Goddamit, what a fucking annoying mess of issues. :P
In FB vs Power, I felt (and still feel) that FB behaved more or less correctly - and that the CFAA was used in more or less the way such laws should be used: to protect both the service and its users from harm.
Now we have that exact judgment seemingly being used to try and protect a game from cheaters. My feelings are annoyingly ambivalent here.
On the one hand: the objectionable service is apparently a cheat-bot and I really, really want to just say "fuck 'em, they deserve what they get". I have no shred of sympathy for those individuals and organisations who fuck up games for everyone else.
On the other hand, it's the bloody CFAA being invoked, a ridiculously aggressive law that is profoundly not the right tool for the job. It's just too heavy-handed, by far.
The only thing I'm certain of is that America needs better laws.
This needs to be examined. It looks like Ms Highsmith is saying one thing and the LoC is saying another.
If Ms Highsmith did commit her works to the public domain, then she may not have standing to sue over copyright, as such.
If Ms Highsmith did not, in fact, commit her works to PD, then I suspect the LoC needs to be added as a joint defendant, since they appear to be claiming she did.
Getty is not off the hook, either way: their demands for money for images they don't own is a clear, fraudulent assertion of ownership, regardless of any tricky word-games they might play to give themselves plausible deniability.
As far as Ms Highsmith is concerned, she's - at bare minimum - a victim of attempted fraud and undoubtedly entitled to sue on that basis.
As far as the FBI is concerned, Getty is engaged in systematic, wholesale criminal fraud, certainly on a nationwide basis and possibly worldwide. Whether they've an appetite to prosecute or not, there are Getty executives who need to go to jail for this.
... And with that, the most obvious troll on the thread becomes very obvious indeed.
Can I give you some free advice? If you're going to troll a site like Techdirt, you might want to be a bit more savvy than that.
I've never intentionally trolled anyone else myself, but I do like to know how it works, so I can generally avoid getting sucked into anyone else's dramas. You might find some observations helpful...
• Create and Embrace the Right Identity. The best kind of traitors are the ones who stab you in the back, when you least expect it - not the ones nobody ever turns their backs upon. Put some effort into it. Create and articulate a name and personality that suggests a genuinely interested commenter, not just some random clown who can't even be bothered to register.
I mean, who's 'Lesath' supposed to be? You're either named after the star in the stinger of the Scorpio constellation, or you're named after the obscure Death-Eater in the Harry Potter books. Neither one suggests anything other than a troll.
Even if I didn't know the name up front, I have Google, same as everyone else. You might as well have called yourself Trolly McTrollface, for all the good it's done you.
• Know Your Website and Your Targets. On a younger site full of twelve-year-olds, your tactics might work quite well, at least for a while. On an ancient site like Techdirt, especially with an old hand like me, it all falls apart straight away.
You'll rarely get much drama out of trolling someone who knows what you are the minute you click 'submit'. The only reason you got any reply at all is because I've been in a good mood for the last two days and I'm feeling both wordsome and magnanimous. Normally, I'd have ignored you completely.
• Know Your Topic. Don't just skim the article, read it properly and - more importantly - look into the links given and the background from elsewhere, so you can engage with people in a convincing way.
Mr Masnick tells the honest truth only about half the time in his articles. The rest of the time, as here, he'll selectively omit or misrepresent facts to shape the story into the narrative he wants to sell.
(I don't condemn him for that, by the way - this is how professional American journalism seems to be done, as tragic as it is.)
Leaving aside the fact that this is a six-year-old, largely done and dusted case, there's huge potential for drama in that dishonesty alone. It's wasted potential, because you didn't know what you were writing about, beyond Mr Masnick's own words.
• Use the Right Tactics. It's not 2006 anymore: for the most part, the old strategies just won't cut it, unless you're dealing with preteens or one of the more ridiculous kinds of zealot.
Cheap tricks like cognitive dissonance don't hold up anymore: too many people know exactly what they're seeing, when they see it - and will write you off as a troll, right then and there, no more drama.
As for you panicking and flinging insults around, like the Messiah in Preacher flinging his own shit through the bars of his cage... no. Just no.
The best approach seems to be to try to present yourself as a protagonist in an ensemble, one who simply disagrees with another poster, rather than an endless antagonist.
Look at Whatever, the pensionable troll below. He almost has the right idea about identity, but he does nothing except disagree. Does anyone take that seriously? Of course not. No-one ever cares what he has to say. He's tedious and incapable of invoking any real interest in his words.
