Archive for the ‘Digital freedom’ Category

I often play with Photoshop, making funny collages and parodies. This time my quick idea became unexpectedly popular, so I thought it would be worth to preserve my 15 minutes of Internet fame here. For posterity.

This video is no longer available due to DMCA abuse by the purported rights holder. Sorry about that.

 

Inspiration.

Yesterday Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a press release (the original is located here) regarding their generous offer to represent this blog as well as DieTrollDie’s one in the “defamation” lawsuits filed by Paul Duffy and Prenda Law. Just wanted to keep a copy of this press release here and collect links to media coverage.

March 11, 2013

EFF To Represent Bloggers Against Copyright Troll
Prenda Law Firm attempts to silence critics DieTrollDie and FightCopyrightTrolls

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is joining with attorney Charles Lee Mudd Jr. to represent two blogs caught up in a bizarre lawsuit filed by Paul Duffy and Prenda Law LLC, Duffy’s copyright troll law firm.

Copyright trolls try to make money by suing Internet users under various copyright laws. Their tactics include targeting large groups of anonymous “John Doe” defendants for downloading files on BitTorrent, seeking their identities, and exploiting the massive damages in copyright law in order to pressure defendants into settling quickly.

Duffy and his firm’s tactics are frequent subjects of criticism on FightCopyrightTrolls (fightcopyrighttrolls.com) and DieTrollDie (dietrolldie.com), two watchdog blogs maintained by anonymous authors.

Late last month, Duffy and Prenda Law filed two separate defamation lawsuits in Illinois state court, which have since been removed to federal courts in the Northern and Southern districts of Illinois. The complaints claim the bloggers and their commenters defamed Duffy and his firm, despite the free speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“These lawsuits are a blatant attempt to abuse the legal process to punish critics,” said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz.

Immediately after filing the suits, Duffy served a subpoena on Automattic Inc., the company that owns the WordPress blogging platform. The subpoena seeks the IP addresses of everyone who ever visited the two websites, threatening the privacy of the bloggers and their readers. On Friday, Automattic rejected the subpoena in a letter to Duffy, calling it “legally deficient and objectionable” and a violation of the First Amendment right to speak anonymously.

“Not only is the subpoena improper under the First Amendment, it fails to comply with the simple rules for pre-trial discovery,” EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo added.

Automattic has stated unequivocally that it will not turn over any information until the bloggers’ challenge to the lawsuit has played out in court. In order to protect this right to anonymity, EFF and the Mudd Law Office will not publicly release the names of their clients in this suit.

“Critics of the copyright troll business model have the right to speak anonymously without their identities being exposed to the trolls,” said Kurt Opsahl, EFF Senior Staff Attorney. “These sweeping subpoenas create a chilling effect among those who have spoken out against Prenda.”

Notorious copyright troll John Steele previously filed a similar lawsuit against the two blogs but dropped the suit last week without explanation.

Contacts:

  • Kurt Opsahl
        Senior Staff Attorney
        Electronic Frontier Foundation
        kurt@eff.org
  • Mitch Stoltz
        Staff Attorney
        Electronic Frontier Foundation
        mitch@eff.org

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Related Cases

 

Related Issues

 

 

Media coverage

The Center for Copyright Information. Sounds good doesn’t it? A place where you can get information about Copyright. But it isn’t. This unholy alliance between the copyright cartels and ISPs, is trying to create laws they control.

The plan

A third party company is going to monitor torrents of popular files, record IP addresses, and submit those matching member ISPs to the ISP. The ISP then sends a Copyright Alert System notice to the person who pays the bill. They want you to think of them as helpful notices, like when the bank alerts you to possible fraud on your account. When you get your 4th, 5th or 6th notice… things change. The ISPs each get to pick their own methods of “Mitigation Methods”, while there is no common system of these in place, they can include:

  • throttling down your speed;
  • sending you a scary message that the cartels can sue you and they will gleefully hand over your details if a court orders it;
  • blocking popular websites until you complete an educational program about copyright.

