Sweden’s IIS Faces The Court Of Law; Prosecutor Accuses The Organization Of Assisting Copyright Infringement
Filed under: Announcements & Events, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
The Internet Infrastructure Foundation (IIS), Sweden’s company in charge with top-level domain name registrations (.se), refused to put down two of The Pirate Bay’s domain names and is now charged by the country’s prosecution office with assisting copyright infringement.
A little bird told The Pirate Bay (earlier this year), that Swedish authorities will go after its .se domain names. As such, TPB dropped the anchor in Greenland, then in Iceland, and finally in Sint Maarten (.SX).
Although TPB no longer uses any of its .se domain names, Swedish authorities are determined to cut all of the ship’s connections with the IIS. As such, the Swedish Prosecution Authority filed a petition (at the beginning of this month) with the Stockholm District Court, asking IIS to take action against thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se. The organization refused to comply.
“The legal system has not been able to shut down the service after the previous guilty verdict against TPB,” IIS’s Chief of Communications Maria Ekelund told TorrentFreak.
“Therefore the prosecutor has opened a new case against both the domain holders and .SE. The prosecutor is accusing .SE of assisting TPB who are assisting others to commit copyright infringement.”
“In the eyes of the prosecutor, .SE’s catalogue function has become some form of accomplice to criminal activity, a perspective that is unique in Europe as far as I know,” IIS’s CEO Danny Aerts said.
“There are no previous cases of states suing a registry for abetting criminal activity or breaching copyright law,” he continued.
As far as the company is concerned, they did nothing but to provide with a service that’s meant to link URLs to a specific IP address, just as they do for Google(.se).
“.SE translates the .se domain names to name servers, a name server operator translates this into an IP address and a resolver operator (such as Telia) helps .SE respond to the most frequent queries,” Aerts explained.
“IP addresses are subsequently allotted to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) through RIPE. And IANA grants us the right to administer the top-level .se domain. Perhaps I should also remember to mention Google, which helps you find the address if you do not know the domain name.”
In other words, this complex system is keeping the internet online, and IIS is not the only one responsible for doing so.
“Where should the line be drawn for legal processes and matters of liability?” Aerts asked.
“.SE will naturally respond to the prosecutor’s perspective. We have an educational task ahead of us in explaining to the District Court what a domain name is, what .SE does and the fundamentally incorrect nature behind seizing a domain name forever,” he continued.
Unfortunately for the company, the trial will cost a whole lot of money, money that will be taken out of ISS’s educational programs.
“This will be an expensive process and, although our lawyers will find it an interesting case, these are funds that we would rather spend on our investments in schools or digital inclusion,” Aerts stated.
If the Swedish Prosecution Authority wins the case, IIS will be forced to erase any evidence that thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se ever existed as registered under .se domain names.
“Removing a domain name can be compared to taking down the signs hanging outside the shoe store. Although this would make it more difficult for customers to find the store, it would still be there and any customers who were able to find it would be able to continue buying shoes there,” the company’s CEO concluded.
A porn-producing studio called AF Holdings sued over a thousand individuals on grounds of copyright infringement. A court order forcing the defendants’ ISPs to reveal their identities is now being appealed, with chances to win an important battle against copyright trolls.
Verizon, AT&T, Bright House, and Cox are just some of the internet service providers that took the side of their subscribers, by appealing a District of Columbia court’s decision (presided by Judge Beryl Howell), which was given last year. The ruling stated that ISPs must give in the identities of the 1,058 defendants.
“The contact information that Plaintiff seeks is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the true identities of the ‘Does’ who allegedly downloaded Plaintiff’s pornography,” the ISPs argued.
The ISPs continued by saying that many of the defendants are not even living near the District of Columbia. Furthermore, Cox, AT&T, and Bright House pointed to the fact that they are not offering residential contracts in that district.
The court’s decision, the ISPs said, could set a precedent for “coercive and unjust” settlements,
Just like the US entertainment industry used to do, AF Holdings sues a large number of people in one go, expecting for internet providers to reveal their identities, and then rip the defendants’ pockets with quick settlements, hoping that they will not seek justice out of the embarrassment of such a lawsuit.
The Nevis-based (an island in the Caribbean) studio owns copyright on a handful of adult-oriented movies, and that’s about it. The internet service providers believe that, in fact, AF Holdings is a front for Prenda Law, a law firm involved in the case.
Backing up this not so far-fetched theory is a recent ruling given by Los Angeles district judge Otis Wright, who asked Prenda’s lawyers about their legal strategy; they refused to give details, saying that this would incriminate them.
