Google, Microsoft And Other Ad Networks Agree To 'Best Practices' To Stop Ads From Appearing On 'Pirate' Sites

from the the-details-matter dept

This has been rumored for ages, and the White House has certainly been pushing for this almost non-stop for years, but in a similar vein to the ISPs and the RIAA/MPAA coming to a "voluntary agreement" to implement a six strikes policy, the major online ad networks, led by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) along with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL (and, yes, with the White House) have come to an agreement to stop their ads from appearing on "rogue" sites that are engaged in copyright infringement or selling counterfeit goods via a series of "best practices." The agreement says that the various ad networks who are participating will strive to keep their ads off of sites "that are principally dedicated to selling counterfeit goods or engaging in copyright piracy and have no substantial non-infringing uses."

I have some concerns about this, as I'll discuss below, but on the whole it appears that there's actually some good to come out of this. First off, it's worth noting that all of these guys already have terms of service that bar the use of their ads on sites that primarily engage in such things. While various tech industry haters still tend to believe otherwise, the tech industry has been pretty good at keeping their ads directly away from such sites for years. The ads that tend to get on those sites come from tiny third party ad networks that no one has heard of. In fact, some of the "evidence" against Megaupload was that from very early on, Google kicked it out of its ad program.

Another sign that this agreement probably isn't that bad: the MPAA has already put out a statement about how they hate it, saying that it's not enough. Chris Dodd specifically argues that nothing is going to be enough until everyone else does the copyright holders' job for them, and proactively polices the internet. The fact that no one but the copyright holder can know for certain if something is infringing is not even allowed to enter the discussion in the corrupt minds of the MPAA.

In this case, it appears that this new agreement involves something of a more formalized notice and (possible) takedown system. Copyright holders can submit a complaint to each ad network (individually, not to some central authority), and then the ad network gets to decide how it handles the notice -- but, under the best practices, they will strive to keep their ads from appearing on such sites. Since this is just a voluntary agreement, unlike, say, the DMCA, there's no automatic liability shifting in refusing to pull the ads -- and the agreement makes it clear that the best practices themselves do not establish liability, nor do they create a duty to proactively monitor (though, I could see how copyright holders might later try to raise that issue).

The good thing about this program is that it appears those who worked on it clearly recognize that certain copyright holders may be a little over eager in claiming certain sites are "pirate" sites when they might not be. So the program is designed to be more transparent and to include the clear ability for a site to appeal such a decision and get the ad networks to reconsider. In some ways, this is a step forward from the way it was before, in which Google or others might just kick you out of the program with almost no communication and absolutely no right of appeal. In fact, Google is somewhat infamous for its big white monolithic response to kicking people out of its ad network: basically just telling them "you've violated our terms" with no explanation, no way to find out more, and no way to appeal. Adding an actual appeals process is a step up.

That said, there are still two key concerns here. The first is that even with an appeals process and various safeguards, it's quite likely that legitimate sites that have significant non-infringing purposes will still get caught up in this. We've seen too many false takedowns, false attacks and the like for that not to happen. And even with an appeals process, losing your entire ad network for a period of time can completely sink a small business (and, any site making money on these kinds of ad networks is, by definition, a small business -- because none of these ad networks pay out very much to individual sites).

The second concern is a bigger one: which is that if you look at the history of some of the most important innovations that have helped the content industry grow, they almost always start out as what those content industries deemed "principally dedicated to infringing activity." In the early days of radio, cable TV, VCRs, DVRs, mp3 players, YouTube, etc... they were all attacked as being hotbeds of infringement. Yet, as they grew in popularity, business models developed that helped the content industry tremendously. As I've pointed out in the past, it was only four years after Jack Valenti declared that the VCR was the "Boston Strangler" of the movie business that the home video business surpassed the box office in revenue for Hollywood. Yet, if we allow a system where the copyright holders are able to simply starve these new businesses completely before they've had a chance to develop and mature, I worry that we miss the next VCR, the next DVR, the next mp3 player, the next YouTube -- and whatever tool that comes next that allows content creators to do an even better job connecting with fans, creating new works, distributing new works, promoting those works and eventually monetizing those works.