They claim disconnection is not a possible option.

Now if you think you got one of these notices in error, you can challenge the notice. You have to pay $35 to them, and pick one of a few limited responses they allowed you. This is then reviewed by an Arbitrator, who decided if the notice is legit or not.

Lets go over some of the problems here

The company gathering the information is MarkMonitor who acquired DtecNet. Lets then look at their amazing history:

If this is such a wonderful system, why all the secrecy? Given the RIAA’s wonderful history with this sort of tech… One would think they would be much more open about it to remove any doubts as to how the system works and how accurate it is. But instead we have a secret system, pushing different punishments on consumers on mere allegations, and it costs you money to challenge their findings with an arbitrator who I have severe reservations about being able to crawl through code to verify the veracity of statements being made.

But then these are the same people who wanted to break the Internet to protect an outdated business model, have ICE running raids of websites, went after a $10 Million government handout to make sure they could get ICE to do more, wanted police to have the right to search mp3 players and make sure all of the music was licensed, and a bunch of other really stupid stuff.

Here is the really sick thing…

The IP gathering here is the same as what the trolls are doing now. Except the cartels don’t have to pay $350 to file a case.
They don’t have to even prove any uploading or downloading happened. (Not that they could as IP spoofings been around since the first time the RIAA sued everyone on the Internet.)

They don’t have to send out a DMCA notice affirming the facts.
They just have to say your subscriber did it… and you get a black mark against your name.
Doesn’t matter if your Wi-Fi was open or hacked, you are at fault.
Doesn’t matter if it was the neighbors’ kid visiting, you are at fault.
Doesn’t matter… you are always at fault because the ISP’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policies are the “law.”
This also allows them to avoid having to prove who did it, and get bogged down in justice and fairness.

But wait, TAC, where is the Government stopping this obvious antitrust case?

“The joining of Internet service providers and entertainment companies in a cooperative effort to combat online infringement can further this goal and we commend them for reaching this agreement. We believe it will have a significant impact on reducing online piracy,” said U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel.

They picked a “board” to help them deal with privacy issues and such, and they are very clear that the cartels never know the names… except they are ignoring some of what the board is saying and the board is rubber stamping this monstrosity.

But wait, TAC, they had experts look over their system and prove it was accurate!

Yeah.. about that “expert”… Ernesto at TorrentFreak.com followed a tip I submitted about them formerly being lobbyists for the RIAA. And he uncovered something I had missed…

Stroz Friedberg is indeed a technology expert, but the group was also the RIAA’s lobbying firm for half a decade.

Between 2004 and 2009 Stroz Friedberg lobbied extensively in Washington on behalf of the RIAA. This consulting job earned the company more than half a million dollars ($637,000).

One of the leading lobbyists on record was Executive Managing Director Beryl Howell, who lobbied U.S. Congress and Senate for copyright laws regarding digital music.

Now if you follow copyright trolls you know the name Beryl Howell and curse it like the rest of us do. She believes that an IP address is a proof of infringement, that ISPs aren’t doing enough to stop “piracy,” and that people don’t have the right to fight against copyright trolls getting their names to try and extort money.

So the promised review of the tech… done by a company who the RIAA pays well… Not the guys who tore apart IP monitoring at the University, but people who stand to lose a client.

Yep… seems legit to me.

What can we do?

So it might be time to reach out to those morons you voted for, and ask them why corporations get to make their own laws now.
Copyright law and the overreach with it has gotten stupid… but this one this takes the cake.
Why are we letting them slip SOPA into being the law of the internet?
Why are we allowing accusations to be taken as fact?
Why are we paying billions to fund companies who are supposed to be supplying the digital super highway, who instead are going to become the private enforcer of the copyright cartels?