“Evidence elicited in the related AF Holdings case reflects that Plaintiff’s cases are being prosecuted for the sole benefit of Prenda Law’s principals, who are the beneficial owners of Plaintiff and have created fake owners or forged signatures in court filings to hide their interests in these cases,” the appeal reads.
As a result, Judge Wright ruled that:
“Copyright laws originally designed to compensate starving artists allow starving attorneys in this electronic-media era to plunder the citizenry.”
“It is clear that the Principals’ enterprise relies on deception.”
If ISPs win the appeal, would it mean the end (or at least a good shake of the bad tree) of the copyright trolling era?
Stay tuned to find out!
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
Greenheart Games is an independent game developing company, famous for its series of the popular game named Dev Tycoon. Not long ago, GG thought it would be funny, and also make a valid point, to upload on BitTorrent a tweaked version of their latest game (Game Dev Tycoon), masked as a “cracked” torrent especially designed for those who infringe copyright. What came out of this stunt was a very interesting debate.
The “cracked” version is almost the same as the original one, except for one thing:
“Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:
‘Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt,’” GG’s team commented.
“I’m not mad at you. When I was younger, downloading illegal copies was practically normal but this was mostly because global game distribution was in its infancy. To be fair, there are still individuals who either can’t make a legal purchase because of payment-issues or who genuinely cannot afford the game. I don’t have a quarrel with you,” they continued.
As clever as this move was, the whole thing started a heated debate about the legal and ethical concerns of piracy. To be more precise, ArsTechnica and their commenters asked the following question: are people who downloaded the “cracked” version of the game pirates? Taking a moral stand, the answer is simple: yes, they are pirates. The torrent’s description reads “FULL VERSION…CRACKED AND WORKING”, so people’s intent to download the game for free is obvious.
What follows is a big and obvious “but”. But, from a legal point of view, things are not so easy. In order to be called a pirate, one needs to obtain the targeted content without permission from the owner. In this case, even if people downloaded GG’s tweaked game, they did so with the company’s permission. But what if GG was willing to sue them? Could it built a case on such grounds? While Patrick Klug (working with the game company) told Ars Technica that “it was never our intention to pursue any legal action against those people who downloaded the cracked version”, the question still needs an answer.
“There’s a good argument that by making something freely available for download, you are authorizing downloads,” Denise Howell told Ars.
“A court could find an implied license despite the fact no express license has been stated, simply because there’s no other logical conclusion to be drawn from the conduct. Downloading in this circumstance is not just foreseeable, it’s practically inevitable.”
The argument is indeed valid; however, a court could argue that these circumstances would offer safe harbor for those who downloaded the “pirated” version of the game directly from Greenheart’s seed. How about the others who, for the sake of the argument, downloaded and shared a subsequent copy of the game? Well, according to copyright laws from basically any country, without a license they would not have the right to share that piece of software.
Denise Howell, a popular figure known for hosting “This Week In Law” on TWiT network, continued by saying that the very nature of BitTorrent means that the indirect license of seeding the file “encompasses whatever distribution functionality is generally understood to be associated with and necessary to P2P or BitTorrent distribution. That wouldn’t mean the license would be so broad as to allow BitTorrent or P2P downloaders to redistribute the file at will. It would arguably mean the rightsholder has agreed to whatever distribution was the logical consequence of seeding the work on BitTorrent.”
Evan Brown, a lawyer specialized in the copyright law, said in an e-mail to Ars Technica that GG’s tweaked game suggests an ample indirect license that would protect those who download the game.
“I think the embedded ‘message’ (oh, poor us, we’re being victimized by piracy) is the key fact here,” he explained.
“It shows that the maker wanted the work to be as widely distributed as possible. Why would it bother embedding that message if it didn’t want that message broadcast widely?”
Going back to the users’ intent to download a “cracked and working” version of the game, things get even more complicated.
Howell explained that someone’s intent alone would not help with building a copyright lawsuit; what could help, however, is establishing whether the torrent file and its distribution were licensed by the producer. If the act of copyright infringement is confirmed by the court of law, the user’s intent could be penalized with $750 to $30.000 per work. If the court finds the defendant guilty of “willful infringement”, the penalty goes up to $150.000, Howell said.
Note: the $150.000 penalty would apply to works licensed three months before the infringement occurred.
