Aletho News


New rule could prevent website owners from protecting their identity

RT | June 25, 2015

A new rule over domain registration would prevent people from using a third party to sign up for a commercial website. People often use proxies to protect their contact information from the public, particularly when their work is controversial.

Under the new rules, people registering websites for non-personal purposes would have to disclose their name, address and phone number, all of which could be easily searchable by anyone. The plan has privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) opposed to the idea and alarmed that website owners could “suffer a higher risk of harassment, intimidation and identify theft.”

“The ability to speak anonymously protects people with unpopular or marginalized opinions, allowing them to speak and be heard without fear of harm. It also protects whistleblowers who expose crime, waste, and corruption,” wrote EFF in a statement.

At first blush, the change would seem to only affect commercial website registration. But a personally created website that offers a community benefit, but also features ads to help defray the costs of running the site, could be judged as commercial, and has been in past domain name disputes.

It is not clear yet if the organization that oversees the bureaucratic process of naming online domains, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), will include the broader definition of commercial in the new rules.

ICANN has put up the rules for public comment until July 7. To date, thousands of people have logged comments.

One individual named Brad urged ICANN to “respect internet users’ rights to privacy and due process … Private information should be kept private.”

Another, Sarah Brown, told ICANN that her websites allow her to earn a living full-time online, but she has been stalked, harassed, and had content from her site stolen. She uses a third-party proxy to prevent people from finding her sites, her home address and phone number.

“I implore you to think through the consequences of removing our private WHOIS information. It serves as a buffer to protect us from the crazy people in this world,” wrote Brown. “We are living in unsafe times, where jealousy and greed overtake compassion and ethics. We are real people, with real lives, who can end up in real danger with our information in the wrong hands.” []

ICANN said the rule change is being driven by discussions with law enforcement. EFF said it is also being driven by US entertainment companies and others who want new tools to discover the identities of website owners and then accuse them of copyright and trademark infringement, without a court order. US entertainment companies told Congress in March that privacy for domain registration should be allowed only in “limited circumstances”.

Read more: US anti-fraud law makes deleting browser history a crime punishable by 20yrs in jail

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copyright Extension Goes Into Effect In The UK: More Works Stolen From The Public Domain

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | November 11, 2013

Even as there have been indications around the globe that perhaps we’ve had enough copyright term extension and it’s time to move back in the other direction, over in the UK, they just put in place a big new copyright extension which increases the term from 50 years to 70 years for sound recordings and performers’ rights. We had discussed the EU decision two years ago to seize the public domain by retroactively pulling works out of the public domain, and now it’s officially gone into effect.

While we’ve pointed out for years that when people claim that infringing works are “stolen,” they’re using the wrong word, since nothing is missing, that is not the case here. Here, things are absolutely missing. The entire purpose of copyright law is to provide the incentives to have the work created in the first place. As such, it’s a deal, where the public grants the creators an exclusive right for a number of years, in return for getting the work (in a limited fashion) for a period of time and then having that work become public domain at the end. Retroactive copyright extension is a unilateral change in that deal — directly taking the work away from the public domain without any recompense to the public the work has been stolen from. This makes absolutely no sense. Clearly, since the work was created, the incentive was good enough at the time of creation. Adding on more years that the public doesn’t get it at the end does nothing to incentivize the work that was already created fifty years ago.

There is simply no reason to have done this, and to have taken these works out of the public domain. Scholars have pointed out that there is no legitimate reason to do this, no evidence that it does anything useful at all. Instead, there’s plenty of evidence that the cost to the public is tremendous — somewhere around a billion euros. The cost to culture in general is even worse, because the longer copyright terms are, the more works disappear entirely, and the more it harms the dissemination of knowledge. It’s basically a disaster all the way around — except for some old record labels that still have the copyrights.

