HAVE THE PIRATES MADE THEIR LAST STAND?

Posted By: Deborah Ilea

The Pirate Bay marks its seventh anniversary this month, proving that it just may be, as it touts itself, the world’s most resilient bittorrent site. Unfortunately, this anniversary coincides with a Swedish court decision rejecting the appeal of the site’s founders making the future of the site a questionable one. Only time will tell if the site will manage to hang on to its resiliency or go the way of pirates of old and turn into some fairytale myth we tell our grandchildren.
When the site went up in November of 2003, the bittorrent protocol was just a baby, not quite two years old. Today, it is one of the most common protocols used in the transfer of large files – estimated to account for 27% to 55% of all Internet traffic as of February 2009, according to Wikipedia. Wikipedia, BitTorrent (protocol), https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/BitTorrent_%28protocol%29 (last updated November 29, 2010). The Pirate Bay has grown right along with the protocol and today is ranked number 92 in the world in the Alexa Traffic Rank list. See http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/thepiratebay.org.
The bittorrent protocol is not the only thing to change during the sites 7-year history. The popularity of the Internet and sites like The Pirate Bay has caused many countries to take a closer look at their copyright laws. In 2006, in response to the 2001 European Union enactment of its Copyright Directive to implement the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty (the wheels of law turn ever so slowly), France passed its Loi sur le Droit d’Auteur et les Droits Voisins dans la Société de l’Information (law on authors’ rights and related rights in the information society), commonly referred to as DADVSI. This law focuses on “the exchange of copyrighted works over peer-to-peer networks and the criminalizing of the circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) protection measures.” Wikipedia, DADVSI, https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/DADVSI (last update October 1, 2010). The same year, the United States and Japan came up with the idea to create a “plurilateral agreement for the purpose of establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement.” Wikipedia, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement (last updated November 28, 2010). In 2008, when official talks began on what has come to be known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, there were ten countries plus the European Union participating. Continue reading

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Web Privacy vs. Web Personalization: Why Not Both?

Posted By: Cason Schmit

The popularity of the internet has never been greater with over 1.9 billion users. This popularity is due in large part because the Internet rapidly developed into an awesome tool for information, news, and entertainment. The Internet’s rapid development was driven by the potential for efficient and convenient commerce. Commerce on the Internet is driven in substantial part by use of advertisements. It follows that if all advertisements are blocked from appearing in web-browsers, then the current internet economic model would begin to fall apart: commerce would become less efficient leading to less financial incentive for Internet innovation risking stagnation of Internet popularity.
The importance of web advertisements is unfortunate because no one likes ads… Or do they? It might be more accurate to say that no one likes ads for things that are not relevant to them. For example, an 18 year old male may not want to see ads about medication for yeast infections, yet he might rush to the theater to see the trailer for the newest Sci-Fi action movie. Many people do not object and may even look forward to advertisements that are either entertaining or relevant to their interests. Continue reading

Cyber Monday Crackdown

Posted by: Anthony Eskridge

When the United States government took control over more than 80 domain names last week, Internet discussion forums were abuzz with cries of “Censorship!,” “MAFIAA strikes again!,” “Tyranny!,” and general slippery slope complaints. But is that what the Cyber Monday Crackdown was really about?

Most of the domain names seized were pointed at sites selling counterfeit goods. Included on the list of seized domain names (pdf) are 2009jerseys.com, coachoutletfactory.com, louis-vuitton-outlet-store.com, nibdvd.com, rapgodfathers.com, and torrent-finder.com. Many of the domain names were likely registered to deceive Internet shoppers (an issue not relevant here, but of concern should a trademark holder have desired to litigate under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act), but some are clearly related to materials under the purview of the Copyright Act.

According to a press release, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the Department of Homeland Security duly investigated suspected intellectual property infringers by making undercover purchases from sites suspected of selling counterfeit goods. Once they determined the goods were actually counterfeit, they sought a warrant from a magistrate judge allowing the seizure of the domain names pointing to the offending sites along with the servers hosting those sites (see part of the warrant for search and seizure of the digital devices associated with rapgodfathers.com). A banner informing visitors of the seizures replaced the sites’ content. This effectively barred the public’s access to the vendors of the goods. Continue reading

TROLLING FOR INCOME

Posted By: Debora Ilea


Lawyers have always been a savvy bunch; so, it is little wonder that they are now taking unique and creative approaches to the practice of law to compensate for the economic woes of the current times. Some are restructuring their billing systems, relying more on flat fee and other billing strategies than on hourly billing. Some are taking their operations to the internet and eliminating the overhead of maintaining a physical office space. Some are branching out to other professions and using their law degrees to enhance their marketability in those professions. And some are turning into copyright trolls, forming companies that buy up the copyright rights to literary works and troll the internet for infringers to sue. Continue reading

Zombiecookies, Evercookies and More

Posted by: Matt Kimmel


Cookies have become a pervasive and largely transparent element of the browsing experience. Unless your browser is set to ask before storing cookies, chances are you never have to deal with cookies, although you may deal with technical difficulties stemming from not storing them if that’s the behavior you’ve selected. Their functions range from the benign, like storing session data, to the less benign, such as allowing advertisers to track your browsing habits.

The next step in the evolution of cookies was the zombie cookie. A zombie cookie is any cookie which is able to reconstruct itself even after attempts to delete it. Obviously, if you think you’ve gotten rid of a cookie, only for an advertiser, or other snooper to be able to find it at a later time, that’s a privacy risk. In September of 2010, the zombie cookie was spread far and wide when one implementation, called Evercookie, was released to the general public. Evercookie is little more than an exceptionally resilient zombie cookie, able to reproduce itself in up to 13 different locations. While cookies began as a method of remotely storing data, more and more malicious uses for them, from cookie poisoning to zombie cookies were discovered. Now, according to this post, the only difference between some cookies and some viruses is the property of being executable. Continue reading

Copyright trolling for fun and profit

Posted By: Anthony Eskridge


Copyright trolling is the act of purchasing the copyright to material and suing infringers for profit. Intellectual property start-up Righthaven LLC, acting on behalf of Stephens Media, owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has sued over a hundred Internet sites over copyright infringement of the Review-Journal’s online news articles. What Righthaven is doing is certainly lawful. But is it in the pursuit of justice? Or is it a flotation device for a drowning newspaper industry? Continue reading

Network Effects and the Inevitable Monopoly

Posted By: Matt Kimmel


The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece by Professor Tim Wu of Columbia Law School entitled In the Grip of the Internet Monopolists. In it, he argues that we are living in an era of nascent information monopolies residing on the internet. These monopolies are currently kind and benevolent, but with time will become increasingly obstructionist, greedy, and inept.

He compares Google, Amazon, Twitter, today’s AT&T, and Verizon and others to the AT&T, Hollywood, and NBC/ABC/CBS of the mid 20th century. To be sure, some of these are strong monopolies. The chances of a new wireless carrier muscling into AT&T and Verizon’s market niche is slim to none. Several of these dominant players have network effects that brutally exclude any potential competitor. Several of them enjoy the advantages of traditional dominant market players, such as economies of scale. Without delving into the mires of the wireless phone carrier marketplace, I would say that AT&T, Verizon, and perhaps a small number of smaller players represent an oligopoly on par with some of the worst found in the last century. However, as for the rest, I am not so sure. Continue reading