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Millions of Blogs Knocked Offline By Legal Row 162

Posted by timothy
from the hopelessly-disproportionate dept.
another random user writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "A row over a web article posted five years ago has led to 1.5 million educational blogs going offline. The Edublogs site went dark for about an hour after its hosting company, ServerBeach, pulled the plug. The hosting firm was responding to a copyright claim from publisher Pearson, which said one blog had been illegally sharing information it owned. ... The offending article was first published in November 2007 and made available a copy of a questionnaire, known as the Beck Hopelessness Scale, to a group of students. The copyright for the questionnaire is owned by Pearson, which asked ServerBeach to remove the content in late September."
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Millions of Blogs Knocked Offline By Legal Row

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  • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @10:51AM (#41668971)

    Or are most of them just total crap? Frankly I think people need to sue a few of them real hard on this and lets see them cut the crap.

    • by bobbozzo (622815)

      ServerBeach is owned by Peer1.

      Peer1 is a fairly highly-rated ISP for Co-Lo, etc.
      I hope they issue an apology.

      My company has been a Peer1 (and ServerBeach) customer for many years (I'm not sure exactly when Peer1 bought our previous provider, but more than 7 years ago).
      We have received 2 takedown notices (due to our customers' content), and both times, Peer1 contacted me directly rather than doing something stupid.

      I hope they will see the error of their ways, or I will be looking to move elsewhere.

  • If I were serious about blogging then I'd host my own. I wonder why more people don't?
    • by queazocotal (915608) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @10:58AM (#41669075)

      Because it takes effort, and skill, as well as having some cost.
      Yes, it may only take a few hours to research the best way of doing it from scratch, for someone not into computers, but if they are not deeply involved, they are not likely willing to invest that, when there are solutions that are in some ways better.

    • by bhagwad (1426855) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @10:59AM (#41669085) Homepage

      There's nothing preventing a hosting provider from shutting down your website. I have my own blog, but if BlueHost chooses to, it can knock it offline.

      • by cpghost (719344) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:59PM (#41670731) Homepage
        Exactly. But if you control the DNS of your domain, and have a backup hosting provider on hot standby, you could switch from BlueHost to that other provider very quickly.
      • I agree when you sign up for hosting whether it be shared or dedicated all that information is in the terms of service agreement. They can shut you down at anytime. If you self host there are even ISP terms of service about DNS and ports. Point is if they want your site down they can do it in many different ways.
    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:00AM (#41669101)

      Because most people don't want to either move to an area where they can get "business class" broadband (or buy colo service), purchase their server, install and configure and be responsible for all the setup and continued maintenance (including security patches, etc). They just want to write their blog, which more than likely is not about any of those topics.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        you can get Business Class broadband anywhere. I have a T-1 going to my home for my server connection. I have a friend that has 2 of them to his rural home. T-1 technology can go 900X farther over crap copper than DSL or Cable. AND it's not set up to allow someone else to have control over your content.

        • by bsDaemon (87307)

          Those of us in the low-digit club, and Slashdotters in general, are not really indicative of the general population when it comes to telecommunications. Most people won't know what a T1 is, let alone what to do with it in step 2. My point is that all of this is a major investment in time and money that most people don't want to make. Renting a dedicated server or VPS is in almost all cases good enough for people who just want to run their wordpress installation, never update it, and leave their uploads d

        • How many dollar bills are you pushing into that wire each month to keep it open?

          Commercial grade broadband is not an option for most of us 99%

        • No you can't. You can't even reliably get broadband everywhere. What the hell are you talking about?

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:02AM (#41669123)

      If I were serious about blogging then I'd host my own. I wonder why more people don't?

      1. You need an Internet connection that is suitable for hosting your blog (static or rarely changing IP address, decent upload throughput, nothing in the contract that forbids hosting a webserver, etc.).
      2. You need a computer that you can leave on all the time.
      3. You need the technical expertise needed to install and configure a blogging system (and by extension, a web server and database server).

