Professional Publishers, Release the Legal Eagles

July 19, 2019

Most people don’t pay any attention to professional publishing. There are some folks who live and breathe the world of academics who write, fame loving lawyers who write essays about the “law”, and bright individuals who just want to share what graduate students have discovered. There’s also wonky papers cooked up so that the “authors” can attend a conference in Las Vegas, where some dreams can become reality.

Nature published “The Plan to Mine the World’s Research Papers.” The subtitle asks the question, “A giant data store quietly being built in India could free vast swathes of science for computer analysis — but is it legal?”

The answer may be, “Sure, the project is in India, a country which has taken an interesting approach to production of name brand pharmaceuticals.”

The write up is very long: Here’s a summary.

Copy journal, technical, and professional papers. Extract the text and images. Tag the content. Make the data available for data mining.

Simple enough.

DarkCyber noted this statement in the write up:

When Nature contacted 15 publishers about the JNU data depot, the six who responded said that this was the first time they had heard of the project, and that they couldn’t comment on its legality without further information. But all six — Elsevier, BMJ, the American Chemical Society, Springer Nature, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the US National Academy of Sciences — stated that researchers looking to mine their papers needed their authorization. (Springer Nature publishes this journal; Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its publisher.)

How many universities, researchers, and editors working at professional publishing companies would find a use for this information when it is free?

Enough to tip over the classy, little understood worlds of:

  • Tenure track processes
  • Library budgets
  • Professional publishing companies themselves.

Worth watching? Yes, indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2019

Starz Confuses Inconvenient for Infringing

June 4, 2019

Surely, Starz sees its actions as simply cracking down in illegal content access, but TorrentFreak tells a different story in, “Starz Doesn’t Like News About Leaked TV-Shows, Takes Down TorrentFreak Tweet.” As it is wont to do, TorrentFreak reported a recent leak of several shows, including Starz’ “American Gods,” and auto-tweeted a link to the article. Soon, though, the tweet could no longer be seen; Starz had requested it be withheld as “infringing.” Writer Ernesto relates:

“According to the takedown notice, Starz argues that the tweet is infringing because it links to an article where people can see ‘images of the unreleased episodes’ and find more information about their illegal availability.’ For the record, our article only includes a single identifiable frame from a leaked ‘American Gods’ episode, to show the screener watermarks, which are central to the story. That’s just 0.001% of the episode in question, without audio, which is generally seen as fair use, especially in a news context.

As for the claim that the article includes information about the shows’ ‘illegal availability’, we only mention that they are being shared on pirate sites, without giving any names or links. That’s no ground for a takedown request.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s senior staff attorney agreed, and the write-up declares TorrentFreak’s intention to pursue the matter. As of this writing, it seems they persuaded Starz to see things their way, because the tweet is back in place.

Cynthia Murrell, June 4, 2019

Amazon Twitch: Streaming Copyright Protected Content? You Betcha!

May 30, 2019

I found the “insight” in “Twitch Is Temporarily Suspending New Creators from Streaming after Troll Attack” amusing. The least popular game on Twitch, an Amazon property, has been outed as a streamer of copyright protected content. Yeah, that’s news.

I would point out at 0733 am US Eastern on May 30, 2019, that Ciklonica, one of Twitch’s more interesting chat performers, is eating and streaming the Big Bang television program dubbed in Russian.

Here’s a snap taken at 0730 am US Eastern on May 20, 2019:

ciklonica sanp

How is Amazon’s SageMaker artificial intelligence system doing when it comes to recognizing streaming content with titling? What about the human reviewers who are working valiantly to manage the game lovers?

Maybe Google’s decision to kill its game streaming service is the equivalent of a mixed martial art corner man throwing in the towel.

I describe some of the more interesting content in my Dark Web 2.0 lecture next week at the TechnoSecurity & Digital Forensics Conference. The scope of copyright protected content theft is remarkable. Amazon Twitch is just a chuckle because regular Amazon does what it can to prevent its customers from stealing the “regular” service’s content.

Maybe the Amazon smart software technology can’t police Twitch? Maybe Amazon is looking the other way so it can assert plausible deniability about SweetSaltyPeach chatting? Maybe Amazon simply lacks the management expertise to deal with Twitch’s “how to cheat your friends at cards” information.