There's no drama in being universally ignored. Perhaps you can do better.
That about covers everything, I think. I'll let you have the last word, because you're a troll and, well, trolls gonna troll, as one might say. Do think about what I've said, though, Lesath.
Facebook's actual 2009 ToS for commercial companies is probably floating about somewhere. You want it, you go fetch it, Lesath. No-one owes you an errand boy.
In any event, the T&C's ceased to matter, once Facebook kicked and banned Power.com: a revoked agreement has no force.
FB has no problem with users doing stupid things with their private passwords - users do that sort of thing all the time, on every service. Dealing with that is an expected and normal cost of online business.
FB had - and no doubt continues to have - problems with commercial companies who damage part of the social network, put the network's security at large-scale risk, evade network spam-controls and leave FB to pick up the complaints for said spam.
FB has a bigger problem with idiot companies who refuse to stop abusing the service, even after those idiot companies have admitted there's issues.
It has a bigger problem again, with idiot companies who do an end-run around FB's IP blocks - and an even bigger problem yet again, when those idiots shout their mouths off in the press about how they think they're protected by fair use and can do what they like.
When you've got two companies involved in delicate negotiations, having the chief idiot go to the New York Times and say the equivalent of "fuck you, Facebook, we got in by the back window and y'all can't do nothing" is not a smart move.
As far as corporate executives and lawyers are concerned, them's fighting words. Even Power.com must have known that.
Bear in mind that FB had nothing like this much of an issue with other network aggregators and FB-modifying addons, all doing the same job, that existed before, during and after Power.com's time.
Even when FB gets stroppy - and it still does, from time to time, with some third-parties - it typically asks for changes before breaking out banhammers. Actual legal action seems to be extremely rare.
Say whatever else you like about Facebook - and we could all call them all kinds of bastard over privacy issues - they don't appear to be prosecution-happy by any convincing measure.
My analogies are fairly on-point. Yours, not so much, I'm afraid.
Techdirt and other sites push this case as being:
[...] Facebook is basically using the CFAA to block what was really just a service trying to make Facebook more useful to users.
... and many commenters here - yourself included, I think - are assuming that this is a fair description of the matter.
Unfortunately, if you read the actual judgment, which Mr Masnick helpfully links to at the top, you'll find it's not really what the case was about.
Power.com was a website designed to combine all of a users social networks into one big network. Potentially, that's a great idea. Very useful. So far, so good.
The problem was that it did this in the most idiotic way possible.
Looking at the judgment and at previous reports, the first issue is that in order to use the "more useful" service, users had to give Power.com all of their usernames and passwords for all of their social networks.
All of which were then stored permanently on Power.com's own website.
I mean, what the fuck. That's not just bad design, that's utterly fucking retarded.
You don't need to be a security expert to realise that one data breach at Power.com would have resulted in all it's users losing access to all of their social networks in one go - and very likely fuel a massive storm of spam and / or malware across all of those networks.
They could have stored the information locally, on users' computers, or they could have used Facebook Connect - you know, those little widgets on dozens of sites that allow you to share stuff, if you want to - but they just didn't want to.
The second issue was the spam. If users were unwise enough to share Power.com with friends, it would create and send emails to the users' friends and contacts - and the 'reply' field in the emails claimed the emails were from "The Facebook Team", rather than from Power.com or from the user.
Presumably, Facebook had to deal with most of the spam complaints, rather than Power.com.
I'm not certain about the point, but it seems like the only way for FB users to stop a power.com user from spamming them would be for them to unfriend and block the unwise users, hurting FB's network.
FB blocking the site seems like a very reasonable response to that.
In the latest judgment, an earlier finding of liability for being spammers has been overturned, but only on a legal technicality. There's no real doubt they were guilty as hell, by any common definition.
Facebook apparently reached for the nuclear option only after a month of correspondence, trying to get them to stop. The most they could get out of Power.com before the lawsuit was basically "yeah, we might switch to Facebook Connect in a month, maybe, if we feel like it".
I'm no big fan of Facebook, but for fuck's sake. You can't intentionally create this many risks and problems for a big company and not expect to get kicked around for it.
I'm all in favour of the little guy standing up for fair use, but this really doesn't seem to be one of those kinds of cases.
Quite frankly, given all the above, I think Power.com got off lightly.
If I hold a party at my house - with an open-door policy and the whole street invited - I still have the right to throw people out and keep them out if they misbehave.
Morally and legally, I have that right, I value that right and I expect that right to continue in the future.