      For us on Slashdot, the only problem is with the first one, and even then, most of us probably know a place that will let us run a server for our blog. For most people, the combination of those three is a daunting task, and so they just pay some hosting company somewhere to take care of it for them.

      • A buddy of mine makes more from his side gig of setting up Amazon AWS services and Wordpress for bloggers and small businesses around my area than he does at his regular job. I've thought about branching out, but don't know if I could bring myself to charge that much for what is essentially an hour or so of work.
        • Does he at least do some custom skinning/theming, or is it purely pointy-clicky Wordpress installation and ticking a few boxes on the settings page?

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Pretty much betting your buddy will smack you for saying that. It takes at LEAST 3 hours to modify a template to have it branded for the company or blogger.

        • I suggest you rethink your concerns about charging a lot.

          It might only take an hour of your time to do the set-up, but that is in addition to the several years you have put in to learning what to do, and the many hours per week that you are spending on keeping up with the technology. Think upon this punchline to an old joke:

          Itemized billing for a Big Iron computer repair, circa 1970:

          Total amount due: $1,000.00

          Tweaking adjustment screw: $1.00

          Knowing which screw to tweak: $999.00

    • by jest3r (458429)

      Serve Beach is a dedicated server company. So presumably they did have their own server.

      What's scary here is the article states it was a Server Beach automated script that detected the copyright infringement in a "cache file" that was not visible on the live website at all. And they shut down the server because of that.

  • by BMOC (2478408) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @10:54AM (#41669021)
    The offending post was published in 2007, which is true, however the material (questionnaire) that was posted was 38 years old. Worse yet, the questionnaire was a suicide prevention questionnaire, so its existence in the public domain might actually save lives. So a DMCA request pulled down millions of blogs because one page that was originally published nearly 4 decades ago supposedly has some copyright value to someone. These times we live in, they're literally not far off from a lot of books I was encouraged to read in high school, but was told would never actually happen.
    • The offending post was published in 2007, which is true, however the material (questionnaire) that was posted was 38 years old.

      Astonishing but still within the copyright term length. Abhorrent? You bet. But I wouldn't go around attacking publishers and would instead focus on reducing the law that governs said term length.

      Worse yet, the questionnaire was a suicide prevention questionnaire, so its existence in the public domain might actually save lives.

      So what you're saying is that if I want to make money publishing my research, I should stay away from publishing suicide prevention materials since placing a copyright on that is morally reprehensible because if it's public domain it might actually save lives?

      So a DMCA request pulled down millions of blogs because one page that was originally published nearly 4 decades ago supposedly has some copyright value to someone.

      So I'd like to point out that from what I've read the [techdirt.com]

      • by causality (777677) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:28AM (#41669433)

        And yeah, that might be the future with self publishing on the rise but right now they have those texts under laws that are legitimate US Laws.

        If by "legitimate" you mean:

        • Terribly unbalanced against the public domain
        • Pushed upon us with no connection to the will/demand of the people
        • By a tiny minority of monied interests who long ago usurped the political processes of this constitutional republic
        • Written and voted for by legislators who are not representing their constituents because they've been bought and paid for

        ... then yes, it is perfectly legitimate.

        • by cpghost (719344) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @01:04PM (#41670825) Homepage
          The fact that a tiny rich minority can literally buy laws makes said laws totally illegitimate in my eyes. They may be "legal" because they are laws, but are certainly illegitimate, as in "immoral", because they don't reflect the will of the people. And a political system that has allowed itself to be corrupted to the bone would do well to check out its legitimacy too, IMHO.
      • Astonishing but still within the copyright term length. Abhorrent? You bet. But I wouldn't go around attacking publishers and would instead focus on reducing the law that governs said term length.

        It's only astonishing to the sheeple ("don't care") and Generation Typewriter ("don't know") types that make up the vast majority of the US population. Slashdotters know that even "Happy Birthday To You" (c) 1935 is still under copyright today, and use this fact, when persistant, to quickly silence Defenders Of Copyright As Beneficial To Society.