It's easy to simply try to label all new upstarts as "evil" and kill them off, but history has shown that's generally not a very good idea. The reason those upstarts are successful is not that they enable infringement, but rather that they enable something new and useful that people want and like. The real opportunity is in figuring out ways for content creators to use that to their advantage -- and I fear that programs like this make it easier to simply snuff them out too early.

That said, if there needs to be such a program, this one appears to be the least destructive approach. It doesn't create liability or a proactive duty to police the internet. It allows the networks to make the final call on what do with complaints. It gives the accused sites the ability to appeal whatever decisions are made. Either way, I would imagine that the MPAA and the RIAA already have their incredibly long lists of sites ready and are submitting them everywhere they can... and within a few weeks we'll watch them issue statements about how the new program isn't working and how more needs to be done.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    the history of some of the most important innovations that have helped the content industry grow, they almost always start out as what those content industries deemed "principally dedicated to infringing activity."

    They don't care, they care about the money. We, the ones who care, should be giving our traffic to other ad networks. Other people better than me at programming could help with some sort of add-on to keep only friendly ad networks unblocked.

    Yet, if we allow a system where the copyright holders are able to simply starve these new businesses completely before they've had a chance to develop and mature, I worry that we miss the next VCR, the next DVR, the next mp3 player, the next YouTube -- and whatever tool that comes next that allows content creators to do an even better job connecting with fans, creating new works, distributing new works, promoting those works and eventually monetizing those works.

    That's why open source and possibly crowdsourcing will be the future of innovative stuff. As wisely said, the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    Making pirate site more attractiv ethan ever

    The agreement says that the various ad networks who are participating will strive to keep their ads off of sites "that are principally dedicated to selling counterfeit goods or engaging in copyright piracy and have no substantial non-infringing uses."


    Thus making "pirate sites" even more useful and attractive than ever before.

     

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  3.  
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    TasMot (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    But Still One Big Question

    If the "rights holders" can identify the "alleged bad guys" why can't they go get them taken down instead of everybody else needing to play "whac-a-mole" to try to hide them?

     

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  4.  
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    CK20XX, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:05am

    Advertising has been a dying business model ever since it was first introduced anyway. People have always hated being interrupted by ads, and whenever they've been given power over what they view, ads are always the first thing to go. That executives have never realized this has always been rather shocking. It's as if TV execs never watch any TV themselves.

    It's time to develop new business models to replace the ad-driven ones anyway. Sure, it's an easy train to hop onto, but it is unsustainable. You could probably be just as successful selling caps and shirts to support your site.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    The MPAA's great, great ancestors were the first movie 'pirates' in history. The film industry moved out west to California in order to avoid paying Thomas Edison's licensing fees for his newly created 'motion picture' camera.

    All the MPAA needs to do is look in a mirror to see who the true 'pirates' are.

    http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-boss-forgets-hollywoods-pirate-history-120428/

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    The RIAA/MPAA want the right to control all audio/visual content distribution, forcing creators to use their publishing services. Keep an eye out for mistakes attacking pod-casters and CC music sites.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:16am

    Seems like a good thing overall.

    I am anti-copyright in general, but I believe that only the original artist should be able to make money from his/her creation (upon registration for such rights, if the artist so wishes). Basically, I think that copyright should be like CC BY-NC, but the artist should have to register for the NC part (and it would be of a limited duration). This retains the incentive to create, but gets rid of a whole lot of copyright insanity.

    tl;dr, I agree with the idea in principle.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    They should save me the trouble of running ad blockers/pop-up blockers/Don't track me extensions/noscript. Take them all off the net and that would make me happy.

    Again it is demonstrated that the entertainment agents have no clue about the real world and are happily gulping down their own propaganda. Lacking some pay-for-sites, I know of no web sites that are actually making enough money from net ads to make a profit. The overwhelming majority aren't making enough from server costs to even pay for the hosting b/w and other related expenses. Blocking $5 to $10 a month is really gonna hurt I'm sure. /s

     

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  9.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    Re: But Still One Big Question

    Because that would require work, and that's something they prefer to avoid if at all possible, instead banking on just buying up various copyrights and using them as a source of money, either directly(by selling the product), or indirectly(by suing those that may or may not have infringed on 'their' copyright).

