Zombie Jamboree – Google “Helps” Fight Piracy

You know the deal.  Kill one zombie while ten others are infecting hundreds more who in turn infect thousands until, well, you’re basically toast.  Not only because it’s Halloween but because I am so damn bored with the Whack-a-Mole simile to describe anti-piracy efforts, I’m switching to zombie fighting.  Even TorrentFreak uses the word resurrect in the title of this article to describe how one particular torrent site, FileSoup, is using Google’s database of takedown notices to re-establish live links to infringing material.  It’s a bit confusing for the non-techie (including me), and I won’t do a better job summarizing the mechanics than the TF article, but here’s the big picture as I understand it:

Google receives about 20 million requests per month from rights holders to remove links to infringing URLs.  I suspect those are requests from major rights holders like studios and does not include independent rights holders who don’t have the resources to send out notices in significant volume.  Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of takedown requests are legitimate and the DMCA is nearly useless for rights holders, Google and its PR machine continue to promote a general message that DMCA takedown requests are, by default, an attack on free expression.  To help reinforce this idea, the company dons a populist costume, claiming to be pro-transparency, and files all takedown requests with Chilling Effects Clearing House and produces a Transparency Report detailing the notices it receives. With the aid of so-called digital rights activists at The Berkman Center and the EFF, a publicly available database like Chilling Effects becomes a two-headed monster for both rights holders and the public.

First, as stated in an earlier post, the name and positioning of Chilling Effects is a pretty sleazy PR move designed to sustain that message that all takedown requests inherently violate free speech; and then, as a reporting “service,” these databases provide an efficient resource for prospective infringers to bring dead links back to life with relatively basic coding skills.  To quote TorrentFreak quoting someone from FileSoup, “We created a technology that crawls DMCA notices and resurrects the torrent webpage under a different URL so it can appear in search results again. It was rather complicated to sharpen it, but eventually it works pretty well. We will use it on FileSoup.com for all the websites we proxy.” 

Recently, Google rewrote its search algorithms to demote major pirate sites in the results queue, and this is a good thing. Despite having dragged their feet for years on taking such action and insisting search had no influence on pirate traffic, these demoted positions do seem to have had a mitigating effect already.  Of course, while giving a fist bump to rights holders’ with one hand, Google is using the other hand to feed links that have been lawfully removed by DMCA notice into a database that feeds this URL reassignment process to infringe exactly the same material against which Google can still sell advertising. 

And as bad as that is, I am even more concerned with the ideological agenda behind the more insidious message conveyed by an initiative like Chilling Effects that IP rights (or any other rights) infringe speech just because it’s the Internet. It is not wild speculation to say that the ultra-libertarian ideology of Silicon Valley’s elite envisions a future that looks and sounds populist and egalitarian for now, but that can become a real zombie apocalypse in just a few years.  In this zombie apocalypse story, everyone and everything is wired, and we’re all smiling at the free stuff on our devices and the conveniences brought to us by the Internet of things, and nobody notices that we’ve become commodities ourselves.  

Like a good horror movie, it begins subtly with consistent behaviors among the tech industry elite encroaching on various civil liberties.  Google does all it can to play fast and loose with piracy, and only so many people really care because they figure “it only affects big media conglomerates.”  Years later, Reddit balks at taking down stolen nude celebrity photos, and a few more people care about that because they begin to see this kind of rights infringement hits a little closer to home; those are people not companies.  Meanwhile, Google scans Gmail, and Facebook turns our connections, comments, and apparent interests into a commodity that can be traded like pork belly futures.  Then, Amazon exerts pressure on suppliers and labor with a monopolistic power we haven’t seen since John D. Rockefeller.  And because the pattern is asymmetrical and subtle, just like a zombie movie, we overlooked patient zero, which in this story was a song, illegally commoditized by a “file-sharing service” back in the early 90s.

Happy Halloween!

© 2014, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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62 comments

  • AnArmsLengthInterestedParty

    Broadband internet has evidenced and finally revealed what was once theory by social anthropologists.

    We take care of #1 while paying only lip service to anyone else. Shoplifting is still a thing because a very small percentage of the analog population has nothing left to lose. But online the odds are different.

