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Censorship Your Rights Online

Comcast Threatens TorrentFreak For Posting Public Court Document 215

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the cease-and-desist dept.
Despite being part of public court proceedings, Comcast sent a notice of infringement ordering Torrent Freak to stop hosting a letter linking a subscriber to Prenda Law. From the article: "Comcast has sent TorrentFreak a cease and desist letter, claiming copyright over contents of an article which revealed that Prenda Law was involved in operating a pirate honeypot. Failure to comply will result in a lawsuit in which the Internet provider will seek damages, a Comcast representative informs us. In addition, Comcast also alerted our hosting provider, who is now threatening to shut down our server."
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Comcast Threatens TorrentFreak For Posting Public Court Document

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:16PM (#44632215)

    It's a public court document, you don't own it you fucking douche-bag.

    • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:28PM (#44632351)
      Maybe the judge is in their employ and has one of those "anything you create on or off Comcast time is Comcast property" and they think that trumps government.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        There is no judge here. This is DMCA takedown notice. No judge needs to approve the take down letter in advance. It's basically a document sent to an ISP that says "I will sue you for enough money that you'll be forced to go out of business even if you win the case unless you remove our enemy Joe Blow from your network."

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:40PM (#44632521)
      If we're going to have (I wish we did not... they're bad news) DMCA take-down orders, we also need a law WITH TEETH that criminalizes the abuse of same.

      Once you start seeing actual damages for filing false notices, watch them stop.
      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:02PM (#44632873) Homepage Journal

        If we're going to have (I wish we did not... they're bad news) DMCA take-down orders, we also need a law WITH TEETH that criminalizes the abuse of same.

        I agree that DMCA takedowns need teeth, and harsh penalties for abusing it. However, personal experience tells me we need takedowns of infringing material.

        Fifteen years ago I started a Quake gaming site that I stuffed with all kinds of good contents, which included a huge trove of single player cheats, console commands and server commands that I meticulously tested and explained. Those pages may have been the most plagairized works on the internet; folks would take my content, remove my name, put theirs in, and repost.

        My web host's IP address was used in one of the examples, and googling it brought up dozens of plagiarized pages. I'd email the sites and politely ask for simply credit and a link to my site. Very few complied and some were pretty damned hostile (most were at .edu domains so it was mostly college kids doing it, although a few were commercial).

        Without takedowns there would have been nothing I could do about it. The same would apply to plagiarized GPL code someone posted and claimed credit for.

        If someone posts my book on a commercial site I'll be issuing more (noncommercial use, including torrents, will be free). But bullshit like Comcast is pulling should result in someone's incarceration.

        • by Skapare (16644)

          I agree that DMCA takedowns need teeth, and harsh penalties for abusing it. However, personal experience tells me we need takedowns of infringing material.

          Yes, we need both. But we also need DMCA takedowns that make sense (this one did not since it lacked detail), and we also need DMCA takedowns that are not abused. Add to that, we need DMCA takedowns that can be verified (there must be a real person that can be immediately contacted about it).

          If someone posts my book on a commercial site I'll be issuing more (noncommercial use, including torrents, will be free). But bullshit like Comcast is pulling should result in someone's incarceration.

          So do we have your support in making a law that counter balances the highly abusable DMCA?

          • Yes, we need both. But we also need DMCA takedowns that make sense (this one did not since it lacked detail), and we also need DMCA takedowns that are not abused. Add to that, we need DMCA takedowns that can be verified (there must be a real person that can be immediately contacted about it).

            So do we have your support in making a law that counter balances the highly abusable DMCA?

            But, can you name any corporations that are actually willing to front the money to purchase such a revision to a law that is in their best interests to keep as is?

          • "... and we also need DMCA takedowns that are not abused..."

            The ONLY way to have "DMCA takedowns that are not abused" is to force people to actually show cause BEFORE they can take something down.

            But hey... wait a minute! That's the way the law was before the DMCA existed!

            Getting rid of the DMCA is by far the best way to go. There are just too many things about it that suck, big time, and have made everything worse.

            Things worked BETTER before DMCA. Ergo, they will work better again once we get rid of it.

