Megaupload uploaded a $3 million+ viral video attempt in the form of a song, The Mega Song, to YouTube. Containing endorsements from many musicians that have contracts with Universal Music Group, they weren’t the happiest of campers.
Macy Gray sings in the video, which features will.i.am, P. Diddy, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian (who comes running whenever someone utters the word “endorsement”), Lil John, The Game, Floyd Mayweather, Chris Brown, Jamie Foxx, Serena Williams and Ciara on camera. (Side note: It’s accepted that Chris Brown can do endorsements now?)
Using YouTube’s content management system, which Universal has access to as copyright holders, they took the video down. They didn’t own any content in it. They just didn’t like it.
Now Megaupload aren’t the happiest of campers, and are suing Universal, trying to prevent Universal from interfering with the video, which is now back up, after YouTube appears to have asked Universal as to why exactly they took it down.
The New Zealand connection (read: Universal don’t know what their own artists sound like)
Wigmore, of course, doesn’t appear in the video at all, in audio or visual form (but was approached to sing in it), so perhaps Universal have forgotten what their artists actually sound like, and mistook Macy Gray for her.
Two takedown notices were received, the second one from will.i.am (well, his lawyer), who appears in the video, saying “When I’ve got to send files across the globe, I use Megaupload”.
Ira Rothken, lawyer for Megaupload, says that written permission in the form of signed Appearance Consent and Release Agreements were provided by everyone in the video, including will.i.am. will.i.am’s signed form, which you can read here (pdf, will.i.am’s real name is William Adams), is pretty convincing.
Dotcom says that will.i.am assured him that he “had not authorized the submission of any takedown notice on his behalf”.
Universal’s takedown rights “not limited to copyright infringement”
Universal claim that they can takedown the video under an agreement with YouTube–not the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In a letter (pdf) to YouTube from Kelly Klaus, a Universal lawyer, says that “As you know, UMG’s [takedown] rights in this regard are not limited to copyright infringement, as set forth more completely in the March 31, 2009 Video License Agreement for UGC Video Service Providers, including without limitation in Paragraphs 1(b) and 1(g) thereof.”
In that case the DMCA’s rules and protections around takedown notices wouldn’t apply. If this is true, YouTube isn’t exactly open about it. They claimed that the video had been taken down by a copyright claim in the message displayed when people tried to watch it:
Rothken says “What they are basically arguing, they can go ahead and suppress any speech they want without any consequences. That’s not a workable paradigm”.
This is, perhaps, a huge tick in the column against the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is currently being debated.
Jagex, the makers of RuneScape are suing Impulse Software et al. in relation to their sale of bot software that effectively plays the game for a person without needing much human interaction. It’s part of their crackdown on bots; Jagex claims using bots to play violates their rules, is unfair to other players and ruins the game.
As part of the Impulse court case, Jagex subpoenaed Google and PayPal seeking further information about email addresses, YouTube accounts and PayPal accounts.
The information provided by PayPal included personal information on 70,000+ customers who had bought Impulse’s bot software.
An “outside counsel eyes only” protective order was issued for the information PayPal provided, which meant that the information couldn’t be shared with Jagex employees. Jagex didn’t seem to be happy with this though, so in a different court (U.S. District Court for the Central District of California) and using the same legal counsel, on July, 1, 2011, they subpoenaed for the same information in a different case, Jagex Limited v. John Does, and were allowed to share the results with their employees.
[Quotes used in this post are mainly from a PDF of the case that used to be available at http://www.mediafire.com/?ba2nu8puj96tq5b]
“[The] Plaintiff and its counsel misrepresented the scope of this pending lawsuit by stating that the action involved ‘a developer and seller of Bot software.’ The Notice failed to state that Plaintiff already accused Defendants of having used one or more Bots to allegedly circumvent Jagex’s automated technological measures thus making Defendants a party to both suits.” “Plaintiff and its counsel also failed to inform the court in the Central District of California (CDC) lawsuit of this Court’s Protective Order.”
“Even though Plaintiff and its counsel were bound by the Protective Order entered by this Court and were fully aware that Defendants’ customer information was CONFIDENTIAL-OUTSIDE ATTORNEY’S EYES ONLY, using the subpoena power of the Central District of California, Plaintiff’s counsel undertook a calculated clandestine action to serve a subpoena on PayPal to obtain Defendants’ customer information and turned Defendant’s customer information over to its client who then misused the information.”
