Pluralistic: 01 Aug 2021


Today's links



EFF's interoperability graphic, with the Github logo matted in.

Github pledges legal aid for interoperators (permalink)

Last October, the RIAA launched a bizarre campaign of legal bullying against youtube-dl, a free/open library that lets people save Youtube (and other) videos for a variety of purposes, including critical analysis, offline viewing, archiving and remixing.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/10/24/1201-v-dl-youtube/#1201

The RIAA attacked youtube-dl under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA1201) a 1998 law that indiscriminately bans helping people remove DRM, even if no copyright infringement takes place.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/10/28/trumpcicles/#yt-dl

DMCA1201 is a pure hazard. For decades, manufacturers have weaponized it to prohibit otherwise legal uses of their products: if a product is designed so that a use requires removing DRM, then using it that way becomes illegal.

That's true even if no copyright infringement takes place – it's true even if the DRM gets in the way of a copyright holder selling their own work to their audience.

That's how Apple uses it, with the Iphone and the App Store: Ios devices are designed to reject programs unless they are delivered via the App Store, which takes a 15-30% cut from software authors, who hold the copyright to those programs.

So Apple can use copyright law to stop a software author from selling a program to a software user, that the user wants to run on a device they own, unless the author gives Apple 15-30% of the price. This doesn't protect copyright – it protects Apple's business model.

If the software author were to supply a tool that jailbroke their customer's Iphone so the customer could install the program they just bought, that would violate the criminal provisions of DMCA1201, with a $500k fine and 5 years in prison for a first offense.

This is "felony contempt of business model" (in the memorable phrasing of Jay Freeman), and it's everywhere – it's how car and tractor manufacturers ban independent repair – and how Keurig locks you into using its coffee pods (and how HP locks you into using its ink carts).

DMCA1201 is a dumpster-fire and it should have been repealed a long time ago. EFF has a long-running lawsuit to overturn it on constitutional grounds:

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-lawsuit-takes-dmca-section-1201-research-and-technology-restrictions-violate

But even in a crowded field of abusive corporate DMCA theories, the RIAA's attack on youtube-dl was a new low. Youtube-dl doesn't bypass any DRM! It just de-obfuscates a hidden URL. The idea that finding a hidden URL is the same as bypassing DRM is legally laughable.

Nevertheless, Github responded to the initial demand by removing youtube-dl. But the good news is that once EFF lawyers worked with Github's counsel to assure them that the RIAA's theory was bunk, Github restored youtube-dl.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/11/16/pill-mills/#yt-dl

Github also pledged $1m to a legal defense fund for bogus DMCA1201 claims, and this week, they rolled it out, and it's just amazing.

https://venturebeat.com/2021/07/27/github-offers-open-source-developers-legal-counsel-to-combat-dmca-abuse/

The fund doesn't just make money available to pay software authors' legal fees – it also establishes a partnership with Stanford law school, which means that programmers will have a much larger pool of legal talent to draw on.

And those law students will graduate with real-world experience of fighting bogus DMCA1201 claims.

This is a fantastic outcome, and it has historical precedent.

Back in 2005, Stanford's Center for Media and Social Impact produced a groundbreaking "Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use," which demystified the farcical world of copyright clearances for docs.

https://cmsimpact.org/code/documentary-filmmakers-statement-of-best-practices-in-fair-use/

Documentary filmmakers had been forced into a cramped and legally incoherent practice of paying for – or avoiding – even the most incidental uses of copyrighted works, because their insurers demanded written permission for every use.

The CMSI statement – and access to a huge pool of law students who'd work on cases – prompted the Media/Professional insurance company to offer fair-use friendly policies to filmmakers, and completely changed how doc makers related to fair use.

https://web.archive.org/web/20070225090909/https://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/003713.shtml

It's not just elite law-schools like Stanford's that can make this kind of difference. Brooklyn Law's Jonathan Askin and his law students run a successful clinic that overturned bullshit patents wielded by trolls against local startups.

https://blipclinic.wixsite.com/blipclinic

And as Derek Slater pointed out in his seminal #noimnotgoingtolawschool essay, this kind of clinic work is crucial to equity for law students.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12RirEN-FcQB3vTfb0aMqPD-V26aqVhUhKY1hQ2dipJU/edit?hl=en_US

Without clinic work, law students graduate without actually knowing how to practice law (!), and must go into harness for large firms that can get away with horrific abuses as a result (law school debts are massive).

These kind of clinics don't just provide an invaluable community service that checks corporate abuse – it also equips new lawyers to resist the workplace abuses of Big Law.

There's no better subject for a tech-law clinic than fighting DMCA1201 abuse – because that's the law that is most often invoked to shut down Competitive Compatibility (AKA comcom/Adversarial Interoperability).

