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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Associated Press and MediaDefender, taking IP way way way too far.

This was a week where I discovered two little tidbits that really set my blood boiling over the state of IP law in this country. In both cases we have companies using the excuse of copyright to act like Uncle Vinnie the Mob Enforcer, but without the pinky ring or sense of style.

First up, the Associated Press, in what seems to be a belated panic about news distribution over the internet, has decided to get all RIAA over the web (and, of course, the recording industry can tell you all how well that's going) and try to sue anyone who dares quote from their stories without paying license fees protection money. Apparently the threshold for AP calling out the lawyers is 79 words. Fair use anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Is this the new way to monetize the news business? Print stories and then obsessively Google phrases hoping for a Cassie Edwards with deep pockets? So what if I embed a Google news feed into my blog, am I liable for the AP stories that come up in it? Have these asswits thought any of this through? Do they know how stupid they look? Have they ever seen a web browser? I'm waiting for some blogger to sue the AP for quoting 75 words of their content without permission. Wonder how far that will go?

Second group of thuggish IP imperialists going over the line, really went over the line. As in criminal. As in, if they did this to a fortune 500 company they might be up on terrorist charges. Quick synopsis somewhat de-geeked: You have BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing system that, like all file sharing methods, can be used for good or ill. It is best to distribute large files such as Linux distributions, or HD movies. Enter MediaDefender, a company that uses an arsenal of techniques suited to Russian virus authors and Viagra spam merchants, whose mission statement is to prevent piracy of their clients' media. One favored technique is to flood the internet with bogus copies of pirate files. The way they do this is posing links to said fakes on torrent indexing sites. Now enter Revision3, a small internet TV station that produces video for users to download— via BitTorrent. (dun-dun-dunnn.)

Now, of course, Revision3 would offer a indexing site for their torrents, right? Sure. Now, these indexing sites can be open or closed, and for a time because of technical issues, Revision3's index was open. That meant anyone could post the location of a torrent there. It should have been closed down so the index only responded to requests for Revision3's own shows. The response of MediaDefender was not to call up the Revision3 IT staff and say, "Hey, you got an open torrent index here, you sure you want that?" No, their reaction was exactly the same as a pirate's reaction, "Hey, this index is open. I can post my own (bogus) torrents, Yea!"

Now, so far it's morally questionable, but not criminal. However, when Revision3 discovers the configuration error on their server (with no help from MediaDefender, which, as you remember, is supposed to stop this sort of thing themselves) their response is to close the index.

One would think that MediaDefender would be happy that the conduit for pirated content was shut down. Apparently they weren't happy. In fact, their servers were pissed. After being shut out of Revision3's torrent index, they promptly launched a denial of service attack on Revision3 that took the site down for Memorial Day weekend.

Let that sink in.

They launched a cyber-attack on a legitimate business because the legitimate business stopped linking to pirated torrents. This requires a Doctorate in Stupidity.

I think the AP should hire MediaDefender to protect their copyrighted content. The combined weight of arrogance, cluelessness and stupidity might just shatter the whole structure of IP law as we know it— which I am beginning to think is not a bad thing.