Rightscorp: a business founded on threats of Internet disconnection

Rightscorp, a company that went public last year, has an idea: they'll issue millions of legal threats to alleged music file-sharers, threaten them with millions in fines, and demand nuisance sums ($20/track) too small to warrant consulting with an attorney -- and they'll arm-twist ISPs into disconnecting users who don't pay up. Rightscorp has a secret system for identifying "repeat offenders" who use Bittorrent, and they believe that this gives them to right to force ISPs to terminate whole families' Internet access on the basis of their magically perfect, unknowable evidence of wrongdoing. They call this "holding the moral high ground." More than 72,000 Americans have had "settlements" extorted from them to date, though Rightscorp still runs millions in the red.

Rightscorp's rhetoric is that the sums it demands are "deterrents" to prevent wrongdoing, and that it wouldn't really want to sue people into penury. But it is a publicly listed company with a fiduciary duty to extract as much money as it can from the marketplace. It's a good bet that its prospectus and quarterly investor filings announce that the company will hold its "fines" down to the smallest amount that provides the deterrent effect -- instead of, say, "all the market can bear."

The legal theory under which Rightscorp is operating is pretty dubious: a belief that ISPs have a duty to terminate the Internet connections of "repeat offenders" based on a clause in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This theory has been sparsely litigated, but the one major case in which it has been tested went against Rightscorp's business-model. But as Joe Mullin points out in his Ars Technica profile of the company, they may be able to get past this hurdle just by suborning the increasingly corrupt, noncompetitive, inbred and rent-seeking ISP industry by giving them a piece of the action.

Read the rest

Frozen horror-movie trailer

Horror movie trailer mashups have become something of a fine art these days, but even by the high standards of our time, Bobby Burns's Frozen horror trailer is awfully good. It's scary, and I'd go see that movie. (via Crazy Abalone)

ARST ARSW (Star Wars, re-edited into alphabetical order)

Tom Murphy sorted the whole script of Star Wars alphabetically, located the timecode for each spoken word in the film (using the Han Shot first print), and edited the film into alphabetical order. I don't know about you, but I think Kenobi #8 was definitely the best.

Fun facts:
* The word "lightsaber" only appears once in this film.
* There are 43m5s of spoken English, 81m39s of other.
* The most common word is "the", of course, said 368 times.
* The word with most screen time is "you", at 52.56 seconds.
* There are 1695 different words, and 11684 total words.
* The longest words are "responsibility," "malfunctioning", "worshipfulness", and "identification", all 14 letters.

I labeled the words manually (!) using some software I wrote specifically for the purpose.

This is the Special Edition to troll Han-shot-first purists. Everyone knows the orig is the most legit.

ARST ARSW: Star Wars sorted alphabetically (Thanks, Cromis!)

Crowdfunding English translations of public-domain German science fiction


Bradley Hall writes, "I am trying to get funding via Indiegogo so that I can spend more time translating old public domain German sci-fi books. So far I have translated Robert Heymann's 'Der Rote Komet' (The Red Comet) and am currently working on Bernhard Kellerman's 'Der Tunnel' (The Tunnel). Neither of these books have been translated to English before."

English sf is greatly impoverished by the lack of translations from other languages. You meet German sf fans who're conversant with English, Danish, Swedish, Italian and French authors through translation. We get by on a little Lem and Strugatsky.

Read the rest

Piratebox 1.0: anonymous, go-anywhere wireless file-sharing

Piratebox, a great project for making standalone wireless fileservers, has gone 1.0. The 1.0 has a slick 4chan-style message board, a responsive UI, and does UPnP discovery for your file-sharing needs. Combined with cheap wireless gear and a little battery, it's a perfect file-sharing boxlet that you can take anywhere in order to share anything -- for example, buskers could use it to distribute copies of their music to watchers. Piratebox is the technology that underlies Librarybox, a fork that is specialized for use by libraries and archives.

Read the rest

Pirate Bay co-founder Peter "brokep" Sunde arrested in Sweden

Peter "brokep" Sunde, the Pirate Bay co-founder who also started Flattr and made a bid for the European Parliament on behalf of the Finnish Pirate Party, has been arrested in Sweden. Sunde -- who is a friend of mine -- had been working his way through a series of unsuccessful appeals to his conviction for his role in running the Pirate Bay, which included a €10M fine. Sunde faces an eight-month sentence, which he was meant to begin serving in 2012.

I don't know what's next for Peter; his appeals have always turned on legal complexities that were somewhat esoteric. It may be that this is the last stop for him and that he will have to serve. He's written before about his struggles with depression. I hope that he is safe and as comfortable as he can be under the circumstances, and that he knows that he has friends and fans all over the world who care about what happens to him.

Read the rest

Harvard Bluebook: more threats to those who would cite the law

Carl Malamud writes, "On May 16, Boing Boing brought us the story of five years of intimidation on the Uniform System of Citaiton required in the United States, a system otherwise known as The Bluebook. Based on your story, a stern keep off the grass warning was dispatched from the ever-growing Bluebook Legal Task Force at the eminent white shoe firm of Ropes & Gray."

Read the rest

Super Mario dress


Koala's $60 Super Mario dress looks lovely. It's screened on both sides. Hand-wash only.

Super Mario Dress (via Geekymerch)

Tor founder Tom Doherty on publishing without DRM


Two years ago, Tor Books, the largest sf publisher in the world (and publisher of my own books) went DRM-free; yesterday, Tor's founder and publisher Tom Doherty took to the stage to explain why he dropped DRM from his books. Doherty spent some time talking about the business outcomes of life without DRM (in short, there's no new piracy of Tor books as a result of publishing without it), but really focused his talk on the community of readers and writers, and their conversation, and the role Tor plays there. Doherty's philosophy is that books get sold by being part of a wider context in readers' lives -- being something they talk and think about and share, and that DRM just gets in the way of that.

