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Censorship Your Rights Online

Censoring The Net With A Hotmail Account 286

Alex Bradbury writes "Members of the Bits of Freedom group conducted a test to see how much it would take for a service provider to take down a website hosting public domain material, and have published their results. They signed up with 10 providers and put online a work by Dutch author Multatuli, who died over 100 years ago. They stated that the work was in the public domain, and that it was written in 1871. They then set up a fake society to claim to be the copyright holders of the work. From a Hotmail address, they sent out complaints to all 10 of the providers. 7 out of 10 complied and removed the site, one within just 3 hours. Only one ISP actually pointed out that the copyright on the work expired many years ago. The conclusion of the investigation is definitely worth reading. The three providers who didn't take down the material are XS4ALL, UPC and Freeler. The company that came out the worst was iFast, who forwarded all the personal details of the site owner to the sender of the fake takedown notice without even being asked to do so."
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Censoring The Net With A Hotmail Account

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  • Re:I would say (Score:3, Informative)

    by !ramirez ( 106823 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:45PM (#10481137)
    Note that all of this occurred (ostensibly, judging by the TLD) in the Netherlands.

    US laws don't apply there, I'm pretty certain.
  • by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:49PM (#10481156) Journal

    I can either invest in lawyers to investigate every claim, or drop a few customers with an "ask no questions" policy.

    Which is easier for the smaller ISP to administer and live by?

    By far the easiest method would be to autoreply with the address where DMCA takedown notices are accepted, mentioning that they must include a statement of accuracy made under penalty of perjury.

  • by aLe-ph-1(sh) ( 813349 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @04:53PM (#10481189) Homepage Journal
    currently going on in europe, I am really not suprised by the actions taken by the providers. We are currently in a rather scarey time for people that host, and people that serve. For the big companies, especially in europe right now, what with the crackdowns that have been reported numerous times. And just how much time and expense can be put into checking facts. I do think it's abhorable that this can happen, but I also have to feel understanding to the providers. I have been doing a lot of reading lately on these subjects, the one thing that repeatedly comes to mind is an article written by Tim O'rielly, here [] This is a well informed intelligent article on all sorts of distribution, and also covers lengths of copyright, and others...
  • Re:I would say (Score:4, Informative)

    by igotmybfg ( 525391 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:00PM (#10481236) Homepage
    Had you actually read the article, you would know that the study primarily concerned European providers, not American ones. And one conclusion of the study was that it was actually a lot harder to take down a site in the US than in Europe.
  • by killthebunny ( 755776 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:00PM (#10481238) Homepage
    An almost identical study was published by Christian Ahlert of the Oxford Internet Institute, and featured on /. 50232&mode=thread&tid=153&tid=99 See his website for more details It's good to see that the authors of this article at least provide a reference to his work, but I think this slashdot thread should have mentioned the study that started it all!
  • Re:I would say (Score:5, Informative)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:17PM (#10481346)
    Assuming the Netherlands to comply with European data protection legislation, handing out information on your customers like that is already illegal.
  • by Anonymous Chicken ( 700655 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:19PM (#10481350)
    I can't help but wonder, is this consistent with iFast's user privacy policy? I can't tell, I don't speak Dutch...
    I am, unfortunately they have more items explaining when they can stop providing services due to some 'legal' issue than due to not paying. Below is a summary of what I found to be relevant. Mind you, it's a loose translation of their general conditions. Saying they'll cut you off if:
    • you distribute information that's in conflict with (inter)national laws
    • you distribute information that's in conflict with general accepted values
    • you distribute information that's discriminating (in any way), including (?) adultpages/MP3/warez/video
    • no chatrooms, no irc or irc bots
    • their servers may not be the source/mediator for spam, flames or mailbombs
    • no form of destabilizing their servers is allowed, including any other type of abuse
    "IFast is allowed to decide which kind of actions are in violations of these condition."