Likewise, if I run a pub, a shop, a post office or anything else, if patrons won't follow the rules and behave appropriately, I'll want them to leave. In many cases, it would even be my legal obligation to ensure that they do so.
Other party-guests don't have any moral or legal right to over-rule my wishes and let the unwelcome, abusive drunkard in via the back door - and the unwanted customer has no right to climb into my shop via an unlocked window.
For something closer to home, there isn't a crowdfunding site or torrent site anywhere that doesn't have rules that will get you banned if you break them. I think even Techdirt won't hesitate to swing the banhammer, if you spam links to child porn all over the comments.
In this specific instance, the idiots at Power.com were offered every warning and multiple opportunities to either follow the rules or walk away entirely unharmed. If they'd possessed even a single working brain-cell between them, there's every chance they might still be a going concern.
They chose to ignore those chances and continued to take the piss out of Facebook, instead. The outcome for Power.com is entirely on their own heads, 100%. Their stupidity is no excuse.
All that said, I agree with Mr Masnick about the CFAA: it's a terrible law that seems to escalate everything to DefCon 1 as soon as it's invoked - and from the judgment in this case, the sequence of events seems to have been warnings, followed by a C&D, followed by a multi-million dollar CFAA case.
It's a bit extreme, like watching someone use a three-tonne, rocket assisted, concrete sledgehammer, fired out of an exploding, radioactive shark, to kill one small, annoying bee.
While it's unclear if Power.com would have actually been smart enough to step away, I do think a less ridiculously over-powered law, the equivalent of a lesser tresspassing law in the real world, would have served the situation - and the American public - a little bit better. :)
Oh, I'd say Eurostile is well beyond "vastly overused": at this point, it's practically ubiquitous, the Arial of almost anything and everything vaguely technical or sci-fi-ish.
It's becoming annoying how popular it is, but it is the current default because it works well. I look forward to something replacing it, or at least competing well, but I don't think Furore has the right stuff, not on the current showing.
It's not that I don't like Furore, as such, it just seems to me like it tries too hard and misses - on it's own, I think it's much too anaemic for big-dick logos (or slogans, as here), but much too funky and angular for anything much smaller than that.
It might sit a lot better as part of a larger design, rather than carrying all the visual weight on it's own shoulders, so to speak.
Just my own opinion, obviously - I can't pretend to have the slightest idea how anyone else feels about it.
Thanks for your reply, Leigh Beadon. If there's ever a better, sexier Nerd Harder 2.0, I'm definitely up for throwing some money at it. :)
Thank you for your reply. Umm... perhaps you could explain it in a little more detail than that? I don't understand how two or more parties can communicate with each other, via encryption, unless one of those parties - at some point - supplies enough information to the other(s) to allow messages to be decrypted.
Before Snowden, anyone predicting the revelations that were ultimately exposed as being the truth would have been considered a delusional paranoiac. Today, not so much.
The entire debate around encryption has never struck me as being anything other than so much smoke and mirrors: a carefully stage-managed, multi-national effort to focus public attention on something trivial and away from the things that actually matter.
It wouldn't be the first time, either: the entire Clipper Chip thing was apparently much the same kind of bullshit.
We know from Snowden that the Five Eyes and their friends have hacked into every last corner of modern communications infrastructure. Between them, they have the ability to syphon and store copies of every last bit of data transmitted by virtually anyone, virtually anywhere.
Since any person making a communication that's encrypted or relates to encryption - and especially TOR - is automatically considered suspicious by every government, there's surely no reasonable doubt that the agencies involved share all their data on such persons with each other, freely and quite legally.
If all those agencies have recorded and shared every encryption key created by every party in the chain as soon as it was sent, how is TOR supposed to be in any way secure?
I'm not sure Camden County's policy was a 'stupid' policy, as such. I can envisage too many scenarios where they might find it very useful.
Consider: prosecutors and other county employees get access to explicitly detailed accounts of every sexual and violent activity involving a minor across the entire area, complete with the unredacted names and addresses of every child involved.
Whether they want to sell that information to predict-a-crime software peddlars, sell or trade it to local child prostitution and pornography rings, keep the information and get off on it during their lunch-breaks, or any combination of the above, this policy is clearly a goldmine for them.
After doing a bit of research, I think this article might need a little revision. You've discussed §474.14 as the offence, but looking through the link you gave, it seems that §474.17 is actually the one Alchin was prosecuted under. Perhaps someone's made a mistake, or there's a numbering mismatch between different versions of the legal code.