Meanwhile, Hachette -- publishing's most ardent DRM advocate -- and Amazon continue to duke it out in a ghastly and abusive public spat in which Amazon is attempting to extort deeper discounts from Hachette by de-listing, delaying and obfuscating its titles. If Hachette books were DRM free, the company could announce an "Amazon-refugee discount" of 10% of all its ebook titles at Google Play, Ibooks, and Barnes and Noble, and offer a tool to convert your Kindle library to work on one of those other players. But because Hachette allowed -- insisted! -- that Amazon put its own DRM on Hachette books, the only company that can authorize converting Amazon Kindle titles to work with other readers is Amazon.

Good luck with that.

Read the rest

Appeals court nukes the copyright troll business-model

Yesterday, a federal judge in the DC circuit court of appeals handed Prenda law -- the most loathed and evil porno copyright trolls in the business -- its own ass on a plate, and struck a blow against copyright trolling everywhere. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Mitch Stoltz has a deep dive into the case, which EFF participated in.

Prenda (previously) is one of the leaders in the shady practice of accusing people of downloading pornographic films with embarrassing titles and then demanding money in exchange for not filing a lawsuit against them, using the threat of having your name associated with "Anal Invaders XII" in public records forever as a lever to get you to settle even if you've done nothing wrong. In AF Holdings v. Does 1-1058, Judge Tatel struck an important blow against this practice by ruling that trolls have to file cases in the same jurisdiction as their victims in order to get court orders to reveal the victims' names and addresses, without which the cases cannot proceed. But filing cases in the correct jurisdiction will likely cost more than the average blackmail payment that Prenda extorts from its victims, making the whole thing into a losing business.

The court also held that merely being accused of having, at some point, participated in a Bittorrent swarm does not join you with everyone else who ever joins that swarm, and that there is only joint liability for people who download from one another, as part of the same swarm at the same time. This is the first-ever federal ruling on copyright trolling's most evil practices, and it represents a major victory for the good guys.

Read the rest

Call for Speakers: Copycamp Warsaw, with Birgitta Jónsdóttir and Cory

Marta writes, "This is an open call for 10-minute presentations at the 3rd International CopyCamp Conference (November 6-7, 2014 in Warsaw, Poland), devoted to social impacts of copyright. This year, we'll have two special guests: Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a poet and member of the Icelandic parliament, Internet activist, freedom of information and freedom of speech defender and Cory Doctorow, the co-editor of this website."

Read the rest

David Lynch's Return of the Jedi

Sulka sez, "Someone just released a beautiful work of art at YouTube. If you like Star Wars or are a movie aficionado in general, this is a must see:" In 1981 George Lucas approached David Lynch to direct the final installment of the STAR WARS trilogy. For years fans of Lynch and Lucas have wondered what that surreal vision would look like. Now we finally know.... in David Lynch's RETURN OF THE JEDI.

Met releases 400,000 hi-rez scans for free download, claims copyright over the public domain


Robbo sez, "The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just released almost 400,000 visual works in an online searchable database. The images are high rez (10 megapixels) and free to download. Thank you Met!"

Well, yeah, except the terms and conditions pretend that the Met can tell you how you're allowed to use public domain art (!). Lucky for the Met that such conditions are null and void, otherwise they wouldn't be able to scan and share these images in the first place. Sheesh! Remember, faithful reproductions of works in the public domain do not attract new copyrights, as a matter of well-settled US law.

Brussels: Water cannons turned on anti-TTIP protesters fighting the Son of ACTA


In 2012, a winning combination of lobbying and street protests killed ACTA, a secretive, Internet-punishing copyright treaty. Now, protesters are being water cannoned in Brussels as they fight ACTA's successor, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It seems like the lesson that the powerful took away from ACTA wasn't to conduct trade negotiations with transparency and public feedback -- instead, they're ruthlessly crushing all protest in the hopes of keeping it from growing.

Read the rest

UPDATED Bowie's takedown of Hadfield's ISS "Space Oddity" highlights copyright's absurdity

Update: The Ottawa Citizen has retracted its article about the takedown of Hadfield's video. The article incorrectly said that Bowie had not renewed the license for this work. The truth is that Bowie had sold the right to this song, and the owner of that right was the intransigent party. The more important point of the article, though, is that none of this would matter if Hadfield had recorded the song and put it out on CD instead of on Youtube, because we have a relatively sane system of compulsory licenses for sound-only recordings; the law has not made the obvious step of expanding to cover Youtube covers, and that means that wonderful work like Hadfield's is at the mercy of capricious rightsholders in a way that it would not be if it were made in older media.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's cover of Bowie's Space Oddity was a worldwide hit, and now it has been disappeared from the Internet, thanks to a copyright claim from David Bowie. Ironically, if Hadfield had recorded the song and sold it on CD or as an MP3, there would have been no need for him to get a license from Bowie, and no way for Bowie to remove it, because there's a compulsory license for cover songs that sets out how much the performer has to pay the songwriter for each copy sold, but does not give the songwriter the power to veto individual covers (that's why Sid Vicious was able to record "My Way").

As Blayne Haggart's Ottawa Citizen editorial points out, it's hard to make a utilitarian argument for copyright that lets musicians determine who can make Youtube videos from their songs, given that covers are such an accepted part of musical practice. As Haggart writes, "Is the world a better place now that this piece of art has officially been scrubbed from existence?"

Read the rest