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Data Sheet—Friday, June 30, 2017

Sometimes good triumphs evil. Happy Friday, Aaron in for Adam, who is on vacation. Speaking of which, we at Data Sheet will be off after this issue until Wednesday, July 5.

But back to good versus evil. Well, not evil, really, but more bureaucratic, legalistic b.s.

I mentioned earlier this week that the brilliant blog McMansionHell had gone off the air after receiving a cease and desist letter from Zillow. It seems that the Johns Hopkins grad student and part-time architecture critic Kate Wagner, who writes the blog, had been snagging pictures from the real estate listing service to illustrate her posts, angering some copyright lawyers somewhere.

But there could hardly be a clearer case of fair use, as Wagner both critiques and parodies the copyrighted works she is borrowing, which my colleague Jeff John Roberts astutely pointed out on Tuesday.

Well, the good folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation came to Wagner’s defense. The group penned a lengthy letter to Zillow pointing out that Wagner was within her rights using the photos, and offering its own long blocks of legalese (“To the extent Zillow’s claim is premised on an alleged violation of its Terms of Use or other contractual obligations, federal courts have rejected such theories as a premise for liability…blah blah blah”).

On Thursday, Zillow seemingly backed down, announcing it had “decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell.”

But look a little deeper, and you’ll learn that Wagner pledged to stop using photos from Zillow. She’ll continue the blog but get her illustrations elsewhere. I wouldn’t criticize Wagner for moving to end this controversy and getting back to writing her awesome blog posts, but it does take away the glow of a great win for free speech and fair use on the Internet.

So have a great weekend and a great 4th of July holiday, but maybe tamp down the celebration of the big victory for the rights of architecture critics.

Aaron Pressman


Was it all just for show? Some security experts have noticed that whoever set the Petya ransomware app loose doesn’t seem much interested in collecting ransoms. So one theory is the attack is actually a cover for installing other malware on computers at government and commercial organizations in Ukraine for future mischief.

A worthy show to watch. World’s most valuable startup Uber announced on Thursday that it has completed 5 billion trips worldwide. The troubled ride sharing company launched in 2010 and reached its first billion rides in 2015. But I’m really including this item as an excuse to link to this brilliant short film, called The Robbery, for your weekend viewing pleasure that briefly features an Uber (with a hat tip to blogger Jason Kottke).

Starting to get the message. Cable giant Charter Communications is testing an Internet substitute for its usual TV package. Customers can pay just $20 a month and get local broadcast channels and 25 non-sports cable networks delivered via the Internet. Want ESPN? That’s a 60% premium. Some cable channels are also fooling around with this Internet thing on their own. Turner is putting some series premieres on Facebook and YouTube and Discovery will put 5 episodes of a new series on its mobile app before they air. It’s almost like they realize giving customers want they want is a good thing.

Munch-a bunch-a. Memory chipmaker Micron Technology is partying while times are good. Booming demand from cloud data centers and mobile phones, amidst a stabilizing PC market, helped revenue last quarter nearly double to $5.6 billion. The stock, already up 44% this year, gained another 2% in pre-market trading on Friday. (Pre-Gen X YouTube reference)

What’s good for the goose. After U.S. authorities allowed European airports to increase security and avoid the dreaded airplane cabin laptop ban, Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline, said it wants the same treatment. Dubai’s airport will add the same enhanced security measures “as soon as possible,” hopefully resulting in a lifting of the ban on Emirates flights, the airline said.

A worthy watch II. I’m sure you’re as sick of iPhone 10th anniversary coverage as I am, but Wall Street Journal tech reviewer Joanna Stern’s video about trying to use the original iPhone for a week is still great enough to deserve four minutes of your attention.


Google Releases Its Diversity Numbers by Ellen McGirt

Facebook’s Huge Drone Flies Again (and Doesn’t Crash) by Jonathan Vanian

Airbnb Is Bringing Money to Rural America by Lisa Fu

Here’s When You Should Buy Bitcoin and Ethereum by Jen Wieczner

Amazon Will Probably Eliminate Jobs at Whole Foods. That’s a Good Thing by Geoff Colvin

Woman Sues Uber Claiming the Company Knew the Violent Past of the Driver Who Raped Her by Valentina Zarya

You Can Buy Steve Jobs’ Iconic Turtleneck for $270 by Lisa Marie Segarra


I’m a history buff, in case you couldn’t tell. Our new president is making some tech history with his use of Twitter, but the Washington Post has a nice retrospective to put things in perspective.

It was just 140 years ago that the White House got its first telephone. In 1877, while Rutherford B. Hayes was president, the phone was relegated to a special telegraph room. Herbert Hoover was the first to put a phone on his desk. Running water, electricity, air conditioning—they all had to be added at various times, too. I feel like maybe they weren’t as disruptive as the latest addition.


A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend:

A Path Less Taken to the Peak of the Math World
Huh’s math career began with much less acclaim. A bad score on an elementary school test convinced him that he was not very good at math. As a teenager, he dreamed of becoming a poet. He didn’t major in math, and when he finally applied to graduate school, he was rejected by every university save one. Nine years later, at the age of 34, Huh is at the pinnacle of the math world.

Ends, Means, and Antitrust
I agree that Google has a monopoly in search, but as the Commission itself notes that is not a crime. The reality of this ruling, though, is that making any money off that monopoly apparently is. And, by extension, those that blindly support this decision are agreeing that products that succeed by being better for users ought not be able to make money.

Hacking the Nazis: The Secret Story of the Women Who Broke Hitler’s Codes
“You didn’t have to be rocket scientists but what you had to be was 125 percent accurate. You worked in pairs and you and your checker would plug up the back of your machine, which was extremely complicated. You had to brush out the wires on your drums so there wouldn’t be short circuits, make sure the plugs at the back of the machine were pushed in and straight, and you had to be on the go for the eight-hour shift, as you were standing for the whole time.”


 More than 11,000 people got hurt in fireworks mishaps last year, mostly around the 4th of July holiday. But a new device looks to make fireworks safer with some tech thrown in. The FireFly from Winco Fireworks is a black box that connects with wires to the fuses of the explosives and via bluetooth to a smartphone. Users can design firework shows, synch launches to music, or manually set off items from up to 100 feet away.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.