Not content with just suing sources, small out-of-state nonprofits, bloggers who get 20 hits per day, and other massive copyright pirates, newspaper litigation firm Righthaven this week trained its guns on Ars Technica. The company filed a federal
lawsuit against one of our freelance writers over a post (about Righthaven) that appeared on the site back in December---only to dismiss it this morning.
The Las Vegas Review Journal helped to launch Righthaven, a separate Las Vegas company that for the last year has sued mostly bloggers, nonprofits, and news outlets for alleged copyright violations of newspaper stories. Some of the suits have merit; many
are absurd. Righthaven has secured some settlements, but it's more notable for getting judges to rule that even publishing the complete text of news stories can be fair use.
Lib Dems are wisely taking a detailed look at whether website blocking would lead to excessive legal claims and censorship of legitimate material, or if it could be employed to reduce copyright infringement.
Ofcom, too, has been asked to look at whether the policy is practical . We at Open Rights Group met them to say: no it isn't. And the collateral damage to people's rights is likely to be very high.
As it stands, copyright holders can already go to Court to ask for websites to be blocked, as the result of previous lobbying. But they don't use this legal power, and want a new one: we can only suppose they want something easier and more likely to
deliver the result they want.
Apple should be part of the open online society, rather than the architects behind a system of control, argues Bill Thompson
Welcome to the Brave New World of the Macintosh App Store, where Big Brother Steve is in complete control.
It is becoming harder and harder to feel comfortable about the business practices of Apple as it continues its transformation from being a design-obsessed computer company into the authoritarian centrepiece of the digital life of the millions of people
who have chosen the Apple Way .
As a long time Apple user myself, and someone who has introduced many friends and family to Macintosh computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads and the iTunes Store over the years I am beginning to feel like a left-wing writer who, having always spoken up in
favour of the Soviet Union, wakes up one morning to find Russian tanks in the streets of Budapest, crushing the nascent Hungarian democracy.
In a case that could have EU-wide implications a Spanish court is asking Google to remove data about a private individual from its index. This is known in Europe as the right to be forgotten.
The immediate case at hand involves a Spanish plastic surgeon who was featured in a critical profile by newspaper El Pais in 1991. The underlying dispute between the surgeon and his patient was resolved and it's not clear from an article in the Wall
Street Journal how meritorious the claims were or precisely how the dispute was resolved. The doctor is still practicing, and therein lies the problem.
When users do a search on Dr. Guidotti Russo the critical article comes up on page one of Google, with potential economic consequences for the plastic surgeon. Accordingly he wants to get that article removed from the Google index and the Spanish
court and Spanish Data Protection Authority are backing him.
Google is fighting and arguing that Spanish privacy regulators have exceeded their authority and that the move amounts to censorship. The crazy thing is that the newspaper itself isn't being asked to take down the article --- just Google.
The European Commission, as part of its data-protection overhaul, has proposed recognizing the right to be forgotten . France's Senate has also approved similar proposals, which have yet to be ratified by the National Assembly. The right to be
forgotten rules may therefore become law in the next two years as the EU's privacy policies get overhauled.
How it would be implemented and what the duties and burdens imposed on online publishers and search engines would be is somewhat unclear. That's where it would create a bureaucratic nightmare where individuals and, by extension, companies could exercise
censorship control over what appears about them online and in search results.
On balance the right to know (especially where entities and public figures are involved) should trump the novel right to be forgotten.
Hot on the heels of the recent announcement in court that ACS:Law will stop chasing alleged file-sharers, comes an even more dramatic development. According to a document seen by TorrentFreak, both ACS:Law and their copyright troll client MediaCAT have
just completely shut down their businesses. The news comes just days before a senior judge is due to hand down a ruling on the pair's activities.
According to a copy of a document obtained by TorrentFreak, which appears to have been sent out by Crossley during the last week, ACS:Law have not only stopped all file-sharing related work as previously reported, but actually shut down completely 31st
January 2011. Furthermore, the document adds that ACS:Law's only remaining speculative invoicing client -- MediaCAT -- has also ceased trading.
Ahead of Judge Birss' judgement due on Tuesday, it would seem to some that Mr Crossley and Mr Bowden are attempting to avoid not just 'judicial scrutiny' but financial responsibility for the flawed claims that they foolishly decided to issue, consumer group BeingThreatened told TorrentFreak on hearing the news:
They perhaps hoped that they might gain a judgement which they could use to threaten future letter recipients, instead their greed has led to the exposure of the significant and manifold flaws in the legal and evidential basis of the speculative
invoicing scheme they employed.
