by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 28th 2013 3:05pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Feb 22nd 2013 2:55pm
from the warm-up-your-vpns dept
The ISPs—industry giants AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon—will launch their versions of the CAS on different days throughout the week. Comcast is expected to be the first, on Monday.So, now we get to watch people get falsely accused, those with open WiFi suddenly have to fear bogus slow downs to their networks and other assorted collateral damage. Oh, and does anyone actually expect to see a sudden spike in "sales"?
Oh, and the Center for Copyright Information has put up a snazzy new website and video over some non-descript smooth jazz that I'm sure they licensed, and which practically screams the following basic message (note: message paraphrased): "Hey, we're just your friendly neighborhood copyright maximalists, out here trying to make friends and, oh, oops, we just wanted to let you know, in the friendliest way possible, that we think you're lying, thieving pirates, and we'd really like it if you stopped, or we might have to make your internet connection completely useless. But we don't want to have to do that, because we're all friends here, enjoying the internet. Isn't the internet great?"
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 11th 2013 6:37pm
from the the-death-of-free-wifi dept
All of the ISPs, of course, will say that they're not "cutting people off" from the internet, though they are making connections barely usable. Especially troubling is that, as TorrentFreak reveals in the latest post on this, at least Verizon's responses will apply to businesses as well. So that cafe down the street that has free WiFi... may quickly be throttled down to 256kbps. That will likely mean a lot less free WiFi out there, which is a significant and worrisome consequence of this program.
All of these programs seem focused on driving people to "educational content" about copyright infringement. It will be quite fascinating to see what kind of educational content is provided. We've seen in the past that most such attempts are really bad and one-sided. Even YouTube's "copyright school" is ridiculously one-sided and perpetuates myths about copyright, and suggests that fair use is too complex for you to even bother trying to understand.
Also, as the strikes get higher, there are two things to be aware of: ISPs are then more likely to hand over info to the copyright holders, meaning that it could still lead to copyright holders directly suing. That is, the "mitigation" factors are not, in any way, the sum total of the possible consequences for those accused. On top of that, we still fully expect that at least some copyright holders are planning to insist that ISPs who are aware of subscribers with multiple "strikes" are required under law to terminate their accounts. At least the RIAA has indicated that this is its interpretation of the DMCA's clause that requires service providers to have a "termination policy" for "repeat infringers." So it's quite likely that even if the ISPs have no official plan to kick people off the internet entirely under the plan, some copyright holders will still push for exactly that kind of end result.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Dec 20th 2012 7:25am
from the privacy-before-piracy dept
We recently covered the latest attempt by Voltage Pictures to identify alleged Canadian filesharers in order to launch one of their infamous copyright shakedown schemes. Rather than target one of the big ISPs, they made a list of thousands of IP addresses from TekSavvy, an independent service provider, and sought a court order forcing them to identify the users behind the addresses. TekSavvy has been admirably transparent and communicative about the issue, and was clear from the start that it would not release any information without a court order. On Monday, the court granted TekSavvy's request to adjourn until January so it could notify its customers and give them a chance to oppose the motion that would reveal their identities. However, TekSavvy has also been very clear about one thing: it won't be opposing the motion itself, and it's left a lot of customers and commentators wondering why.
Nobody would expect TekSavvy to personally defend each customer against accusations of infringement, and the company's statements so far seem to hinge on that idea as the reason it's not going to oppose Voltage's request in court. On the surface that might seem reasonable, but in fact it sidesteps the real issue: TekSavvy may not be responsible for its users' defence against infringement lawsuits, but it is responsible for protecting its users' privacy—and there are plenty of serious privacy issues with Voltage's motion that need to be addressed long before we get to the point of determining the actual guilt or innocence of individual users.
This isn't hypothetical. Howard Knopf explains the key legal comparison in this case—a 2004 attempt by BMG to get information on a mere 29 users from much larger ISPs. Not only did the ISPs oppose the motion, they won, and established important precedents in doing so.