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Copyright Extension Goes Into Effect In The UK: More Works Stolen From The Public Domain

Apple Makes Questionable Copyright Claim To Pull Down iTunes Contract

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | October 14, 2013

There had been some buzz a while back when Digital Music News published an entire iTunes Radio contract, which was targeted at smaller indie labels, showing how Apple got to throw its weight around, presenting terms that were very much in Apple’s favor over the labels if they wanted to participate in iTunes Radio. However, while it took a few months, Apple’s lawyers finally spotted this and they have apparently made a copyright claim to get the contract taken down. I wonder how the small group of indie musicians who always fight for stronger copyrights feel about Apple using copyright to take down rather important information that they should know concerning the sort of deal Apple offers them….

While this may be possibly legal under the law, it demonstrates how the law can be used in ways that really have absolutely nothing to do with copyright’s purpose. Apple didn’t need copyright’s incentives to create this contract. There is no market for the contract itself. The purpose in flexing the copyright claim here is one thing and one thing only: censorship. As law professor Eric Goldman explained:

“It’s not out of legal bounds to do this. It’s just kind of a jerk move. We all know what’s happening here. Apple doesn’t care about protecting the copyright of contracts. It’s using copyright to try and suppress information that it doesn’t want made public.”

That said, I question whether or not this really is a legit takedown. While Apple can claim a copyright on the contract, it seems that DMN has a really strong fair use claim. The purpose was for reporting (a key purpose that supports fair use). The publication was in the public interest. The type of work is a “contract” for which copyright tends to mean very little. Finally, there’s no “market” for the contract itself, and thus the impact on the market or the value of the copyright in the item is nothing. The only factor that weighs against it is the fact that the entire contract was used — but as we’ve pointed out many times in the past, plenty of cases have been deemed fair use where the “entire work” has been used. This seems like a perfectly strong fair use case, though it might not be worth the legal cost to fight Apple over this, given the company’s historical willingness to go absolutely bonkers against publications it doesn’t like.

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Comments Off on Apple Makes Questionable Copyright Claim To Pull Down iTunes Contract

Anti-piracy curriculum for elementary schools decried as ‘propaganda’

RT | September 24, 2013

Content-industry giants and internet service providers are teaming up to produce multi-grade elementary school curriculum which will denounce copyright infringement.

The likes of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), AT&T, Verizon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Comcast are behind the pilot project which will be tested in California elementary schools later this year.

The curriculum, called “Be a Creator,” is not quite complete, producers say, though Wired was able to obtain the various levels of content – from kindergarten to sixth grade – which aim to communicate that copying is theft.

“This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,” said Mitch Stoltz, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who reviewed the material.

“It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission,” Stoltz says. “The overriding message of this curriculum is that students’ time should be consumed not in creating but in worrying about their impact on corporate profits.”

The content was made by the California School Library Association and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition. The Center for Copyright Infringement commissioned the material. The center’s board is made up of executives from MPAA, RIAA, Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T.

Each grade’s package includes a short video and a teacher worksheet of talking points.

For example, the sixth grade version urges children to realize that copyright infringement can have worse consequences than cheating on a test, which usually results in a bad grade or suspension from school.

“In the digital world, it’s harder to see the effects of copying, even though the effects can be more serious,” the teacher worksheet says.

The material does not comment on fair use, which allows for the reuse of copyrighted works without permission. Rather, students are told that using without permission is “stealing.”

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition, a non-profit organization partnering with governments and major corporations like Facebook and Google, said that fair use is beyond the comprehension of sixth graders.

The curriculum “is developmentally consistent with what children can learn at specific ages,” the group’s president, Marsali Hancock, told Wired, adding that materials for older children will include the concept.

A video for second graders shows a child taking photos and debating whether to sell, keep, or share them.

“You’re not old enough yet to be selling your pictures online, but pretty soon you will be,” reads the teacher lesson plan. “And you’ll appreciate if the rest of us respect your work by not copying it and doing whatever we want with it.”

The groups involved in the curation of the material stressed that it was in draft form at this point, and that some wording will be changed before the pilot project begins in schools.

“We’ve got some editing to do,” said Glen Warren, vice president of the non-profit California School Library Association.

Warren alluded that the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), a content-industry group, has already had influence on the project.

Hancock said the material has not yet been approved by CCI. The group is best known for working with the government and rights holders to begin an internet monitoring program with large ISPs that punish violators with extrajudicial measures like temporary internet termination and weak connection speeds.

