Something Awful receives legal threat over hotlinked image of Hitler fan

Christopher Sadowski is, his lawyers submit, a most accomplished photographer of... Hitler admirer Heath Campbell? The New York-based shooter is threatening to sue the website Something Awful over a photo of the nazi spotted in its forums unless they pay $6750.

The unauthorized use of my client's work threatens my client's livelihood. While Christopher Sadowski,[sic] does have the right to bring a lawsuit for damages, my client is willing to settle this in an amicable way, out of court and without a lawsuit. I was asked to contact you and see if we can negotiate a settlement and save everyone the stress and costs of going to court.

It turns out, however, that the image isn't actually posted on Something Awful. It's hotlinked from another website, Imgur, which is the image's actual host and the one providing the embedding snippet. It's still there. Sadowski's lawyers, Higbee & Associates, haven't figured it out—or maybe they have, but removing the image isn't the business plan.

Rich Kyanka (pictured above) explains:

This garbage dicked law firm generates nearly $5 million a year by encouraging photographers to sign up with their company, then performing a reverse image search for anything matching their client's submitted photos. An automated system then flags the suspected offending site, spits out a super scary legal threat based off a template, and delivers it to the site owner. Upon receiving the notice of possible legal action, many victims freak out and pay these idiots the stated arbitrary amount of cash, under the looming threat of being taken to court for $150,000.

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Tomorrow: come to our University of Chicago seminar on Renaissance censorship and internet censorship

Ada Palmer is a University of Chicago Renaissance historian (and so much more: librettist, science fiction novelist, and all-round polymath); she has convened a series of seminars at the University in collaboration with science and piracy historian Adrian Johns, and me! Read the rest

Retrial ordered in Led Zeppelin 'Stairway to Heaven' music copyright lawsuit

A new trial will be held in a copyright dispute over Led Zeppelin's hit song 'Stairway to Heaven.' An earlier trial ruled in the band's favor, but an appeals court has now ruled the judge in that trial gave misleading information to jurors. Read the rest

Justin Trudeau's NAFTA concessions include 20 year copyright extension

Donald Trump has wrung many concessions out of Justin Trudeau on the NAFTA renegotiation, but none is more nonsensical and potentially damaging than a 20 year copyright term extension that will bring copyright in line with the US's extreme copyright system, where copyright endures for the life of the author plus 70 years, meaning that nearly every work created in US history will disappear due to commercial irrelevance, rather than being made available for scholars and other users by libraries and other nonprofits. Read the rest

To fix Canadian copyright, let creators claim their rights back after 25 years

Copyright markets are -- and always have been -- broken. People make art because they have to, and there's always a middle-man ready to take advantage of the oversupply of willing creators to grab our rights and pay us peanuts. Read the rest

Scholastic fixes greedy copyright rule in this year's awards

Last year, 8th-grader and cartoonist Sasha Matthews discovered that the Scholastic Awards had a nasty rule buried in the fine print: all the childrens' work submitted for consideration became the property of Scholastic. This year, Scholastic fixed the rules, only taking a license to publish the entries. It's a big victory for the kids and a smart decision by the company.

Nicole Brown reports:

A 14-year-old Manhattan girl has learned firsthand the power of speaking up.

Months after Sasha Matthews, of the Upper West Side, tweeted about the copyright policy of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the organization behind the national teen competition, which gets hundreds of thousands of submissions, announced new participation terms.

Matthews, a cartoonist known for her “Everyday Superheroes” comic book that raises money for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned why winners of the contest would have to grant the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers Inc. the copyright to their work for two years.

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Happy Day Against DRM! How We'll Hill-Climb Our Way to Glory!

On this International Day Against DRM, I've published an editorial for EFF Deeplinks setting out a theory of change for getting us to a world without Digital Rights Management, where all our devices obey us instead of betraying us. Read the rest

How the EU will force all artists to use Youtube, forever

Robert Kyncl, Youtube's Chief Business Officer, writes about Article 13, the EU proposal to force all online services to evaluate all user-generated content with a copyright enforcement algorithm and censor anything that looks like a known copyrighted work (anyone can add anything to the databases of known copyrighted works and prevent it from being posted). Read the rest

Prenda law copyright troll lawyer pleads guilty to fraud and money laundering

Paul Hansmeier pleaded guilty to of wire fraud and money laundering today for his role in the Prenda Law copyright scam. Prenda uploaded porn movies to download sites, got the IP addresses of users accessing the files, then shook them down for settlements with the threat of exposing them to their families and the public through court action.

Later on, it made its own pornographic films and put these on pirate sites so it could gather more cash. The documents suggest Prenda set up shell companies to gather the "settlement" fees and hide its involvement. The settlement scheme was uncovered by an investigation into Prenda Law, which saw both Hansmeier and Steele charged with fraud in 2016. Steele pleaded guilty in early 2017 to seven charges including mail and wire fraud. He also agreed to help prosecutors investigating the case.

