by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 7th 2016 1:10pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 7th 2016 9:38am
from the nice-of-'em dept
The latest such example of this happened over the long weekend and seems to have impacted plenty of websites -- including us. And, yes, part of this is our own damn fault in relying on a service from Google, which we've now routed around. The short version is that, many years ago, we signed up with a service from FeedBurner, to manage our RSS feeds. We did so somewhat reluctantly. We had first published an RSS feed back in April of 2001 (along with an apology for being so "late" to the RSS game) and we'd run it ourselves for years. Eventually, FeedBurner added enough features that we felt it was worthwhile to let it run our RSS feed -- though that came with promises from the then FeedBurner team that if there were any problems we could easily dump it. Over time, FeedBurner got purchased by Google and subsumed into the Google machine. At some point, a few years ago, anyone still using FeedBurner had all links in those RSS feeds automatically switched to using Google's URL shortener.
Also, several years back, we used the fact that FeedBurner had a one-click integration with Twitter to easily send all Techdirt stories to Twitter, which has become an important source of traffic. So that's how it came to be that all of our RSS links and all of our Twitter links had Google shortened links in them. And, yes, go ahead and laugh at us for being this reliant on Google. We should have known better. And we did know better. I'd been meaning to write an article about how the Supreme Court actually used a Google shortened link in a recent decision, leading Parker Higgins from the EFF to point out some serious potential problems with this, including the fact that Google could arbitrarily change where the link goes, or if it goes anywhere at all. That seems... problematic for a Supreme Court citation.
In fact, because of all of this, some libraries (led by Harvard's Law School Library), set up Perma.cc, which is designed with the promise of allowing "scholars, courts and others to create web citation links that will never break." It promises to even archive the content of any link, so that if it does break, the content will still be available.
And so, yes, we were totally aware that there were potential issues, and obviously we were aware that Google sometimes makes totally arbitrary decisions that fuck with people and companies who rely on them... but sometimes even when you know all that, if it's not a priority, you let it slide. And it wasn't a priority, because we've got lots of other stuff going on these days. Well, it wasn't a priority until yesterday. That's because yesterday morning when we all got back to work from the long weekend (I was completely disconnected, off camping in the mountains) we had a ton of emails, messages and tweets from Techdirt readers and supporters about how all our links were broken -- with every one of them pointing to a page on Google's site saying that we had violated Google's terms of service.
And... apparently we were not alone. A bunch of other sites had the exact same experience and there are a bunch of people asking what the hell happened. With no explanation, no notification, Google just made a lot of websites' RSS and Twitter feeds break completely. And this includes some other high-profile bloggers as well, like Violet Blue.
The leading theory that I've seen going around is that Google is actually blocking all links in any FeedBurner feed, because it's a violation of its own terms of service. Seriously.
The link-shortener "goo.gl", run by Google, is blocking all URLs generated by Feedburner, run by Google. pic.twitter.com/IR7wrlv6xj— Great Again Also (@agentdero) September 6, 2016
Meanwhile, despite lots of sites complaining, and people reaching out, the Great White Monolith remained silent. Well, until an hour or so ago -- just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, after having reached out to multiple people at Google, I heard back from someone saying that this was a mistake that had been "fixed." There's still no official explanation of why it happened. No explanation of why no one at Google seemed to notice that all of its FeedBurner feeds were throwing up errors on every link due to Google's own use of its own URL shortener. How that could last for five days while a bunch of sites that relied on the product were left with no recourse wasn't explained either.
So, yeah, we've moved our RSS feed away from FeedBurner/Google. And you can argue that we should have done so a while ago -- and you're probably right. But, really, can't a company as big as Google figure out how not to fuck over a bunch of media websites that make use of its services?
Thu, Sep 1st 2016 12:56pm
Special Deal: Get One Free Year Of The Techdirt Crystal Ball With A Private Internet Access VPN Account
from the see-the-future dept
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by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 29th 2016 10:44am
from the does-he-think-he's-making-a-point? dept
Thanks - we'll make loads of cheap imitations and sell for five quid each. https://t.co/f7hzRHFBv1— John Anderson (@gacgjohn) August 28, 2016
This is the point that so many fail to get when they freak out about people copying. If you've built up a community of people who want to support you and people who like and are interested in what you do, there's nothing to fear from copying. It's only when you don't have that kind of support, or when you're trying to force something on people that they don't want that you suddenly have to worry about copying.
