Why Would Amazon Want To Block Links From A File Sharing Search Engine?

from the uh...-what? dept

While it's certainly not true for everyone who uses file sharing systems, plenty of people do actually use them as a "try before you buy" system. As such, it certainly makes sense to put links on file sharing systems to take them to sites where they can purchase the digital version if they really want to. Yet, apparently, Amazon doesn't like the idea of converting unauthorized downloaders into authorized purchasers, as it demanded that Coda.fm remove links to the purchase pages on Amazon.com and also killed off Coda.fm's affiliate account. It's difficult to see any rationale for this at all. This was a way to convert people into paying for the files. Why would Amazon want to block that?

Somewhat related to this, it appears that Google is now blocking some custom searches set up by torrent tracker sites to help people find torrents via Google's custom search engine. Given that the response to The Pirate Bay verdict has actually focused a fair amount of attention on Google as being able to "do the same thing," perhaps this is an attempt to try to back away from that. If so, that's rather disappointing. Google claims its goal is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." An awful lot of that information is found via torrents -- and plenty of that is perfectly legit and authorized.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Kirk, May 1st, 2009 @ 2:15pm

    Bad Traffic?

    Maybe amazon got a lot of "reviews" at those pages saying "XYZ isn't worth it. I'm downlowding it from HERE right now." Maybe.

    Maybe google should revise their mission to read "legally accessible."

     

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  2.  
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    Kirk, May 1st, 2009 @ 2:22pm

    Google, Ltd.

    "Somewhat related to this, it appears that Google is now blocking some custom searches set up by torrent tracker sites to help people find torrents via Google's custom search engine."

    It's like google, but not as useful.

    Don't sell all your google, but definitely stop buying. (not actual stock market advice.)

     

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  3.  
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    Evil Mike, May 1st, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    Not as useful...

    Guess the "let's alienate part of our user base with no explicit explanation" time has come to Google. It's the beginning of the end. Sad days, sad days indeed.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    It's difficult to see any rationale for this at all.

    Maybe Amazon doesn't want to open itself up to liability for contributory or vicarious copyright infringement?

    Maybe they don't want to be perceived as a company that will pay other people to support copyright infringement - which is still against the law, regardless of whether you think it should be or not?

    Maybe Amazon doesn't want to be paying affiliate fees to keep a "competitor" open for business?

    Unlike the newspapers, Amazon is willing to sacrifice a trickle of income when it's coming from a source that is fundamentally undermining the business they're in.

    Whether you think "try before you buy" infringement is harmful or should be illegal, it IS illegal in the United States (yes, I understand that copyright law has a large gray area, but let's be realistic about where this behavior falls).

    If you don't like it, lobby your congresspersons. Get a proposition on the state ballot.

     

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  5.  
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    Ryan, May 1st, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    Re:

    And...how exactly are these people engaging in copyright infringement via Amazon, hmm? As far as I know, there is no way to do so either on Amazon, or through a link located on Amazon's site. In fact, they are contributing to a drop in copyright infringement, if anything, since they are offering legitimate content as an alternative to users whom might otherwise have pursued it from Coda.fm. Their actions make no sense--it reminds me of Egypt killing a bunch of pigs, ostensibly due to swine flu though it is not transmitted via pork.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), May 1st, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    Re:

    Maybe Amazon doesn't want to open itself up to liability for contributory or vicarious copyright infringement?


    Huh? How is offering an option to turn infringers into buyers contributory infringement? It's the opposite of that?

    Maybe they don't want to be perceived as a company that will pay other people to support copyright infringement - which is still against the law, regardless of whether you think it should be or not?

    Uh, but again, you have it backwards. This is not about supporting infringing. It's about getting people to pay.

    Maybe Amazon doesn't want to be paying affiliate fees to keep a "competitor" open for business?


    That's the entire point of an affiliate business.

    Unlike the newspapers, Amazon is willing to sacrifice a trickle of income when it's coming from a source that is fundamentally undermining the business they're in.

