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Organization Helping Police Inject Ads On 'Pirate' Sites 'Pirates' BBC Article About The Program

from the well-there-go-its-own-ads dept

Earlier this week we wrote about the latest ridiculous move by the City of London Police to inject ridiculous ads on sites that the City of London Police force deems to be “pirate sites.” As we noted in our writeup, it’s not always so easy to determine what is and what is not a “pirate” site. Here, let’s take a look at the website of a company called “Project Sunblock.” It’s a “brand safety” advertising company that claims to scan pages that ads appear on to make sure that good ads don’t appear on “bad pages.” It’s also the “partner” that the City of London Police are using to do their ad injection. Here’s what the original BBC article about this operation had to say about them:

Project Sunblock detects the content of websites to prevent brands’ ads appearing where they do not want them.

When a website on Pipcu’s Infringing Websites List (IWL) tries to display an advert, Project Sunblock will instead serve the police warning.

Neither the police or Project Sunblock are paying the website in question to display the police message.

So here’s the question: is Project Sunblock itself running a rogue site? Parker Higgins happened to notice that the company decided to copy the entire BBC article onto its blog. It seems to think it’s okay to do that, so long as it includes a “first published by Dave Lee on [BBC URL]” at the end. But, of course, that’s not true. The company appears to have just copied the entire article wholesale and put it on its own website. The BBC might claim that this is infringement. Assuming that, at some point, some genius at Project Sunblock may rethink this decision, here’s a thumbnail screenshot (you can click for a larger version):

Of course, this sort of thing — “ooh, nice PR article for us, let’s highlight it by posting it to our blog” — happens all the time. Because it seems totally natural and normal to most folks. Because it is. But it’s also likely to be copyright infringement, especially in the UK where they don’t have a pesky little thing called fair use.

But, really, it highlights the problem. The very company that is providing the tools to present bogus warnings to people that they’re on a site engaged in copyright infringement is, itself, likely engaged in copyright infringement. Because, these days, it’s almost impossible not to infringe someone’s copyright at some point or another. Figuring out what sites are “pirate” sites and what sites are “legit” isn’t so easy. When even the company the City of London Police signed up to do their ad injections can’t figure out how copyright works, shouldn’t the City of London Police think twice about unilaterally declaring sites pirate sites?

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Companies: project sunblock

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Comments on “Organization Helping Police Inject Ads On 'Pirate' Sites 'Pirates' BBC Article About The Program”

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35 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They do because they can...

Wrong police force, this is being done by the police force that literally police a single square Mile in London.
From the wikipedia article

With 1,310 employees, including 750 full-time police officers, 70 special constables and 39 police community support officers,[1] and three police stations (at Wood Street (also the headquarters), Snow Hill, and Bishopsgate), the City of London Police is the smallest territorial police force in England and Wales,

The Metropolitan police look after the rest of London.

Anonymous Coward says:

Adblock has a reason it exists. It’s to block annoying advertisements. I wish it could block annoying organizations in total as well.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen one of their ads. Guess I don’t go to the right places for that.

If my ISP were to do this, I’d call it spamming. That it’s a questionable action by a questionable authority to a questionable solution by self interested parties, doesn’t make it right nor legal. It gives it far more than just a bad odor. No wonder very few people like those lobbying agencies nor the majors they represent.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If my ISP did this I’d call it theft. It’s probably not the right word, but I can’t think of a better one to describe the actual, measurable loss of income to a site that has not be deemed illegal by a court of law.

Imagine if you liked a site, let’s say Techdirt, well enough to turn off your adblock to help support the site. Wouldn’t you be really pissed off if you saw someone intercepting the ads with the express intent of cutting of a revenue source?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Adblock has a reason it exists. It’s to block annoying advertisements.”

That’s not the only reason AdBlock exists, nor is it the most important reason.

The most important reason is that advertising networks are notorious for spreading malware and browser exploits. Really. Go look it up. I’ll wait.

Forget the momentary annoyance of having your screen splattered with junk. Ignore the bandwidth you’re using up — against your usuriously-priced quota. And blow off the privacy-invading targeting and tracking tactics. All of those pale into insignificance compared to the damage that a compromised ad-serving network can do — and quickly.

Which is why I don’t just rely on AdBlock: I use firewalls and filtering HTTP proxies. And no, I won’t turn those off for ANY site, no matter how much I like it.

The Internet advertising “industry”, if I can dignify it with a term it doesn’t deserve, is completely out of control in terms of security and privacy. Until it starts behaving like a grown-up, there is no reason at all to let it anywhere near your computing environment. Block, blacklist, firewall, filter, do whatever is necessary to make it disappear from your view of the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t have to look the malware part up. It’s the main reason I went to adblock and refuse to turn it off. No one bothers to come help you clean out your computer from these ads when it gets infected yet they all want you to view their ads for income. The day they start cleaning the computers they infect from the results of those ads is the day I’ll consider turning it off.

As you mention it is a security issue with a side benefit of blocking ads.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The Internet advertising “industry”, if I can dignify it with a term it doesn’t deserve, is completely out of control in terms of security and privacy. Until it starts behaving like a grown-up, there is no reason at all to let it anywhere near your computing environment. Block, blacklist, firewall, filter, do whatever is necessary to make it disappear from your view of the Internet.”

Oh puhleaze. Don’t blame the advertisers for your poor choice of software[1].

Run Qubes-os, devote some time to help with Genode.org, or help with the recently open sourced SeL4.

[1]. Choices include anything from Microsoft, Linux, Apple, Google. It’s not about vendor, it’s about the monolithic browsers on top of OS’s that protect against threats from the last millennium.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: A Bad Thing

“I can’t see how it isn’t copyright infringment.”