Games. Let them begin at the “real” news outfits and in the Twitch-verse.

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2019

Amazon Twitch Shakes Its Digital Fist Which Hits the Bits

May 29, 2019

In my talk on June 4, 2019, I have a couple of comments to make about illegal streaming services. One of my examples of outright copyright violation is Twitch. The DarkCyber team has been tracking popular music streamed during “game related chats” like pole dancing and body stretching exercise sessions. Individuals who play US television shows dubbed in Russian are waving their Fortnite weapons at US television producers. We also have examples of a Russia Today affiliate streaming the more visual incidents associated with yellow jacket protects. There are other examples of how the game streaming system is being manipulated. No Dark Web needed.

Amazon Twitch tries to curtail these activities. Some of them are just futile. There is a streamer from Florida who happily drives and live streams. The “star” often moves the camera around. Distracted driving? No just another example of what gamers can access without doing much more than clicking a link and popping a word or phrase into the Twitch search system.

Now the “real” media has discovered what the young at heart have known for quite a while: Amazon Twitch, like Facebook and YouTube live video, is a bit of a challenge. “Twitch Is Temporarily Suspending New Creators from Streaming after Troll Attack” documents one facet of the “live streaming” problem. From banning BadBunny (a star whom one pays to insult her followers) to SweetSaltyPeach (a star known for wearing interesting clothing and assembling toys), Amazon Twitch needs a rethink. DarkCyber is not sure cursing, soft porn, and stolen content are what some individuals think the service should be delivering. But there’s always the chance that DarkCyber cannot divine the master plan of the Bezos bulldozer.

The write up points out:

Twitch’s statement acknowledged that they “became aware of a number of accounts targeting the Artifact game directory” over the weekend. Twitch’s team also recognized trolls were using the category “to share content that grossly violates our terms of service.” The majority of the accounts that “shared and viewed content were automated.”

Now about Amazon’s Sagemaker system. Is it able to deal with Amazon Twitch? Humans to the bulldozer controls. On the double.

Stephen E Arnold, May 29, 2019

Legal Eagles and a Church Steeple

May 10, 2019

The new Notre Dame Spire may be protected by copyright.

Though the spire’s exact design is yet to be determined, the Notre Dame cathedral will certainly be rebuilt. By the time it is, will posting selfies in front of the finished masterpiece be considered a copyright violation? Techdirt describes “Why Your Holiday Photos and Videos of the Restored Notre Dame Cathedral Could Be Blocked by the EU’s Upload Filters.” We’re told that EU copyright law lets countries decide whether to protect the copyrights on architecture, sculpture, and other artworks in public view, or to grant “freedom of panorama.” France chose the freedom, with one key exception—any images used commercially require permission. Reporter Glyn Moody writes:

“This is why pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night taken for commercial purposes require a license: although the copyright of the tower itself has expired, the copyright on the lights that were installed in 1989 has not. And it’s not just about the Eiffel Tower. As the credits at the end of this time-lapse video show (at 2 minutes 10 seconds) other famous Parisian landmarks that require copyright permission to film them include the Louvre’s Pyramid and the Grande Arche in the French capital’s business district. It is not clear whether taking photos or videos of these landmarks and then posting them online counts as commercial use. They may be for personal use, and thus exempt in themselves, but they are generally being posted to commercial Internet services like Facebook, which might require a license. That lack of clarity is just the sort of thing that is likely to cause the EU Copyright Directive’s upload filters to block images of modern buildings in France — including the re-built spire of Notre Dame cathedral, if it is a new design.”

Moody is very critical of the Copyright Directive, the legislation that harmonizes copyright law across the EU, as favoring corporate interests over citizens. He notes that full freedom of panorama across the union has been proposed, but that France resists the idea. Even so, unless and until personal social media posts come to be considered “commercial,” the threat of censored vacation photos remains academic.

Cynthia Murrell, May 10, 2019

Happy Holidays: Google News May Be Mortally Wounded

December 25, 2018

I read “Google Says EU Rules Will Force It to Cut News Services.” My first reaction was, “There goes traffic to the news Web sites.” Then I thought, “What traffic?”