    Pray tell, how are newspapers supporting a source that is fundementally undermining their business? That's the most moronic thing I've heard today.

    Whether you think "try before you buy" infringement is harmful or should be illegal, it IS illegal in the United States (yes, I understand that copyright law has a large gray area, but let's be realistic about where this behavior falls).


    Yes, it is illegal in most cases. We agree totally.

    Taking Amazon off the site doesn't make it any less so. But it does make it less likely that people will become legal buyers.

    That's just idiotic.

    If you don't like it, lobby your congresspersons. Get a proposition on the state ballot.


    Against Amazon being stupid?!?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 3:00pm

    plenty of that is perfectly legit and authorized

    Is "plenty that is perfectly legit" the P2P norm? I am not sure it is. What follows is TPB Top 100 for Applications:

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 3:00pm

    Re:

    "Unlike the newspapers, Amazon is willing to sacrifice a trickle of income when it's coming from a source that is fundamentally undermining the business they're in."

    That's a silly proposition, arrived at because you're asking the wrong questions. Whether or not YOU think "try before you buy" infringement is harmful, no one's opinion will change the economic realities at work here. Amazon can turn it's back on all the income it wants (it's their money) but investors will then send THEIR money to smarter businesses.

     

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  9.  
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    Ryan, May 1st, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Re:

    How about a different example? Do you know how many high school prom nights don't involve underage drinking? I don't either, but I would wager it's pretty damn small. I suppose we should just eliminate prom nights then, although that seems to me a much more rash and idiotic course of actions than punishing on a per-case basis since eliminating prom night punishes so many more than just the infringers...

     

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  10.  
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    Kirk, May 1st, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    Re: Top 100

    Thanks Bro. I couldn't decide on a GPS, but with those maps available, the TomTom just got a lot more valuable. I'm going to order mine through Ama... I'll just drive to Best Buy.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Bad Traffic?

    Maybe google should revise their mission to read "legally accessible."

    They're blocking "legally accessible" content as well.
    Maybe Google should revise their mission to read "corporately correct."

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re:

    Huh? How is offering an option to turn infringers into buyers contributory infringement? It's the opposite of that?

    Amazon pays affiliates when clicked links turn into purchases, which create profits for Amazon. If those clicks are driven by pages, or a business, or a site where infringement is taking place, then it is fairly straightforward to make an argument that Amazon is indirectly profiting from AND supporting copyright infringement.

    As you have repeatedly pointed out in recent articles, courts are increasingly finding that if you profit from copyright infringement - even indirectly - and you know about it, and you don't take reasonable measures to stop it, you may be found liable. My guess is that Amazon has made a business decision that the additional profits it gets from these affiliate links don't warrant the increased liability.

    Uh, but again, you have it backwards. This is not about supporting infringing. It's about getting people to pay.

    You've implicitly excluded the third option, which happens to be the reality: it's both. There's subtlety here: yes, there are one or two layers of indirection between Amazon's affiliate program and the money paying the bills for an organization that may (in Amazon's opinion) encourage copyright infringement. How much indirection is enough for a company to wash its hands of liability? This is a tough question to answer.

    Extreme positions on this argument almost never make sense. So we get sarcastic comments that maybe we should hold steel miners liable for gun deaths, because they mined the steel that made the machines that made the guns and the bullets that someone eventually used to commit murder. Slightly less sarcastic are the occasional ads we see on TV that link drug money to supporting terrorism. And then I see ridiculous arguments on the other side that reason that a single layer of indirection should more or less absolve you of responsibility.

    The U.S. Courts have taken a middle-way approach here. Let's not pretend that they are going after every service that allows user-posted content for incidental infringement. They have been fairly consistent at finding liability only where there were additional contributing factors: material participation, behavior that encourages infringement, and so on. This was the key distinguishing factor in, e.g., Grokster:

    "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties." (David Souter)

    Promoting. Clear expression. Affirmative steps.

    That's the entire point of an affiliate business.