I can see one case where it isn’t infringement. If BBC gave permission for the cross post, then it’s not infringement. We have no evidence suggesting that they did, but we don’t have any evidence suggesting they didn’t. We can’t condemn these people without evidence, else we become as bad as they are. It’s a good hypothetical since, using their logic, the accusation is valid.

Anonymous Coward says:

That looks like infringement to me as well, but I don’t think that makes it a pirate site since the site is not dedicated to infringement. I realize some cases close to the margin may be difficult to assess, but this isn’t one of them. One single infringement does not a pirate site make.

(P.S. Is there any way you could stop doing to me that thing you’re doing, Mike? I’d like to be able to post freely. By the way, it was my donation that put you over the $60K mark. I’m happy to help out because I read TD everyday and I value what you do, even if I disagree with you quite often.)

Anonymous Coward says:

If it were republished with the consent of the BBC, I would expect that to also be noted in the attribution footer. Such a note is not required, but is often included to discourage such speculation of inappropriate copying.

In the meantime, until we have reason to believe their reposting is lawful, I move that Project Sunblock have all its servers stricken from the Internet, by disconnection imposed from their ISP if necessary. Consequences to their advertising and business be damned. That is the MPAA/RIAA way, isn’t it?

Jake says:

I used to be in favour of handing this sort of thing over to the police, at least in this country. I thought they’d spout some pious platituides, form a taskforce of anyone too inept or promotion-hungry to be entrusted with anything important and wait for the politicians to forget about the whole thing, like they do with various and sundry other ridiculous edicts passed down through the Home Office.

Then again, maybe the whole City of London Police has been used as a dumping ground for that sort. It’s one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the country; most permanent residents are so rich they’re effectively above the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

out of curiosity, under what authority does ‘the city of london police use to actually overwrite any ads anyway? does the sites that have the disputed ads have permission to run them, or are they breaking the law from the get go? plus, what compensation is there when the police ad appears on any sites it shouldn’t? what is actually happening, in my opinion, is that this ‘force’ is doing what it is doing totally illegally, just as everything the entertainment industries do is illegal in trying to prevent people getting at their stuff. the only thing that is wanted to be done is as much financial damage, as much family damage and as much freedom damage as possible. i cannot understand how any government can not only allow but actively encourage these steps rather than trying to get the industries involved to try every option available first. we all agree just about that offering to customers what they want, (fast downloads, released early, sensible pricing, no drm, equal quality to that found elsewhere), will do more to aid the legal downloading that is sought. constantly penalising people in the harshest ways possible, will get the industries nothing except scorn and contempt!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

i cannot understand how any government can not only allow but actively encourage these steps rather than trying to get the industries involved to try every option available first.

The biggest danger to elected officials is a citizenry that can communicate with each other, and organize themselves without the aid of a government controlled bureaucracy. The Arab spring has shown the dangers of modern communications to a governments, so they will be quite happy to see the Internet turned into cable TV V2.

Anonymous Coward says:

More about Project Sunblock

An excerpt from their domain registration:

Registrant Name: Project Sunblock
Registrant Organization: ArtsandTV.company
Registrant Street: 105 Church St.
Registrant Street: Suite 600
Registrant City: Toronto
Registrant State/Province: Ontario
Registrant Postal Code: M5C 2G3
Registrant Country: Canada
Registrant Phone: +1.4168872787
Registrant Email: tech@artsandtv.com

And who is artsandtv.com? An excerpt from their registration:

Registrant Name: J R Lightstone
Registrant Organization: ArtsandTV.company Inc
Registrant Street: 18A Deer Park Cres
Registrant City: Toronto
Registrant State/Province: Ontario
Registrant Postal Code: m4v 2c2
Registrant Country: Canada
Registrant Phone: 4168872787

J R Lightstone appears to be Jeremy Lightstone, as found here:

http://www.newatlanta.com/c/products/bluedragon/self_help/archiveSearch/detail?messageId=77733

and here:

http://www.newatlanta.com/c/products/bluedragon/self_help/archiveSearch/detail?messageId=77520

A regurgitated press release about this is here:

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ArtsandTV.company+Inc.+Launches+Project+Sunblock%2c+A+Leading+Edge…-a0239960771

It concludes by giving this contact information:

Ian Lightstone
ArtsandTV.company Inc.
ilightstone@artsandtv.com
646-315-1663

Ken Epstein
kepstein@artsandtv.com
805-234-5330
info@projectsunblock.com

There are plenty of hits on these names if you want to keep going. But at least now we have some idea who the assholes behind this are.

who cares (profile) says:

Re: Well

Project Sunblock on it’s own isn’t a bad idea.
The problem comes from turning the idea of not serving ads on certain sites to the notion that all those sites are illegal and because of that we, that is that snooty set of coppers in the London Mile, are free to hijack what ad would be placed on there instead of the ad that would be served by an organization using the info from Project Sunblock to not have their ad displayed there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What about the ISPs?

Shh. Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

As far as I know illegal blocking is rarely tried:
1. The sites owner is not informed in several of the processes.
2. The owner is a common John Doe in most cases, meaning he ain’t got the money to sue.
3. If a site actually informs Sunblock of its legal status, Sunblock can remove the block and point to a policy of review on request or similar when confronted. It will be difficult to see the illegal blocking as willful and the case gets rather small.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, that’s the community at large, and you’re not being censored, you’re having your comments hidden behind a fiendishly difficult to bypass(seriously, it is insanely difficult to follow instructions as complex as ‘This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it’ /s) system that is triggered when enough people decide a comment is toxic enough that people shouldn’t have to deal with it.

In short: Don’t like to be sent to time out? Don’t act like an unruly child.

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