        As to your suggestion, it's perfectly alright to do both: by all means attack Pearson for doing this as -- unlike trademark rights -- you don't have to "defend" cop

      • by BMOC (2478408) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:29AM (#41669443)

        Astonishing but still within the copyright term length. Abhorrent? You bet. But I wouldn't go around attacking publishers and would instead focus on reducing the law that governs said term length.

        What is the purpose of copyright? To allow a creator to profit from his or her creativity.
        What creativity in this case could possibly be profited from? Is the publisher actually going to lose money from a small portion of 40 year old book making it into the public domain? Are you actually arguing that this is the case?

        So what you're saying is that if I want to make money publishing my research, I should stay away from publishing suicide prevention materials since placing a copyright on that is morally reprehensible because if it's public domain it might actually save lives?

        I said no such thing, but you're free to put words in peoples mouths if it gives you a reason to argue over nothing on the internet. I would however suggest that creating something that is intended to benefit the public health be allowed to benefit public health first, and be used as a mechanism for profit SECOND. But apparently I am to consider myself in the minority in that viewpoint.

        So I'd like to point out that from what I've read they were given 24 hour notice from their provider [techdirt.com] and they failed to remove the article from their cache (although they did remove it from their site). If you're running a site that costs $6,954.37 just in hosting service per month, I would hope you would be a little more competent about complying with DMCA requests.

        And I would hope that someday small internet businesses be freeed from the ridiculous requirement that they respond to such takedown notices before a judge has actually confirmed that someone is losing money from the violation. But I must be some kind of dreamer to hope that small business be allowed to create jobs first, and protect the property of other companies in different industries second, right?

        I'm telling you right now, the way you described how horrible this is makes me never want to produce any sort of writing that might be construed as beneficial to society because then I won't be paid for my work or I'll be a monster. If Pearson can't make money off these texts, goodbye Pearson. It's that simple. And yeah, that might be the future with self publishing on the rise but right now they have those texts under laws that are legitimate US Laws.

        So, suggesting that a portion of a work that was written 40 years ago might be better in the public domain actually makes you afraid to write? Are you for real?

        • by hazah (807503)
          I think it's pretty obvious that he is not. Reads exactly like a paid for mouthpiece. A shill, if you will.
        • What is the purpose of copyright? To allow a creator to profit from his or her creativity.

          The purpose of copyright is "to encourage the sciences and useful arts." A limited monopoly for a creator is just a tool it uses to attempt to achieve that goal.

          A big part of the problem with modern copyright is exactly this misunderstanding. Copyright is meant to benefit the public, not creators.

          • by BMOC (2478408)
            I concede you are correct, I misstated it the detriment of my own argument.
          • by Shagg (99693)

            You are correct in that modern copyright is a corruption of the original purpose. However, I don't agree that it's a problem of misunderstanding. I believe it was well understood and deliberately corrupted.

        • by MrNemesis (587188)

          What creativity in this case could possibly be profited from? Is the publisher actually going to lose money from a small portion of 40 year old book making it into the public domain?

          Of course you don't see the loss in earnings since you're not using DMCA maths.

          Let's say the copyrighted text was 250kB in size and each copy was worth $0.00001 to Pearson.
          Almost every computer these days has a gigabit ethernet port on it, therefore each computer is capable of downloading 520,000 copies a day.
          Everyone with a com

      • by Shagg (99693)

        stonishing but still within the copyright term length. Abhorrent? You bet. But I wouldn't go around attacking publishers

        Why not? Who do you think are the ones that wanted the terms that long in the first place.

      • by Ltap (1572175)

        Astonishing but still within the copyright term length. Abhorrent? You bet. But I wouldn't go around attacking publishers and would instead focus on reducing the law that governs said term length.

        Why do you think the laws exist, if not because of publishers wanting them?

      • by _Ludwig (86077)

        So what you're saying is that if I want to make money publishing my research, I should stay away from publishing suicide prevention materials since placing a copyright on that is morally reprehensible because if it's public domain it might actually save lives?

