Warner Bros. Using DMCA Against Free Speech

I work as the chief nerd for Cheri Media Group. A company who runs a number of websites including the 3rd largest Hip Hop news site HipHopDX.com. We occasionally get DMCA takedown notices from various record labels, they are usually the result of a lack of communication between the label’s PR department and the legal department or RIAA (ie. someone in PR will clear a track for play on the site, but the legal/RIAA will not be informed).

Last week we received a DMCA takedown notice that appears to be asking us to remove “controversial” forum threads under the guise of copyright violation. The full text of the letter is under the jump, but here’s the relevant portion:


E-40 / Biggie Smalls


Some context: The are links to two seperate pages from a forum thread entitled “E-40 almost had Biggie killed.” The original poster, embedded a youtube video clip from a DVD entitled Beefs IV. I have not seen the clip – it had already been taken down by youtube by the time I saw the DMCA notice. As best as I can tell, it was a clip of a rapper called E-40 talking about how he tried to have Biggie Smalls killed. You can see why E-40s record company might want to kill these sorts of rumours (although, in my opinion any publicity is good publicity – especially in the rap world).

Here’s the thing…
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act only covers copyright material! The only thing that’s vaguely copyright in that forum thread is the youtube embed. The forum thread itself free speech! The forum thread itself is copyright of Cheri Media Group! By demanding that Cheri Media Group “IMMEDIATELY REMOVE THE FOLLOWING THREADS…” Warner Brothers Music is demanding that Cheri Media Group give up its right to free speech! This is a gross and disgusting misuse of the DMCA!
These forum threads absolutely do not contain any copyright material hosted on HipHopDX.com’s servers. If Warner Bros. was legitimately trying to remove the infringing content from the web then they wasted their time contacting the wrong company. Oh but wait, the video clip is owned by Image Entertainment, an independent studio – Warner Brothers does not even have the right to demand that to be taken down!

It gets worse…
The hosting company running HipHopDX.com’s dedicated servers has a policy of suspending network access to all services in violation of a DMCA takedown request. I assume this is because they have some liability as the owners of the hardware the content is ultimately stored on. It’s probably a fairly standard policy. What this means is that even if a website gets a completely meaningless takedown notice like this, the site will still be obliged to take down the content or have their site shut down by their service provider! Whereas a more relevant legal demand such as a libel suite would not have the same sort of immediate consequences. So publishers are free to send off DMCA notices whenever there’s a public relations mess to take care of – imagine what would happen if Governments started doing this.

Luckily for my paycheque, HipHopDX’s hosting company is very reasonable. They agreed to keep the site online after a brief conversation.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I have no formal training in law and I have not read the DMCA in full. I could be getting a lot of things wrong.

Continue reading “Warner Bros. Using DMCA Against Free Speech”

Add Facebook Events to Google Calendar, 2 Simple Steps

I just discovered the most amazing, useful mashup. You can automatically add your Facebook events to your Google calendar! This way whenever you accept an event invite it shows up on your google calendar, with all the details! It just takes 2 simple steps.

  1. Pull up your facebook events page, click the “Export Events” link at the top. That brings up a little dialogue box with a URL. Copy that URL.fbevent.png
  2. Open your Google calendar settings page. Click the “Calendars” tab, under “other calendars” click “add calendar, click the “Add By URL” tab. You’ll be presented with a form that’s able to accept the URL you just copied from Facebook!

You’ll now see your Facebook events in Google calendar. Thusly, minimizing the amount of websites you have to open to figure out when you have time to visit your mother.

OpenDNS For A Week

In case you haven’t heard, OpenDNS (wikipedia) is a free DNS service designed to improve your surfing experience, or as their PR blur puts it:

…is a safer, faster, smarter and more reliable way to navigate the Internet.

I decided to try it out for a week, replacing my ISP’s default DNS servers. All-in-all I got just about what I expected.