    Digital shoplifting is now well institutionalized because an enormous percentage of the online population has realized two things; 1) the odds are astronomical they’ll get caught and 2) we are eventually more likely as a legal culture to formally eliminate most copyright protection to reflect a reality that the internet, informally, has already embodied. As the 3rd world comes online the situation simply saturates.

    So it appears likely that higher ethics did not keep people from stealing in the analog world either, it was just the odds of getting caught. Lower those odds and the majority steals and we can see now: that’s a fact. No amount of education will change true human nature, especially when no one is looking.

    • True to some extent. Shoplifting is a huge problem. Most big retailers have entire full time staff to deal with it, in each store.

      Copyright enforcement is actually one of the most powerful economic-oriented laws from the plantiff’s perspective. A copyright holder needs no evidence to issue a legally binding injunction against something online, thanks to the DMCA. I can think of no other tandem in the law that allows a plantiff to take action without any evidence or judicial process.

      When the copyright holder does decide to take judicial action, they can attain up to $150k for each example of infringement. Without having to prove any kind of actual damages. They can use this against anyone, no matter of harmless the copyright infringement may have been. David, the author of this blog, could theoretically be sued for millions of dollars because he did share a CD with a colleague. He will say this is unrealistic, but if it is, why does the law even allow for it?

      A copyright holder can take action against the creator of any technology or discoverer of any mathematical theory that merely could enable copyright infringement through circumvention of “digital locks”, the so called anti-circumvention clause. Again this is thanks to the draconian DMCA. I know no other area of law that allows for so much regulation on academic freedom.

      Shoplifting laws are by comparison minimal. Yet we don’t see retailers enmasse arguing for increased shoplifting enforcement rights, like the ability to rummage through people’s handbags for instance, or the legal ability to bankrupt someone over a stolen CD, or to jail people who sell spray paint (a technology that mind you, could be used to block out cameras).

      The problem with the DMCA according to copyright proponents is not that it limits due process, curbs freedom of speech, or siliences scientists. But problem is not that it does these things, but that it doesn’t go far enough to do these things.

      Copyright proponents seem to have no limit to what they want to be done to curb copyright infringement. They will turn any country into a fascist one if it has even a slight hope, however remote, of improving their business model. It’s completely bizarre and really unique to copyright industries.

      • Yet we don’t see retailers enmasse arguing for increased shoplifting enforcement rights, like the ability to rummage through people’s handbags for instance

        Perhaps because they already have laws to do so. Some one of average weight enters the premises and rummages about furtively for several hours (data encryption, tor, whatever) then leaves with pockets bulging and weighing 25 stone (downloaded multiple GB of data) then the stores security will indeed rummage through pockets and handbags. In other cases someone is standing on the street corner handling little packet to a queue of anonymous people you can be certain that the authorities are going to take an interest.

        Analogy: With phone networks people tend to interact mainly with a small cluster of others (friends) and a reasonably small number of businesses. Businesses are relatively easy to distinguish by the way that they use the phone network. Each small cluster of friends has communications links to other small clusters of friends, this is how 6 degrees of separation works. Some clusters though are very small consisting of less than 10 people who only ever talk to each other or indeed only ever talk to one other person. These are your criminal and terrorist cells, these are the ones that security and law enforcement need to take an interest in. At the mundane this is what FB, Google and others are doing, in order to sell you shit or manipulate your opinions, when they trawl your social network.

      • Wow. John. You have a tendency to prove my point with your responses. At least you realize that preemptive suspicion and mass monitoring, ah fuck it, using the book 1984 as a handbook, are basic requirements to have a workable copyright system in the information age.

        The only trouble is you seem to find nothing wrong with that.

      • Aw man! I just had a disgusting realization that I may be giving copyright proponents ideas!

        M: “You can’t realistically enforce copyright online without mass monitoring what people do online because X and Y and Z”
        Copyright Alliance/MPAA: “Look what this guy is saying on one of our partner blogs. He found an effective method to fight piracy. We need to start lobbying for the power to mass monitor people’s Internet activity.”