They call the program “6 strikes,” because Americans would riot if they tried 3 strikes here. They quickly claimed disconnection was off the table, yet the words still exist in the memorandum of understanding they signed to form this.

Take a look at 3 strikes around the globe, and see the abject failure it has become.

  • The French are going to abandon their vaunted program after taking one customer to court… who had to pay for his wife downloading music… because it was his connection. He didn’t know, wasn’t involved, but he was punished as if he had done it.
  • In New Zealand they just dropped their first case after turning it into a giant clusterfuck. The young lady who’s name is on the bill and claims innocence is left hanging after wasting time, effort and money to defend her good name against a claim that suddenly wasn’t 100% perfect. But they did manage to compute damages she should pay… except those were nowhere in the law allowing their 3 strikes program and it was an arbitrary inflated number… sort of like a copyright trolls “win” where they talk about the huge amount they won on paper to scare other people into settling the case for less.

A copyright troll can capture an IP address, but then they have to go to court, file a lawsuit and have the case tried on the merits. (Well, in a perfect world.)

Why are we allowing the cartels to make allegations, based on secret methods, and get the ISPs to do anything all? Corporations do not get to make laws and force them on people, they have to do it the old fashioned way… they have to bribe the Congress. Remind your congresscritter today that the elections are coming and if they don’t act to stop this… maybe their replacement will.

I’m TAC… I think this is fucking horrible, and if you agree you will tell friends, family, and your congresscritter this is wrong and needs to be stopped. Some of these ISPs are the only game in town in many areas, so we can’t vote with our wallets.

End the cartels reign of terror, or learn to accept only what the cartels decide your allowed to access on the net.


 

It is strange even to me that I did not cover this eventful case in a separate post, although it was quite a buzz about it in the comments section.

This case was filed by the troll lawsuit factory Prenda Law. I briefly mentioned it when I introduced a troll Paul Duffy, John Steele’s puppet (Steele pretends to be “retired”, although no one doubts that he is the puppet master.)

Brief history of the case

2011-09-27. The case is filed in a toll-friendly DC district, and it was assigned to a district judge John D. Bates.

2011-11-02. Judge Bates, reading numerous motions to quash the subpoena, seemingly smells the stink this lawsuit exudes and stays the subpoena. One of the predatory features of copyright trolling cases is a Catch-22 situation: court rules require signing motions, i.e. revealing defendants’ names, while the very purpose of such motions is to prevent releasing the names. Judge Bates tries to solve this puzzle and orders Does to file motions under seal; he promises not to reveal movants’ names even if their motions would be eventually denied. This order filled every putative defendant with hope, and an avalanche of motions ensued.

2011-11-16. The case was reassigned to magistrate judge John M. Facciola, and this event raised some brows and created huge discomfort. Rob Cashman wrote a post about it suggesting political games — that judge Bates was removed against his will rather than voluntary referred the case to Facciola.

During the rest of November many experienced attorneys appear on the case. John Michels of a reputable law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP appears on behalf of all the Does 1-1,495, but he did not file any motion as of today.

2011-12-21. Judge Facciola betrays Does’ hopes and issues an order that undoes Bates’ promise. According to this order, no one is allowed to file either anonymously or under seal. All the previously filed and sealed motions would be either unsealed or withdrawn.

The worst part of this order is the fact that the motions would be unsealed by default, if a filer does not request withdrawal. Although ISPs were tasked with notifying all the Does, it is not enough: it is not implausible that some Doe would miss this order, and as such would be betrayed by the court. Unfortunately situation like this is not hypothetical: I witnessed a defendant indeed miss that order and panicked a day before the deadline.

This order was negatively accepted by many IP law experts: for example, read an Elliot Alderman’s guest post on the Eric Goldman’s blog.

2011-12-02. Despite the obvious danger of being selectively targeted later, four brave souls decide to go forward and file motions under their real names (1,2,3,4).