This is why we've always pointed to the same response when people say they're going to copy us and prove that we really are worried about copying or that copying really is theft. It's not. Here's what I wrote nearly a decade ago and it's still stands true today:
We have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it. It's funny how many people come here, like yourself, and assume you've found some "gotcha." You haven't. There already are about 10 sites that copy Techdirt, post for post. Some of them give us credit. Some of them don't. We don't go after any of them.This same thing holds true for counterfeiting goods as well. When we launched our first shirt, the Nerd Harder shirt, we saw a few copycats spring up on Teespring, complete with the language claiming that the shirts were from Techdirt, when they were not. We reached out to Teespring telling them we had no problem with them leaving up the T-shirts, but we would appreciate it if they didn't say that supporting them was supporting Techdirt. That's been consistent with our position all along, that in the realm of trademark, the one thing that does make sense is when it's used as a form of consumer protection. If buyers might be confused about who is really endorsing the product, that's a reasonable concern. But someone copying our shirt without pretending it's from us? That's totally cool. In fact, maybe they can make it better.
1. None of those sites get any traffic. By themselves, they offer nothing special.
2. If anything, it doesn't take people long to read those sites and figure out that the content is really from Techdirt. Then they just come here to the original source. So, it tends to help drive more traffic to us. That's cool.
3. As soon as the people realize the other sites are simply copying us, it makes those sites look really, really bad. If you want to risk your reputation like that, go ahead, but it's a big risk.
4. A big part of the value of Techdirt is the community here. You can't just replicate that.
5. Another big part of the value of Techdirt is that we, the writers, engage in the comments. You absolutely cannot fake that on your own site.
So, really, what's the purpose of copying our content in the manner you describe, other than maybe driving a little traffic our way?
So, if you really want to, I'd suggest it's pretty dumb, but go ahead.
I mean, it's not like we even came up with the phrase "copying is not theft" either. It's the name of a truly wonderful song that Nina Paley wrote and illustrated:
Hell, we'd be happy to compete with anyone doing so, because we know the message resonates with our audience. I'm not so sure it would resonate with the audience of some random person trying (and failing) to prove a point. So, bring it on.
And, yes, we've even made it extra easy for folks like John Anderson. If he likes, we've made the original image available as both a vector SVG file and a high-res PNG. So go ahead, John Anderson from the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group. Go ahead and counterfeit our shirt. Knock yourself out. I imagine you'll sell somewhere close to zero of them. Though the members of your group may find it odd that the head of a Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group's first response to seeing a T-shirt he doesn't like is to talk about counterfeiting it. Right, John?
Anyway, if you'd like to make a point to John Anderson and the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group, here's your opportunity. Buy one of our lovely Copying is Not Theft T-shirts.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 15th 2016 10:38am
Google's Arbitrary Morality Police Threaten Us Yet Again; Media Sites Probably Shouldn't Use Google Ads
from the looking-for-alternatives dept
For what it's worth, this happened just months after we had started using Google AdSense, after representatives from that team put together a big effort to get us switch from the other ad provider we'd been using at the time.
We had hoped that after that incident the AdSense team would have, perhaps, rethought some of its practices. No such luck. Last year we wrote about another case, not involving us, but where Google started threatening the site Antiwar.com for posting the infamous photos of US soldiers mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. After that story started going viral, Google's AdSense team backed down -- but apparently they've done little to fix their processes.
In the last two weeks we've received two notices of violations from AdSense, each of which seems more ridiculous than the other in some way, and which has us reconsidering our use of AdSense as a media property, as Google fails at distinguishing between reporting on bad things and celebrating those same things. In both cases, the "violation" involved a post that was many years old, so it's unclear why Google suddenly discovered them. In both cases, the posts were basic reporting on something that had happened, and no rational and reasonable person would conclude they violated any policy that AdSense has. And, yet, in both cases, Google claimed they violated its policies, and threatened that if we were unable to sort through the 64,000 other posts on Techdirt to weed out the ones that somehow violate Googles bizarre and arbitrary morality police policies, we risk losing our account.