The Patents Country Court began yet another hearing to announce how more than two dozen previously filed cases should be handled. Judge Birss QC slammed the scheme operated by the pair and denied them the opportunity to drop the cases.
The court decided that ACS:Law would not be allowed to drop the 26 cases against alleged file-sharers, an answer to one of the key questions from the earlier hearing. While the copyright holders are being given 14 days to join the action, it is doubtful
they will. If this happens, all MediaCAT cases against these defendants will be dismissed in March.
Yet again ACS:Law and client MediaCAT were heavily criticized, with the Judge reiterating that both companies have a very real interest in avoiding public scrutiny because of the revenue they generated from wholesale letter writing.
Whether it was intended to or not, I cannot imagine a system better designed to create disincentives to test the issues in court, said the Judge. Why take cases to court and test the assertions when one can just write more letters and collect
payments from a proportion of the recipients?
Lawyer Andrew Crossley from the now defunct ACS:Law faced the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over his disastrous foray into speculative invoicing -- the chasing down of alleged file-sharers with the sole aim of receiving cash settlements. In a
surprising turn-around from previous displays of bravado, Crossley contested only one of the seven charges against him. The Tribunal suspended him from acting as a lawyer for 2 years.
Pub landlord Karen Murphy is defending her right to show English Premier League matches in her pub using a fully paid up subscription to Greek satellite TV.
In a decision that could change the way sports rights are sold across the continent, the European court of justice was advised that forbidding pubs from buying in cheap football coverage from overseas operators was incompatible with European free trade
Murphy was taken to court by a company representing the league over her decision to import a Greek decoder to show the games rather than paying Sky, which holds the rights in the UK. She has fought the case all the way to the highest European court.
Juliane Kokott, one of the eight advocate generals of the European court of justice, advised that selling on a territory-by-territory basis represented a serious impairment of freedom to provide services , adding that the economic exploitation
of the [TV] rights is not undermined by the use of foreign decoder cards as the corresponding charges have been paid for those cards .
Because Murphy had paid the legitimate rights holder in Greece, she was entitled to receive its satellite broadcasts. Whilst those charges are not as high as the charges imposed in the UK there is ... no specific right to charge different prices for a
work in each member state, Kokott said. Selling on a basis of territorial exclusivity was tantamount to profiting from the elimination of the internal market .
Kokott's opinion is not binding, but the Luxembourg court usually follows the advice of advocate generals. The court is expected to deliver its verdict later this year. As well as the criminal case against Murphy, civil cases against two importers of the
decoder cards are being considered in parallel.
In order to neutralize Sweden's incoming implementation of the European Data Retention Directive, Bahnhof, the Swedish ISP and
host of Wikileaks, will run all customer traffic through an encrypted VPN service.
Since not even Bahnhof will be able to see what its customers are doing, logging their encrypted traffic will be unrevealing.
In 2009, Sweden introduced the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED). The legislation gave rights holders the authority to request the personal details of alleged copyright infringers. This prompted Jon Karlung, CEO of ISP
Bahnhof, to announce that he would take measures to protect the privacy of his customers. Shortly after Bahnhof ceased logging customer activities and with no logging there was no data to store or hand over.
Now, in the face of Sweden's looming implementation of the European Data Retention Directive which will force them to store data, Bahnhof will go a step further to protect the anonymity and privacy of their customers. Soon, every Bahnhof customer
will be given a free anonymizing service by default. In our case, we plan to let our traffic go through a VPN service, Bahnhof's Jon Karlung told SR.
The MPAA has managed to take a dozen torrent sites offline in the United States, with help from Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN. The 12
torrent sites – which remain anonymous – were pulled offline by their hosting companies following complaints from the two organizations.
Last November it reported some of the largest torrent sites to the US Government, including The Pirate Bay, isoHunt and BTjunkie, calling them piracy havens.
In a follow up to the many accusations, the MPAA has now managed to shutter 12 torrent sites at once, a headline designed to send shockwaves through the BitTorrent community. But there is a catch to this unprecedented action. As often with
BREIN-led takedowns, nobody noticed a thing.
BREIN head Tim Kuik explained why they target small players and why they keep the site names a secret: New sites are popping up, but we take these down faster and faster so they can't gain an audience, Kuik says. Our goal is to limit the
availability of illegal sites so people rather use legal platforms. BREIN doesn't publish any names because some sites relocate and start over elsewhere.