2011-12-23. In a similar case (Open Mind Solutions v. Does 1-565: same trolls, same judge) ISP Cablevision refuses to provide names based on the unclear wording of the subpoena. Duffy complains and suggests amending the subpoena order to remove any ambiguity. Instead of simply signing a prepared order, Facciola threatens ISP with sanctions — heavy-handed to say the least. Some people suggest corruption. There is no proof, and I find it hard to believe, but Facciola’s actions indeed look bad, as if he goes an extra mile to please trolls.

2012-01-05. Steele (I use Steele/Prenda/Duffy interchangeably: multiple monickers — same gang) is forced to file replies to those four motions (good: more time trolls waste writing oppositions — less time is left to inflict damage on society — less lucrative the entire trolling “business” is.) In those replies trolls argue that Does were not allowed to file motions to quash, because they are not the parties against which the subpoena was issued; that ISPs are the ones who should file such motions. Kafkaesque situation deepens.

2012-01-11. In a similar case mentioned above attorney Julie A. LaVan files an excellent motion to quash — worth reading and borrowing ideas from.

2012-01-25. Judge Facciola, in some cases assigned to him, issues memorandums questioning jurisdiction and venue. Strangely, no such memorandum was issued in this case.

2012-01-30. Finally! EFF files an amicus curiae brief:

Of course this is not a victory yet: I will update this post as new events happen.

Update 1

Ha! Prenda opposes, calling EFF “Radical interest group”. What kind of interest, trolls? Huh? I know that you are the interest group, and your interest is money and money only; blinded by greed, you are not concerned that you ruin jobs and families, seed hate.

Also, the timing of this is suspicious — opposition filed the same day as the brief? As if someone has tipped Prenda. Who? Good question. Update: commenters suggest that the entire opposition was written in advance, in premonition of inevitable EFF or ACLU intervention.

Why is the logo on this site black today?

Posted: November 15, 2011 by SJD in Digital freedom
Tags: , ,

6 months, 80 posts, 1,500 comments, 100,000 visits… I managed to stay out of politics, being narrowly focused on a single goal: bringing down copyright trolls and their business model. And instead of writing this post, I would probably spend my time reporting news, good or bad, from our battlefield, but one particular event made me articulate my opinion on PROTECT IP/SOPA bill that is being pushed through Congress these days.

 

Yesterday I received a public tweet from @PiracyCensorsUs , an entity that presents itself as “…the artists, the filmmakers, the authors, the photographers, the musicians whose work is being stolen by digital pirates so they can profit from our work”:

I don’t know anything about this organization; it does not even have a website, which is odd. Most likely it’s an MPAA’s astroturf, maybe not, but to be honest I, don’t care. What was disturbing is the premise of the message, a well formed opinion that what I’m doing is somehow wrong and opposite to their goals of fighting large-scale commercial copyright infringers. That can’t be farther from truth: if they read all my and my guest’s posts and numerous comments, they would be surprised to find out that not even once did I encourage breaking the law. I fight against widespread law abuses, against predatory practices that some cynical lawyers use while pursuing easy money, disregarding an unacceptable level of collateral damage — the pain of innocents who are being wrestled to pay thousands of dollars for the deeds they never committed.

And yes, I’m sympathetic even with those who indeed committed alleged infringement and found themselves in the state of frightening uncertainty. I strongly believe that the punishment they face is grossly disproportionate, hence unconstitutional. I don’t have the right to break the law, but I do have the right to question its fairness.

As anyone who has some understanding of Internet technologies and copyright law, I was already strongly against SOPA, which is bound to break the Internet, trump privacy rights and prompt abuses far worse than the ones I’m fighting against. After reading the twitter message, I realized that my 6-month work, as well as the emerging community, is under a threat. Why? Because I defend those accused of copyright infringement, so it is not implausible that some ignorant copyright maximalist, without trying to understand what this site is about, declares it a facilitator of copyright infringement. Even those who fight on a similar frontier, against Righthaven, tend to jump to the conclusion that I’m just a petty thief, so what do you want from others? Or it can be a cunning troll lawyer, whose “business” was seriously damaged by all the exposure, and who definitely wants to silence me. Enacting this bill makes it possible to censor this site out based simply on allegations.