Despite Teksavvy’s openness concerning this issue, questions are still bound to arise why Teksavvy is not actually opposing this disclosure motion in 2012, as Shaw and Telus actively and successfully did in 2004, with Bell and Rogers taking a similar if less vigorous position. In this regard, it is interesting to compare Voltage’s material with the BMG et al material filed in 2004 that was rejected by the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal at that time as inadequate in a very comparable situation, as a result of which we now have clear and binding appellate case law.
The law about all of this was clearly laid out by the Federal Court of Appeal in 2005. Here is a very balanced discussion of this presented by myself and one of my worthy opponents in that case, Richard Naiberg. The key criteria for potential success in a disclosure motion such as this is that there must be substantial, admissible, non-hearsay, and reliable evidence in the form of affidavit material and at least a bona fide case.
A key intervener in that case was the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic, which fought hard for the privacy of the Doe defendants. CIPPIC also sent a letter to the court regarding this recent Voltage motion, requesting the adjournment that was granted Monday. That letter focused heavily on the factors established in the BMG case, and when you run through those factors, you begin to see why this is a privacy issue before it's an infringement issue. The court's disclosure test was designed to ensure that customer info isn't released without a solid reason—and perhaps the most important requirement is that there be a bona fide claim, further clarified as a true intent to pursue further action based on the disclosure, and no ulterior motive. When it comes to a shakedown operation like Voltage's, everyone knows that the exact opposite is true, and CIPPIC's letter (pdf) cites the company's past (while explaining precisely what a "copyright troll" is) to make this point:
On the question of bona fides, the plaintiff has identified literally thousands of John Does and Jane Does. BMG v. Doe involved only 29 potential defendants. It is worth asking the plaintiff if it holds a bond fide intent to bring 2000 actions for copyright infringement. As will be noted below, this plaintiff has a track record in the United States of demanding subscriber data of internet service providers for the purposes of demanding exorbitant payments to settle under threat of litigation, with no bona fide intent to prosecute such litigation. In CIPPIC’s view, this scheme does not meet the requirements of the need to show a bona fide claim, but instead is evidence of another purpose.
the applicant has in the past engaged in similar mass litigation in the United States. The applicant’s business model for such litigation has earned it the label of “copyright troll”. Trolls’ business model involves alleging that consumers are liable for copyright infringement, and demanding compensation under threat of litigation. The compensation demanded invariably grossly exceeds the damages a troll might expect if the troll were to actually litigate and obtain judgement and a damages award. However, such compensation does not typically exceed the cost to a defendant of defending the action. Enough defendants will choose to pay rather than defend to make the scheme profitable to the troll. The troll typically never litigates through to a judgement, since the costs of doing so would render the scheme as a whole less profitable. The troll’s business model, thus, is an arbitrage game, exploiting judicial resources to leverage defendants’ fear and the costs of defending into a revenue stream. And, of course, no part of these revenues finds its way back to the court to offset costs borne by the taxpayer as the judiciary plays its inadvertent role in this scheme. In CIPPIC’s view, such a purpose is improper and bars the applicant from establishing a bona fide claim.
Not only that, as the letter notes, Voltage's motion accuses the users of commercial infringement—a much higher bar carrying much higher potential fines. This accusation seems completely unsupported by the evidence (which amounts to little more than "these IP addresses were connected to BitTorrent swarms") and even less likely to qualify as a bona fide claim.
Since we've been seeing lots and lots and lots of US judges slamming copyright trolling operations and dumping their cases, there's clearly an opportunity here for Canadian courts to smack down this practice before it gets off the ground—or re-assert their earlier smackdown, anyway. But the only way that can happen is if someone actually opposes Voltage's request (CIPPIC's letter was just supporting a delay). TekSavvy is still insisting it won't be them; CIPPIC might seem the logical candidate, and I'm sure they'll do what they can, but it's unclear how much they will be allowed to intervene if none of the directly-involved parties put up a fight. The only other option is the customers themselves, once TekSavvy notifies them—but, of course, the whole point of this scheme in the first place is that most people can't afford to take on a complex legal battle.
