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?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Mark Harrill (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 7:48am

    Isn't this typical RIAA/MPAA behavior?

    It's infringement when you do it, when we do it, its sound business practice.

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:02am

    They do because they can...

    The Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) does this because they can, and with enough bluster, get away with it.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:02am

    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.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:10am

    A Bad Thing

    I always knew it was A Bad Idea to let the masses have access to computing machines but no-one would listen.

    I can't see how it isn't copyright infringment. Disgraceful. I'm holding my breath waiting for firings and public apologies.




    Thud.

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:10am

    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?

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:15am

    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.

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Re: They do because they can...

    This isn't the Metropolitan Police - it's the City of London Police. It is a body mostly charged with detecting fraud in the City. However it seems to be doing some empire building by getting involved in copyright infringement.

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:27am

    The BBC probably doesn't mind

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:28am

    The BBC probably doesn't mind

    The BBC probably doesn't mind you copying their article as long as your name is not Google.

    (sorry for the dup)

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:30am

    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.)

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:36am

    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.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:37am

    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?

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Jake, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:37am

    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.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:39am

    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!

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:40am

    It's not copyright infringement when we do it!

    It's not copyright infringement when we do it!

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 9:46am

    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

    a nd 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+Edg e...-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.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 10:23am

    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.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 10:32am

    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.

     

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

  19.  
    icon
    who cares (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 10:36am

    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.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Whoever, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 10:49am

    What about the ISPs?

    For this to work, ISPs must be complicit. Why are they supporting this activity? Given that there are bound to be false positives, I wonder if those false positives are illegal under EU and/or UK law?

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 11:25am

    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.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    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.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Well

    When dealing with copyright infringement, the first thing they look for is a monetary incentive. So who's getting paid to hack the ad stream? This is certainly against the law in the US due to unauthorized access alone. Got some serious penalties behind that too.

     

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

  24. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:59pm

    So what? Mike Masnick still censors truthful statements here.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 3:52pm

    Re:

    Yawn.

     

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

  26.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 5:30pm

    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.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 11:07pm

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

    Then who is paying for the ads? Or the police of The City and the Project Sunblock company are stealing from these sites?

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Whatever, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 11:58pm

    Re:

    OMG. Can I have your babies?

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2014 @ 5:18am

    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.

     

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

  30.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 2nd, 2014 @ 2:32pm

    Re:

    No one, that's the point. Starve the site of revenue, which causes it to shut down, and all without so much as a legal filing, nevermind a full court, to find the site guilty.

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 1:20am

    Re: Re:

    You two are a couple of sick fucks, you know that?

     

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

  32.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 3:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm hoping that was sarcasm, or sarcastic spoofing.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 3:47am

    Re:

    I assume the ad networks' T&Cs allow them to substitute one of these police ads (or an MPAA notice or whatever) without paying for the place if some vague and flexible conditions apply.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 4:06am

    Re: Re: Well

    If you read the contract between the ad network and the site showing the ad, you'll find a cause giving them permission to do this (unless they've really gone and dropped a clanger, and most users of Project Sunblock will be reasonably well-run organisations).

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2014 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's copyright fanboys. Copyright fanboys don't do sarcasm.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.