Developer Issues Bogus Takedowns Against Cup Of Linux YouTube Channel In Retaliation For Being Banned For Abusive Behavior

from the IP-as-low-rent-thug dept

When you’ve run out of good ideas and constructive actions, there’s always IP abuse. It’s the perfect accomplice for all sorts of abusive behavior. Don’t like someone using your own words against you? Just holler about copyright until the criticism goes away. Pissed off by a bad review? Fire off copyright claims on the footage used in the video.

Fair use and YouTube will never work in sync, mainly for logistical reasons. So it has become a go-to platform for IP abusers. Here’s yet another story in which a legitimate YouTube account is a few steps closer to permanent death because a person decided to act vindictively, rather than responsibly.

The backstory: the Cup of Linux YouTube channel handles all things Linux, including coverage of distributions and how-to guides for new users. One Linux developer, Antoni Norman, is the main force behind the Pinguy OS Linux/Ubuntu hybrid. Over the years, he’s been a valuable contributor to the Linux community, including the one centered around Cup of Linux. Also, over the years, Shawn Patrick Ryan (“Spatry”) has covered Pinguy OS releases in a number of YouTube videos. So far, so good.

But things went bad. Here’s Spatry’s account of recent events (via email).

Pinguy was banned by moderators of my community at cupoflinux.com for several counts of misconduct while impaired. Pinguy is a great source of information and we have been more lenient with him than anyone else. I was going to consider lifting his ban after a 3 month period to send a strong message to him that we will not tolerate bad behavior from anyone. This act of acrimony makes his ban permanent and is treated as a “trademark troll” attack. The GNU general public license grants us the freedom to use GPL software in any way we see fit with the inclusion modifying, sharing and providing tutorials under FAIR USE.

An announcement at the Cup of Linux forums makes it a bit more explicit.

Users who require support for “P I N G U Y – O S” will need to direct their inquiries to their forum. The developer was justly banned from this community for multiple counts of bad behavior on our Mumble server.

In retaliation the developer of “P I N G U Y – O S” filed a trademark complaint against Cup of Linux for having promotional videos of that product. All developer posts have been removed from this board and all related materials have been purged from my YouTUBE channel. The forced removal of such videos do not hurt me personally but causes harm to community members who benefit from the tutorials.

Compiz videos tied to that series will be re-branded and re-released without “P I N G U Y – O S” logos or verbiage.

This is the notice Spatry received.

This has every appearance of being done for purely retaliatory reasons. This concern about his Pinguy trademarks didn’t manifest itself until after he was banned from the Cup of Linux forums and server. Spatry has provided more evidence of the previously friendly relationship these two enjoyed, including Norman’s appearance on videos produced by Cup of Linux, as well as his willingness to share his Pinguy OS logo with others for their own use.

In this thread, Norman praises Spatry for his How To video series featuring Pinguy OS and raises no objection to the sharing of a “Pinguy OS sticker” created by the Cup of Linux head.

This thread features both Spartry and Norman discussing a recent video featuring the Pinguy OS developer as a guest. Again, everything about the discussion is friendly. The only thing notable about it is Norman’s assertion that he shouldn’t have done the video “at 3am after 8 beers.” Despite the abusive behavior leading to his banning being (apparently) alcohol-related, there’s nothing in this discussion that indicates Norman crossed any lines during this recording session.

So, we have a friendly relationship that went south, due to Norman’s problematic behavior when impaired. Norman had any number of options available to address this situation if he felt it was unfair. But rather than use any of those routes (appeal to moderators, wait out the suspension, address it at his own forum, etc.), he decided to jeopardize Cup of Linux’s YouTube account by deliberately issuing bogus takedown demands.

As Spatry points out, the use of any Pinguy OS trademarks (and there’s no evidence any of these are registered — although ultimately that lack of official registration has little bearing on Norman’s right to issue takedowns) was clearly fair use. The marks were used in the context of instructional videos and, apparently with Norman’s full support prior to his banning. This is nothing more than Norman abusing tenuously-held “rights” to retaliate against Spatry for banning him.

