MPAA caught removing copyright notices
From the ‘Hand In The Cookie Jar’ files…People are smart. Groups are stupid. I believe that is as true as the day is long. Here, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), a group that very strongly persecutes people for copyright infringement, is caught doing exactly that. This is the first of two articles dealing with MPAA infringing on the rights of individuals… By Steve Ragan Feb 23, 2007 Monsters & Critics
Irony is the best word to describe it; if you used three words they would be “just plain wrong.” Several blogs and some news sites are reporting a story about the MPAA and the new blog they were testing. The blog used in the test has been taken down; only screen captures of it remain as evidence that it once existed on the web. The hype over the blog (and where the irony comes from) is the fact the blog was not coded by the MPAA. The blog and its code come from Patrick Robin. Patrick is a twenty-nine year old programmer and web developer from South England. Patrick is the main person behind Forest Blog, an ASP driven blogging application that is freely downloaded on the internet.
“Forest Blog is something that came about, when I was in between jobs, having left my own company. Off the top of my head, I think the first iteration was released sometime in October 2005 to rapturous silence! Anyway, it’s built up quite a following and has been in constant development ever since with all of the work undertaken by myself hence the release schedule has always been rather sporadic as real life keeps throwing in a curve ball!” Patrick told Monsters and Critics.
While the code is free, it is licensed under linkware. Linkware is where you can use a product, often a site script, or in this case, the blog itself, in return for links back to the creator’s website. Linkware products are usually free, as long as you keep the links back to the content owner’s site intact; if you want to remove them, you pay a fee. Forest Blog allows removal if a fee of ten to twenty-five British pounds is paid. Ten Pounds of you are a personal blogger and Twenty-five Pounds of you are a commercial blogger.
During his interview with Monsters and Critics, Patrick was asked about his mindset when he discovered the MPAA had ‘tested’ his work his work.
“Well, I don’t particularly care much for the MPAA. I’m not particularly affected by them being based in the UK but anyone who’s plugged in to the Internet can’t fail to have heard of them and the tactics that they have employed in supposedly enforcing artists copyright. Regardless, they are still a large, well-known organization and I was pretty stoked to see that they had chosen my software. However, when I discovered that they had actually removed all of the back links to my site I was annoyed to say the least. Anyone who’s been following this will know that people removing the back links without permission isn’t anything new, despite giving this away for free some people still don’t think that my work deserves any recognition. That a company whose sole reason for being is to enforce copyright protection would then show such blatant disregard for my copyright was understandably galling!”
Patrick addressed this as well on his blog. “Now I know I’m not exactly renowned for my legalese but I did think that the terms and conditions that I had released Forest Blog under were pretty solid, specifically the section relating to removing the back links: You may not remove, alter, or otherwise disable all or any of the hyperlinks to the Host Forest website (http://www.hostforest.co.uk). All images, links, or text must remain unchanged, intact, and visible when the pages are viewed unless you first obtain explicit written permission from the copyright holders.”
were ever provided to the public. There was never a domain assigned for the blog. The blog was a proof-of-concept awaiting approval before full production was to begin. The last point in their email, “Should we have decided to make the move to production, then we would have paid the twenty-five pounds that would have authorized us to run a version of the blog without the logos and links.”
Patrick was not too upset and agreed that the email from the MPAA with the reasons stated were fair.
Several of the comments on his blog post about the theft call for a quick and decisive lawsuit. One comment makes a good point. “From their response they probably went to the lawyers. IANAL, but if it was ‘for testing purposes,’ why did they have it on their public web server, instead of an internal development environment, or accessible through a VPN? I suppose that means that if you download a movie and it’s ‘for testing purposes only’ that they won’t go after you?” [IANAL is slang for I am not a lawyer]
Another comment plays on Patrick’s forgiveness, and understanding. “Please consider one more public service and seek EFF’s assistance to highlight their hypocrisy. While it’s certainly not your civil duty, you’d be doing a greater good for the public at large. You have been gifted a rare opportunity. Do you think they would grant to you the same forgiveness you’ve shown them if they discovered you were in possession of some unauthorized copyrighted work of theirs?”
Was there ever a thought about legal action against the MPAA?
“I had never really thought about taking any legal action over the issue until the story started getting coverage on the web and I started getting comments of support on my site and a few emails from various lawyers offering me representation. With all of the attention coming in I must say that legal action crossed my mind but after talking to my friends and family, I decided against it, much to the dismay of many people. Personally, I’m not a fan of litigation and the culture of suing, though I do support it in deserving cases. Whilst what’s happened to me could be considered as a deserving case I think that highlighting their hypocrisy within the MPAA and their actions is more meaningful,” he told M&C.
The email from the MPAA was the first and only comment on their theft. Requests for comment have gone ignored, maybe they will send a response in a few months.
Next, read how the MPAA violates rules a little closer to home… By getting caught illegally copying movies…