the hopes that officers will carry out their grudges for them. Many cases have involved streamers or online personalities whose enemies, or just random jerks, want to harass them. “Many of these people the connections you build with these streamers are intense and personal connections,” James Feore, director of the Seattle Online Broadcasters Association, told K5 News. “If they reach a point where they dislike a person, that feeling of hatred becomes that much more intense.” The crime is at least somewhat predicated on the idea that U.S. police forces won’t use a reasonable amount of judgment and instead come down on the target in a heavy-handed fashion. Sometimes it turns deadly, as in the case of Tyler Barris, a Los Angeles man authorities allege was a serial swatter. He’s been charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly escalating a Call of Duty dispute into a deadly scenario, phoning in a hoax that lead to a police officer killing otherwise uninvolved and unarmed Wichita, Kansas man Andrew Finch. (Authorities have declined to charge the officer, though Finch’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.) Other targets of swatting have included mass shooting survivor David Hogg, whose Parkland, Florida home was surrounded by officers and a police helicopter over a hoax in June 2018 while he was in DC to accept the RFK Human Rights award. The SPD has set up an official swatting resources page and issued a public service announcement on YouTube warning of the hoax, Ars Technica wrote. They also set up a dedicated system for emergency dispatchers in which users can submit specific addresses for law enforcement to double-check before determining a response. Ars Technica wrote: Source
  3. Microsoft is dedicating $500 million to fund construction of affordable homes and homeless services in the Seattle region in an effort to alleviate a growing housing crisis driven by the city’s tech boom. Microsoft executives Brad Smith, Satya Nadella and Amy Hood The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant will commit $475 million for loans to affordable housing developers over three years and another $25 million to services for low-income and homeless residents. It’s the largest philanthropic pledge in Microsoft’s history. “This is a big problem,” Microsoft President Brad Smith and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “And it’s a problem that is continuing to get worse. It requires a multifaceted and sustained effort by the entire region to solve. At Microsoft, we’re committed to doing our part to help kick-start new solutions to this crisis.” Microsoft’s announcement comes amid growing pressure on tech companies to mitigate the consequences of growth. Over the past decade, big tech companies have drawn thousands of newcomers to the Seattle tech region with lucrative tech jobs, bidding up housing costs and often squeezing out low-income neighbors. In September, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched a $2 billion philanthropic fund to help homeless families and improve preschool education. The announcement came after Amazon and other businesses spent months embroiled in a battle with the Seattle City Council over a tax on the city’s top-grossing companies to fund affordable housing. Homelessness was also a focus area for Paul Allen, the late Microsoft co-founder. Paul G. Allen Philanthropies donated $30 million to a new low-income housing development and homeless resource center in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood. Allen passed away in October but the project is still under construction. Microsoft partnered with another Seattle area tech company, Zillow, to study the housing crisis over the past eight months. They found that since 2011, jobs in the Seattle region have grown 21 percent while growth in housing construction has lagged behind at 13 percent. Over the same time period, median home prices in the Puget Sound region increased 96 percent while the median household income only rose 34 percent, researchers found. They estimate that there is a gap of about 305,000 middle and low-income affordable housing units in the region. In response to the housing shortage, Microsoft will direct $225 million toward middle-income housing in six cities: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton and Sammamish. An additional $250 million will go toward low-income housing across the entire King County region. The remaining $25 million will come in the form of grants to homeless service providers. The software giant is well-positioned to take on a philanthropic endeavor of this magnitude. Microsoft posted $29.1 billion in revenue and $8.8 billion in net profits for the most recent quarter. It has $135.9 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments. “We recognize that Microsoft is in a unique position to put the size of its balance sheet behind this effort,” the blog post says. The mayors of nine Seattle suburbs have agreed to prioritize policy changes to increase the supply of affordable housing in conjunction with Microsoft’s $500 million commitment. Microsoft is also encouraging the state of Washington to invest in affordable housing. The company is recommending a $200 million appropriation to the Housing Trust Fund and other housing policy changes. Microsoft plans to announce its $500 million commitment at an event in Bellevue, Wash. Thursday near its headquarters. Source
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