YouTube has allowed Spatry to make changes in response to the requests and his channel doesn’t seem to be threatened with a shutdown at this point. But that could change. The system is easily abused and Norman knows it. The amount of damage he can do is disproportionate to the actual “harm” he’s experienced — both by being banned and (especially) by having his suddenly beloved “trademarks” used in videos that were largely supportive of him and his OS.

Norman experienced no harm from Spatry’s use of his trademarks. If he felt he had, he never mentioned it during the previous few years of interaction. It wasn’t until he engaged in self-destructive behavior that he suddenly became interested in “protecting” his IP. Spatry is challenging the claims, but everything about the situation will be left up to YouTube’s mostly automated processes. Context — as well as fair use considerations — won’t be considered. No doubt Norman is aware how slanted the system is towards rightsholders. He knew he could hurt Spatry and his channel and suffer zero repercussions. The only damage he’ll suffer is to his reputation.

This last avenue is the only route Spatry and Cup of Linux have available to them while YouTube sorts this out. While Spatry points out that Norman has been a useful contributor in the past, his current activity makes him any enemy of the same community he claims to be a part of.

As a community leader, I feel that I would be doing a major dis-service by keeping silent. If Antoni Norman wants to censor the community, maybe he should consider removing GPL licensing and applications from his operating system because this goes against everything the Free and Open software community stands for.

At this point, Spatry has removed an additional 29 23 videos from his channel in hopes of steering clear of further retaliatory actions — above and beyond the six being disputed. That’s 35 29 videos gone because of bogus trademark claims motivated by nothing more than vindictiveness. While we can all appreciate creators’ desire to protect their creations, the solution isn’t a system that can easily be exploited by petty individuals who have run out of good ideas.

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Comments on “Developer Issues Bogus Takedowns Against Cup Of Linux YouTube Channel In Retaliation For Being Banned For Abusive Behavior”

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56 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Yep, copyright working as intended, no issues here. Maybe one or two anomalies but no problem at all.

Interestingly the solution is brewing under the surface in the form of decentralized, anonymous structures. We have initiatives like YaCy for indexing and searching and Tribbler with a team that brought many decentralizing and anonymizing tools into bittorrent. It’s a matter of time till we have a decentralized, takedown-proof “Youtube” (maybe popcorn time has started it?).

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: parasitic posting

not necessarily apropos of this article, but here is a link and brief intro to an interesting blurb over at naked capitalism:

Cash or Copyright or Real Creativity?
Posted on January 6, 2015 by Yves Smith
Yet another important, counterintuitive finding…at least if you think that people respond only or mainly to economic incentives. Not to give the punchline away, but the success of open source software from a technical standpoint is one supporting datapoint. Can readers think of others?

By Dan Hunter, Dean, Swinburne Law School at Swinburne University of Technology. Originally published at The Conversation

Imagine you were asked to write a law that encouraged creativity. What would it look like? Whatever your answer, it’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t look like copyright.

Which is weird, right? Because copyright is supposed to be the law that spurs creativity. The problem, it turns out, is that the central features of copyright are directly opposed to the things that support creativity.

Creativity is a tricky thing to understand, and we have very little insight into what animates the creative spark and why some people are more creative than others.

But one thing we do know about creativity is that a really good way to make people less creative, is to pay them. A series of studies by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan Teresa Amabile, and others, have shown that primary school kids don’t learn to read if they’re paid to, artists produce their worst work when they’re commissioned to produce it, and people get worse at solving puzzles if you reward them for successful solutions.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/01/cash-copyright-real-creativity.html

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: parasitic posting

But one thing we do know about creativity is that a really good way to make people less creative, is to pay them. A series of studies by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan Teresa Amabile, and others, have shown that primary school kids don’t learn to read if they’re paid to, artists produce their worst work when they’re commissioned to produce it, and people get worse at solving puzzles if you reward them for successful solutions.

Methinks that was sarcasm. Go to one of the major art galleries and look at an Old Master. Most of the portraits, etc., were commissioned. And believe me, the lure of filthy lucre tends to make me much more likely to pull out the creative stops than the prospect of “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

Indeed, work I did for free tends to be undervalued and taken for granted while work I was actually paid for tends to be left standing.

If you offered to pay me to work full-time to solve puzzles I would ask how much and agree a rate with you right now. We do whatever pays the rent and generally for the most we can get.