     

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  10.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    Yes, 'mistakes', of course...

     

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  11.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Re:

    I think most would agree with you, that creators have a right to be given the exclusive opportunity to make money off their creation for a time, it's the 'duration' bit, as well as the insanely out of proportion penalty structure in place currently that causes people to have a problem with the system.

    When a single song/book/movie can stay locked up via copyright for decades after the death of the creator, and people threatened with fines large enough to buy houses with, it's rather hard to respect the copyright system as-is.

     

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  12.  
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    Lord Binky, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:41am

    The solution is simple, don't allow copyrighted material on the internet.

    I know what some of you are thinking, and no I don't mean keeping the unauthorized material off the internet. That's just silly and impossible, what I mean is ALL of it. If it's copyrighted, it's gone. No questions necessary about ownership, since even the owners would be barred from putting it on the internet if they placed a copyright on it.

    So what if we lose services like Netflix and any newspapers or major parts of online stores such as Amazon's ebooks. The internet will be a safer cleaner place, and isn't that the important part?

     

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  13.  
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    KWW, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    Longest webpage filename ever?

    bestpracticesguidelinesforadnetworkstoaddresspiracyandcounterfeiting.html

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:49am

    I shouldn't worry too much about stifling innovation, India, China, Brazil etc will still do it, the only thing stuff like this does is hurt the USA and its residents.

     

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  15.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re:

    Fifteen years ago I thought all advertising was a blight upon humanity and should be done away with.

    The world just seemed polluted with advertising. Then it started happening on the web. Indiscriminate and even obnoxious advertising.

    I have come to not mind, and even sometimes like advertising that is for something that I happen to be interested in. Especially on a search results page where little to no personal information is needed.

    While some forms of advertising may be a dying business model, I suspect that Google's model is here to stay for awhile. Basically, give everyone a superior experience in exchange for ads taylored just for them. Maybe ads they are even interested in. I find this way less abrasive than ads were in the past.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    Re: But Still One Big Question

    Because that costs the "content-creators" money.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    What about YouTube?

    Given how the likes of Viacom feel about sites like YouTube, I wonder if Google would be willing to remove YouTube from its own advertising network.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:15pm

    Anyone who still thinks "pirate" sites make a fortune from ads is completely and utterly delusional... Even a major and successful site does not make lots of profits based on ads.

    Oh look, it's the MAFIAA's MO all over again.

    And private sites depend on community donations to survive, so again they won't be hurt by the useless money spending.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    Would that include kitties being, you know, cute? If so, then you have gone too far LB!

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

    The MPAA hates it. Always a good sign.

     

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  21.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:43pm

    In the long term, this is probably good

    Having the major tech giants come up with collaborative "best practices" agreement on their own (okay, the White House was pressuring them, but that's not the point here!) is great in the long run because it was formed by people who actually understand what they're regulating/doing. Compare that to Congress/politicians, who (aside from Ron Wyden and a few others) can't tell their head from their ass when it comes to things related to the Internet (see: SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, etc, etc.).

    I'd take a bunch of tech guys over a bunch of bumbling politicians when it comes to designing with a mutual agreement on how to deal with ad networks and copyright infringement any day of the week (and twice on Sundays).

    Will this please the MPAA/RIAA? It did for about 0.00000001 seconds, and then Chris Dodd started whining about the tech giants are still refusing to be Hollywood's personal copyright police force.

    Will it be effective?

    As the Zen Master says, "We'll see."

     

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  22.  
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    Karl (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    ALL of it. If it's copyrighted, it's gone.

    Well, since every form of expression is automatically copyrighted, this would mean that the Internet would only be allowed to present raw, non-expressive facts.

    The Internet would essentially become nothing more than a phone book.

     

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  23.  
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    Lord Binky, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re:

    You could allow it if an animal took the photo, so kitties taking cute pictures of themselves, since animals can't own copyright.