            • by Shagg (99693)

              Exactly. The entire point of the DMCA is to bypass the existing legal process. It was designed to be abused.

        • by g0bshiTe (596213)
          Anything I plagiarized like that I got permission from the content owners. I think I've been more upright with community creators like that vs dev houses and piracy. I'd pirate a game in a heart beat, but I'd make sure a community creator got credit.
        • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @02:48PM (#44634177)
          I am going to be the cold, hard dose of reality in your situation.

          Takedown laws do not exist so one of the unwashed masses (this means you ) can protect their content. They exist so big business can protect whatever the the intellectual property du jour is that they want to be protected.

          I can assure you that nobody in the government or judicial system has any interest at all in protecting situations like your web content. Don't know how you missed the memo, but the laws are for the benefit of the rich and corporations. If you were one of those, you'd be protected.
          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            But the law did offer protection, the offending material was taken down. It did, in fact, protect the work of a hobbyist.

        • "However, personal experience tells me we need takedowns of infringing material."

          Takedowns are one thing. But takedowns before you demonstrate genuine cause have pretty much proven themselves to do far more damage than good.

          The OLD system we had, in which you had to show copyright violations before you could restrain someone else, worked BETTER than the current system. Granted, violations happened. But the abuse has gone so far in the other direction now that I think we can safely say that nearly everything about the DMCA is bad. It does offer some "safe harbors", but those safe harb

      • Unfortunately, if you read the article it's just a lawyer "Cease & Desist" letter, not an actual DMCA take-down notice.

        This is like me sending you a letter saying "If you don't take down your post, I'm going to sue you". It's not an actual legal action, just a threat of legal action.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          The problem with ignoring a threat like this is that you really don't know what the outcome is, no matter how righteous you think you are in terms of actually following the law and believing that you have done absolutely nothing wrong.... even if you go so far as to contact lawyers and get an opinion from lawyers you have hired and they assert you have done nothing wrong. You are depending on the whims and fancies of judges or potentially even juries or at the very least an expensive legal proceeding that

      • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @02:44PM (#44634125) Journal

        If we're going to have...DMCA take-down orders...

        Except that, if one reviews the linked article and comments, there does not seem to be a proper DMCA notice involved in this case.

        Comcast only sent a cease & desist letter. If one were feeling particularly cynical, one might suggest that Comcast did so to avoid the usual and proper response to a bogus DMCA notice: a counternotice from TorrentFreak to their web host, which would protect the host from liability and allow them to leave the content up. Instead, the web host is left holding a bag of "what do I do with this thing?" and TorrentFreak is left hanging.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:45PM (#44632613)
      I disagree.

      Dear, Dear Comcast:

      Please spam everyone and everything with these cease and desist letters. For EVERYTHING. Especially politicians and voters who don't generally care about IP laws.

      The sooner everyone realizes how thoroughly stupid it is to give you this as a weapon, the sooner someone will take it away from you and all the other sociopathic organizations out there.

      Hopefully anyway. At the very least, it will be entertaining to watch you claim copyright over "#yolo" on twitter.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Someone should issue some takedown notices of Comcast pages. Actually, a lot of someones should. Let's slashdot them with DMCA takedowns!

    • Little do you realize the entire Prenda case is fiction, all written for entertainment purposes (c'mon, didn't you suspect?) and none of these things are really court documents. It's "Internet Porn" not in the sense of porn found on the Internet, but figurative porn, where the Internet is the subject (a la "food porn").

      John Steele is just the name of the antagonist character (and in a recursive twist, he happens to be played by a brilliant comedic actor whose real name is "sharkmp4" and I, for one, find th

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:37PM (#44633287)

      "Update 7pm CET: Comcast’s Senior Director Corporate Communications, Jenni Moyer, responded and said we can disregard the cease and desist as it “was sent in error.” The company further apologized for any confusion it may have caused."

      https://torrentfreak.com/comcast-threatens-to-sue-torrentfreak-for-copyright-infringement-130821/

    • It's a public court document, you don't own it you fucking douche-bag.

      My brother is a douche bag, you insensitive clod!

    • I know an attorney who puts a copyright notice on every document he files with the court. Does he own that?