So will Voltage waltz right past the clearly-established test for the disclosure of private information? If TekSavvy doesn't do anything, they just might.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 17th 2012 1:54pm
from the hollywood,-heal-thyself dept
Since then, Hollwyood has continued (via the Australian government) to pressure ISPs to step up to become copyright cops anyway, and iiNet has participated in those discussions. But late last week it walked away from the discussions after Hollywood folks kept demanding a system similar to the US's in which ISPs would send along notices to people they accused of infringement. iiNet gave a bunch of good reasons for walking away, but the basic message was that piracy is a problem that the entertainment industry could solve itself by making all of its content available more conveniently and at better prices. Until it does that, it's silly to rope in third parties to try to hold back the tide.
The problem, of course, is that the entertainment industry still doesn't understand what's happening. They flat out reject the idea that piracy might be due to their own unwillingness to embrace the internet and provide more content, in more convenient ways at better prices. So, instead, they believe that everyone else should be responsible for fixing the entertainment industry's own mistakes. It's nice to see iiNet call them out so directly.
A broken record
The conversation has failed to move on. The rights holders are still insisting ISP's should perform work on their behalf instead of addressing what we have always said is the root cause of the infringements – the limited accessibility to desirable content and the discriminatory and high cost of content in Australia. Infringements are a symptom – access is the problem.
Data retention proposals
iiNet won't support any scheme that forces ISPs to retain data in order to allow for the tracking of customer behaviour and the status of any alleged infringements against them.
Collecting and retaining additional customer data at this level is inappropriate, expensive and most importantly, not our responsibility.
It's not iiNet's job to play online police
We've been over this before. The High Court spoke loud and clear in their verdict when they ruled categorically that ISPs have no obligation to protect the rights of third parties, and we're not prepared to harass our customers when the industry has no clear obligation to do so.
It's time to find a new way
We believe that timely, affordable access to legitimate content is the best option for reducing unauthorised sharing.
from the of-course-it-was dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 27th 2012 7:22am
from the that's-not-going-to-go-over-well dept
Now the Russian Supreme Court may have just made it even easier for Russia to stifle speech online. A new ruling has said that ISPs need to proactively block access to "illegal content" or they could "lose their license" to operate. Specifically, the court found that there is no difference between allowing access to illegal information and disseminating it yourself. The law firm Baker & McKenzie summarized the findings which had to do with whether or not it was illegal for an ISP to allow access to an online gambling site, despite gambling being illegal:
The Supreme Court ruled that is it unlawful to disseminate information that is restricted in accordance with Russian law, including, but not limited to, on gambling. The court further concluded that provision of access to restricted information is equal to dissemination of this information. The court thus found that a telecoms company de-facto disseminates restricted information by providing access to websites containing this information.That's a startling and dangerous finding. Basic common sense would suggest that there's a world of difference between merely being the conduit to information and actually putting forth that information yourself. In the US, this is why we have various safe harbors, to avoid ridiculous situations where the platform/service provider is blamed for the actions of users. But, apparently, the Russian Supreme Court has no concept of secondary liability and has squashed it all down into primary liability. If you're a Russian service provider, you should be afraid. Very afraid.
The court concluded that Rostelecom must take measures to technically block its clients’ access to restricted information. Following the Supreme Court’s rationale this requirement applies irrespective of the location of the servers containing such websites.
A ruling like this could quite easily stifle Russia's internet industry, as it will make it prohibitive for most companies to operate, given the potential liability -- especially given the new rules about what might be considered illegal online.
As for why it will likely increase censorship, beyond the obvious, you need look no further than China, where the famed "Great Firewall" tends not to be based on a blacklist of "illegal" sites, but by a similar belief that an ISP is liable for any "bad" content that users are able to access. As such, the default is to overblock. Basically block anything that the government might deem to be illegal, just to avoid legal liability. Given Russia's recent crackdowns, it seems quite likely that ISPs will take a similar "block first, deal with any questions later" approach, rather than risk liability.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 12th 2012 8:36am
from the speak-out dept
ISPs caving to copyright holders- could shut off your Internet if you're accused of piracy...!And then it links to DemandProgress' petition to the ISPs telling them not to support the six strikes plans or subscribers will take their business elsewhere. Of course, for too many customers, "elsewhere" isn't an option, thanks to a lack of a truly competitive market. Either way, as we saw with the SOPA fight, more and more artists -- musicians, actors, writers, etc. -- are making it clear that the RIAA & MPAA don't represent them, and they know part of these crazy plans that are being pushed in their names. Kudos to Dawson for speaking up.