474.17 Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence (1) A person commits an offence if: (a) the person uses a carriage service; and (b) the person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.
It's still quite vague, but not as totally incomprehensible as the article suggests. Alchin's conduct seems openly intended to hit all three of the "menacing, harassing or offensive" buttons, which is presumably why the police and courts were happy to give it house room. Other, less abusively-targeted instances of trolling would seem far less likely to trigger police involvement.
The three year sentence is - I think - the maximum federal sentence, not what Alchin's likely to get. I know Ken the Popehat Guy gets annoyed about that sort of reporting, so I thought it was worth a mention. From my cursory research, it also seems that different states in Australia have different sentencing guidelines. Now that Alchin's pleaded guilty, I suspect he'll get a few months at most.
Even if it is a big sentence, I can't pretend I think he doesn't deserve it. If I saw someone behaving this way in real life - approaching a group of women and girls and proceeding to make appalling comments and veiled threats of violence and rape - I'd call the police, at minimum. Moreover, I hope I'd have enough strength of character to beat the living shit out of him with the nearest convenient blunt instrument while I was waiting.
Fuck this guy's freedom of speech: there are words and then there are Fighting Words. "It's different because it's on a computer" isn't an excuse any of us gets to use - especially not here.
In Alchin's specific case, it's hard to see what counterspeech would deter his behaviour. He has no debate or point of view, as such. By his own admission, he's just someone who finds gratification in abusing and frightening women online. Given the language used, I suspect he was typing with one hand and masturbating with the other. Even the maximum sentence might have no effect on him, once he gets back out.
Mr Masnick, exactly what words do you think would change the behaviour of someone like that?
Oo, a VPN! That'll be useful against a multinational intelligence network with a near-infinite budget and virtually-unlimited world-wide surveillance capabilities. :D
Seriously, I'll never understand why anybody thinks anything digital is in any way safe for anyone, at this point.
Golden Frog - and all it's competitors - are worth exactly nothing to anyone with more than basic media piracy in mind.
Based purely on what's in open view, via Snowden, et al:
• they're hoovering everything from every network; • they've hacked the living shit out of every bit of kit in existence, either selectively or generally; • they're free and clear to malware themselves direct access into every piece of equipment tangentially related to basically anyone they like, based on absolutely nothing at all; • they're institutionally-built to have absolutely no regard for any kind of human rights - and especially not for privacy.
In the face of all that, how can any sane person imagine that there are any digital safe spaces anywhere? I take it as a given that all available VPN networks have probably been compromised by agencies for multiple governments.
I remember a time when such thinking was the recourse of the rampant paranoiac. Today, I consider it nothing more than standard operating procedure.
If you have real secrets to keep, then every phone and computer, every bit of equipment with a microphone or a camera, every last games console and smart TV: these things are The Enemy.
"It always seems most far-fetched that the "organization" has an unlimited supply of yes-men who are extremely good and follow orders like robots."
The survivors of atrocities perpetrated by any number of countries - notably Germany and Japan in WWII - might disagree with you. Quite vehemently, in fact.
As far as I can see, the only time the world's most vile monsters have trouble finding supporters and enablers is when they are clearly losing.
The rest of the time, there's no shortage of people willing to line up and swear that this or that atrocity is in everyone's best interests... and, equally, no shortage of people willing to pick up guns and machetes - or strap on bombs - and prove to the world just how much they love and believe in their favourite monsters.
For all their crimes - and they are crimes, I've no doubt of that - groups like the NSA and GCHQ are a long way from being the world's most evil organisations: they should have few difficulties in finding staff willing to commit exactly these kinds of crime and keep their mouths shut.
If the organisation uses a bit of sense and compartmentalises itself so that only a few can see the bigger picture, it becomes even easier.
The fact that Snowden and the other whistleblowers constitute less than 0.1% of those people who all had the same knowledge of criminal behaviour would seem to prove the point: this can be done, it has been done, it is being done.
Nobody wants to called a traitor. Nobody wants go to jail forever. Nobody wants to disappear and later turn up dead, assuming a recognisable body-part ever turns up at all.
[I'm waving and smiling to GCHQ, here. :D]
In fiction, as in the most paranoid, delusional fantasy, as in reality, the rules are all the same.
When your employer has the power to make you and your entire family vanish without a trace, or disappear into the justice system with allegations of terrorism or child abuse or some other damn thing, you keep your mouth shut.
Snowden is the rarest of exceptions. The rest of us are exactly robots.