The set up process was probably the most painful part of the experience, but that is more my router’s fault than anything else. For whatever reason my router – the usualy reliable linksys WTR54G – decided to crap out after I changed the DNS setting. I had to do hard reboot before I was good to go.

I was a little skeptical about their claim to be faster. I mean, DNS is one of the most lightweight services one the internet, it’s not terribly slow to begin with. Plus my ISP’s DNS servers are only a few hops away, how could a centralized/internet wide service be faster. I don’t know how they do it, but I was pleasantly surprised! Noticed faster DNS resolution immediately!

The safer claim refers to the massive blacklists OpenDNS taps into. They give you the ability to block phishing sites and various levels of adult content (from ‘tasteless’ to full on porn sites). I decided to turn on the lowest level of adult blocking (only porn sites) and leave the phishing blocking on. I don’t often find myself on sites these filters would block, I was basically testing for false positives. If the service is able to precisely block the content I ask it to, then it’s a good blocking service. I only came across one false positive over the past week, indietits.com a web comic featuring 2 tits. Since OpenDNS allows you to easily whitelist any domain this was only a minor inconvience. There’s no mechanism to report a false positive directly, so I’m assuming their system learns based on the whitelist data.

OpenDNS is supposedly smarter because it has the ability to fix misspelled domain names. At the end of the day this is a pretty useless feature. The problem is, OpenDNS only kicks in when a) the domain name is common enough that it can figure out the actual address youre trying to get to and b) the domain name you tried to access does not exist. Since almost all misspellings of common domains are taken by squatters you’ll barely ever stumble across a misspelling that isn’t attached to a server. I suppose this feature is designed for people who mangle the top level domain name, blah.cmo will never resolve and it does a good job of redirecting these to the proper TLD. But I always use firefox’s keyboard shortcuts to add the .com or .net. So again, I wasn’t really affected by this feature.

Geeking out.
The OpenDNS control panel has two features that are clearly designed to appeal to the nerds. One more useful than the other.
The control panel gives you the ability to create a “shortcut,” allowing you to assign a short name to any resolvable address. For example, you could link “wiki” to “wikipedia.org” or link something like “wsearch” to wikipedia’s search page.
The second less useful nerd feature are the stats. OpenDNS provides a wide range of charts and graphs about your DNS resolution history. These might actually be somewhat interesting if they weren’t in GMT.
Again, I didn’t find myself using either of these features very much.

What’s the catch?
“How do they make money?” you might ask. Well it’s pretty simple, whenever you stumble across a non-resolving domain, OpenDNS will present you with a (revenue generating) search application and related text ads. This is fairly non-obtrusive. The only thing I find kind of weird is that this is identical to verisign’s site-finder. When that launched in 2003 it caused such a shitstorm that they were only allowed to keep it online for 19 days! (read the wikipedia article linked above) I guess the main difference with OpenDNS is that it’s completely opt-in.

At the end of the day, it’s a pretty neat service. I’ll probably keep it configured, since it doesn’t really negatively affect my internet experience, and I do get a bit of a speed boost.
I can see the service being quite a bit more useful to someone who manages are small network, especially if they need to filter the internet.
For Personal use, it’s usefulness is a little more dubious.

After one week of use, I give OpenDNS a rating of : *shrug*

Yes I Got Your Email!

Don’t ask me if I received your email, of course I did! Email is very reliable these days, if you’re emailed me before you’re not going to show up in my spam folder.

Of course I got your email!
Whether I’ve read it is another question.

WhyFireFoxIsBlocked is wrong! Adblock Plus is 100% Detectable!

whyfirefoxisblocked.com does not know what they’re talking about. Ad Block Plus is 100% lame and 100% detectable.

The following code detects ad block plus:

<script language="javascript"> var disabled = false; </script>
<script src="something.js?thisistotrickyou=http://a.as-us.falkag.net/...
<script language="javascript">
// DO SOMETHING HERE, like a redirect
alert("You Are Using Ad Block Plus or some other blocking software! Please don\'t, our site operates on ad revenue."); }

disabled = true;

Proof of concept