    • Which they admitted, in the latest update.
    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @05:26PM (#44636109)

      They did later say the order was sent "in error". I have run that through my corporate lingo translator. What it means is " we sent the order in order to intimidate you and were surprised that there was some push back and now wish to back down to avoid even more bad publicity."

      The thing is, all these companies rely on the situation where the ISP will instinctively pull a site down out of fear whenever a notice is received. Once the offending site is off the air then the company can say "oops" because they know the site will never come back up again. Copyright has absolutely zero relevance here, and DMCA as well has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright. This is purely 100% about intimidation. There is no legal system here, no judge to determine if it is appropriate or not, the law is left out of the loop. In fact the threat of actually having to pay to have the case heard in the legal system is what frightens the victims.

      The mob goes around saying "it'd be a shame if something happened to your store" but at least they're locals, they have a face, and have colorful amusing nicknames. But corporations are faceless brick walls with no humor who threaten us from a distance.

  • fair use (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shentino (1139071) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:17PM (#44632227)

    Of all things, court proceedings are one of the few exceptions to copyright law.

    And if the lawyer who sent this notice doesn't know that, then someone at the bar association screwed up big time giving this guy a license to practice.

    • Unfortunately, the host seems as smart as the lawyer, considering they're threatening to shut down the server according to the synopsis.

      • Re:fair use (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:24PM (#44632309) Homepage

        Unfortunately, the host seems as smart as the lawyer, considering they're threatening to shut down the server according to the synopsis.

        Because it's easier for the hosting company to just say "fuck it, not my problem".

        This is what happens when the DMCA tells you that if you comply with a takedown, you are off the hook.

        The law is written in such a way that the hosting company has no incentive to care.

        That nobody seems to be doling out punishments for false takedowns is the big problem -- because apparently you can claim almost anything belongs to you with neither facts nor evidence on your side.

        • Re:fair use (Score:5, Insightful)

          by snadrus (930168) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:32PM (#44632419) Homepage Journal

          False takedowns are a felony that maybe a Comcast lawyer should experience, you know, to be made an example of.

          • Re:fair use (Score:5, Informative)

            by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:37PM (#44632479) Homepage

            False takedowns are a felony that maybe a Comcast lawyer should experience, you know, to be made an example of.

            And yet, I don't believe a single person has been charged for it that I've hear of, even when it seems pretty blatant to the rest of us.

            Apparently all you have to do is claim you did it in good faith or there was a clerical error ... presto, you're off the hook.

            It's a system written by, and for the benefit of, copyright holders -- and they seem to be presumed innocent unless you can absolutely prove otherwise. Not just that they're stupid or incompetent.

            • Apparently all you have to do is claim you did it in good faith or there was a clerical error ... presto, you're off the hook.

              Maybe that's easier to believe when you have automation software scrubbing YouTube for possibly infringing material and you have tens of thousands of copyright works to protect. When you're a lawyer dealing with one very specific public court document, it seems to me like it might be harder to play off.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                When you're a lawyer dealing with one very specific public court document, it seems to me like it might be harder to play off.

                Oh, I'm not disagreeing with you - I'm just saying based on what we've seen of these in the past, nobody even makes an attempt to enforce it.

                I suspect that nobody is interested in prosecuting these things because they're too beholden to the content owners.

            • Apparently all you have to do is claim you did it in good faith or there was a clerical error ... presto, you're off the hook.

              Bingo! you win a prize. Torrentfreak just posted an email they recieved from Comcast claiming the cease and desist notice was sent "in error".

            • by Hatta (162192)

              Apparently all you have to do is claim you did it in good faith or there was a clerical error

              No, it's easier than that. If you're a large corporation, you never have to do anything at all because no prosecutor anywhere is going to indict you.

            • by Darinbob (1142669)

              As soon as there's any hint that this might end up in court then the company just has to say "I'm sorry we sent that notice in error" and they get off the hook.

              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                Wait, I repeated exactly what the parent posted, and I intended to post to the preceding post.
                Boy, I feel as stupid as Comcast here!

          • by bmo (77928)

            False takedowns are a felony

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n5E7feJHw0 [youtube.com]

            --
            BMO

          • by portwojc (201398)

            When has a false take down notice ever hurt, really hurt, the person/group/whatever making the claim?