    The entire point of an affiliate business is to pay competitors to advertise your products? For a ridiculously broad definition of "competitors" I guess. I suppose that Amazon wouldn't mind if Barnes and Noble put affiliate links on their site, but do you really think that's their target? While you may disagree that Amazon and Cuda.fm are re "competitors" because Cuda.fm distributes digital products and Amazon traffics in mostly physical products (many of which have the same contents), Amazon also sells digital products legally.

    Taking Amazon off the site doesn't make it any less so. But it does make it less likely that people will become legal buyers.

    That's just idiotic.


    Maybe, maybe not. Maybe without paying Cuda.fm affiliate fees, Cuda.fm will not have enough money to operate, and will go offline, and that will make it just slightly harder for people to get the content illegally for free, and so they'll go to Amazon instead.

    Maybe it will reduce the number of people (less educated about copyright law and the realities of affiliate programs) who go to the Cuda.fm site and infringe, see Amazon links, and assume that it's OK for them to download the infringing content because, hey, Amazon supports it.

    Pray tell, how are newspapers supporting a source that is fundementally undermining their business? That's the most moronic thing I've heard today.

    Newspapers pay for content that they then provide for free to sites like Google News, in exchange for a trickle of traffic that isn't enough to support them at anywhere near their current size and scope, and maybe not even enough to pay the bills for the content itself. Whether they realize it or not, Google and the newspapers are in the same business (content aggregation), and Google is better at it than the newspapers. Google is making $100M a year off of the arrangement, and newspapers are bleeding money (albeit more slowly than they would without Google's traffic trickle).

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Whether or not YOU think "try before you buy" infringement is harmful, no one's opinion will change the economic realities at work here. Amazon can turn it's back on all the income it wants (it's their money) but investors will then send THEIR money to smarter businesses.

    Yes, Amazon is certainly going to alienate a lot of smart investors by turning away a tiny amount of money to avoid the very real possibility of infinitely more expensive legal proceedings.

    A couple years ago, Amazon paid a patentholder $40M to go away, and Amazon had a good chance of winning that case. I don't know what you think, but I'm guessing that far less than $40M in losses is going to be involved in Amazon cutting off a few badly-behaving affiliates. $40M in stupidity must have really killed investment in Amazon! But rather than speculate, let's check the stock price. Hmmm...data doesn't seem to bear out the conclusion :(

     

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  14.  
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    Jason, May 1st, 2009 @ 4:43pm

    Re: Re:

    The internet 5150.

     

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  15.  
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    Jason, May 1st, 2009 @ 4:55pm

    Re: Re: Top 100

    No, the TomTom violates..nevermind.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), May 1st, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Amazon pays affiliates when clicked links turn into purchases, which create profits for Amazon. If those clicks are driven by pages, or a business, or a site where infringement is taking place, then it is fairly straightforward to make an argument that Amazon is indirectly profiting from AND supporting copyright infringement.

    I can't see how you could possibly say that. There is no mental calculation you could make where this is encouraging piracy. Amazon's presence on the site does nothing to increase infringement and, if anything, only DECREASES the amount of infringement.

    Honestly, your argument makes no sense.

    As you have repeatedly pointed out in recent articles, courts are increasingly finding that if you profit from copyright infringement - even indirectly - and you know about it, and you don't take reasonable measures to stop it, you may be found liable. My guess is that Amazon has made a business decision that the additional profits it gets from these affiliate links don't warrant the increased liability.

    But that's the whole point: this IS NOT profiting from infringement. It's the opposite.

    How much indirection is enough for a company to wash its hands of liability? This is a tough question to answer.

    Wow. I'm sorry. I can't see your position on this at all. It makes no sense to me. This isn't a tough question at all. Compare the site with Amazon and without. Then say which gets more infringement. Does Amazon's removal increase or decrease infringement? Then explain how anyone could possibly assume this is Amazon inducing infringement.

    You can't. It's beyond reason to even step in that direction.