On October 25, 2011, Jagex sent out a mass email, presumably to those whose information they gained from the PayPal subpoena:
[The forum post is now gone, probably because the very fact that they have to clarify the legitimacy of an email shows that it wasn’t a very effective cease and desist notice.]
26-Oct-2011 06:44:16 Last edited on 26-Oct-2011 06:49:30 by Mod Timo
As a part of the update some people will have received the following e-mail communication:
We have strong evidence that you may have purchased and used botting software in the past, specifically ibot software.
Botting and the cheating it brings is destroying your game, violates Jagex’s rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and any player that continues to engage in botting activity has no place in our community.
As part of bot nuke week we are offering you a 1 time amnesty and settlement lifeline, which is a chance to reform and change your ways. We’d like you to contribute to the community in a positive way, to compete on a level playing field as everyone else does and play in the true spirit of the game, with integrity. All of your accounts, main and otherwise, are now on our watch list and will be monitored for the use of ibot and all other inappropriate third-party software. Regardless of who you are or how long you’ve been with us, if you decide to cheat and bot ever again we will have no hesitation in: (1) permanently removing your account from our wonderful community in order to protect Jagex’s rights under the DMCA, and (2) naming you as a defendant in Jagex Limited v. John Does, which is a lawsuit based on DMCA violations that is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Civ. Action No. SACV11-00969-CJC).
Please note that this amnesty and settlement offer is protected under Fed. R. Evid. 408. If you ignore our offer and instead continue use botting software, we reserve our rights to pursue statutory damages against you for between $200 to $2,500 per act of past, present, and/or future botting in accordance with 17 U.S.C. 1203(c)(3).
We do hope you make the morally sound and lawful choice of turning your back on bots. We look forward to seeing you in game having fun in a way that is true to the spirit of fair play and respectful to your fellow players.
Yours sincerely, Mark Gerhard
I can confirm that this is an official statement from Jagex to the recipient. Please note that there are no website links in the main body of the e-mail. Should you receive any e-mails that contain the above text with website links or additional information, they are likely to be phishing e-mails and should be ignored.
Kind regards, Mod Timo
Jagex cross referenced those subpoenaed email addresses with their own records, and the next day began sending the same message through the internal Jagex messaging system to individual players.
Interestingly, Jagex recently started giving an increase in bank space, where a player stores items in the game, as an incentive for registering your email address with your account (when RuneScape started, email addresses weren’t required).
Although Jagex claims RuneScape has a large adult player base, it is almost certain that minors received the messages as well. They’re full of legal jargon and are similar to the extortionate letters the music industry (or their lawyers) send. It strikes me as unethical to send threats like that to children.
If Jagex are confident in their bot detection system, how about instead of going from one extreme: no action “we’re watching you”, to another: legal action, they use their in-game powers and just ban accounts if the re-offend. Legal action seems like an unnecessary and scaremongering threat.
Privacy and a chance to response to the subpoena
“In the cases cited by Plaintiff… the individuals… were given a specified amount of time to object to the subpoena through a Motion to Quash and/or Motion to Dismiss… The first time Defendants and their customers learned of the CDC lawsuit is when their customers began receiving a copy of an email from Jagex on October 25, 2011 followed by the message post on October 26, 2011.”
The forum posts I’ve read support this.
Jagex’s counsel say “it was and is our understanding that PayPal would have notified the account owner(s) of the account(s) associated with any email address in the subpoena in order to provide that account owner(s) an opportunity to address the subpoena, prior to releasing the requested information or documents.”
“You know that PayPal did not notify my clients of the pending subpoena in the Boston suit when you served the first subpoena without first noticing Defendants’ attorneys. Therefore, to now state that Banner and Witcoff understand/understood that PayPal would notify the Defendants is suspect.”
“This lawsuit’s different”
Jagex disagree that they’re focusing on Impulse Software’s customers and say they just want to “identify [our] own customers who [we] believe may be in violation of S1201(a)”.
“Your claim that the John Doe action does not involve our clients is illusionary at best. Not only did [you]… seek to obtain permission to subpoena my clients’ records from PayPal, but the identification of the Doe’s in the Complaint filed described my clients as well.”
“Under the discovery requirements in our pending case and the Local Rules… you had a duty to inform us of the John Doe action… Even when we sent you a letter inquiring about a Press Release issued by Jagex suggesting a violation of the Protective Order, you consciously omitted disclosure of the John Doe action.”