    As is said somewhere else, they don't have a privacy statement, at least not on their frontpage. In my opinion the last remark says it all, it is their decision wether something might be illegal or in violation.
    Anyway, they seem to be a small and possibly quite new company, probably not able to handle a big case of copyright problems. Not that it's a valid defense but probably the truth anyway.

    Disclaimer: I'm an XS4ALL customer, and happy with them: expensive but quality :)
  • by 88NoSoup4U88 ( 721233 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @05:21PM (#10481360)
    XS4ALL was the first ISP in the Netherlands ; founded in 1993; and setup by hackers.

    2 of the 4 founders of XS4ALL were editors at HackTic ; a paperprinted Slashdot at the time;)

    They were succesfull from the first day that they started selling internet access to the consumer ; and kinda set first foot in that area, dragging alot of new ISP's into the market over the years.

    Currently they are one of the more expensive ISP's around ; but the whole company radiates the Google-vision : 'do no evil'.

    Their customer service was one of the best i -ever- had ; I only found out later that most of their helpdesk are actually screened for -really- knowing about computers ; instead of reading from an autocue all day long.

  • by NoOneInParticular ( 221808 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:01PM (#10481565)
    More xs4all propaganda:

    One of the founders of Xs4All and the founder of HackTic is Rop Gonggrijp (now famous on slashdot for lending his car out in the terrible car accident [] a few week back). Xs4all is also the ISP that refused to take down Karin Spaink's [] website with Scientology papers on it, and went to court over it (which they won). They have a pretty extensive privacy statement [] for their users, and I do believe they abide that. All in all, this is one of the few ISP's left where the extra euros you spend actually amount to significant value.

  • HAHAHAHAHA (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:01PM (#10481566)
  • by Indy1 ( 99447 ) <> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:01PM (#10481567) Homepage
    UPC (aka chello) ignore all complaints, valid or not, including spam complaints.

    see for yourself [] []
  • by bbc ( 126005 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:03PM (#10481583)
    It's Latin, it means "I have suffered much". His most famous work is Max Havelaar, a fictionalized autobiography that had to serve as an indictment of the mistreatment of natives in the Dutch colony of Indonesia, where Multatuli (pseud. of E.D. Dekker) was a minor official.

  • by dajak ( 662256 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:14PM (#10481628)
    In Latin Multatuli means something like 'I have suffered a lot'. It is the pseudonym of a former colonial administrator, famous in the Netherlands for exposing the cruelty of Dutch rule in Indonesia for the first time. I don't think this author knew Finnish.

    Multatuli is standard fare in Dutch schools, and every Dutchman ought to know that it is a century old. It is clear that the people who took down the website do not have the faintest clue about copyright, or are not Dutch.
  • Re:I would say (Score:3, Informative)

    by soliptic ( 665417 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:25PM (#10481676) Journal
    The handing-the-customer-data-out part is already illegal under UK law (Data Protection Act, 1984).
  • by Nacon74 ( 809996 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:31PM (#10481762)
    Most of the providers mentioned in the survey, aren't free, but paid hosting providers. Also the survey was trying to prove a flaw in the current system. Currently an ISP risk paying a huge fine under the European Guideline for Electronic Trade if they don`t remove copyrighted materials (if they can reasonably know it's copyrighted). Providers don`t risk a fine for pulling the plug on a website, so in most cases they will do just that. Seems like right now the burden of prove doesn`t rests with the copyrightholder, but with the person publishing the materials.
  • by 1ucius ( 697592 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:40PM (#10481841)
    There is no way for an ISP to evaulate the claims. Fortunately, the copyright laws have a built-in safeguard. The site owner can get the website back up by simply sending an email stating that they have the right to post the content.
  • Re:I would say (Score:5, Informative)

    by Awptimus Prime ( 695459 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @07:04PM (#10482027)
    Not only should it be illegal, but the people from the ISPs should go to prison. Yeah, it might be easier and cheaper for the justice department to do away with all trials and just play jury/judge/executioner but that's not the way it works. The ISP should be required to actually investigate it and have real, solid evidence before they go and do something. On a sidenote, I wonder what we could "copyright" on the RIAA's site...