    "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties." (David Souter)

    Yes, let's trust the guy who doesn't use a computer to make a ruling on a technology issue. Let's face it, the Grokster case was decided by ignorant judges and they made a huge mistake that needs to be corrected.

    Promoting. Clear expression. Affirmative steps.

    Let's be clear. It's "promoting its use to infringe copyright." Amazon does no such thing. NO analysis would find them to be promoting infringing.

    Case closed. Amazon's cleared.

    Maybe, maybe not. Maybe without paying Cuda.fm affiliate fees, Cuda.fm will not have enough money to operate, and will go offline, and that will make it just slightly harder for people to get the content illegally for free, and so they'll go to Amazon instead.

    Um. Wow? That makes no sense at all (I'm sensing a pattern). Do you think more people would (a) buy via the affiliate link on this site if the links were left or (b) go to some other file sharing site and never buy if this site went away.

    I'd argue putting people in a position to buy is MUCH more likely to get purchases than hoping they just find Amazon.

    I can't see any intelligent argument to the contrary.

    Maybe it will reduce the number of people (less educated about copyright law and the realities of affiliate programs) who go to the Cuda.fm site and infringe, see Amazon links, and assume that it's OK for them to download the infringing content because, hey, Amazon supports it.

    I give up. Are you serious?

    Newspapers pay for content that they then provide for free to sites like Google News, in exchange for a trickle of traffic that isn't enough to support them at anywhere near their current size and scope, and maybe not even enough to pay the bills for the content itself. Whether they realize it or not, Google and the newspapers are in the same business (content aggregation), and Google is better at it than the newspapers. Google is making $100M a year off of the arrangement, and newspapers are bleeding money (albeit more slowly than they would without Google's traffic trickle).

    Yup. I give up. That is more idiotic than what you said earlier. Anyone who thinks that Google is undermining the news business isn't using their brain. At all.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Yes, let's trust the guy who doesn't use a computer to make a ruling on a technology issue. Let's face it, the Grokster case was decided by ignorant judges and they made a huge mistake that needs to be corrected.

    Perhaps Ms. Sotomayor will be nominated to replace Mr. Souter on the Supreme Court, in which case we would have a highly respected jurist who prior to ascending to the federal bench served in substantial part as a copyright attorney.

    BTW, Grokster was a 9 to 0 decision. Perhaps you may wish to consider holding a placard outside of the Supreme Court informing them that they are mistaken. If you are lucky, maybe you would be joined by members of The Pirate Party who would also be holding placards.

     

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  18.  
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    Matt T., May 1st, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    OK, Now They're Declining

    Back in December, I pointed out in this comment (under my old name) that the worst we could say about Google was that they weren't going out of their way to protect us. Now, though, I agree that Google is on the decline. It'll probably be a couple more years, but they'll be at the level of Microsoft and the others soon enough.

     

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  19.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 1st, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    Forget 'Don't Be Evil'

    Try at least for 'Don't Be Pussies.'

    OTOH, this is a golden opportunity for other search engines.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 7:37pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    A couple years ago, Amazon paid a patentholder $40M to go away, and Amazon had a good chance of winning that case.

    Amazon apparently didn't think so.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2009 @ 8:32pm

    Amazon apparently didn't think so.

    You don't know that, actually. Unless everyone at Amazon is an idiot (which Mike may believe but I don't), they went through a risk analysis. That risk analysis took into account the cost of litigating the case through to completion, the probability of losing (which may have been far less than 50%), and the potential damages.

    Recall that the RIM matter settled for $612M, but this wasn't known at the time. Their previous settlement negotiations were for $450M, so they knew about that number. Let's say Amazon was afraid of a similar judgment against it. Let's say they thought they had only a 20% chance of losing after spending another $5M in legal fees. That's $85M. If those were the numbers, then $40M was a super deal - even though they thought they had an 80% chance of winning.