Naked capitalism recommends not paying creatives? I recommend not reading Naked Capitalism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'm surprised this doesn't happen a lot more often

Plus you actually have to use your real name in the takedown. For DMCA complaints (which this isn’t) you also have to state under penalty of perjury that you own the copyrighted material. But even without the DMCA, you could probably get sued for tortious interference with a business relationship (or whatever that’s called in your state) if you lie to get a video taken down that was making money for the uploader.

So the takedown can only be safely issued when the channel is actually using something that belongs you. You can’t use it on some random enemy. (Well, you could, just like you could punch him in the face, but there would be legal consequences.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm surprised this doesn't happen a lot more often

“Since there’s basically no repercussions for bogus takedowns, why don’t we see it happening 1000x more?”

Because the majority of people are not egotistical assholes who think they can control anything and everything about their life and creations.

limbodog (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm surprised this doesn't happen a lot more often

That’s the same as the majority of people knowing that stealing is wrong, yet we still all have locks on our doors. I would, at the very least, expect some kind of 4Chan attempt to claim every video owned by [name of large hollywood entity] to be in violation and have them taken down as a disruption.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm surprised this doesn't happen a lot more often

If the uploads by major companies aren’t automatically protected from claims, then I’m sure any takedown claims on them would actually be scrutinized, rather than just automated.

Exactly, random citizens have videos taken down by automated processes and are subject to having their accounts canceled with no recourse or appeal. Big corporations, if subject to takedowns at all, would have the clout to actually get in contact with a person and get a situation taken care of.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I'm surprised this doesn't happen a lot more often

What makes you think it doesn’t happen a lot more?

Most of the time people either don’t know better, or don’t have the time and money to fight back against a bogus claim, and so end up folding by necessity, it’s only the times where people are able and willing to fight back that the matter goes public, like here.

Chris says:

I’m curious about something. It appears that Pinguy is claiming Great Britain as his country (GB, unless im mistaken on the abbreviation).

If Spatry wanted to pursue this in court as an abuse of the DMCA take-down process, has Pinguy automatically made himself accountable to the jurisdiction of the US by using the DMCA take-down process?

Spatry (user link) says:

Re: Re:

I do not know if GB residents have the option of filing a DCMA take-down since the law may not apply in their country. It is my guess that he could only use trademark infringement to force removal of content related to his project. We complied to the take-down without contest and communications with Mr. Norman are rejected by email filters.

We are in contact with the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) for support if this escalates into a legal battle. We are hoping we will not have to resort to this but will take action if necessary.

This goes against everything the GNU GPL stands for and WE as a community must make a stand against trademark censorship especially where projects are used in media outlets under FAIR USE.

If by chance referenced PinguyOS forum posts are removed, I have saved screen captures of the site and they are available by request.

metalliqaz (profile) says:

Antoni Norman

Here’s a better title: Antoni ‘pinguy’ Norman is an alcoholic asshole.

Maybe it’s a bit caustic and rude, but hey, it’s really what should come up on a search engine when someone searches for “Antoni Norman” or “pinguy”. That’s really the only positive result we can take away from this whole affair. It is now public knowledge that Antoni Norman, AKA pinguy, author of PinguyOS, is an alcoholic asshole. People can be warned to steer clear of his toxic bullshit in the future. I’m talking about the greater good here.

Spatry (user link) says:

Addendum

The actual number of videos taken down were 29. I apologize for not making that clearer in our communications.

Pinguy is a good source of information and we have been very lenient with him regarding his behavior. I have nothing against him personally. We will not tolerate excessive profanity and abusive language directed at our staff.

If you are new to open source, please visit us at cupoflinux.com we have a vibrant community with many tools available to educate, entertain and inspire 😀

Adam Williamson (user link) says:

Legal notes

IANAL, but some things struck me about this.

I’m pretty sure cupofdirt has a reasonable defence against Norman’s claim, but ‘the GPL’ isn’t it. Norman’s claim is based on trademark law, not copyright law. The GPL is a copyright license. Norman’s provision of any particular bit of software under the GPL is not relevant at all to any trademark rights he claims in the mark ‘Pinguy OS’.