Two of the Internet's biggest adult entertainment BitTorrent trackers were permanently closed down a couple of weeks ago. With comfortably more than 2.5 million members between them, the closure of Empornium and PureTNA leaves a sizeable number of
porn fans both empty handed and with nowhere to put their seeds.
The management of both Empornium and PureTNA have confirmed to TorrentFreak that they are offline permanently . Requests for elaboration were declined, so why suddenly close down?
The main unconfirmed rumor to have gained traction is that due to a lack of investment in code development, both sites have been vulnerable to malicious attacks. This resulted in one or both of the sites being hacked in recent days. Rather than
pump money into the sites to prevent this happening again, their hard drives were wiped by the sites' owners to protect user privacy, or so the story goes.
The other rumor, which is circulating on the fringes of the adult entertainment industry, is that the sites buckled under legal pressure, or at least the threat of it.
ACS:Law, the law firm that has terrorized untold thousands of alleged file-sharers in the UK, has quit the anti-piracy business. The
company made the announcement in a hearing at the Patents County Court yesterday set to a backdrop of scathing comments by a senior judge who said he found their cases mind boggling .
Last week in a hearing punctuated by mounting criticism of both ACS:Law and their client MediaCAT, Judge Birss found himself astonished by their conduct as the pair tried to discontinue cases against 26 alleged file-sharers at the 11th
Yesterday all parties were back in court again to find solutions to various problems, including the joining of copyright owners to the action and the addressing of various procedural failings.
It has long been suspected that ACS:Law and MediaCAT pursued this speculative invoicing business purely for profit purposes. Judge Birss QC put it to MediaCAT that their attempt to withdraw the previously mentioned 26 cases was so that the
scrutiny of inconvenient judges could be avoided which would enable them to go back to sending pay-up-or-else letters.
The ever problematic issue of MediaCAT not being the copyright holder of the works they seek settlement on raised its head again. Judge Birss QC asked MediaCAT's barrister Tim Ludbrooke if he accepted that his client has no right to bring
infringement proceedings without joining together with the copyright holders.
After infringing on thousands of artists' works, the big four music labels have agreed to collectively pay them $45M USD
After a long class action lawsuit dating back to 2008, filed on behalf of angry independent musicians, Warner Music, Sony BMG Music, EMI Music, and Universal Music have in effect acknowledged that they were engaging in copyright infringement.
As Michael Geist explains:
The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) members were hit with the lawsuit in October 2008, after artists decided to turn to the courts following decades of frustration with the rampant infringement. The
claims arise from a longstanding practice of the recording industry in Canada, described in the lawsuit as exploit now, pay later if at all. It involves the use of works that are often included in compilation CDs (ie. the top dance tracks
of 2009) or live recordings. The record labels create, press, distribute, and sell the CDs, but do not obtain the necessary copyright licences.
Instead, the names of the songs on the CDs are placed on a pending list , which signifies that approval and payment is pending. The pending list dates back to the late 1980s, when Canada changed its copyright law by
replacing a compulsory licence with the need for specific authorization for each use. It is perhaps better characterized as a copyright infringement admission list, however, since for each use of the work, the record label openly admits that it
has not obtained copyright permission and not paid any royalty or fee.
The music companies argued that they did not pirate tracks or commit copyright infringement because they hoped to pay artists at some point -- although they never did.
Unfortunately, the victory for the small artists is mostly symbolic. In Canada, the U.S., and abroad, major record labels plan to continue to sell music they've essentially pirated from unknown artists . The lawsuit does nothing to change
This irony of the situation was noted by the artists in the lawsuit, who wrote: The conduct of the defendant record companies is aggravated by their strict and unremitting approach to the enforcement of their copyright interests against
After a narrow vote, a Spanish parliamentary commission has rejected an anti file sharing bill.
All of the main Spanish parties, except for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists rejected the so-called Sinde Bill, named after Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde.
The draft legislation would have set up a government commission which would have then provided courts with details of websites offering access to copyright-protected material such as music, movies, video games or software. A judge could then have
ordered the closure of offending websites.
The bill sparked furious opposition from internet users who accused the government of violating the freedom of expression .
Techdirt noted Spain's somewhat more reasonable copyright laws than other parts of the world highlighting provisions that say that personal, non-commercial copying is not against the law and also says that third parties should not be
liable for copyright infringement done by their users adding that obviously Hollywood hates this and that Spain's recently introduced reform package seemed like a checklist of the entertainment industry's wishes and that one of
the recent Wikileaks diplomatic cable leaks showed that US diplomats played a role in pressuring the Spanish government to make these changes, at the behest of movie industry lobbyists .