        Dunno about the parent, but I would say exactly that.

    • by chalkyj (927554) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:41AM (#41669609)
      What sort of world would we be living in if you couldn't make a big fat profit out of suicide prevention? Certainly not a world I'd want to live in...
      • by cellocgw (617879)

        What sort of world would we be living in if you couldn't make a big fat profit out of suicide prevention? Certainly not a world I'd want to live in...

        Obligatory "I see what you did there..."

        But let's refine this model a bit. It's always nice to make a few bucks by providing a service, but it's much nicer when your clients keep needing the service. So let's make sure our SuicidePreventolaProcess only works so long as you pay for our monthly upgrades and bug fixes!

    • I wonder if perhaps we should look at the "copyright" of the material in question and see if it is itself valid?

      Just because a company asserts a copyright does not mean it's valid.

    • Worse yet, the questionnaire was a suicide prevention questionnaire

      Aw, is it? Damn it, I was hoping the Beck Hopelessness Scale was a publication by Glenn Beck to gauge the hopelessness of society and let us all know when we should just start rioting and killing each other.

  • Hahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dyingtolive (1393037) <{brad.arnett} {at} {notforhire.org}> on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @10:56AM (#41669047)
    Something outright awesome about a HOPELESSNESS SCALE being the central topic of conversation in a COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT case.
    • I just checked out Parsons too. The entry for the "product" reads:

      Use this powerful predictor of eventual suicide to help you measure three major aspects of hopelessness: feelings about the future, loss of motivation, and expectations. Responding to the 20 true or false items on the Beck Hopelessness Scale® (BHS®), patients can either endorse a pessimistic statement or deny an optimistic statement. Predicts Eventual Suicide Research consistently supports a positive relationship between BHS scores and measures of depression, suicidal intent, and ideation.

      They're charging 120.00 USD a pop for this baby. I've not taken the test, but I feel like I just failed it.

      • Re:Hahaha (Score:4, Interesting)

        by clodney (778910) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:09PM (#41669959)

        Disclosure: I used to work for a company owned by Pearson.

        $120 for a test is very much the reality of clinical testing. The research, norming and validation of the test are not cheap, and while I don't know anything about this particular test, instruments like this are normally developed and refined over multiple years of research. You are talking about lots of administrations in clinical settings, and follow ups to determine the eventual outcome of the patient. And research papers in peer reviewed journals to convince people in the industry that you have statistically valid results.

        And any clinical test has a small market, since the number of people that can use it is relatively small. And usually getting paid by health insurance to boot.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:03AM (#41669145) Homepage Journal

    You can't own information. You can have a "limited" time monopoly on its presentation, but you can't even own the document that holds the information.

    Example: Your textbook says "Gravity was described by Sir Isaac Newton when an apple fell on his head." That little snippet alone would be fair use, but assume that one phrase is the entire work. Publish it and you're in violation of copyright. But reword the same information, "Sir Isaac newton developed his theory of gravity after an apple fell on his head" and you're not infringing anything.

    If people keep saying you can own a work or even information, it will eventually be possible. So please stop it, you damned journalists!

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:03AM (#41669149) Journal

    It ranges from Loser to Satan gave me a Taco.

  • by sanosuke001 (640243) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:04AM (#41669155)
    All aside regarding how a 38 year old questionnaire still being protected under copyright and whether that is right or wrong, how does taking 1.5 million sites offline because of one site having a DMCA takedown request? Doesn't that seem completely ridiculous? That's like burning down the Library of Congress because we found termites in a shed out back.
    • No, its not "completely ridiculous" because Edublogs is a blog hosting site, just like Blogger - to take down one Edublog blog, the hosting company would have had to access and alter Edublogs databases and individual site settings without the permission of Edublogs, which would have had severe legal consequences. Better to have Edublogs lose their entire hosting ability in that case...