          • Re:fair use (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:46PM (#44633411)

            No, false takedowns are in general not a felony. The DMCA is craftily worded such that the only thing that is perjury is if you misrepresent who hired you to file the takedown request.

            I file a takedown claiming to represent Sony asking to take down Sony's material == perjury.

            Sony files a takedown (as Sony) asking to take down my work which they don't own: not perjury.

            That is how the law is written.

            BTW, if you file a counterclaim, then 100% of it is covered under a perjury clause. So much for equality under the law.

          • by suutar (1860506)
            Only if you can _prove_ bad faith. Or that the submitter is not actually representing a rightsholder, but if you do that, it's the submitter on the hook, not Comcast.
        • by shentino (1139071)

          And because the recipient of the notice is also subject to the discretion of the host anyway.

        • I wish I knew where the article was I'm sure I read it on /. but I remember a lady security researcher had zipped up some files from a trojan she was studying, uploaded them to her mega upload account and got a DMCA take down notice. At the time I remember thinking play along... Oh, it's yours? You wrote this? Ok, I'll take it down and give your response and info to the authorities.

      • Re:fair use (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cdrudge (68377) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:36PM (#44632471) Homepage

        If you read the actual message they sent TorrentFreak, the ISP isn't as bad as the summary makes them out to be. The ISP said that TF needs to take appropriate action and need to respond back with the action taken. No where did it specifically state that the action had to be removal of the scanned letter.

        The ISP isn't in and doesn't want to be in a position where they are the legal department for all their customers trying to determine if each and every notice is legitimate especially in very specific incidents like this. They just want to know that you a. received the notice and b. have taken some action regarding it. That's all they are really concerned about and all they are required to do under the DMCA.

        It would be appropriate and satisfy all parties if TF responded to the ISP stating that they contacted Comcast/Cyveillance, asserted their right to use the content under fair use/public domain/whatever, and that it would not be coming down. Appropriate action would be then taken.

        • I did read it, I was simply pointing out that such a letter had been issued. A case need not have merit to be a giant hassle for those involved.

        • It seems to me that the takedown notice recipient could respond to the notice by:

          - Contacting Comcast telling them that they have received the notice.
          - Indicate to Comcast that the document is public, and that they would NOT be removing it.
          - Notify a third party web service that publicly keeps track of bogus takedown notices.

          This last thing would be awesome to help prevent these in the future. If this public site publishes this information, and it gets back to the CEO, or Comcast's advertisers, it would
      • by shentino (1139071)

        The host is an independent third party that already reserves the right to terminate access at its sole discretion regardless of the merits of the case.

        Most businesses have a standard "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" and they can invoke that right for any reason whatsoever that is not prohibited by law.

        Cutting someone off because someone else threatened you for hosting them is a dick move, but it's not illegal.

    • Filings with the court are not subject to copyright. What about exhibits? I think they can be still subject to copyright. Think about it. Suppose exhibits to court cases were not subject to copyright. Suppose I copy your book. You decide to sue me for copyright. The book I copied will necessarily be an exhibit in the case. Exhibits in cases are not subject to copyright, so now by suing for copyright infringement you've put your book in the public domain.

      While some people would like copyright law to

      • Re:fair use (Score:5, Informative)

        by DeathToBill (601486) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:35PM (#44632447) Journal

        Okay, now I've read TFA; the document in question is a court filing and definitely not subject to copyright.

        • by DRJlaw (946416)

          Okay, now I've read TFA; the document in question is a court filing and definitely not subject to copyright.

          Incorrect. Federal judicial decisions are not subject to copyright. 17 USC 105 [cornell.edu]. But the briefs and other materials prepared by private litigants are subject to copyright.

          Using that material "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." 17 USC 107 [cornell.edu]. But don't think tha

    • And if the lawyer who sent this notice doesn't know that, then someone at the bar association screwed up big time giving this guy a license to practice.

      It's the climate change. With the sea levels rising, the bar gets progressively lowered. (At least until it moves to elevated offices.)

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      You think so? I suspect a lot of people at the bar association are applauding him for maintaining the reputation of lawyers everywhere.

  • This is where SLAPP laws come into play.

