Last week, a mystery bidder snatched the domain of copyright troll Righthaven at auction for just $3,300. Just now, the domain name system updated to reveal his identity: one Stefan Thalberg of Zug, Switzerland, just south of Zurich.
And at the domain itself, a mysterious "No Jellyfish" logo with the title "Take Back The Right(Haven)" and the text "Coming Soon."
In the page source, a tantalizing clue:
<!--Oh... you want a hint do you? Very well: "Does your current provider possess a spine?"-->
Thalberg's email address suggests an association with OrtCloud, a Swiss internet service provider that says it focuses on "bespoke" solutions for financial and scientific companies. Intriguingly, its homepage advertises the "privacy-friendly, regulatory-havens of Iceland and the Swiss cantons of Zürich and Zug" beneath a photograph of the Swiss National Bank.
A cursory search of associated IP addresses reveals firms in the business services and finance sector. I've asked for comment. (Update: I've received a short reply saying that there will be "updates soon")
Righthaven launched an ill-fated copyright enforcement business three years ago, but was repeatedly punished by courts unimpressed with its claim to have "licensed" the right to sue from copyright holders—and which were often unimpressed with the credibility of the underlying claims. After running out of money, Righthaven lost its domain name to creditors, which promptly auctioned it off.
One of Righthaven's most notorious shakedown strategies was to demand victims hand over their own domain names in order to head off or settle lawsuits. Its legal team is now facing an investigation by the Nevada State Bar, after one judge found evidence that the company made "intentional misrepresentations" in court.
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The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
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