“There is a kind of a ‘come on’ factor here, in the hypothetical lawsuit. They would need to develop and present and say, ‘Look, you can’t just trick someone into infringing.’ If I were [the defense's] lawyer, I’d try to make something out of the fact that it was a honeypot, it was bait, and try to reduce the damages that way,” Howell continued.
Due to the fact that GG advertised the torrent as being an illegal copy, a court of law “would probably, on balance, go against the users. That fact could paint a picture that they went into the ‘transaction’ knowing it was infringing technology. In other words, that users responded to something that was ‘marketed’ as ‘cracked’ says something about their mindsets—namely, that they went into it with eyes open to the fact they were doing something that the copyright owner would normally not approve of,” Brown said.
“The weird thing is, of course, that the copyright owner in this situation did indeed approve of it.”
“It’s a perfect example of why legal arguments can be so confounding. A single fact can be spun in two directions 180 degrees opposite one another.”
CISPA, a bill that contains harsher regulations than SOPA, is being put under scrutiny by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The organization goes on to discuss the issues of CISPA’s broad legal immunity and the effects it may cause if the bill passes as law.
We haven’t heard anything about the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (also known as CISPA) in a while, and some of us wondered whether this bill died out or was just holding its horses back. Well, apparently it’s the latter, because CISPA is back on Congress’ table. The act itself is no different from what we’ve wrote last year (link 1, link2, link3), with the same vague provisions and stipulations.
Amongst them, we find that CISPA allows ample immunity to any company, as long as the company acts in “good faith”. Moreover, one section of the act goes even further and grants immunity to any “decision made” regarding a known threat.
“The most dangerous section grants immunity for any ‘decision’ a company makes based on information it learns about a perceived network threat,” the EFF notes.
In other words, a company can act against a known threat by simply relying on this immunity; the problem, however, is that this kind of immunity could overrule other laws, such as the computer crime laws or even privacy laws.
Furthermore, another question is bound to receive a straightforward answer: who’s to say which company acts in “good faith” and which is acting on “bad faith”? Your country’s government or other third parties with personal agendas? Well, we all know that governments like power, and power leads to abuse way too often to be disregarded.
For example, if your government asks for your information, telling the company only what it needs to know – that this information is needed for top secret cybersecurity reasons -, that company can easily claim that it acted in “good faith”. Immunity from lawsuits was never easier, eh?
“According to its authors, the immunity sections in CISPA are necessary for companies to share information about cyberthreats with the government. But the immunity granted by CISPA is overly broad because it does more than just encourage the sharing of information. Companies don’t need immunity to share technical information about threats,” the EFF wrote.
“CISPA’s immunity clause allows companies to use “cybersecurity systems.” As discussed in our CISPA FAQ, the definition is critical to the bill yet littered with problems. It appears to be intended to protect a company’s automated response to a network attack—a widely used action by network administrators. But the definition a “cybersecurity system” is broad enough to include aggressive countermeasures that some would consider offensive actions.”
“The immunity for any “decision made” based on a cyber threat when combined with the ambiguously defined “cybersecurity systems” sets the stage for abuse. Companies shouldn’t possess such expansive protections. That’s why we ask you to email your representative and tell them to stop CISPA,” the EFF concluded.
TAKE ACTION, before it’s too late!
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, Legal P2P News & Issues, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games
Following the story of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the mother that downloaded & shared 24 songs via Kazaa, we find that her appeal to the US Supreme Court had been denied. As such, she is now eligible to pay a fine of $222.000 in damages to the RIAA.
Jammie had been battling the US legal system for quite some time. After several pleas and appeals, she finally agreed that it’s time to take the case to the US Supreme Court, with hopes that RIAA’s financial claims will be reduced to a more appropriate figure. Hence, her lawyers filed a petition, asking the Supreme Court to reconsider a previous decision that ruled she’s to pay $222.000 in damages to the recording industry. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declined her appeal this Monday.
The decision did not come as a surprise, however, especially if we remember that Joel Tenenbaum shared the same fate when he tried to challenge (with the help of the Supreme Court) a court’s ruling to pay $675.000 in damages for sharing 30 songs, but did put an end to Jammie’s struggle.
Jammie Thomas-Rasset was the first to take a stand against the RIAA. Despite her numerous efforts to highlight an abusive legal system that allows damages of up to $150.000 per infringement, Jammie’s battle is now over.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, I do not have now, nor do I anticipate in the future, having $220,000 to pay this,” she said in an e-mail.
“If they do decide to try and collect, I will file for bankruptcy as I have no other option.”
Commenting on this final decision, she said:
“It is what it is.”