The write up reports:

Google has claimed it will be forced to slash the range of news thrown up by its search engine if European rules to protect copyright owners come into force.

Those copyright rules were, in part, triggered by Google itself. The click loving newspapers took a middle of the road approach: Not good, not bad.

Now the EC has cranked out a copyright regulation with Article 11. The lingo refers to “neighboring rights.” The idea is that Google has surfed on hard working journalists’ work. I assume the fraudulent stories in Der Spiegel are not included. (Yikes, a back link. Trouble looms for the Beyond Search goose.)

If the GOOG sticks in a link, the GOOG has to pay the publisher. It gives me a headache to think about the “who”. Many newspapers are pastiches of content from a wide range of sources. The copyright sensitive Associated Press is not going to be happy if one of its syndicated stories is not handled in a way that makes the AP’s legal eagle happy.

To sum up: The Google News death watch has begun. Will the GOOG survive or will it succumb to the EC’s immune system?

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2018

Rapprochement: Russia, a Copyright Defender

September 25, 2018

I know there are “exciting” search announcements from Bing and Google. Sigh. I don’t have the energy to tilt at the relevance windmill today. However, I noted an interesting search development regarding copyright protection in Russia. Yep, Russia, home of fancy bears and other digital creatures.

Google, Yandex Discuss Creation of Anti-Piracy Database” explains the “real” news, which I assume is the truth:

Google, Yandex and other prominent Internet companies in Russia are discussing the creation of a database of infringing content including movies, TV shows, games, and software. The idea is that the companies will automatically query this database every five minutes with a view to removing such content from search results within six hours, no court order required.\

I learned:

Takedowns like this are common in the West, with Google removing billions of links upon request. In Russia, however, search engine Yandex found itself in hot water recently after refusing to remove links on the basis that the law does not require it to do so. This prompted the authorities to suggest that a compromise agreement needs to be made, backed up by possible changes in the law. It now appears that this event, which could’ ve led to Yandex being blocked by ISPs, has prompted both Internet companies and copyright holders to consider a voluntary agreement. Discussions currently underway suggest a unique and potentially ground-breaking plan.

I particularly enjoyed this explanation of the downside related to a failure to cooperate:

Talks appear to be fairly advanced, with agreements on the framework for the database potentially being reached by the middle of this week. If that’s the case, a lawsuit recently filed by Gazprom Media against Yandex could be settled amicably. It’s understood that Yandex wants all major Internet players to become involved, including social networks. With the carrot comes the possibility of the stick, of course. Gazprom Media indicates that if a voluntary agreement cannot be reached, it will seek amendments to copyright law that will achieve the same end results.

From my vantage point in bourbon saturated Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, I blurrily perceive several implications:

  • Copyright compliance leadership appears to be centered in Russia. Yep, Russia. You know, the bear place.
  • Yandex seems to be taking the lead, possibly because its management understands the downsides of Putin pushback.
  • American companies are participating, but after decades of copyright hassles, I think I see a certain reluctance because an outfit like Google doesn’t want a reprise of its diplomatic performance with China. Ad dollars, perhaps?

Worth watching. Some queries on Yandex return some interesting copy protected content. If you have a moment, try this query at

yandex crack

(Sorry, but I can only show the Russian word for crack via screenshot without the text being corrupted when we disseminate this write up.) You can get the Russian version of crack using a translation service.)

Stephen E Arnold,

Google: Stomping Out Bad Music Types

September 20, 2018

Google has a lot of content to lord over. And with that responsibility comes the need to police that content when it is misused. Perhaps nowhere does this happen more often than YouTube. While they have clever tools for finding rule breakers, sometimes it fails. We learned more from a recent ARS Technica story, “Google: Sorry, Professor, Old Beethoven Recordings on YouTube Copyrighted.”

According to the story:

“ContentID is a system, developed by YouTube, which checks user-uploaded videos against databases of copyrighted content in order to curb copyright infringement. This system took millions of dollars to develop and is often pointed to as a working example of upload filters by rights holders and lawmakers who wish to make such technology mandatory for every website which hosts user content online.”