        🙁

      • Have at it. Attack encryption. Mass monitor everyone. You still won’t stop offline piracy. You know, that will get bigger than ever. You’ll be confused when your revenues stay stagnate. The only way to stop offline piracy is to monitor people’s local computers and ban/regulate USB sticks and network technology in general. Oh… Oh shit. Stooooooop giving them ideas. 🙁

      • One doesn’t have to do any more monitoring than is done now. Google already uses its email monitoring system to look for child porn. It monitors your YT uploads for copyright infringement. Your phone network collates who you contact and when. Private companies scan your FB and twitter posts, in order to make commercial decisions about you, or to build a profile of you and your associates. Law enforcement do the same to solve crimes.

        No extra monitoring is needed your isp and Google already know whether you are involved in larceny or not. They may well be already selling that information, or if not today than in a few years time. Actually they probably do. The FBI already asks candidates about their piracy activities and bases is recruitment decision on how accurately the candidate answers.

      • Google collects information for the purposes of serving customized advertising. There is a trust (also, their privacy policy) that they will not use the information they gather for purposes of legal extortion.

        Perhaps this is a misguided trust, of course. I don’t think most people would use Google services if there was evidence that they were haplessly data mining personal e-mails or web search history for extortion purposes. Surely Congresspeople and the wealthy (including the major copyright holders) included. 🙂

        But as I said before, you are one scary mofo to even think of such things.

      • Privacy policies change all the time. What gets shared by these companies changes all the time. Your accounts are linked. The application you put on your phone you give them access to your contact details, your texts, and your email. Even apps like the one that turns your phone into a torch.

        Google have in the past been found to be violating privacy, including bypassing security in browsers. Think that if the government announced that they had thwarted a major bomb plot because Google had handed over email exchanges that their would be many people decrying it? Think people would be sanguine if it came to light that Google were in possession of email exchanges involving the Boston marathon bombing and did nothing. How about some major armed robbery?

  • Silicon Valley isn’t libertarian at all, it’s hyper-progressive. Permissionless innovation is not libertarian when it violates the rights of others. Do no harm is not the same as Don’t be evil.

    • Actually, it [SillyCon Valley] looks more Fascist with a twist of Totalitarianism and Oligarchy with the robber barons at the helm…

      • Siliconmen Valley. Agreed, they are very “reich like”. When somebody claims they have the right to possess every piece of art ever created, put it in one place, steal it for free, use force to steal it, and have every legal right to steal it, I’m not sure if I’m thinking of Spotify or the movie “Monuments Men”?

      • Hitler was an artist.

      • M- “Hitler was an artist.”

        Sooo… you’re saying he’d fit right in with the rest of the SillyCon Valley Con Artists?

  • Yes, M, and Mengele was a scientist. What’s your point?

    • I would argue Mengele was more of an artist using Jews as his canvas, then someone doing any actual science.

      • Actually, M, he was a scientist, as was Teller, another fun chap who seemed not to care if his inventions wiped out all life on earth.

        Believe it or not, science is not this pure and chaste endeavor tainted by silly human emotions. It is a human activity, no better nor worse than anything else.

      • He may have been trained as a scientist, but he wasn’t doing science.

        Art is limited by only by human imagination. But one of the most awe-inspiring things about science is it goes beyond what human imagination alone can come up with. It’s a fundmental, systematic search for natural truth. In four hundred years science has taken us from Galileo looking up at the moon using his telescope to a human landing on it.

      • Or to put it anothef way “No true Scotsman …”

      • “I would argue Mengele was more of an artist using Jews as his canvas, then someone doing any actual science.”

        Any credibility you may have had to talk about human rights is pretty much extinguished.

      • The other week he exhibited such lack of knowledge I came to think of him as some form of netrat:
        http://www.flamewarriorsguide.com/warriorshtm/netrat.htm

        thiugh I think he’s said that he’s edited wikipedia for several years. Which doesn’t negate the netrat theory but makes it less likely. I’m tending though to think the problem is developmental though not age related.

      • Any credibility you may have had to talk about human rights is pretty much extinguished.