CCI’s executive director, Jill Lesser, has alluded to youth education programs in the past.

“Based on our research, we believe one of the most important audiences for our educational efforts is young people. As a result, we have developed a new copyright curriculum that is being piloted during this academic year in California,” she said last week in a testimony on Capitol Hill.

“The curriculum introduces concepts about creative content in innovative and age-appropriate ways. The curriculum is designed to help children understand that they can be both creators and consumers of artistic content, and that concepts of copyright protection are important in both cases,” Lesser testified.

She said that CCI’s board will likely sign off on the curriculum soon.

“We are just about to post those materials in the next week or two on our web site,” Lesser told Wired.

The first grade lesson plan puts content sharing on par with theft.

“We all love to create new things – art, music, movies, paper creations, structures, even buildings! It’s great to create – as long as we aren’t stealing other people’s work. We show respect for other artists and their work when we get permission before we use their work,” the material says. “This is an important part of copyright. Sharing can be exciting and helpful and nice. But taking something without asking is mean.”

The fifth grade lesson introduces the Creative Commons license, though it distorts the legality of copying copyrighted works.

“If a song or movie is copyrighted, you can’t copy it, download it, or use it in your own work without permission,” the fifth grade worksheet reads. “However, Creative Commons allows artists to tell users how and if their work can be used by others. For example, if a musician is okay with their music being downloaded for free – they will offer it on their website as a ‘Free download.’ An artist can also let you know how you can use their work by using a Creative Commons license.”

September 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-piracy curriculum for elementary schools decried as ‘propaganda’

EFF Fights to Protect Electronic Reserves at College Libraries

By Corynne McSherry | EFF | April 25, 2013

When college professors want students to read a small part of a book, they put that book on reserve at the library, so everyone can get access to the bit of information they need without having to buy the entire expensive work. Advances in technology have made this even easier for students: librarians have created electronic reserves, allowing online access to a digital version of the excerpt.  But the publishing world has come down hard on these electronic reserves in a lawsuit aimed at Georgia State University (GSU), insisting that libraries must pay fees for excerpts they make available digitally to students. In an amicus brief filed on behalf of several national library associations today, EFF argues that electronic reserves must be protected to serve the public interest and preserve librarians’ and students’ fair-use rights.

This case started back in 2008, when the Association of American Publishers (AAP) recruited three plaintiffs to sue GSU for copyright infringement in their electronic reserves. GSU promptly updated its procedures to conform to fair use guidelines the AAP itself had helped draft for other universities. But instead of declaring victory, the plaintiffs continued to pursue this case, even taking it up on appeal when their claims were rejected by a federal district court.

In the amicus brief filed today, EFF urges the appeals court to see what the district court saw: the vast majority of uses at issue were protected fair uses. Moreover, as a practical matter, the licensing market the publishers say they want to create for e-reserves will never emergenot least because libraries can’t afford to participate in it. Even assuming that libraries could pay such fees, requiring this would thwart the purpose of copyright by undermining the overall market for scholarship. Given libraries’ stagnant or shrinking budgets, any new spending for licenses must be reallocated from existing expenditures, and the most likely source of reallocated funds is the budget for collections. An excerpt license requirement thus will harm the market for new scholarly works, as the works assigned for student reading are likely to be more established pieces written by well-known academics. Libraries’ total investment in scholarship will be the same but resources will be diverted away from new works to redundant payments for existing ones, in direct contradiction of copyright’s purpose of “promot[ing] progress.”

A win for the publishers here would be a Pyrrhic victory at best for them, and a significant loss for the public interest.  We hope the appellate court agrees that copyright law does not require forcing libraries to make reading a handful of pages either extraordinarily expensive or inordinately difficult for college students.



April 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on EFF Fights to Protect Electronic Reserves at College Libraries

First Sale Under Siege: If You Bought It, You Should Own It

By Corynne McSherry | EFF | December 23, 2012

The “first sale” doctrine expresses one of the most important limitations on the reach of copyright law. The idea, set out in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, is simple: once you’ve acquired a lawfully-made CD or book or DVD, you can lend, sell, or give it away without having to get permission from the copyright owner. In simpler terms, “you bought it, you own it” (and because first sale also applies to gifts, “they gave it to you, you own it” is also true).