Despite following copyright laws, the author (also a music teacher) had several musical pieces removed from the platform, despite being public domain. Maybe the problem isn’t within the code of YouTube’s software, but rather its parent company’s loose attitude toward the topic. Take, for example, the time they recently tried to patent a public domain algorithm. We think that maybe the problem isn’t all digital, but the smash-and-grab mentality of Google.

Patrick Roland, September 20, 2018

Australia Considers Adding Fair Use Provisions to Copyright Laws

August 21, 2018

Australia’s existing copyright laws are too strict to allow for AI innovation, according to two of the most prominent companies in the field. Computerworld reports, “New Copyright Rules Needed for AI Era Argue Google, Microsoft.” The news comes as that nation prepares to reform those laws, which currently lack the sort of “fair use” provisions found in other countries. In March, the government issued a discussion paper asking for input on incorporating such provisions. Reporter Rohan Pearce tells us:

“The ‘extent to which AI will be able to be developed in Australia is in doubt’ because of the nation’s copyright regime, according to Google’s response to the discussion paper. AI depends ‘not only on having large sets of data and information to analyse, but also on making copies of those data sets as part of the process of training the algorithms,’ Google argued. ‘In many cases these data sets include material protected by copyright. This can pose significant barriers to the development of AI in countries like Australia which have only inflexible and prescriptive exceptions in their copyright laws.’ …

We noted:

“Microsoft in its submission argued that Australia should introduce an exception explicitly permitting text and data mining (TDM) of copyright works. The tech company said that it would support either an express exception for text and data mining or a broader fair use provision. ‘There is very little connection between copyright and TDM, just as copyright has never controlled how people read books and do research,’ Microsoft argued. ‘With TDM, it may be necessary to make copies of information to train the artificial intelligence and allow it to analyze this material to look for patterns, relationships, and insights. These copies are not read by humans, nor are they consumed or redistributed for their creative expression, so they don’t substitute for the original articles or subscriptions.’

That is an interesting point. Pearce notes that an overhaul is being proposed as a way to boost Australia’s digital economy, currently projected to be worth $139 billion by 2020. Both the country’s Productivity Commission and the Australian Law Reform Commission support the introduction of fair use provisions.

Cynthia Murrell, August 21, 2018

Google Becomes an Adviser to New Zealand about Copyright

August 16, 2018

We learned about a controversial meeting in New Zealand from an article at Stuff provocatively titled, “Google and Rights Holders Battle Over Copyright Reform.” Writer Tom Pullar-Strecker reports that in late June, Google lobbyist Kent Walker met with New Zealand Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi to discuss reform of that nation’s copyright laws. Apparently, Google was not sure search engines like theirs quite comply with existing law—so he offered suggestions on modifying the law. To be fair, that was an action already under consideration, but Google had to add its perspective to the mix. Naturally, Walker’s arguments must go beyond the well-being of his company, so the “more liberal” approach is being billed as key to New Zealand’s tech industry, particularly in AI. Others are not so certain; we learned:

Paula Browning, chief executive of interest group Copyright Licensing NZ, said one of the benefits of the existing law and the certainty it provided was “we don’t go to court every five minutes. The idea we would slip that on its head and be burdening the court in order to make law doesn’t sit very well with me,” she said. Browning also rejected the suggestion that copyright laws were holding back innovation. “There is an awful lot of business happening in New Zealand involving tech startups that suggest the law is not broken. We have got 28,000 tech companies under the Act we have got, so it doesn’t seem to be stopping us doing fabulous things.” There were only impediments to machine learning if people wanted to use other people’s information, she said. “If you are looking at companies that are doing AI, they are using data that is theirs. “If you want to have a ‘data grab of other people stuff’ to use for your business then, okay, maybe there are things in the way of you doing that.”

The official has a point. The article goes on to note Walker brought up Content ID (used by Google-owned YouTube), suggesting such a measure could be worked into the new law. (We’re told the EU is also considering the technology.) Notes on the meeting were taken and shared by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE). Browning expressed concern about upcoming decisions made “behind closed doors,” but believes the MBIE is working to ensure all stakeholders, large and small, have a say in that country’s copyright reform process. Meanwhile, we’re told, Walker is now senior VP of global affairs at Google; quell surprise.

Cynthia Murrell, August 16, 2018

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