     

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  22.  
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    tonsotunez, May 1st, 2009 @ 9:12pm

    Legitimizing Creeps

    Amazon allowing the association of their trusted, high quality, fully licensed, legal brand with an illegitimate, unauthorized, malware infested piece of garbage site gives the appearance of legitimizing creeps and tarnishes the Amazon brand making it more difficult for them to deal effectively with the sources of the legitimate product they sell.

    A trademarked super brand like Amazon needs to do everything in its power to protect its image. Associating with those who have no respect for the rights of others isn't smart business.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    Let's say...blah blah blah...

    Hold on there. "Let's say"? What's that supposed to be, a license to make crap up? Once you resort to that it's obvious that you really have no argument.

     

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  24.  
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    Tron, May 2nd, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    If I like a content I don't want an HP printer, mp3 or avi issue. I want a good looking one to be showed on my library.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2009 @ 8:51pm

    Re:

    "If you don't like it, lobby your congresspersons. Get a proposition on the state ballot."

    Great, I'll do that so that the recording industry can smack any proposed changes down and leave us all back at square one.

    If change were that simple, it would have been done already.
    Truth is, we need the likes of a huge grassroots movement that's big enough to take on the RIAA/MPAA/BSA's/Other-Heavily-Copyright-Dependent-Industry-Association's (seemingly) infinitely deep pockets and the seemingly very close relationship that these industries have with many of our representatives at the Federal level.

    What I'm trying to say is that a solution is simply not as simple as you make it out to be. A legal solution can only be brought about by something relatively large and much smarter than the thing that's clawing desperately to keep the problematically outdated laws.

    While simple solutions are typically the best, I'm afraid your suggestion blatantly ignores the huge obstacles that would prevent such an attempted solution from having any sort of lasting affect. If one could even coax one's congressperson into taking any sort of action apart from ignoring you, that is.

    (I'll leave the rest of your points for other people who can make better arguments that I)

     

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  26.  
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    TonsoTunez, May 2nd, 2009 @ 10:34pm

    Problematically Outdated Laws.

    By this statement am I to assume you think the law should be changed to strip all rights from those who create music so you can take it from them without the fear of suffering any sort of penalty for doing so?

    The copyright law is specifically written to make creators the initial owners of all rights to whatever they create. To prevent creators from assigning those rights to others they believe might be useful in developing their careers - like record companies, motion picture production companies et al, (the people you live to hate) - you would have to take creators rights away from them by eliminating copyright laws entirely.

    So, what you are really saying is that you believe its a good idea to screw the creators of music by taking their rights away so you can have unencumbered access to free sources of music that don't pay creators rather than patronizing the ever growing number of legal sources of free or close to free music that do.

    With that sort of unthinking, uncaring, uneducated attitude, you know who you are really screwing?

    You.

    Starving creators is not the most effective way to encourage them to create.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Kirk, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Re: Problematically Outdated Laws.

    Wow. Congratulations on your first visit to TechDirt. Troll much?

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    TonsoTunez, May 8th, 2009 @ 10:14am

    Re: Problematically Outdated Laws.

    Wow! Congratulations on your attempt to stifle free speech by calling me a troll. If you aren't interested in at least considering positions opposed to Mike Masnick's point of view ... what, exactly, is the value of having a comment section attached to his blog? From what I've read, I don't happen to believe Mike has the least bit of understanding about anything upon which he pontificates - and, have, in the past, presented points of view that oppose his positions. If you wish to be his lap dog, jerk yourself off to his uniformed perspectives and call me a troll for taking the time to express myself, you probably won't mind if I call you stupid.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Cell phone tracking, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Cell phone tracking

    Everstealth is the worlds most popular mobile phone and computer monitoring tool. It can be used to eavesdrop on conversations, internet access, calendar appointments, text messages, pictures, videos, e-mails and other activity. It can be used for tracking a cheating wife, catching a cheating husband, safeguarding your child, monitoring an employee or recovering your phone/computer.
    It works on a range of devices including Microsoft Windows, Android, Symbian, Blackberry, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Microsoft Windows Mobile, iPhone and many more.

     

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


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