        I don’t know, are you implying what Mengele did was science? I don’t think so. Art doesn’t have advance human rights, it can work in the opposite direction too.

  • “He may have been trained as a scientist, but he wasn’t doing science.”

    Oh, hi, No True Scotsman!

    In four hundred years art has taken us from Shakespeare to Beethoven to the Beatles to Thomas Pynchon. I would say it’s even.

    • I think there is in fact a difference between a scientist and science.

      In four hundred years art has taken us from Shakespeare to Beethoven to the Beatles to Thomas Pynchon. I would say it’s even.

      Okay, I think this is hilarious but if you really think Beethoven to be lesser musician compared to overcommercialized modern garbage, okay. roflamo.

      Anyway it’s not the point. Science gets us to the moon. Science eradicated smallpox. It works by building on the work of past discovery, as our understanding of Nature as revealed by science gets better, so does our capabilities as a species.

      Art has no methodology. It’s system of inquiry can be accurately described as a random, endless walk through the darkness. What this means is if you think The Beatles or Justin Bieber produced better art then Beethoven, well that’s just your opinion, man.

      TLDR: Science > Art. 🙂

      • In a previous time I trained as an industrial chemist, we made a material that was used to a) make skateboards, b) spectacle frames, c) a yarn for clothing, d) filters for cigarettes (main activity). The area for a mile around smelt of acetic acid, the canal that ran along side was regularly polluted, the area was from time to time covered in a white dust, there were evacuation plans for a 3 mile radius, because if it ever went on fire there would be a cloud of phosgene gas over the city.

        I’ve since retrained to be a software engineer. We make CAD/CAM systems for industry, a whole bunch of science goes into designing and making tooling to manufacture stuff. There is a string likelihood that you will hold something in your hand today that was made using software I wrote. Coins, shoes, consumer electronic gadgets, household goods, cars, packaging, decorative art objects, the electricityy generating company will be using components made using our software etc, etc, etc. Our software is even used to take you on holiday, either the jet engine itself, the fuselage, wings, the little plastic tray that folds out in front of you, the knife and fork you use to eat your inflight meal, the camera in your phone that you’ll use to take your holiday snaps. Payloads that are taken to the ISS.

        And of course the software can also be used to make weapon delivery systems, surveillance cameras, and guidance systems.

        Science can be a bastard.

      • Whoooossshhh….
        My point is not that the Beatles are better than Beethoven or pynchon than shakespeare.
        My point is that in the time that we went from Galileo to the moon, we also got 400 years of great culture.

      • John,

        So you work for Autodesk? 🙂

      • My point is that in the time that we went from Galileo to the moon, we also got 400 years of great culture.

        That’s well.. your opinion. Does art a world where everyone is right, or is a world where no one is right? Food for thought. 🙂

      • sic: Does art create a world where everyone is right, or where no one is right?

      • Neither

      • John,

        Correct! Or are you? The important thing is not the answer itself, but rather that however you answer it, it is not falsifiable.

    • “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” –Carl Sagan

      I think advancing science really embodies it means to be sentient. Art stems from a primeval science, a human inclination for understanding, which embodies pursuit of understanding before we knew how real understanding could be gained. But art comes from the human imagination, it is storytelling. It cannot get you any closer to the knowing the Cosmos, in fact when those stories become too compelling (religion) it can even close doors to understanding. Art is a kind of pseudoscience in a way, trying to find meaning where there isn’t any. It’s a world where all its inquiries are nonfalsifiable. The value of art as human endeavor at best, minimal. Value if any are of entertainment, of leisure. (I would argue that science can accomplish these perspired values better, if it were only given more of a chance by society.)

      What’s also great about science is there no labor capacity. There is can not be too much science, like there can be too much music being made or too many fantasy books written – there is no market saturation. It’s never like there is a upper limit of people that can be scientists – there is always room for more. We could all be scientists, and maybe one day, we will.

      So I think getting people interested in science, to learn, teach, and do science is perhaps one of the most important things we can do as a species. If there is anything that makes us unique on this planet, it’s our ability to know the Cosmos. “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” –Carl Sagan

      Let’s never forget that..