  • This just joins the long list of who cares copyright infringement notices that all major companies seem to think is necessary. I sure hope some CEOs and/or legal departments grow up soon, because I've had enough of everyone suing everyone over such insignificant crap. Especially when the reasoning is nill.
  • Stay in business AND get the word out. This seems like a really dumb move by comcast.
    • This is a public court filing. The word is already out, there is nothing to leak, and they have every right as a journalist reporting on a court case to show and describe the public filings made in that case. Fair use is pretty clear about that. This notice should have never been sent in the first place, and the lawyers at Comcast or their contractor need to be called out and made an example of for sending a false DMCA notice. People who are not even attorneys (like myself) can see that this is fair use

  • And they are apparently trying to ignore it until it goes away.

    Um, Comcast, you messed up here and I suggest you "do the right thing" and admit it But I don't expect them to own up to the mistake anytime soon.

    That leaves the question, what should the offended party do? Go to the public? (Done) Get it posted on SlashDot? (yep) File suit for the good of the next little fish who gets caught in Comcast's copyright protection folks? (Maybe)

    • by snadrus (930168)

      Countersue the legal representation and win by default since DMCA use doesn't apply to content you don't own copyright on?

  • Sounds like Torrentfreak needs to drop everything and move their goods to a server in the back of a pickup truck or out at sea somewhere? *innocent look*

    [-)

  • in case you want to read the original article:

    http://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-ran-pirate-bay-honeypot-comcast-confirms-130815/
  • If you have control over a given piece of intellectual property and deliberately place it into the public domain than you have for all intents and purposes turned that property over to the public domain. Remember this wasn't a honeypot run by law enforcement for purposes of trapping lawbreakers, this was done by the company for the purposes of creating lawbreakers in order to find people that they could sue.

    This notion is not entirely without precedent, failing to protect intellectual property from use by t

    • I'd agree that they drastically hurt their case by running the honeypot, but I'd take issue with calling putting stuff online "placing it in the public domain." There seems to be a mistaken notion that a lot of people have that things on the Internet are automatically public domain for anyone to use in anyway they like. This is completely false. You can't just use Google Images, find a photo you like, and place it in an ad campaign/blog post/whatever. You can't just take some text that someone wrote and

    • by tibit (1762298)

      As Tom and Ray Magliozzi say: baloney.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:39PM (#44632515)

    eg:
    upload to mega.co.nz
    publish to mega-search.me

  • Someone needs to explain to Comcast the following words, "Public court records". This means that anyone who wants can read those documents and cover them in news. Comcast can not claim copyright over something they do not own copyright of, as is the case here.

    There treath is a bullshit and it needs to be explained to Comcast in clear words. They clearly do not understand anything else.

  • May be OT, but the headline of the TorrentFreak post is awful. Just tried to post it to G+ and my post reads "Comcast threatens to sue TorrentFreak for Copyright Infringement", which totally does not capture the problem. /. headline is much better.

  • hosting. US copyright law, Americas biggest enemy.

  • Good idea Comcast! What could possibly go wrong?

  • The ISP threat (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skapare (16644) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:48PM (#44633441) Homepage

    The ISP threat contains the wording "PLEASE NOTIFY US WITHIN 24 HOURS WITH TAKEN ACTIONS". They did NOT say what actions need to be taken, other than to notify them. So notify them of exactly what actions were taken. Say "We have removed each piece of content listed in the referenced complaint. Since there were no items listed in the referenced complaint (see the referenced complaint yourself and you will see there there are none), there were no items removed and we have asked the complainant to provide us with the list. We will provide you with a copy of that list when we receive it. If you receive the list before we do, please send a copy of it to us as quickly as possible so we may act on it. For now, our actions are therefore complete.".

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @04:54PM (#44635799) Homepage Journal

    Are owned by the people. Unless sealed they are public domain.

    Everyone print a copy and mail it to Comcast, COD.

  • by runeghost (2509522) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @05:25PM (#44636097)
    Rule of law in the U.S. is dead, it just hasn't stopped moving yet. And when it does act, often it is against the interests of the the public and the country as a whole. The cause of America's legal abomination is the same as many of the country's other ills: massive corporations.

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