You think that my fears are unfounded? Look, this summer a French judge ruled that a site was dedicated to infringement simply because… its URL contained the word “torrent”. So I can’t afford underestimating ignorance, stupidity or malice of certain groups and individuals. The broad definitions and vague language in the SOPA bill will only fertilize these “virtues”.

This bill is wrong, probably the worst anti-piracy bill ever. I don’t want to reiterate all the dangers of it, you can read about them all over the Internet and make up your mind if you have not already done so. I can talk only for myself, and besides the fears of being censored, here’s another reason why I’m against SOPA: even theoretically assuming that I knew nothing about this bill a priori, its supporters’ arguments cannot convince anyone who can research various sources of information and is capable of critical thinking.

I definitely respect filmmakers, authors and musicians regardless of their position on copyright: I trust their professionalism and expertize when I need to know how to write a movie script, or set up movie scene lights, but…

Ignorance is our worst enemy.

Ever since Mr. Sperlein rudely trespassed my life, I couldn’t help thinking about the reasons why this type of extortion business flourishes these days. I came to an obvious conclusion, though it took some time to articulate it.

Disproportionality of punishment is the major reason for abusing the law.

Imagine that the fine for failing to turn on your car’s headlights during rain is $1,000 or so, and the city allows police officers to pocket 50% of the collected fine. Abuse is waiting to happen.

Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution is mostly known for prohibiting cruel and unusual punishments, but it also specifically addresses “excessive fines”:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”


Deterrence is a powerful mechanism
of sustaining respect to the Law

$150,000 maximum fine for sharing one movie is hugely excessive and disproportionate. The threat to impose such a huge fine is the main weapon of mass fear in copyright troll cases. This weapon makes the entire extortion scheme lucrative. A $2,000 ransom is still disproportionate, but being flabbergasted by a six-figure number, victims of extortion are more willing to pay this relatively small ransom (which is even less than the cost of defense – another predatory property of this scam).

I don’t know what the Congress had in mind when it put this number into the law. I’m refusing to believe that a teenager obtaining a porno movie via a p2p network was the main target. Most likely, commercial-scale infringement was the reason. It would be nice to read debates preceding signing of this law, but I don’t know where to find them (if it is possible at all).

If this is the case, why blame the law itself and not the abusers who pervert its spirit? In my opinion, any law should be written in a way that addresses this concern, i.e. a law’s wording should be sharp and clear, not vague.

I also refuse to understand why an “unwillful” infringement bears the maximum fine of $30,000. A $30,000 fine is still capable of ruining a life, and for what? For a violation that one was not even willing to do?

You may argue that huge fines are necessary to deter piracy. But pulling a random person from millions and ruining his life cannot justify this goal, understandable yet questionable. Selective enforcement can be reasonable in a couple of abuse-proof cases, like busting speeders, but selective enforcement married with unreasonable fines in inherently unjust, immoral and abuse-prone. And this type of “justice” is exactly what we witness.

Justifying enormous fines for unwillful infringement by the need to relieve plaintiff’s damages is also plain wrong based on the same disproportional punishment/selective prosecution combination.

Imagine that some group of youngsters picnic on a private property without permission. They destroy beautiful grass and damage the trees. Let’s assume they know what they do (willful violation). The property owner has a natural right to demand relief so he could repair the damages caused by the trespassers. Now, I’m one of many who happen to pass by and accept an invitation for a beer with strangers having absolutely no idea that I’m trespassing. Is it still fair to pick me out of many others and demand tens of thousands dollars to replant grass I stood on for 5 minutes without realizing it was illegal?