    Being a former employee of a major ISP, I can tell you first hand that you are not going to see this reality. Think of this:

    You have 6.8 million subscribers, the staff is bare-bones in order to keep the business afloat. It matters not how fiscally responsibe you are, there is little profit in being a service provider when your competitors pay Indians $2/hour for their labor.

    Even further, people complain non-stop on the Internet. Just take a gander at a few /. and other techie forums. There is this "I'M GONNA EMAIL MY ISP AND FIXOR THIS NOW" mentality. The bulk really comes from morons who get mad at someone on IRC or AIM and just want a third party to scare someone. It is a real shame, actually. I would come to work and find 4000 emails from customers, other ISPs customers, police departments, copyright holders, etc and 99.9999% of them were complete bullshit.

    So, the only way to effectively survive in this type of enviroment is to assume if something looks legit, take the first steps and let the two third parties deal with it on their own. Plus, if you post some garbage on the web, assume it will get deleted at some point. Keep backups. I repeat KEEP BACKUPS. This way, when the differences are settled, you can just upload you junk again and life will be back to normal.

    The direction you should focus you anger towards is the DMCA. I know it sounds cliche, but bombard your congressman and other gov offices with letters and faxes with reasonable explanations as to why you think the DMCA is a bunch of crockery. Sending some $30k a year, over worked, ISP employee who's not got a lot of options for jobs to jail because he was just doing his job is pretty stupid to say the least.

    Anyway, go read an ISP's terms of service. They are pretty much immune to anything short of calling you racist names or having sex with your handicapped sister.

  • by CvD ( 94050 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @07:31PM (#10482236) Homepage Journal
    Yep, they're my ISP too, and I only have good words about them. Connectivity is great, service is excellent. They even have a special unix helpdesk. They have a lot of experimental stuff customers can play with (like Google Beta stuff): IPv6, a secure jabber server with transports to all other networks and a lot of other stuff [].

    Go XS4ALL!
  • by fluor2 ( 242824 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:12PM (#10482510)
    There was an anti-spam attempt made by a group from Europe. They created a service called anti-spam, which constantly loaded gifs/jpgs from the spam-sites, making traffic go high. these were published on normal http sites in europe.

    Suddenly mails were sent to owners about that the http spread warez and similar. My guess is that the spam-sites created fake mails about this, and after 3 hours the site was closed.

    I guess we need a better way of dealing with this.
  • by FunkyChild ( 99051 ) <.ten.3ekm. .ta. .todhsals.> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @10:07PM (#10483129) Homepage
    They are also a major sponsor of the Blender Foundation [], IIRC providing rack space and bandwidth. Go XS4ALL!
  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @02:04AM (#10484122) Homepage Journal
    A couple years ago, Tripod nuked a lot of sites for no visible reason (mine and several friends' sites included). I finally figured out that their TOS-compliance-bot (aimed at getting rid of warez dumps) was taking down any site that included ANY file that was not directly linked from an HTML document. So if you had so much as an orphaned menu graphic, your site got removed for "TOS violations".

    Goes to show how silly automated takedowns can be, even when entirely internal to the host in question.

    [Stuff like this is why I only use Tripod as a last-ditch mirror, so to me it was more annoying than fatal -- tho I did whine at them until they fixed their damned bot and restored the affected sites.]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2004 @02:19AM (#10484173)
    A lawyer is not an officer of the court. Member of bar != officer of court. A bailiff with no law degree, on the other hand, is an officer of the court, to show you how little that means.
  • by bbc ( 126005 ) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @09:41AM (#10485566)
    There are no such (or other) formalities involved with starting a business in the Netherlands.

    In some cases, you have to register for VAT, in some cases you have to register with the local Chamber of Commerce, but there are many cases in which you have to do none of these things. The Chamber of Commerce and tax office can even deny your registration, which can be quite frustrating, because some customers expect you to be registered for both.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.