Seems obvious, right? After all, without the “first sale” doctrine, libraries would be illegal, as would used bookstores, used record stores, etc.

But the copyright industries have never liked first sale, since it creates competition for their titles (you could borrow the book from a friend, pick it up at a library, or buy it from a used book seller on Amazon). It also reduces their ability to impose restrictions on how you use the work after it is sold.

Two legal cases now pending could determine the future of the doctrine.  The first is Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons. In that case, a textbook publisher is trying to undercut first sale by claiming the law only covers goods made in the United States. That would mean anything that is made in a foreign country and contains copies of copyrighted material – from the textbooks at issue in the Kirtsaeng case to shampoo bottles with copyrighted labels – could be blocked from resale, lending, or gifting without the permission of the copyright owner. That would create a nightmare for consumers and businesses, upending used goods markets and undermining what it really means to “buy” and “own” physical goods. The ruling also creates a perverse incentive for U.S. businesses to move their manufacturing operations abroad. It is difficult for us to imagine this is the outcome Congress intended.

The second is Capitol v. Redigi. Redigi is a service that allows music fans to store and resell music they buy from iTunes. Here’s how it works: customers download Redigi software and designate files they want to resell. Redigi’s software checks to make sure the files came from iTunes (so it knows they were lawfully purchased), pulls the data files from the reseller’s computer to cloud storage, and deletes them from the reseller’s hard drive.  Once the music is in the cloud, other Redigi users can buy it. When a purchase is made, Redigi transfers ownership of the file and the seller can no longer access it. At last, a way for users to exercise their traditional right to resell music they no longer want.

No way, says Capitol Records.  According to Capitol, the first sale doctrine simply doesn’t apply to digital goods, because there is no way to “transfer” them without making copies.  When users upload their music to the cloud, they are making a copy of that music, whether or not they subsequently (or simultaneously) delete it from their own computers, and the first sale doctrine doesn’t protect copying.

A win for Capitol would be profoundly dangerous for consumers.  Many of us “buy” music, movies, books, games etc. in purely digital form, and this is likely to be increasingly true going forward. But if Capitol has its way, the laws we count on to protect our right to dispose of that content will be as obsolete as the VHS tape.

The Redigi case also highlights another growing problem.  Not only does big content deny that first sale doctrine applies to digital goods, but they are also trying to undermine the first sale rights we do have by forcing users to license items they would rather buy. The copyright industry wants you to “license” all your music, your movies, your games — and lose your rights to sell them or modify them as you see fit. These “end user license agreements” reinforce the short-sighted policies that prevent us from lending ebooks to friends, re-selling software packages, or using text-to-speech to read ebooks aloud.

We have been worried about the future of first sale for a long time, but it seems we are reaching a new crisis point. We need to be prepared to tell elected lawmakers that we stand up for first sale, whether the threat comes from arcane import regulations, dangerous legal interpretations, or onerous End User License Agreements. EFF has joined Demand Progress and the Free Software Foundation in giving you a platform to contact your legislators to urge them to stand up for first sale.

Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Comments Off on First Sale Under Siege: If You Bought It, You Should Own It

Hollywood’s Trolls

By Mitch Stoltz | EFF | May 1, 2012

Our movie industry has created some memorable monsters on screen. But Hollywood, and the major music labels, also helped create a very real kind of monster – copyright trolls who coerce settlements from Internet subscribers using intimidation and our out-of-whack copyright laws. Last Friday, EFF Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen took the witness stand in AF Holdings v. Does to explain to a federal judge why BitTorrent users should be able to hold on to their constitutional rights when targeted by trolls. Although some courts have put the brakes on the trolls’ schemes, there’s no Hollywood ending in sight yet.  As the entertainment industries continue to push for ever-stronger copyright through treaties, private agreements, Congress and state legislatures, it’s time to ask – how will Hollywood help protect us from the trolls?