In our particular case, actual damages to copyright holders are far from being proven, so modify my analogy by removing the damage inflicted to grass and trees, thus leaving only trespassing as an unlawful act…

Recently I had a discussion with a guy who argued that laws that are not enforced cause huge damage to the judicial system. I agreed with him to some extent: I think that there is some damage albeit rather insignificant. Requiring 100% enforcement is based on a wrong premise that every citizen is a potential criminal. I believe, maybe naively, that the majority of people don’t break laws not because of fear but because of respect to others. A mere warning in a case when a good citizen breaks a minor law is more than enough to sustain a healthy society… Anyway, we can argue about a mouse for hours, while there is an elephant in the room: the existence of laws that violate the spirit of the Eighth Amendment is far more damaging to the society than ignoring minor violations. The existence of such laws erodes the belief in fairness of the system and causes wide-spread abuses.

EFF is asking for your help. I contacted EFF couple of times, and it was obvious from their replies that they would love to help extortion victims, but their resources are limited amid unprecedented flood of copyright law abusers. Not feeding a troll is a right decision, but helping to starve it to extinction by donating to EFF is simply noble.

The following is from EFF’s DeepLinks blog.

Help EFF Topple a Troll

Call To Action by Aaron Jue

Copyright Troll

Over the past two weeks, EFF has won the dismissal of two bogus infringement lawsuits filed by notorious “copyright troll” Righthaven LLC. In the first case, a federal judge ruled that Righthaven had no standing to sue an online political forum for a five-sentence excerpt of a news story posted by a user, because EFF sleuthing revealed that Righthaven did not own the copyright. Last week, the court relied on the evidence presented in the first case and dismissed Righthaven’s lawsuit against a non-commercial blog that provides prosecutor resources for difficult to prosecute “no body” homicide cases.

These victories are sweet, but Righthaven and copyright trolls like them have filed thousands of additional lawsuits across the country, using the threat of massive damages available under copyright law to pressure defendants into quick settlements. One copyright troll is attempting to subpoena the identities of thousands of BitTorrent users and sue them collectively to minimize their own court costs, while another is targeting alleged adult film downloaders with hopes of exploiting the additional threat of embarrassment associated with porn. We need your financial support to bring an end to this awful business model.

EFF’s hard work has provided the facts and precedents needed to dismiss even more lawsuits. Please support EFF today, and help us topple a troll!

Donate Today!

Yet another excellent TorrentFreak’s article : Open Wi-Fi Is Not a Crime, BitTorrent Case Judge Hears.

The article covers the story of a Doe who wrote a couple of letters to a judge arguing that running an open Wi-Fi is not illegal and explaining copyright trolling “business model”.

These lawsuits have been rife with shoddy ‘evidence’ accumulation and wrongful harassment of Internet subscribers with no effort or evidence to identify the actual infringer behind an I.P. address rather than just demanding money from the person registered as the subscriber of the Internet connection…

[...]

Not all unsecured networks are due to a lack of technical knowledge. Some of us leave them open to friends and others out of a sense of community. An Internet connection is an important thing for people today, for better or for worse. I fear that we are on our way to having Internet connections become like so many things in our country that must be locked up and hidden out of fear an intimidation…

 

R. Cashman (Cashman Law Firm) commented on this letter:

This is probably the best written letter I’ve seen since these cases have gotten started. I wish the defendant the best of luck, and if the letter turns out to be written by someone other than the defendant, I believe the letter accurately represented the issues facing these cases.

 

Well, in his amended complaint (Does1-244) Sperlein argues that AT&T contract explicitly prohibits unsecured wireless routers. I failed to find this clause in my 2011 AT&T agreement, but I did not find 2010 version yet: when I do, and the wording is the same as in 2011, I’ll post “Deception in court: Part II” article.

EFF about open wireless networks

EFF has some strong arguments why it is good to run an open wireless network.