Rightscorp (previously) is the extortion outfit that terrifies people into paying it money for unproven accusations of copyright violations, enlisting ISPs to cut off subscribers who won't cough up. Read the rest
Copyright trolls like LA-based CEG TEK are exploiting Canada's "notice-and-notice" copyright system to force ISPs to pass on extortion letters to their customers, threatening them with dire consequences unless they pay hundreds of dollars to settle unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement. Read the rest
Christine McMillan, 86, received an email from her Internet service provider to let her know that because she had illegally downloaded a copy of Metro 2033 she was now subject to a $5,000 fine. The email was sent via a private company called Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement. McMillan says she never heard of the game, in which survivors of a nuclear holocaust are tasked with murdering mutants.
According to CBC, McMillan is "one of likely tens of thousands of Canadians who have received notices to pay up, whether they are guilty or not."
At first, she thought it was a scam.
"They didn't tell me how much I owed, they only told me that if I didn't comply, I would be liable for a fine of up to $5,000 and I could pay immediately by entering my credit card number."
McMillan called Cogeco, her internet service provider, and discovered the emails were perfectly legal under the federal government's Notice and Notice regulations introduced last year under the Copyright Modernization Act.
The law requires internet providers to forward copyright infringement notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading content like video games and movies.
Robert Croucher owns Hatton & Berkeley, a firm that sent "speculative invoices" to people it accused of illegally downloading the Robert Redford movie "The Company You Keep" -- letters so egregious that Lord Lucas described the company as "scammers" and the letters as "extortion," urging Britons to "put them in the bin." Read the rest
The copyright troll business-model: a sleazy lawyer gets copyright holders to one or more films (often, but not always, porn) to deputize them to police those rights; then the lawyer's company uses sloppy investigative techniques to accuse internet users of violating those copyrights; they use deceptive notices to get ISPs to give them contact details for those users (or to get the ISPs to pass notices on to the users); then they send "speculative invoices" to their victims, demanding money not to sue -- usually a sum that's calculated to be less than it would cost to ask a lawyer whether it's worth paying. Read the rest
For decades, Warner/Chappell Music claimed to own the rights to the Happy Birthday song, despite the reams of copyright scholarship and historical research showing they had no legitimate claim. Read the rest
Rightscorp -- a firm that asks ISPs to disconnect you from the Internet unless you pay it money for alleged, unproven copyright infringements -- was finally challenged in court by an ISP, Texas's Grande Communications; as soon as it looked like it would have the legal basis for its business-model examined by a judge, the company cut and ran, withdrawing its threats. Read the rest
Security journalist Brian Krebs documents a string of escalating extortion crimes perpetrated with help from the net, and proposes that the growth of extortion as a tactic preferred over traditional identity theft and botnetting is driven by Bitcoin, which provides a safe way for crooks to get payouts from their victims. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
In Florida, District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has dismissed a suit brought by notorious porno-copyright trolls Malibu Media on the grounds that an IP address does not affirmatively identify a person, and so they cannot sue someone solely on the basis of implicating an IP address in an infringement. This is a potentially important precedent, as it effectively neutralizes the business-model of copyright trolls, who use IP addresses as the basis for court orders to ISPs to turn over their customers' addresses, which are then inundated with threatening letters. The porno copyright trolls have a distinctly evil wrinkle on this, too: they threaten their victims with lawsuits that will forever associate the victims' names with embarrassing pornographic video-titles, often with gay themes. Read the rest
Facebook continues to tighten the screws on the businesses that use the service to market to their customers. Independent research shows that new updates from businesses reach about six percent of the people who follow those businesses. It is rumored that Facebook intends to reduce this number to "between one and two percent" over time. Businesses that want to reach the people who follow them at higher rates will have to pay Facebook to reach them through paid advertisements.
If you're building your business's marketing and customer relations strategy atop Facebook, take note -- and remember that if you have a real website, all your readers see your posts, even if you don't pay Facebook! Read the rest
California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.
California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.
The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.
During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.
"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants. Read the rest
We've seen some stupid copyright laws in the past fifteen years, but Panama's new law -- which has passed the legislature and merely awaits executive approval. Under Bill 510, the Panamanian copyright office has the power to pursue file-sharers directly, fining each one $100,000 ($200,000 on second offense) and keeping the money for itself, paying bonuses to apparats in the copyright office from the pot. Artists and copyright proprietors get none of that money, but they can also sue file-sharers if they want. Naturally, this bill was passed without public scrutiny, expert input, hearings, or public debate. As Technollama writes:
This is what I think will happen if the law passes as it stands. The DGDA will immediately try to monitor all torrent use in Panama, be it legitimate or not, and all people identified with IP addresses will be summoned and summarily fined. After all, the institution and its employees will have a direct financial incentive to assume guilt. Then those same people will be sent again and again, as there will be clear incentive to fine re-offenders.
This is a toxic piece of legislation any way you look at it, and we urge the Panamanian Congress to modify Chapter I of Title XII, or to remove it altogether.
A brilliant student, Kaitlin Nootbaar, was denied her High School diploma for using the word "hell" in her Valedictorian speech, according to Oklahoma City's KFOR. A school administrator at the High School in Prague, Okla., demanded a personal apology from her before handing it over, a condition she turned down—and which her family believes is illegal. Read the rest
Duke Nukem Forever, a long-overdue sequel in the Duke Nukem video-game franchise, finally shipped this week to scathing reviews. The Redner Group, who were handling publicity for the launch, tweeted a message that warned reviewers that "we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom" -- in other words, if game journalists say nasty things about our client, they won't get review titles in the future. They've since apologized, but this is not the sort of subtext one usually sees brought to the surface in publicist/journalist relations.
Hugh from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez ,"In a decision with likely wide-ranging impact, a judge in Las Vegas today dismissed as a sham an infringement case filed by copyright troll Righthaven LLC. The judge ruled that Righthaven did not have the legal authorization to bring a copyright lawsuit against the political forum Democratic Underground, because it had never owned the copyright in the first place. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Fenwick & West LLP, and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers are defending Democratic Underground."
Read the rest
"In dismissing Righthaven's claim in its entirety, Chief Judge Hunt's ruling decisively rejected the Righthaven business model of conveying rights to sue, alone, as a means to enforce copyrights," said Laurence Pulgram, head of copyright litigation at Fenwick & West in San Francisco. "The ruling speaks for itself. The court rejected Righthaven's claim that it owned sufficient rights in the copyright, stating that claim was 'flagrantly false--to the point that the claim is disingenuous if not outright deceitful.'"
Judge Hunt also noted that "Righthaven has made multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the Court" and rejected Righthaven's efforts to fix things after the fact with a May 9, 2011, amendment to the original assignment agreement. The judge expressed "doubt that these seemingly cosmetic adjustments change the nature and practical effect" of the invalid assignment.
As part of his ruling today, the judge ordered Righthaven to show why it should not be sanctioned for misrepresentations to the court. The Court permitted Democratic Underground's counterclaim to continue against Stephens Media -- the publisher of the Review Journal -- allowing Democratic Underground to show that it did nothing wrong in allowing a user to post a five-sentence excerpt of a 50-sentence article.