Thu, Sep 13th 2012 11:57pm
from the what-could-go-wrong dept
Of course this hasn't stopped people from attempting to drag service providers into legal complaints. For instance, we have the occasions when Twitter is sued for the actions of its users because it is mistakenly thought to be the publisher of the tweets. Or when the entertainment industry wants to hold Google responsible for Android apps that may allow for file sharing. There are many many more stories like these. Luckily, courts and most law makers understand that service providers cannot or should not be held liable for the actions of their users. Most, anyway.
Jeffrey Nonken Has alerted us to a recent law passed in Malaysia that would hold everyone from the website to the ISP to the coffee house with open wifi to the owner of a borrowed computer responsible for the online postings of a single person.
Section 114A of the bill seeks “to provide for the presumption of fact in publication in order to facilitate the identification and proving of the identity of an anonymous person involved in publication through the internet.” In other words, the section makes it easier for law enforcement authorities to trace the person who has uploaded or published material posted online.This language had the internet-using public in Malaysia in an uproar, and they protested this law in much the same fashion as the protests over SOPA and ACTA. When these protests were finally heard, the Prime minister had the law reviewed, but to no avail.
According to the amended law, however, the originators of the content are those who own, administer, and/or edit websites, blogs, and online forums. Also included in the amendment are persons who offer webhosting services or internet access. And lastly, the owner of the computer or mobile device used to publish content online is also covered under section 114A.
When the petition was ignored by the government, netizens and media groups organized an online blackout on August 14, which succeeded in mobilizing thousands of internet users. The global attention which the action generated was likely what convinced the Prime Minister to agree to have the cabinet review the controversial amendments. Although this announcement was initially welcomed by opponents of the amendments, the Cabinet ultimately upheld the amended law.As we know, these kinds of laws have a strong potential for abuse -- one of the primary reasons US citizens opposed SOPA and CISPA. Giving a government the ability to prosecute a whole string of people only tenuously connected to a potential crime is a recipe for disaster. It will open up the ability for the government to stifle free speech even if it doesn't have to lift a finger. What will happen is that sites will now over-filter comments to avoid liability. Businesses that offered free wifi will potentially cut the service in an effort to avoid prosecution. This law will cause damage to the ability of Malaysian citizens to communicate freely over the internet.
This move to apply such harsh secondary liability is nothing surprising from a nation that supports internet filters which it promises will not be used to punish political dissent. Or the country whose courts, as part of a sentence for defamation, ordered a man to post his apology 100 times on Twitter. With the record that Malaysia has on internet freedom, it is no surprise that the outcome was what it was. However, we hope that the citizens of Malaysia continue their protests, and that those who support and passed this law will repeal it.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 24th 2012 10:19am
from the activist-judges? dept
The ISPs asked her to reconsider back in April, noting how pretty much every other court has ruled otherwise. The specific case involves well known trolling firm, Prenda Law, which is connected to one of the larger jokes in the copyright trolling business: John Steele. Steele's lawsuits have been laughed out of court and he's even been told to stop filing these bogus lawsuits, where the clear purpose is to use the judicial system as a weapon to force people (innocent or guilty) to pay up.
But apparently copyright trolls have found a friend in Judge Howell, who not only is welcoming them with open arms, but seems to be using these trolling cases to further the goals of her former employer. She's released her decision on the motion to quash the subpoenas, and it's basically a 42-page screed on the evils of infringement and how ISPs should be responsible for stopping piracy (much of which has absolutely nothing to do with the case at all). The only nod towards the other side seems to be a weak acknowledgement that "the Court recognizes that other Judges on this Court have reached different conclusions with respect to the legal questions posed by the ISPs" and thus she's agreed to stay her decision until the appeals court weighs in.