      • Or forward the DMCA request to Edublogs and, if within a reasonable amount of time they do not comply, then knock them off.
        • I should have RTFA; they state that two requests to remove the content were ignored. I blame Edublogs for all this bullshit (and the copyright system).
  • moral of the story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jest3r (458429) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:05AM (#41669171)

    "Unfortunately, in early October automated systems at ServerBeach spotted a copy of the disputed blog entry stored in the working memory of software Edublogs uses to make sure web pages are displayed quickly. The copy of the blog entry was in this memory store - only visible internally"

    So Server Beach has an automated system that detected copyright infringement in a "cache" file and automatically shut down the server before checking to see if it was actually visible to the public (which according to the article it was not)?

    Moral of the story ... stop using Server Beach I guess.

    This is scary for Server Beach customers because any copyrighted material could end up on disk (ie. if someone submits a form that writes to disk or into a database. Then the Server Beach script will nuke your site no questions asked!!!

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Stop using US located hosting companies. Server Beach is a symptom, not the disease, those are the laws. And the US people is about to give their seal of approval to the government that pushed that laws.
    • by hhw (683423)

      So Server Beach has an automated system that detected copyright infringement in a "cache" file and automatically shut down the server before checking to see if it was actually visible to the public (which according to the article it was not)?

      If content is visible to your dedicated (not managed) hosting company, who doesn't have any login access to your servers, then yes, the content is visible to the public. Access to it may be obscured, due to removed links to it or however it was supposedly 'removed', but still available to the Internet and henceforth public.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:12AM (#41669239)

    I sense a great disturbance in the blogosphere, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out about useless bullshit, and were suddenly silenced...

  • Not a "legal" row (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JobyOne (1578377) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:12AM (#41669251) Homepage Journal

    This row wasn't "legal" at all. Thanks to the fucking DMCA copyright infringement is now generally sorted out with the content "owners" functioning as judge and jury (because they're not at all biased or greedy). If the legal system isn't involved it's hardly a "legal" row, it's more like a shakedown.

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:15AM (#41669287)

    This is less of a censorship issue as a service interruption issue. The service was down for about an hour.

    The DMCA is deeply fucked and this illustrates how broken it is. But this particular event did massive harm to the hosting companies reputation of reliability -- which is pretty much the only thing it sells -- while the blogs in question were restored in entirely, other than the apparently copyrighted page in question. No hosting company is look at this and saying, "That's how we'll do it!"

    There are censorship issues today, real ones, but they are aimed at the fringes where authors are pressured, official accounts are bullshit or information is hidden. Look at, for instance, Apple's refusal to allow an app that pushed notifications when the US killed someone with a drone attack. Meanwhile Microsoft is looking at that and saying "Let's lock down Metro apps!"

  • We're not even going to pretend you can't own/hoard knowledge, anymore?
  • The original paper (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clickety6 (141178) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:18AM (#41669323)
    The original paper is available in a number of places - just search for PCA1clinical2011.pdf - and contains the original questions. Not sure how Pearson gets to claim copyright over something that was published in The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology based on research probably conducted with public money (Univ. of PA, PA General HGopsital, Camden County Community Mental Health Program)
  • Copyright holder contacts ISP about possible infringement in blogs hosted by their customer, Edublogs. Like it or not, 38 years is well within UK copyright terms, so it probably still is under copyright. Edublogs marks the offending article so it cannot be publicly seen any more. However, it does NOT disappear from their systems. ISP runs a program that finds that the blog is still on the client servers and equates that with "Gasp! Entire world can see it! INFRINGEMENT ALERT!" and goes into panic mode
  • The Edublogs site went dark for about an hour after its hosting company, ServerBeach, pulled the plug.

    ServerBReach?

  • by mveloso (325617) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @11:56AM (#41669793)

    ISPs are run by technical people, who are somewhat notorious for poor people skills.

    The site owner TFA:

    Rather than shutting down the site, he said, it could have done "something simple, like, calling any of the three numbers for us they have on file".

    Why didn't they just call? Oh wait, that would involve human contact.

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