Many F/OSS entities have registered trademarks which they defend; the Linux Foundation polices use of the ‘Linux’ trademark, Mozilla polices use of the ‘Firefox’ trademark, Red Hat polices use of the ‘Red Hat’ trademark, Canonical polices use of the ‘Ubuntu’ trademark, etc etc. This is perfectly well-established. Red Hat doesn’t let you release Bob’s Awesome Red Hat 5.0, Mozilla doesn’t let you release Jane’s Better Firefox.

The concept of ‘fair use’ is likewise not relevant here: for a start it’s a doctrine that relates to *copyright* law, and again, this is a *trademark* claim. Also note that Norman lists “Jurisdiction of registration” as “GB” (i.e. Great Britain), and British law does not formally recognize the concept of ‘fair use’ (AFAIK). There is an equivalent concept in British copyright law which is referred to as ‘fair dealing’, but again, that’s copyright law, not trademark law.

Again, I’m pretty sure a decent lawyer could defend Cup of Linux’s use of the alleged ‘Pinguy OS’ trademark (assuming any trademark right in that term is actually held to exist), but ‘fair use’ and ‘the GPL’ are not the grounds said lawyer would use.

and again, IANAL and this is not legal advice.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Legal notes

I think that you’re pretty much spot on here. It’s been well established that the GPL doesn’t cover the use of things like logos. That’s why there exists a Linux fork of FireFox that’s exactly the same as what you’re thinking of, but called IceWeasel.

However, having a trademark doesn’t stop other people from using your trademark. It stops them from using your trademark in connection with selling goods and services that are covered by the mark in a way that could be confusing for consumers. Using the mark in commentary, for example, if always perfectly fine.

Col.Linux (profile) says:

To be fair, Spatry is kind of a Douchebag and his forum rules are over the top retarded and heavy handedly carried out by overzealous mods. (per his instruction)

And lets not even begin to talk about if you disagree with his views on Church and God. He’s a typical recovering drug addict bible thumper that went from one extreme to another.

Xunil.Loc says:

Re: To be fair

To be fair, Spatry is kind of a Douchebag

So are you.

By any measure you use, you are what you say of others. The actual process is called By the standard you judge, so too you will be judged.

It applies to you, it applies to me, it applies to all.

So what if he has particular standards by which he runs his site, that is his choice. If you don’t like the way he runs his business, create your own in the manner you want.

Like all the troll-boys here who complain about Mike’s standards, they can always create their own forum’s in opposition.

Enjoy your day and really just chill. It’s too hot to be arguing and complaining today with temperatures already at 30 degrees and heading north to 37 degrees. Sit back and watch either the cricket or the tennis or even go for a swim. Time for a coldie and a sanger.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: To be fair

So what if he has particular standards by which he runs his site, that is his choice.

Certainly, and everyone else is free to criticize him for it as well.

Enjoy your day and really just chill. It’s too hot to be arguing and complaining today with temperatures already at 30 degrees and heading north to 37 degrees.

Too cold to argue maybe. -4F here.

Col.Linux (profile) says:

Re: Re: To be fair

If he got kicked for not following Spats rules, that’s fine by me but to keep things in perspective, if you show any disagreement with Spat or Kurt, you are toast.

If they know you and you’re on their good side, they could care less what you do or say. (within some reasoning of course.)

Spat and Kurt are constantly making sex jokes back and forth but if someone else even remotely jokes off topic, Holy God won’t save you from the warnings compoundly sent to your inbox.

His house, his rules, I get it and I live by them while I’m there.

Outside of the things I have said, they are very helpful to people who need it and most of the regulars are pretty cool. Take it or leave it, idc. All forums have issues and quirks, CoL just happens to be with the leader and the example he sets.

Chris

Kurt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: To be fair

Hi Im Kurt as mentioned in this post.

And I totally Disagree ! Me and Spatry firstly Do never have sex jokes ! ( This would be banned under the forum rules )

Secondly – Yes I am a Moderator there and have been for some time – My job is to keep the peace on the chat room, forums and I do ..

I dont ban or kick people unless they need it – To date I have neve kicked or banned anyone long term.

This is just false reporting and Im guessing a troll here to poo poo the Cup of Linux Channel which in my opinion is great.

Unbiased

And we only kick / Ban people who break the rules.

Best wishes – Kurt

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