He lost his law license in 2016. Cory:

For more than four years, we've chronicled the sleazy story of Prenda Law, a copyright troll whose extortion racket included genuinely bizarre acts of identity theft, even weirder random homophobic dog-whistles, and uploading their own porn movies to entrap new victims, and, naturally, an FBI investigation into the firm's partners' illegal conduct.

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South Africa is considering a new copyright bill that is really, really good!

Here's some refreshing news: the pending reform to South African copyright is really excellent, with a fair use definition that futureproofs itself with the key phrase "such as" -- so naturally, giant entertainment companies are doing everything they can to kill it. Read the rest

European Parliament rejects copyright bill

In a 318 to 278 vote, the European Parliament today shot down proposals that would have made online publishers liable for users' copyright infringement and made even linking to other websites fraught with legal risk. The bill, widely reviled for its service to legacy media interests and general ignorance of the internet itself, now goes back to committee.

Julia Reda, a Pirate Party MEP who had campaigned against the legislation tweeted: "Great success: Your protests have worked! The European Parliament has sent the copyright law back to the drawing board."

BPI Music, which represents UK record labels, had supported the bill and tweeted: "We respect the decision... we will work with MEPs over the next weeks to explain how the proposed directive will benefit not just European creativity, but also internet users and the technology sector." ...

The Copyright Directive is intended to bring rules around content in line with the digital age. The two most controversial parts of it are Article 11 and Article 13. The first of these is intended to provide fair remuneration for publishers and prevent online content-sharing platforms and news aggregators sharing links without paying for them. But it has been called the "link tax" by opponents and raised questions about who will have to pay and how much. Article 13 puts more onus on websites to enforce copyright laws and could mean that any online platform that allows users to post text, images, sounds or code will need a way to assess and filter content.

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Fascinating interview with a film bootlegger from the 1960s

Woody Wise was manager of a small movie theater in the 1960s, when people were starting to watch TV more. To supplement his meager income, he eventually picked up a side hustle trafficking in bootlegged film prints until he was pinched by the FBI and caught a felony conviction. Read the rest

Legal battle royale: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds maker sues Fortnite maker

Fortinte has eclipsed the previously reigning PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and now PUBG believes that success has come at the expense of their copyrights. So here comes the lawsuit! Read the rest

Photographer claims Stranger Things stole his storm cloud image

Sean R. Heavey claims that Stranger Things used his storm cloud photo (top image) without permission in concept art (second image above) that eventually became a scene in the show. From Photographer: ‘Stranger Things’ Used My Storm Cloud Without Permission:

Heavey says he realized that the cloud that appears in the Stranger Things episode looked extremely similar to his but wasn’t the same one. A few weeks later, however, Heavey’s friend was watching the Beyond Stranger Things behind-the-scenes special (episode 3) on Netflix when he noticed the concept art that was used by the Stranger Things crew...

After Heavey reached out to Netflix with his complaint, the company responded by saying that the cloud in his photo isn’t protected by copyright.

“They are saying the only similarity that exists is the use of a similar cloud formation, that copyright law does not protect objects as they appear in nature, and that an artist can’t claim a monopoly over real-world public domain objects such as a cloud formation,” Heavey says. “The problem with that argument is that it’s not a similar cloud they use — it’s my cloud photo.”

Heavey thinks the Netflix counsel didn't even look at his image comparisons before responding. He's now lawyered up and figuring out his next steps.

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After copyright wrangle, Scholastic promises better deal for competition entrants

After 8th-grader Sasha Matthews posted here about the copyright-swiping terms and conditions imposed in Scholastic's annual Art & Writing Awards, the group says it will no longer demand legal ownership of youngsters' submissions.

Scholastic's competition is a marquee annual event celebrating the creative work of schoolchildren, but its rules assign the company copyright ownership of entries forever. This would allow Scholastic to reuse and profit from the work without the creators' permission--and prevent the creator from stopping them or doing likewise.

Now the company is planning a revision to its rules so that it can use the work, but the kids still own it. Though Scholastic hasn't said exactly what form the new terms and conditions will take, similar events require only a license to use the work.

Nicole Brown writes:

Matthews wrote about the copyright issue for a school assignment and got it published in February on the blog Boing Boing.

Shortly after, the alliance reached out to her dad, letting him know they would review its terms and conditions before next year’s contest.

“The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit that administers the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, is currently exploring a revision to the program’s terms & conditions for participants,” McEnerney confirmed.

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Judge finds that Disney "misused copyright" when it tried to stop Redbox from renting download codes

Redbox buys DVDs and then rents them through automated kiosks, including DVDs from Disney that come with download codes to watch the videos through a DRM player. Read the rest

New York Federal judge rules that embedding tweets can violate copyright law

Katherine Forrest, an Obama-appointed federal judge in New York, has overturned a bedrock principle of internet law, ruling that embedding a copyrighted work can constitute a copyright infringement on the part of the entity doing the embedding. Read the rest

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