      • Wow, we went from No True Scotsman to Appeal to Authority in three posts!

      • monkey,

        “What a man does is more important then what a man is.” -M

      • John,

        With science, we might kill ourselves. Without science, all we will ever be is a non-notable species on in a backwater part of an average spiral galaxy, floating on a speck of dust that is nearing the point where it will be incapable of supporting multicellular life.

      • And the problem with that is?

        No one ever gets out alive, not you, not me – Roy Harper

      • Perhaps I think humanity can accomplish a greater purpose. And that Carl Sagan quote is an embodiment what I think humanity’s purpose is.

        If you think otherwise feel free to go live in the jungle or something.

      • I hear the same from Jehovah Witnesses.

      • And the Salvation Army

      • John,

        But is the empty set still a set? By wanting no further understanding of Nature (or rather, a desire to never have understood?), you are still taking a position on your preferred destiny.

      • Can I sell you a thetan metre?

      • “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself” is a line of poetry. Carl Sagan needs art to express science, and artists in turn need science. Why you feel a need to assert yin without yang or vice versa is a mystery.

      • Is it a line of poetry, or is it an observation? If the story being told is the true story of Nature, is that not science?

        My point in all this is really the TLDR and it comes down to the fact that society should greatly favor science advancement over art “development”. And if they come into conflict, science should win.

        At the most abstract level, the interests of Silicon Valley ARE MORE VALUABLE to humanity compared to the interests of Hollywood. That’s what it all comes down to.

        TLDR: Scientists > Artists. Science > Art.

      • Why should art interests preempt STEM interests?
        In a conflict between Silicon Valley (ie. “technologists”) and Hollywood (ie. “artists”), why should Hollywood inherently win?

        These questions are prerequisites:
        What objective value does art provide to humanity?
        Does art do anything harmful to humanity?
        Why does art need to be funded?
        How does the content industry justify its existence?
        Why can’t these questions be easily answered?

        Obviously in the real world, ie. outside of your blog and your comments section with the “SillyCon Valley” stuff, science does in fact win. Obama went in front of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey to explain how important scientists are to the United States. He doesn’t go in front of The Voice to explain how important musicians are to the United States. Nobody is saying there is a crisis in America that not enough Americans are getting BA degrees. Art is not important to this country’s future. STEM is.

        Look at Sen. Chris Dodd perhaps the most powerful person politically in the content industry, he’ll vehemently deny there is any conflict between content and technology. Why is that? Clearly that’s not true, otherwise you wouldn’t have a blog post talking crap about Google or some other tech company every other day. There is a conflict, but he’ll never admit it. When he justifies the content industry’s existence he uses one major word: “jobs”. Is this the value of the content industry? Jobs? The content industry what, a broken window fallacy? He doesn’t want to be seen as being in conflict with STEM? Hmm why is all this the case?

        When push comes to shove, everyone knows what is actually important in society. Even the science ignorant. The more savvy amongst your industry seem to know this.

      • In a conflict between Silicon Valley (ie. “technologists”) and Hollywood (ie. “artists”)

        Blithering idiot. When I look around the development floor most are wearing headphones plugged listening to something or other I can guarantee that it won’t be the latest talk by Eric Schmidt, but more likely some death metal band, or even Beethoven. In their lunch break they aren’t watching vids on how a bubble sort works, but rather a clip from some comedy show.

        Internet search terms aren’t for scientific subjects, highbrow literature, music, and documentaries. The search terms are all related to popular culture. The same goes for wikipedia searches they are predominately for latest TV shows and related subjects.

        The internet as of 2014 is not for the purposes of science, that was back in 1984. Today SV is concerned with converting popular culture into money for itself as opposed to money for teh creators of that culture. Take this from someone that studies Ichneumons SV is entirely parasitic. Given the title of this article: Google I’d compare to the Dinocampus coccinellae
        https://www.flickr.com/photos/hedgerowmobile/511914872/

        and M to the Ladybug:
        http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/pictures/110802-zombie-ladybugs-parisitic-wasps-insects/

      • Blithering idiot. When I look around the development floor most are wearing headphones plugged listening to something or other I can guarantee that it won’t be the latest talk by Eric Schmidt, but more likely some death metal band, or even Beethoven. In their lunch break they aren’t watching vids on how a bubble sort works, but rather a clip from some comedy show.