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/10/adversarial-interoperability

Without comcom, we will live in a high-tech society whose devices and systems are designed to configure US, rather than the other way around. Every one of us will eventually have a need, a disability, or a desire to do something that a product wasn't designed for.

If we let companies pursue felony contempt of business model as a strategy, those needs will be forever subordinated to the corporate priorities of tech giants. That's not a pretty future.

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/01/unauthorized-bread-a-near-future-tale-of-refugees-and-sinister-iot-appliances/



This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago RIP CCC founder Wau Holland https://web.archive.org/web/20011006055514/https://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,45728,00.html

#20yrsago Disney to open Tokyo Disney Sea https://web.archive.org/web/20011120051153/http://www.latimes.com/business/la-000061951jul30.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dbusiness

#20yrsago RIP, Poul Anderson http://www.locusmag.com/1997/Issues/04/Anderson.html

#20yrsago Copy-protected CDs cracked two weeks after their introduction https://web.archive.org/web/20010803144120/http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/533

#20yrsago PC Forum panel on P2P with Shirky and Gene Kan https://web.archive.org/web/20010820163912/http://www.edventure.com/pcforum/transcript.cfm?Counter=13

#15yrsago How POWs in a Nazi camp got a Disney insignia https://web.archive.org/web/20061209200825/http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/08/01/wwii-pows-get-a-disney-designed-logo/

#15yrsago How thieves steal RFID-enabled cars https://www.wired.com/2006/08/carkey/

#15yrsago Diebold voting machines can be beaten with a switch-flip https://web.archive.org/web/20061007120655/http://openvotingfoundation.org/tiki-index.php?page_ref_id=1

#10yrsago Official London anti-terrorist publication says anarchists should be reported to local police https://web.archive.org/web/20110801233618/http://communitysafe.gov.uk/articles/5962-griffin-weekly-briefing-sheet-attached/attachments/801/download.pdf

#10yrsago Perma-cookie wars continue: KISSMetrics sneaks cookies back onto your computer even if you turn off every cookie vector https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1898390

#10yrsago French copyright enforcers: “Pirates are big spenders on legit content” https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110727/16233815292/another-day-another-study-that-says-pirates-are-best-customers-this-time-hadopi.shtml

#10yrsago What Murdoch’s media empire did: the big picture https://web.archive.org/web/20110805111419/http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2011/07/27/what-rupert-murdoch-means-for-you-personally/

#10yrsago Flowchart shows the complexity of the New Zealand’s Internet Disconnection copyright law https://web.archive.org/web/20111105044005/http://lawgeeknz.posterous.com/copyright-infringing-file-sharing-amendment-a

#10yrsago Stephen Fry vs Ann Widdecombe: Catholic Church https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fN3zDtfivc

#10yrsago Freedom of Information requests show that UK copyright consultation was a stitch-up; Internet disconnection rules are a foregone conclusion https://torrentfreak.com/digital-economy-act-a-foregone-conclusion-110731/

#5yrsago Hugo Gernsback’s introduction to the first issue of Amazing Stories, 1926 https://brucesterling.tumblr.com/post/148297242233/a-new-magazine-announced-by-hugo-gernsback

#5yrsago The history of the home pregnancy test is a microcosm of misogyny, chauvinism, and erasure https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/opinion/sunday/could-women-be-trusted-with-their-own-pregnancy-tests.html

#5yrsago Woman judge discovers that female arrestees are frequently denied pants, feminine hygiene products https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/07/118487/amber-wolf-judge-kentucky

#1yrago A deep dive into Mexico's new copyright law https://pluralistic.net/2020/08/01/set-healthy-boundaries/#la-ley

#1yrago Populism is good for your health https://pluralistic.net/2020/08/01/set-healthy-boundaries/#healthy-populism

#1yrago Grace is going home https://pluralistic.net/2020/08/01/set-healthy-boundaries/#grace-freed

#1yrago Challenge questions suck https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/31/hall-of-famer/#favorite-food

#1yrago Apple's internal Right to Repair fight https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/31/hall-of-famer/#e-waste-apple

#1yrago Self-bricking medical device https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/31/hall-of-famer/#bricked-exogen

#1yrago Mexico's copyright vs self-determination and national sovereignty https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/31/hall-of-famer/#necensuraninadados

#1yrago I'm being inducted into the Canadian SF/F hall of fame https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/31/hall-of-famer/#hall-of-famer



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).

Currently writing:

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Friday's progress: 251 words (12411 words total)

  • A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. PLANNING

  • A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown." FINAL EDITS

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Tech Monopolies and the Insufficient Necessity of Interoperability https://craphound.com/news/2021/07/12/tech-monopolies-and-the-insufficient-necessity-of-interoperability/
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

  • The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.

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