The suggestion of the protective order violation comes from this paragraph:
“We are constantly looking into ways of making the game experience the very best possible for all of our players and as part of our on-going programme to rid the game of bots, Jagex is actively pursuing companies that support the macroing market as well as those who bot. As such we are currently pursuing various bot developers through multiple legal channels, although sadly we cannot yet disclose the full details of our actions for legal reasons. Separately, as part of normal legal process and procedure, we have also taken steps to acquire the details of all players who have purchased bots. Once we have the information regarding the players involved we will take action specifically to ensure that these players are not compromising the game’s integrity through the use of a third party programs.”
This is turning into a very interesting case. Maybe it’s not the best time for business for Impulse Software, but if they come out of this in one piece this could turn into the best advertising money can’t buy.
King & Spalding, the law firm hired by House Republican leaders to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) dropped the case. The U.S. Defense of Marriage Act aims to “define and protect the institution of marriage”. It says that no state etc. is required to recognize a relationship that is considered a same-sex marriage in another state.
It’s concerning when lawyers bow to pressure to not take a case on (or to drop one, in this case) because of public opinion. A similar argument could apply to people accused of rape, murder etc.—that lawyers are horrible people for representing them.
The Human Rights Campaign pressured K&S to drop the case. The cost is capped at $500k and a lot of Americans would rather the focus be on other issues—“when read statements for and against defending DOMA in court, 54 percent of voters oppose the House Republicans’ intervention, while only 32 percent support it.…”.
K&S has a high rating on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, meaning they hire without discrimination. Just because they were going to defend this viewpoint doesn’t mean they supported it.
The pressure should be targeted at the House Republican leaders and not at the people doing their jobs.
Earthquake moon man silenced
Mr Ring said he also feared he would be prosecuted for inciting a riot following his quake prediction.
“I’ve been virtually told by [ACC minister] Dr Nick Smith and Sir Peter Gluckman [the prime minister’s scientific advisor] that I’m not qualified to put statements out about earthquakes. They will have me legally if I do that.
“Until they reverse that, I’m completely bound to silence. I don’t want to go to jail.
“They said it was like calling out fire in a crowded theatre and that’s against the law — it’s called the riot act, and inciting riot.” –Stuff.co.nz
The Crimes Act defines a riot as “…a group of 6 or more persons who, acting together, are using violence against persons or property…”. It also seems like the Riot Act (or at least the reading of the Riot Act?) was repealed.
To my unqualified eye this seems like a questionable interpretation of the law and a questionable use of status to silence someone.
Website blaming earthquake on gays taken down by host
A website was put up shortly after the Christchurch earthquake at christchurchquake.net (now suspended), blaming the quake on the gay community, and the people supporting it. It was widely covered, including by the Sydney Morning Herald. Bluehost received many complaints about it (in the thousands, according to a source) and said they’d only act if they received a court order to do so (I asked and they said they would accept a New Zealand one), but eventually pulled it down because of a copyright complaint.
People or corporations using copyright complaints to get content taken down that they don’t agree with or would rather not have up isn’t uncommon. In this case a whole site was taken down because of one image.
Obscene, Defamatory, Abusive or Threatening Language. Use of the Services to store, post, transmit, display or otherwise make available obscene, defamatory, harassing, abusive or threatening language is prohibited.
Several people have pointed out that web hosts shouldn’t have to decide whether something is legal or not. Bluehost refused to decide and asked for a court order. This reasoning would have been better received by complainers if Bluehost didn’t include clauses in their terms of service that say they will take down a site if it contains x. However I am sure Bluehost isn’t the only host that does this.
The site reportedly suffered a DDoS attack as well, which affected other customers on the same server.
This is a change of tune from what I said immediately after I heard about the website, but I support this decision by Bluehost. The site was in bad taste, however should still be protected as free speech until potentially being deemed illegal by a court. If this had been a pro-gay website and anti-gay people had pressured the host to take it down then succeeded because of a copyright complaint, these same people against this site would be angered.
Bluehost let themselves down by taking down the website because of one copyrighted image. I am curious as to whether the customer behind the website was given a chance to respond to the copyright complaint. They received lots of complaints and bad press about this. This would’ve been a perfect topic for the CEO’s blog on why they weren’t going to take action without a court order.
However this event brings up an interesting idea: that the Internet has unwritten rules and if something or someone goes against those rules, people come together over forums or social media etc. to try fight it. This has happened before with child and animal abuse (the perpetrators tracked down), fights for democracy (help with the spread of information to citizens) and corporations with questionable business practices (unfortunate documents released) and because of the nature of the Internet will continue to happen.