The first was about a post from 2010, involving a lawsuit concerning assisted suicide. As we noted in our short post on it, there was a legal question about whether or not its illegal to tell people how to commit suicide online. Because while there are laws against assisted suicide, the guy was basically arrested for merely telling people over the internet they should commit suicide, and that seems like protected First Amendment speech. Thus it was an interesting legal question worthy of debate (our post received 60 comments, suggesting many folks agreed). So what could possibly be wrong with that? Well, according to the AdSense team:
Google does not allow the monetization of content that may be sensitive, tragic, or hurtful. While we believe strongly in the freedom of expression and offer broad access to content across the Web without censoring search results, we reserve the right to exercise discretion when reviewing sites and determining whether or not we are able to provide a positive user experience delivering contextually targeted ads to a site with this type of content.In short, Google AdSense requires some sort of special trigger warning setup, whereby we need to turn it off on any article that someone might consider "sensitive, tragic or hurtful"? Does that mean no AdSense ads are allowed on stories about the shooting in Orlando this weekend? Is that really the official policy of Google's morality police? Sure, I could see that Google might not want to have its ads on a site associated with telling people how to commit suicide -- but obviously that's not what our story was about at all. The fact that the morality police working for AdSense can't seem to tell a journalistic blog post about a legal dispute from a site advocating for assisted suicide (which really doesn't seem that tragic or hurtful in the first place) is fairly ridiculous.
The second complaint, received over the weekend, is about a post from 2012 concerning the band Death Grips' decision to just give away its album after its label, Epic, had tried to shelve the album. It's an interesting story highlighting an all too standard dispute between musicians and a record label, with a somewhat unique solution by the band. So, what could Google possibly be complaining about here? Are you ready for this?
Google ads may not be placed on pages with adult or mature content. This includes, but is not limited to, pages that contain:Going through the article, there doesn't seem to be anything like that in our post. What it almost certainly refers to, however, is that we discussed one of the reasons why Epic may have decided to shelve the album release, which is that the band wanted an album cover that was a photograph of an erect penis. We did not post this image, but we did link to it -- along with a clear "NSFW" warning. We didn't even describe what was in the photo, other than implying obliquely that it may have something to do with male genitals. Other than that, the post contains no profanity or sexual language (there are some curses in the comments, but I don't see how that could count).
- erotic stories or descriptions of sexual acts
- sexual jokes
- erotic or sexual forums
- sexual or profane terms in the URL
- crude language or excessive amounts of profanity
Once again, any normal, living, thinking human being should be able to look at such a post and recognize that it's a blog post/news story about a newsworthy event, rather than some sort of sexual forum with crude language. But, alas, no such luck -- we're told that we violate AdSense's apparently random policies, and we're at risk of losing our account.
Oddly, on the first notification, we were told that Google automatically turned off ads on that page on their own (though telling us we should explore the rest of our pages to see if there were similar "violations.") On the latter one, Google was not as proactive, instead demanding that we figure out a way to disable ads on that specific page ourselves.
Now, Google is a private company that obviously has the right to choose who it wants to do business with and how it does business, but this seems particularly ridiculous. This does raise questions for us as a media property and whether AdSense is compatible with news reporting. We shouldn't have to worry if the Google morality police might randomly show up at any time to insist we're violating its rules by actually reporting on newsworthy stories.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 7th 2016 9:27am
Web Sheriff Accuses Us Of Breaking Basically Every Possible Law For Pointing Out That It's Abusing DMCA Takedowns
from the but-i-didn't-shoot-the-deputy dept
Well, suffice it to say that Web Sheriff was none too pleased with our article. Just a day after it went up, we received an email from "JP" at Web Sheriff (though it was "signed" by "John E. Henehan") telling us that we had basically violated all the laws with that post (shouting caps in the original):
UK CONTEMPT OF COURT ACT (CONTEMPT OF COURT NOTICE)Yeah, so, none of that is true. The email pretends to be a DMCA notice (among other things), but is not a valid notice in that it fails to actually name what copyright was infringed upon. Here's what it says is the "infringing materials" where you'll note despite quite a lot of SHOUTING TEXT, no actual materials are named.
CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 1 §1 (INVASION OF PRIVACY NOTICE)
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ARTICLE 8 (INVASION OF PRIVACY NOTICE)
FEDERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS (CRIMINAL DISCLOSURE NOTICE)
EU DATA PROTECTION DIRECTIVE (CRIMINAL DISCLOSURE NOTICE)
UK DATA PROTECTION ACT (CRIMINAL DISCLOSURE NOTICE)
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT (MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS NOTICE)
CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE §646.9 & §653.2 (MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS NOTICE)
CALIFORNIA CIVIL CODE § 1708.7 (MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS NOTICE)
UK COMMUNICATIONS ACT (MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS NOTICE)
UK PREVENTION OF HARASSMENT ACT (MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS NOTICE)
UK COMPUTER MISUSE ACT (MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS NOTICE)
DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT (COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT NOTICE)
EUROPEAN UNION COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE (COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT NOTICE)
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION E-COMMERCE REGULATIONS (CONSUMER PROTECTION NOTICE)
EUROPEAN UNION E-COMMERCE DIRECTIVE (CONSUMER PROTECTION NOTICE)
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON CYBERCRIME (PROCEEDS OF CRIME & MONEY LAUNDERING NOTICE)
– and –
NOTICE OF BREACH OF ISP'S / HOST'S PUBLISHED TERMS OF SERVICE
NOTICE OF BREACH OF WEB-SITE'S PUBLISHED TERMS OF SERVICE
5. Infringing / Violating Materials : A. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES WHICH ARE THE SUBJECT OF AN INTERLOCUTORY INJUNCTION & ALLIED REPORTING RESTRICTIONS UPHELD BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE HIGH COURTS OF JUSTICE, LONDON, ENGLAND (AND THE PUBLICATION OF WHICH CONTRAVENES & VIOLATES THE TERMS OF THE SAID INJUNCTION & REPORTING RESTRICTIONS), B. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC DATA PROTECTION LEGISLATION & TREATIES, C. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT INFRINGE THE HUMAN RIGHTS / RIGHT-TO-PRIVACY OF THE SUBJECTS OF THE RELEVANT INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES, D. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT INFRINGE THE RIGHT-OF-PUBLICITY OF THE PERTINENT SUBJECTS OF THE RELEVANT INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES, E. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT INFRINGE THE PERSONAL GOODWILL & REPUTATION OF THE SUBJECTS OF THE RELEVANT INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES, F. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT INFRINGE THE BUSINESS GOODWILL & REPUTATION OF THE SUBJECTS OF THE RELEVANT INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES, G. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISLATION & TREATIES, H. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC HARASSMENT, MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS & CYBER-STALKING LEGISLATION & TREATIES, I. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THAT VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC PROCEEDS OF CRIME & MONEY LAUNDERING LEGISLATION & TREATIES, J. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED & PIRATED COPYRIGHT CONTENT / IMAGES THAT INFRINGE THE COMPLAINANT'S COPYRIGHT, K. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THE PUBLICATION OF WHICH BREACHES THE ISP'S / HOST'S PUBLISHED TERMS OF SERVICE & ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY, L. ILLEGALLY PUBLISHED PRIVATE INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES THE PUBLICATION OF WHICH BREACHES THE INFRINGING / VIOLATING WEB SITE'S PUBLISHED TERMS OF SERVICE & ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY (AS APPLICABLE – PLEASE SEE URL LIST BELOW).The email then goes on to try to explain how we broke all these laws and basically refuses to provide any details at all. I won't go through them all (you can see the full email published below), but just for fun, here's how we've been violating human rights:
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS (VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC HUMAN RIGHTS LEGISLATION AND TREATIES THROUGH FAILURE TO ABIDE BY RIGHT-TO-PRIVACY PURSUANT TO, INTER ALIA, ARTICLE 8 OF THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS & ARTICLE 1 §1 OF THE CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION AND WAY OF THE ILLEGAL PUBLICATION, DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION & EXPLOITATION OF PRIVATE INFORMATION WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF A COURT INJUNCTION AND IN CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THE SUBJECTS OF SUCH INFORMATION / DATA / IMAGES HAD A REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF AND LEGAL ENTITLEMENT TO PRIVACY)Or, my personal favorite -- money laundering:
PROCEEDS OF CRIME & MONEY LAUNDERING VIOLATIONS (VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC PROCEEDS OF CRIME & MONEY LAUNDERING LEGISLATION & TREATIES THROUGH THE HANDLING AND / OR LAUNDERING OF THE PROCEEDS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY)Yes, that's right. Pointing out (accurately!) that Web Sheriff is trying to abuse the DMCA to take down material that is not subject to a copyright claim is -- in the demented views of Web Sheriff -- "money laundering."