        I don’t disagree. But why is that a good thing? Why should be encouraging artistic development?

      • Internet search terms aren’t for scientific subjects, highbrow literature, music, and documentaries. The search terms are all related to popular culture. The same goes for wikipedia searches they are predominately for latest TV shows and related subjects.

        Again. So the solution is to fund the creators of these TV shows and other crap so that people will be even more inclined to consume it? Why is this a good thing? Why should we encourage this popular culture?

        I’m obviously going to get a lot of insults because I’m questioning the inherent value of an entire group of people’s work. But the value of their work shouldn’t be immune to question.

      • You are right in a John. People care about reality TV and pop culture and all sorts of trite garbage more then they do about cosmology or mathematics. In fact, perhaps the people who actually care about science are an extreme minority. But this is not a good thing, it’s actually quite disturbing. Carl Sagan before he died wrote an entire book about the dangers of such a society: A Demon-Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark. Great book, highly recommended.

        It really comes down to, making the reality TV shows and pop culture, these things that are trite and petty and getting everyone’s attention instead of the more profound reality in front of them – why should they be rewarded for their efforts? We shouldn’t be rewarding the same people who turn ordinary people into rockstar worshipping morons.

      • And Wittgenstein used to sit in the front row of the cinema watching Western movies, or sit a home reading detective movies, and Kurt Vonnegut wrote ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’. Brian Cox played keyboards in D Ream, and the lead guitarist out of Queen is an Astrophysicist. I seem to recall that Voltaire wrote novels too, in the Haute Garonne have been found 25000 year old figurines, and somewhere between Bordeaux and Limoges there are some 17000 year old paintings. Seems that ‘Art’ has been part of being human for an awfully long time, 1000s of years before settled communities. If one goes back a few years Art and Technology are equivalent terms, so that in the 1960s Donald Knuth could write “The Art of Computer Programming”.

        You profess an ascendency for science or culture yet you are completely ignorant of both.

      • John,

        Good examples of tragedies averted.

        How much more awful the world would be Brain Cox never become a science communicator. As art becomes devalued, I hope more people become evicted from the profession of distraction.

  • Neil Degrass Tyson (Sagan’ protege) on art:
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tG5RF_4MkYM

    • Yeah. He says that art shouldn’t interfere with science.

      • Did you watch the [short] clip A.N. posted?

        And to the contrary, he says art is critical to discovery… as creativity is crucial to discovering new sciences.

        Why you insist on pitting science against art is beyond fucking ridiculous. You are just trolling again… didn’t you get booted from that other forum for being an insufferable jackass?

      • And to the contrary, he says art is critical to discovery…

        I didn’t catch that one. It’s a 30 second clip, there really isn’t much he says except that art shouldn’t try to represent reality.

        Why you insist on pitting science against art is beyond fucking ridiculous. You are just trolling again… didn’t you get booted from that other forum for being an insufferable jackass?

        It’s not ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is nobody seems to be able to specify what art actually does to help humanity. I’m suppose to accept that art has value without any evidence?

      • I also would also mention that creativity is a part of the scientific method. Forming a hypothesis.. but without the rest of the scientific method, this creativity is more likely to lead to religious nonsense or pop culture nonsense – not science.

      • Name anyone, let alone any artist who is against science. I dare you.
        You are comparing apples and doorknobs and proclaiming apples are better… Do you know how fricking ridiculous you look to everyone here? You are the mentally ill homeless man walking down the sidewalk talking angrily to himself… people don’t have real conversations with that person, they just humor him.

      • You can call me anything you want. But I can think of no greater insult then to call you a musician.

      • again, that’s you’re mental issue, not mine..

  • http://www.hilltoprecords.com/songwriters/lonnielwilliams/

    http://www.Letusgo-fishing.com

    Keep the discussion going. Keep the articles coming. A Halloween message indeed.
    Author: Lonnie L. Williams

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