     

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  24.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

    Re:

    Unless the tech world tears the current Internet asunder and rebuilds it the exact way that the MPAA/RIAA/the rest of their cronies envisions for their perfect, gatekeeper-controlled universe, I'm pretty sure the MPAA hates anything the Tech community does by default.

     

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  25.  
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    Lord Binky, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, yes, but afterword groups such as the RIAA will have to lobby for weaker copyright laws (only because there is no other direction left).

    I need that to happen for step #73 in my plan for hell to freeze over.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:16pm

    I run an mp3 hosting site, and have never shown ads on my site. Partially because I don't like them, partially because remixes are still a grey area of the law, and lastly, I'm not in it for the money. I've made a lot of friends doing it, and it is somewhat of a hobby for me.

    I hear people say about piracy (sharing commercial movies/music/books) that the people don't do it for the money, the do it because information wants to be free, etc. etc. Blah Blah... Yet I look around at other sites like mine, and they are plastered with ads.

    If all of the ads were suddenly taken away, how many of these sites would remain "for the love of sharing" or "helping to keep information free" etc.? These sites claim they only have ads so they can pay the server bills and other overhead, which I can understand. I however think that most of them are actually turning a nice profit, and if the ads were taken away would shut down pretty quickly.

    Would donations help to keep these sites up? Maybe. How would you pay? USPS,PayPal, and everyone else is now watching you, offline and online.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:20pm

    Re:

    For sites, I think you could very well be more successful selling caps and T-shirts. But if you want to have T-shirts and caps you better find a broker, make designs yourself (guess why?), find national shipping and maybe international shipping, make payment methods available etc. If the sellers of caps and T-shirts can deliver software and deals, you are likely getting almost nothing out of it. It is just that much easier to find an ad-network and earning the few pennies.

    When it comes to streamed content it is another story. That is where you can end up with a chance of making up to a decent living from ad-revenues partly because of certain industries (mostly tv and radio, but also Cthulus bretheren.) and their demands, partly because of competition, partly because of a few principles from certain companies.

     

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  28.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re:

    Basically, give everyone a superior experience in exchange for ads taylored just for them. Maybe ads they are even interested in. I find this way less abrasive than ads were in the past.


    Not me. I find the current advertising model (especially targeted ads) far more annoying and abrasive than ads in the past.

    It's one of the reasons I avoid using Google services. I might change my mind about Google's service if they gave me the option to pay them money instead of seeing ads and being tracked.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:56pm

    Re:

    it would spur the next generation of file sharing technology. I think it will be a good thing either way.

     

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  30.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Re:

    The solution is simple, don't allow copyrighted material on the internet.


    How about if we just don't allow any commercial material on the internet?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 2:15pm

    What?

    There are ads on the internet???

     

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  32.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 4:49pm

    Well now they have all of the NSA money so they don't need to advertise for new customers.

     

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  33.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 6:42pm

    That's fine as long as they also exclude websites of companies that are guilty of price fixing and antitrust violations.

     

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  34.  
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    The Moondoggie, Jul 17th, 2013 @ 2:01am

    Not going to work.

    Meh, this ain't gonna work for simply because Ad firms knows piracy sites have a lot of traffic and that means money for them. They won't just let go of their cash printer just because some nerd from the government tells them to do it.

    Also some file hosting sites, like #26 has, don't have ads on them. There are plenty of that all over the internet and such acts like stopping ads appearing to such sites is just meaningless.

    So, as a proud pirate, I'm not worried. Nope. Please tell Chris Dodd for me to try harder.

     

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  35.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Jul 18th, 2013 @ 8:09pm

    Re:

    Keep an eye out for mistakes attacking pod-casters and CC music sites.
    Let's not forget websites that host fanfiction, even when they also host original works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Jul 18th, 2013 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:



    Well, yes, but afterword groups such as the RIAA will have to lobby for weaker copyright laws (only because there is no other direction left).

    I need that to happen for step #73 in my plan for hell to freeze over.


    Well, I think that copyright maximalist groups lobbying for weaker copyright laws would be sufficient by itself to make Hell freeze over!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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