There's also "harassment, malicious communications and cyber-stalking" where they can't even bother to name a statute:
HARASSMENT, MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS & CYBER-STALKING VIOLATIONS (VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL & DOMESTIC HARASSMENT, MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS & CYBER-STALKING LEGISLATION & TREATIES THROUGH THE POSTING OF MALICIOUS COMMUNICATIONS AND OTHERWISE THROUGH THE PUBLICATION OF MATERIALS WITH THE INTENTION TO WILFULLY & MALICIOUSLY HARASS)For added fun, twice in the email, the company notes that the email itself is covered by copyright, and then includes this bit of pure bullshit at the end:
This communication may not be disclosed or otherwise communicated to anyone other than the addressee(s), nor may it be copied or reproduced in any way without the written authorization of Web Sheriff®.Yeah, that's not how this works, though I wouldn't be surprised to see them send another email claiming otherwise.
For what it's worth, the very next day, we received another email from Web Sheriff that was basically identical, but demanding that we remove six comments on our earlier story about the UK injunction.
I do wonder if this kind of bullshit works for other people, in intimidating them to remove stuff from the internet because of the spaghetti/wall aspect of it all. But, rest assured, we're not concerned because Web Sheriff is full of shit here. We violated none of those laws, and the fact that the company is so focused on trying to censor an article that highlights its own bogus conduct should tell you a lot about what a complete joke this company is.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Sep 29th 2015 10:01am
from the go-ahead dept
This isn't one of those "pay us to remove ads" deals. It's up to you. That said, obviously if you disable ads we're likely to make less money. So if you choose to do that, we'd appreciate it if you supported us in other ways, such as via our Insider Shop, where you can buy a membership that gets you certain perks, or through our Deals Store, where you can support Techdirt while buying some cool products and services. But, again, this is not a requirement. If you don't like ads on the site, turn them off.
If you've been paying attention to the news lately, there's been all sorts of hand-wringing about "ad blockers", with the hair pulling reaching new levels of craziness a few weeks ago when Apple finally started allowing ad blockers into the iOS app store. Some have been whining about how this is going to kill off the free internet or somehow lead publishers to fall to the side as internet giants like Google, Facebook and Apple colonize the independent web. There have been all sorts of debates about whether or not ad blocking is ethical, which seems like a pointless debate to me, since users don't care. They're going to do it anyway.
I'm planning to do another post in the near future on how the online advertising/publishing ecosystem should react to all of this, but so far they've been reacting... badly. The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) has gone so far as to discuss suing over ad blocking, and some sites -- including the Washington Post -- have decided to block access to users who have ad blockers enabled.
We've even been approached by multiple companies who claim to offer a form of ad blocker blocker, that will either insert new ads even when users have ad blockers, or otherwise pester users with ad blockers turned on.
This seems like the exact wrong approach. It's somewhat reminiscent of the way the RIAA and MPAA reacted to the internet challenging their business models. Rather than listen, recognize what the public wanted and adapt, they whined, screamed about ethics and went to court. And how's that worked out for everyone? We've always said that those who adapt to these challenges are likely to do better, and part of that means actually listening to your fans and helping them do what they want. So that's what we're doing: if you choose to disable ads, you just need to go to your preferences and click a button and that should do it.
It's important to note that this is an experiment, though we have no plans to suddenly pull it back (that would be ridiculous). For now, it only applies to network display ads -- or what most people think of as "banner ads." In the future, we may (or may not!) experiment with further ability to customize what you see and what you don't see on the site. Again, there is no expectation here in terms of how you respond, but running this site does cost money -- so we would certainly appreciate it if you also were willing to support the site in other ways, whether you turn off the ads or leave them on. But, on the whole, we're going to allow you to decide how you best want to support this site and trust you to figure out the best way, rather than forcing the choice upon you. Thanks for being a part of this community and we look forward to continuing to deliver interesting stories and conversations going forward.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Jan 12th 2015 12:02pm
Linux Developer Who Issued Bogus YouTube Takedowns Threatens Techdirt With Legal Action For Publishing His 'Private Information'
from the the-only-way-to-fix-my-stupid-is-MORE-STUPID dept
On January 6th, Techdirt published a story covering YouTube takedown abuse perpetrated by Antoni Norman, the developer behind the Pinguy OS Ubuntu/Linux hybrid. Apparently, Norman had engaged in some abusive behavior on the Cup of Linux Mumble chat server, supposedly while intoxicated. This resulted in a 3-month ban from the server and Cup of Linux site. This was extended to a lifetime ban after Norman issued bogus takedown requests on Cup of Linux instructional videos featuring "how to" instructions for setting up Pinguy OS created by Shawn Patrick Ryan (aka "Spatry").
Over the previous few years, Spatry (whose videos were targeted) and Norman enjoyed a friendly relationship. At no point during those previous years did Norman have any issue with Spatry's use of Pinguy OS trademarks. Now, after being banned for his own misconduct, Norman suddenly developed a deep concern for the Pinguy OS logo. The takedowns he issued resulted in Spatry removing 29 videos (6 were directly named in the takedown request) from the Cup of Linux channel.
Given the context, Norman's takedown requests appeared to be nothing more than retaliation for his banning.
Shortly after the post went live, Norman contacted me via email. Obviously unhappy with the unflattering coverage, he proceeded to throw a bunch of legal stuff at the wall in hopes of something sticking. The entire email exchange is included below. Norman's end of the conversation is in italics. Mine is in bold. Any interruptions for commentary will be in brackets and not indented, for clarity.
Could you not post my personal email.
I am also pretty sure it isn't exactly legal posting legal documents online.
You mean this email that anyone could find with no trouble? (See attached screenshot from GoDaddy registrar records.)
I'll redact it from the screenshot in the story. And as for your assertion about legal documents: you're wrong.
- Tim Cushing
-----[Norman has since updated his registration with a proxy email address. Here's the screenshot of the registration info I emailed to Norman.]
-----[This is Norman's first legal salvo, a link to a page supposedly meant to prove his point about the publication of private info, but one that actually works against him and for us.
I've updated the picture with a redacted version. What you've cited doesn't help your argument.
Here's the part I believe Norman thinks helps him:
The legal claim known as "publication of private facts" is a species of invasion of privacy. You commit this kind of invasion of privacy by publishing private facts about an individual, the publication of which would be offensive to a reasonable person.And here's what directly follows it:
This legal claim can only be successful, however, if the facts in question are not legitimately newsworthy.In the context of this blog -- which has continuously covered these sorts of abuses for longer than 15 years -- this is newsworthy. The inclusion of Norman's email address in the screenshot of the takedown request verifies the fact that Norman was actually behind the takedowns. Hence: newsworthy. Also, contrary to his claims, not private information, no matter how badly he wishes it to be.]
-----[Here are screenshots backing up my claim that I contacted Norman and Spatry roughly simultaneously (within three minutes of each other).]
You do understand what you have published isn't legal? You are sharing a legal on going private matter?
A takedown issued to a public YouTube account isn't a private matter. That Spatry chose to publicize this is his prerogative. Us reporting on it is a matter of public interest because the takedown appears to be retaliatory, rather than justified.
Almost everything in that link you sent involves the exploitation of personal information for advertising goods and services. Techdirt has been around for 15 years and has covered this sort of thing on numerous occasions, so it's not as though your "private matter" is being "exploited."
Your personal email address is a matter of public record. It is in your domain registry. I have redacted it as a FAVOR to you. I also gave you a chance to respond to this and tell your side of the story BEFORE publication. I sent an email to you asking for a response at the same time I sent one to Spatry. You chose not to respond until two days ago and you really haven't offered anything more than complaints with no legal basis.
[Back to Antoni Norman:]
Due to Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), I have to have valid contact information for the domain.[Norman digs deeper, citing UK law referring to lawsuits containing a court-ordered injunctions forbidding the publication of certain facts. A YouTube takedown is none of these things.
What you have published has nothing to do with my domain.
As the legal matter you have published is still ongoing by law I can not comment on the case until it has been resolved.
Right. You have to have valid contact information. I'm just showing you that anyone can find your email address, even if I redact it.
And as for the rest, OK. Spatry feels like commenting on it. and we obviously have. So, if you have no comment, so be it.
Furthermore, if Norman was so concerned about the exposure of his email, he could have paid GoDaddy a little extra to hide those details (which he has now done). You have to provide contact information to registrars but you are not required to expose it to the general public.]
-----[Norman keeps supplying these two URLs as if they're suddenly going to turn into relevant legal precedent. As has been confirmed by Spatry, no further legal action has been pursued by Norman, so no stretch of the imagination will turn an automated, third-party takedown system wholly unrelated to civil actions into a lawsuit where actual "contempt of court" charges may be levelled.]
But you understand by publishing that article that you have impede a legal case and broke "Contempt of Court Act 1981" and "Publication of Private Facts".
Do you have any comments about this? Did you knowingly know you was open to getting sued by publishing private information and discussing an open legal matter?
Have you filed a lawsuit against Spatry or have you only issued a takedown via YouTube? Because what you're linking to applies to ongoing legal action in terms of a TRIAL, not an action involving a third-party tool to report infringement.
Also, you're dealing with the wrong jurisdiction.
-----His final email contained a few more vague threats and the sort of apology no one means when they say it.
Do you have a legal department contact Ican to forward to my legal representative to talk about damages?
There is contact information available at the website.
Can you just send me the email/website? I can't find anything on the site. If not I will just get my legal representative to find it.
OK thanks. I will forward these emails to her tomorrow when the office opens and we will go from there. Any info you can give on how she can contact your legal representative will help speed things along.This post will be updated if we hear from Norman's legal rep, but I'm not holding my breath. Norman has no legal basis for his claims of "impeding a case" or "publishing private information" or anything else he threw out during our conversation. What it looks like is an attempt to intimidate Techdirt into issuing an apology or pulling the article... or whatever. Norman's obviously unhappy but he seems unsure of where to focus his efforts.
Honestly I am sorry you have been dragged in the middle of this, but you posting that article has impede the case and made things a more complicated.
What is for certain is that Norman is either unwilling or unable to learn from his mistakes. He was given a chance to salvage his reputation but instead has decided to double down on matches and accelerant. He's a respected developer, but he's swiftly shedding what's left of that respect with an unfortunate proclivity for retaliation and bluster.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 30th 2014 2:24pm
from the almost-at-the-finish-line dept
to support our net neutrality coverage »
In the last 24 hours or so, you guys came through in an amazing way to shoot us past our target goal in our crowdfunding campaign to support our net neutrality reporting. Following yesterday's amazing post from former Congressional staffer Jen Hoelzer about how much reporting like Techdirt's can make a difference in DC, there was a flood of support, which was great. There's still another 24 hours or so to go in the initial campaign and we've decided to add some stretch goals, because all the crowdfunding kids are doing it (and we can't resist the peer pressure).
to support our net neutrality coverage »
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 28th 2014 2:14pm
from the helping-out dept
Last week we gave a special thanks to Twitch and Namecheap for providing matching funds for our big crowdfunding campaign, and today we want to welcome (and thank!) the greatest photo site on the internet, Imgur, for joining the campaign as well. As the company's CEO, Alan Schaaf said:
Imgur would not have been possible without the tidal wave of innovation that net neutrality makes possible. We're stoked to support Techdirt in paving the way for a genuine, important public dialogue about these issues.It's been great to see these three companies step up to support the campaign, but it's been you guys, our community, that has gotten us so far already. We're still a bit short of the target -- and I know that money is tight for many and that there are lots of competing offerings where you can put your money (though, if you donate money to the Potato Salad Kickstarter thing and not to us, I don't think we can be friends... because, really?), but any help that folks can give to either get us over the target or to share with others, recognizing how important this issue is, would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again to all of you who have already supported it or shared it with others. With a little more help we'll be able to meet our goal, and focus that much more of our time and energy on bringing you the best reporting on the fight to keep the internet free and open. As noted earlier, our plan is to bring in additional voices on this issue, to interview key players, to dig deep into some of the more unexplored stories around this fight and much much more. But it's only possible with your help, and the deadline is rapidly approaching.