But she makes sure to get her arguments in for the appeals court to read, and it certainly feels like she reverted back to "lobbyist" mode, rather than "impartial judge."
She kicks off the polemic with a grand history of the DMCA, and how the task force that was created to write the DMCA originally wanted to pin liability on ISPs for actions done by their users. And while she admits that eventually the DMCA did include such liability protection, it seems clear she would have preferred it the other way. She then highlights the important court decisions from a decade ago, against the RIAA and in favor of Verizon and Charter, that ruled that the RIAA could not demand ISPs identify users without actually filing a lawsuit against them first. This, of course, was a basic recognition of basic privacy rights, and the fact that if you are going to expose someone's private info, you ought to at least file a lawsuit against them first. But, in the world of Judge Howell, apparently this was a bad decision. She approvingly cites the dissent in one of the key cases, claiming this somehow "unraveled" the balance struck in the DMCA. Nothing, of course, is further from the truth. That's a total rewrite of reality.
She also seems to suggest -- contrary to the very law she was just citing -- that ISPs have some sort of responsibility to "deter infringing activity."
Other than barebones references from two of the four movant ISPs that these subpoenas impose “a substantial administrative burden,” the ISPs fail to present any witness or other evidentiary detail to demonstrate a burden to the Court, let alone what steps the ISPs are or could be taking to deter infringing activity on their networks to reduce any burden subpoena compliance engenders.This is a fascinating interpretation of the law. Basically, she says that if they're going to claim that copyright trolls are showing up with tens of thousands of IP addresses, demanding they all be identified, then that means they also have to show that they've taken "steps" to "deter infringing activity on their networks." In other words, if it's burdensome to the ISPs to identify users to copyright trolls, it's their own damn fault for failing to stop infringement. Seriously.
Oh, and then she flat out misrepresents the GAO's findings from a few years ago that found that all of the entertainment industry's claims about the impact of "piracy" were complete bunk. Yet, in the world of former RIAA lobbyist Judge Howell, the GAO actually came to the opposite conclusion:
The plaintiff’s estimates regarding the amount of online infringing activity and the economic harm resulting from such activity is corroborated by a recent government report. See U.S. GOV’T ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, GAO-10- 423, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: OBSERVATIONS ON EFFORTS TO QUANTIFY THE ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF COUNTERFEIT AND PIRATED GOODS 23-24 (2010) (estimating that U.S. economy annually loses $58 billion, over 370,000 jobs, and $2.6 billion in tax revenue as a result of copyright infringement over the Internet) (citing Stephen E. Siwek, THE TRUE COST OF COPYRIGHT INDUSTRY PIRACY TO THE U.S. ECONOMY, Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), IPI Center for Technology Freedom, Policy Report 189 (Oct. 2007)).Uh, no. Go read what the GAO actually said. While the report does cite Siwek's widely discredited report of $58 billion in losses -- it does so only to say that Siwek did these studies and they claimed to show "ripple effects" beyond the immediate industry. However, most of the rest of the report highlights how those numbers, and others like them, cannot be substantiated and that most experts they spoke to found the methodology questionable. Furthermore, the report specifically calls out the reports that only try to calculate the negative impact, without even considering any possible positive impact, as being clearly misleading. That describe's Siwek's research exactly. Specifically, the GAO report noted:
Since there is an absence of data concerning these potential effects, the net effect cannot be determined with any certaintyIn other words, sorry, but the Siwek claim of $58 billion is hogwash. And yet Judge Howell pretends that the GAO has blessed this number.
The ruling goes on to defend its position, but basically says that there is no burden on the ISPs and if there is one, it's their fault. It also says that there is no issue of improper joinder to consider until after everyone's identified (at which point it won't matter, since that's all the copyright trolls want, so they can then shift to demanding cash from them). The whole thing, once again, raises significant questions about why a judge who had such a vested stake in pushing for an extreme maximalist view of copyright now gets to judge cases where key decisions are made about the interpretation of copyright law.