The current crop of copyright trolls sue anywhere from 20 to 5,000 “John Doe” defendants in a single lawsuit, pinned to a list of Internet Protocol addresses that they claim to have seen downloading copyrighted movies using BitTorrent. Then, with the courts’ permission, they send subpoenas to Internet service providers for the names and addresses of subscribers.  The trolls then send threatening letters, demanding settlement payments to “make this go away” or face being dragged into court – often in a faraway state. Over 200,000 U.S. residents have been caught up in these suits, with many undoubtedly settling simply to end the harassment.

The trolls are, of course, following a trail blazed by the major music labels through the Recording Industry Association of America.  Beginning around 2003, they sued about 35,000 people, using the courts’ subpoena powers as a private investigation service to find names and addresses.  The RIAA ended its lawsuit campaign in 2008, apparently realizing the damage that suing its own fans had done to the industry’s image.

It was perhaps inevitable that the vacuum would be filled by opportunists with no public image to protect.  Since 2008, troll lawyers have sued about six times more people than the RIAA ever did, and pursued them even more aggressively, probably netting millions in settlements. Some have faced court settlements for cutting corners in court procedure, and one was even caught practicing law without a license. But this scheme wouldn’t be a viable business model without the draconian imbalances of U.S. copyright law and legal precedent that the entertainment industries and their lobbyists have pushed through Congress and the courts.

For starters, the statutory penalty for sharing even one copyrighted work – say one song – is as much as $150,000. It’s no surprise that many people choose to settle for several thousand dollars rather than risk a bankrupting court judgment – even if they broke no law. The entertainment industries insist that we need these gargantuan penalties to deter infringement, but the same “statutory damages” provisions are the knobby club in the hands of the trolls.

Then there’s the legal doctrine of “secondary liability.” The movie and recording industries are constantly pressing for broader liability for intermediaries, Internet sites and services, and makers of tools and software.  Copyright trolls use these concepts to disregard actual copyright infringers and instead go after the owners of Internet accounts, who are often easier to find. The trolls suggest, using the rhetoric of secondary liability, that merely allowing others to use one’s Internet connection, or operating an open Wi-Fi node, makes one liable for any copyright infringement. This isn’t the law, but the trolls don’t warn their marks about that. Often, even those who understand secondary liability, or can afford hiring a lawyer, choose to pay a settlement for someone else’s alleged infringement rather than risk a lengthy and expensive trial, even if they would prevail.

Then there’s the very concept of lawsuits aimed at dozens or thousands of “John Doe” Internet account holders. Plaintiffs in these suits often group together Internet users from all over the country and obtain their identities from ISPs by court order. Doing this requires trampling on jurisdiction rules that keep people from being unfairly forced to defend themselves far from home, joinder rules that guarantee every defendant is treated as an individual, and the First Amendment, which gives us a right to communicate anonymously.  The RIAA’s lawsuit campaign also disregarded these legal safeguards. After the RIAA opened this door, the trolls lumbered in.

Finally, the entertainment industries have spent decades, and millions of lobbying and advertising dollars, to promote the simple but flawed idea that if copyright law promotes creativity, then ever-more-extreme copyright law will promote even more. According to this philosophy, the importance of preventing even the most inconsequential copyright infringement justifies chilling free speech, unmasking anonymous Internet users, wholesale regulation of the Internet … and setting loose the trolls. This worldview was on full display at a hearing last week in the D.C. federal district court, when ISPs, assisted by the EFF, tried to quash subpoenas for Internet users’ identities. EFF’s Seth Schoen matched wits with pornography financier AF Holdings’s expert on the workings of BitTorrent and Internet forensics, and the plaintiff’s attorney defended his litigation tactics as an acceptable way to “stop piracy.”

Although there will always be people willing to use the legal system as part of a shakedown, copyright trolls are a monster created in Hollywood. Naturally, the entertainment industry’s spokespeople, lobbyists, and other mouthpieces don’t discuss how the laws, treaties, court precedents, and private enforcement agreements they spend millions to promote will be misused by opportunists. But when the next SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, TPP, graduated response agreement, or state-level copyright bill comes along, let’s ask Hollywood and its allies how they plan to keep trolls confined to the big screen.

May 2, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment