Bush I and Bacon

I had President Bush I all wrong in one particular area; snack foods. Everyone knew he hated broccoli and he made such a big deal about it I had an image of More »

Awwwwwww FREAK OUT! Le media, c’est debate!

Romney came out swinging tonight and left everything on the stage. President Obama? Not so much. Cool, calm and collected. No drama Obama, as usual. So naturally the right wing media is More »

Funny, You Don’t Look Indian but You Sound Like a Black Man

Last night Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren had the second of their debates as they campaign to represent Massachusetts in the United States senate… the seat held for decades by Senator More »

Blocking a Website: An Exercise in Futility (Part 3)

The announced ruling of the UK High Court got me thinking: what would the court quantify as a qualitative effort to restrict access to The Pirate Bay (or any other sites which More »

IP Addresses Not An Effective Way to Identify Pirates According to New York Judge

Over the past couple of days, we’ve been exploring the history of litigation based around alleged Intellectual Property violations on the internet. New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown, this week, while presiding More »

 

So What if Congress Votes “NO” on Military Action Against Syria?

The President has a certain amount of power and one of those should be the power to change his mind without our national media losing its collective freaking mind. So have the debate and if the collective wisdom (Ha!) of the Congress is to actually listen o the people (for once!) and vote no, so be it… for now.

Secretary of State Kerry has stated the necessity for an action against Syria and President Obama has asserted the military has the capacity to carry out said action, but he also said the action is not time sensitive.

So let’s take our time. If Congress votes NO and the president abides by that decision it is NOT a reflection on the nation’s or the president’s credibility, it is an affirmation to the world that our government actually works… sometimes.

Bush I and Bacon

I had President Bush I all wrong in one particular area; snack foods.

Everyone knew he hated broccoli and he made such a big deal about it I had an image of the then present day Barbara Bush shoving a broccoli spear into the screaming face of three year old George Herbert Walker Bush. Yeah, I know. She is his wife and not his Mom. OK. It was a creepy image made more so because it originated in my own head.

Broccoli as Snack Food

At the time I considered broccoli to be snack food because I carried a head a broccoli and a gallon of water where ever I went.

President Bush supposedly loved munching on pork rinds and to me it was just an affectation he put on to secure the “good ol’ boy” vote, sort of the way he began flashing his cowboy boots after a Reagan aide derided him as a “tassled loafer guy,” during the 1980 GOP primaries.

President Bush the First knew Americans love their pork... political and otherwise

President Bush the First knew Americans love their pork… political and otherwise

So I figured he claimed to love pork rinds for the same reason, to present the image of a regular guy. But you know, I think the nation has caught up with the former president. Everyone seems to love pork… at least we love bacon.

Bacon is everywhere and bacon is great regardless of my cholesterol levels. I love bacon in a fairly conventional way; on a plate or in a BLT. But we Americans as a whole, love everything about in everything! We have Bacon Fests, Bacon bowls and bacon flavored everything: condoms, mouthwash, vodka and anything you can think of. And now this:

Bacon-flavored Sunflower seeds... really?

Bacon-flavored Sunflower seeds… really?

President Bush, I take back all the snarky stuff I said about you back in the day… about pork rinds. They taste like wispy crunchy bacon flavored fluff and Americans love bacon.

Bacon: The Great American Snack Food!

Standing on a Soapbox: Swatting is not a “Prank”

I find myself questioning the usage of the word “prank” by media outlets when referring to what has now taken on the colloquialism known as SWATting.

To nutshell what SWATting is, it is the act of which a person spoofs the caller ID of another individual (usually by way of Internet Calling), then calls 911 posing as that individual and lays out a dire situation prompting a significant police response.

So far, numerous high profile assaults have been carried out. The fact of the matter is that most police departments don’t even know what SWATting is – a fact punctuated by the experience of Brian Krebs who penned a letter to his local police department months in advance about the emerging act of SWATting, and who was subsequently hit earlier this month while prepping for a dinner party at his own home (whilst simultaneously being victim to a DoS attack). Police surrounded his home in force with multiple officers with weapons ranging from semi-automatic handguns to semi-automatic rifles.

For all intents and purposes, Brian Krebs reacted calmly to the situation. Shortly after, and only after being placed under arrest on the steps of his own home in a mass of confusion, walked away, interrogated, and his home search, he was released. It should be made clear, however, that the police were effectively prepared to storm the home in what was, to their best knowledge, a situation where at least one person had already been shot, and Krebs was hiding in his closet as Russian thieves raided his home.

When things like this occur, the victim ends up in a rather terrible situation, police end up in a situation where they are subjected to being used as tools of a person with a juvenile mentality, and a city or county ends up footing the bill of wasted man hours, and any damages arising from the incident to the victim.

To date, outlets and publications such as WTOP Radio (and other CBS News affiliates), The Los Angeles Times, Reuters, NBC News, CNN, and others have identified this sort of attack (which involves the technical knowledge to successfully spoof the caller ID of your intended victim. Then, on top of that, one must successfully social engineer the operator; and in light of the situation, this part is probably the easiest part. Then one just sits back and watches their work unfold) as a prank.

Let us hypothesize a different circumstance, however, where someone is sitting at home minding their own business when an individual (who may be as young as 12 years old) decides they wish to engage in some SWATting and targets that person (as an aside, I find it interesting that Reuters would categorize this as “entertainment”). They contact the police while stating that they are the homeowner and spin a tale of significant proportions in which there have already been casualties and several more are possible resulting from heavily armed persons. For argument’s sake, let’s say that this individual who has been targeted resides in Kansas and owns several automatic assault rifles. Unlike Mr. Brian Krebs, however, this man does not have a reason to step outside and will not know that the sworn officers of the tactical unit of the police department are about to knock his door down without announcing their entry. Next thing you know, the story on CNN/MSNBC/FOX NEWS is a (seriously injured or dead) Kansas man armed with Automatic Assault Rifles engaged in a firefight with police officers (some of who may also likely have been suffered casualties) who he believed to be intruders entering his home. Upon further investigation by federal authorities into the matter (as such an investigation would occur in this case), the phone company finds that the caller ID was spoofed. Another person was SWATted and this was the fallout from it.

To the juvenile minded individuals carrying out these actions, it most likely is just a prank to them. Howver, I find nothing about this to be a “prank”. To me, at the absolute minimal, this is assault with a deadly weapon. At the mid-range, this is attempted homicide in the first degree; and, in the absolute worst of circumstance, potentially homicide in the first degree. So far, the only single press outlet to acknowledge that is Ars Technica.

tl;dr: Swatting is a criminal act, not a prank.

Awwwwwww FREAK OUT! Le media, c’est debate!

Romney came out swinging tonight and left everything on the stage. President Obama? Not so much. Cool, calm and collected. No drama Obama, as usual.
So naturally the right wing media is ecstatic and the left leaning media are in full freak out mode. On MSNBC the top guys were in full shirt tearing posture accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Romney had a big night was the consensus and the race will get much tighter from here… YEAH! We got a horse race… and if we didn’t have one we’d make one.

Obama played it cool while Romney was hot… he had to be hot or else he was done. Meanwhile the fact checkers are gonna have a fun time with Romney’s short supply of specifics. Obama was in (according to the sports metaphors being bandied about) in a prevent defense. To continue in that theme Romney scored but ate up a lot of clock. Conservatives were happy. Really happy.

I really don’t know what they expect from him because whenever the “tough guy” Obama shows up the left leaning media smacks him for doing what they are constantly clamoring for him to do.

On June 29, 2011 Obama held a presser where he spoke on a range a subjects but most specifically about the debate raging around the raising of the debt ceiling.

We don’t know how capital markets will react. But if capital markets suddenly decide, you know what, the U.S. government doesn’t pay its bills, so we’re going to start pulling our money out, and the U.S. Treasury has to start to raise interest rates in order to attract more money to pay off our bills, that means higher interest rates for businesses; that means higher interest rates for consumers. So all the headwinds that we’re already experiencing in terms of the recovery will get worse.

And so there’s no point in procrastinating. There’s no point in putting it off. We’ve got to get this done. And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done…

They’re in one week, they’re out one week. And then they’re saying, Obama has got to step in. You need to be here. I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done…

The next morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program the panel was asked what they thought about Obama’s press conference the day before.

Joe Scarborough: Mark Halperin, What was the president’s strategy? We are coming up on a deadline and the president decided to please his base, push back against the Republicans.I guess the question is, we know a deal has to be done. Is this showmanship? A lot of times you go up there and both sides and they act tough so their base will be appeased, then they quietly work the deal behind the scenes.

Mark Halperin: Are we on the seven second delay?

Mika Brzezinski: Lordy.

Halperin: I wanted to characterize how the president behaved.

Scarborough: We have it. We can use it. Go for it. Let’s see what happens.

Brzezinski: We’re behind you, you fall down and we catch you.

Halperin: I thought he was a dick yesterday.

Scarborough: Delay that. delay that. what are you doing? i can’t believe — Iwas joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that?

Halperin: I said it. I hope it worked.

Scarborough: My mom is watching! We’ll know whether it worked or not.

Halperin apologized quickly, but the idea of a major journalist – co-author of the book Game Change that became an award winning film for HBO about the McCain Palin campaign – having the temerity to call the president of the US a dick for speaking firmly at a press conference was astounding. No one called George W. Bush an expletive even after everyone KNEW he had lied the nation into a war. But Obama was wrong for calling out the GOP on their stance – and look how that turned out.

You can check out the link to the press conference above and watch the video and/or read the transcript. For the life of me I don’t see where he was being a dick.
But yet, he is supposed to go hammer and tongs with Mitt Romney. This is the same Obama who was excoriated for throwing an offhand remark about Hilary Clinton during the 2008 primaries. When asked what he thought of her as a person he responded offhandedly, “She’s likeable enough.” Horrors! Yet later on in that campaign when the Clinton team was hammering on Obama Chris Matthews screamed, “He has to punch back!”

In both of the above examples Obama was proven correct. The debt ceiling debate ended horribly with the GOP playing hardball until the last second and cost the US it’s first credit rating downgrade ever… and then blamed Obama for not giving in. Obama eventually defeated Clinton in the primaries but would he have gotten away with “getting tough” with Ms. Clinton? Aw Hell no!

So relax my progressive friends for you are about to work yourselves into the same frame of mind you had in October 2010… and look how that turned out.

Everyone Chill out

Funny, You Don’t Look Indian but You Sound Like a Black Man

Last night Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren had the second of their debates as they campaign to represent Massachusetts in the United States senate… the seat held for decades by Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy.

Their first debate was marked by Brown’s attacks on Ms. Warren’s ethnicity – whether or not she has Native American heritage. His line of accusation reminded me of an old joke:

An old lady on the subway sits next to a young man with blond hair and blue eyes and asks, “Are you a Jewish boy?”

Momentarily taken aback the young man replies, “No, Ma’am. I’m not.”

She pressed him again, “Surely you’re a Jewish boy, no?”

“NO! I’m not Jewish!”

She gave it one more try, “You are a Jewish boy, aren’t you?”

Worn down, the young man finally says, “Yes. Yes I am Jewish.”

“Hmph! Funny. You don’t look Jewish.”

During their debate Brown said Warren had  “checked the box” and claimed Native American heritage in order to enhance her chances for getting into Penn and Harvard.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-controversy-over-elizabeth-warrens-claimed-native-american-heritage/2012/09/27/d0b7f568-08a5-11e2-a10c-fa5a255a9258_blog.html

“Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color,” Brown said. “And, as you can see,” he continued, gesturing toward Warren, “she’s not.”

Funny, you don’t look Native American.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/09/25/gop-staffers-mocked-warren-with-chants-chops/dc1aTzFPOgvQqM1mPgKv2H/story.html

Tonight Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson declared they had along with the Drudge Report, “BREAKING NEWS” and featured a video of Barack Obama from 2007. Though we’ve seen this video before – it is a speech given by Obama at my alma mater Hampton University at its annual minister’s conference where he speaks on a variety of themes including the government’s response to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and gives a shout out to his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright – it is five alarm fire hot because, they say, Obama speaks like a black man.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/10/drudges-big-new-obama-video-kind-old/57537/

Carlson and Hannity accuse Obama of speaking with a “phony accent” which just goes to show how culturally challenged they really are. One of the first thing you learn in public speaking is know your audience so for Obama to add cadence and drop a few “g’s” from some words means he’s talking to a group of black pastors!

While I was not present for this speech I can GUARANTEE there were a few shouts of “PREACH” coming from the audience.

Let’s face it we all add or drop accents according to who we’re hanging with. I don’t talk with my friends and family in the same way I would converse with business associates in a meeting.

There is an air of desperation surrounding this latest “BOMBSHELL” from the right as the presidential campaign moves into the home stretch with the first candidate’s debate slated for tomorrow night in Denver.

Is this what the conservative media considers to be a “Gamechanger” for this campaign… a recycled video with a Jeremiah Wright reference?

Buckle up your galoshes, folks. It’s about to get DEEP in here for the next few weeks.

 

 

Microsoft is now offering a $99 Xbox 360. You shouldn’t buy it.

Last week, rumors surfaced that Microsoft would be offering an Xbox 360 bundled with a Kinect for $99 and a two-year subscription to Xbox Live. That rumor came to fruition today when Microsoft announced that they would be offering the 4GB edition of their slim-line Xbox 360 console for only $99 at Microsoft stores as an in-store only deal.

In order to take advantage of it, you must sign-up in a Microsoft store (of which there are a grand total of 26 across the entire United States) for a 2-year subscription to the Xbox Live Gold service at $15 a month. With an upfront hardware cost of $99, this might not seem to bad of a deal when the same bundle would cost $299.99 (plus applicable sales tax) at video game retailer GameStop ($284 shipped at Amazon), however, here’s where you’re going to eat the cost: while you save as much as $200 up-front (before other charges) on hardware, you’re going to inevitably end up paying more over the duration of your 2-year agreement than you had if you’d decided otherwise. Currently, Microsoft charges $60 a month at retail for a year-long subscription to Xbox Live Gold. You’ll find those subscriptions for even less at online retailers such as Amazon and NewEgg.

By purchasing the hardware at $99 and locking yourself into a 2-year service agreement with Microsoft, you will pay $15 a month for Xbox Live Gold. This totals out to $360 for 2 years of the same Xbox Live Gold service other persons potentially paid less than $100 for. Add-on the cost of the hardware and you’ve just paid $460 plus tax to own the Xbox 360 for two years (before games, accessories, and other associated cost are accounted for). This doesn’t even account for the hefty early termination fee you can expect to pay should you choose to terminate your service before hand. However, by purchasing an Xbox 360 and 2 years worth of Xbox Live Gold subscriptions from a retailer such as Amazon, you’d pay $380.12 total (before games, accessories, and other cost). You’ll save upwards of $80 over the long term by purchasing everything up-front as opposed to going with Microsoft’s subsidized “deal”.

Microsoft missed the mark by a wide-margin with this one. The fact that it is offered in Microsoft stores only severely limits the reach of this deal; and the supposed “…additional streaming content from cable providers or sports package providers” has turned out to be non-existent. Microsoft will need to go back to the drawing board on how it markets to consumers should it wish for them to treat their consoles subscriptions like a cable or phone bill.

Blocking a Website: An Exercise in Futility (Part 3)

Virgin Media subscribers now get this notice when they try to access The Pirate Bay.The announced ruling of the UK High Court got me thinking: what would the court quantify as a qualitative effort to restrict access to The Pirate Bay (or any other sites which may be ruled upon in the future)? It is assumed that in order to satisfy the ruling, most ISPs will simply refuse to resolve a dns request for thepiratebay.org or thepiratebay.se. However, The Pirate Bay is known for the registration of multiple domains as seen in it’s past restrictions in both Italy (Twice), Denmark, Finland, and Belgium.

“The Judge obviously has no idea what he’s dealing with, because the verdict of this expensive court battle can be easily undone,” said The Pirate Bay to file-sharing news outlet TorrentFreak. After the blocks, The Pirate Bay saw a massive increase in traffic with each incident to the point that it even laughed each one off. Indeed, not even 24 hours later, The Pirate Bay saw an increase of over 12 million more users than average since the public announcement of the blockade. This comes despite Virgin Media having already restricted access to the website. The Pirate Bay joked that they should probably write a thank-you letter to the BPI, but, at the same time, wondered if there were ulterior motives to the block rather than simply combating anti-piracy.

As was seen in the Belgian block of The Pirate Bay, the court only required the restriction of 11 domains belonging to The Pirate Bay from the DNS servers of Belgium ISPs. Simply creating a new domain bypassed the scope of the blockade and rendered it effectively moot. Indeed, The Pirate Bay registered their .se domain only months ago in order to avoid a potential domain seizure by the USA. In the case of Italy, a massive traffic drop to TPB was observed, but there is certainly no shortage of alternative torrent trackers available to persons who do not wish to use a VPN or Proxy to bypass the blockage (as is necessary in the Netherlands who completely blocked the IP – an action UK ISPs are reportedly going to be taking). Reportedly, usage of VPN services has seen a surge since the ruling came down. This, of course, does not stop media interest groups from keeping the pressure on in more and more nations to censor and prosecute The Pirate Bay in spite of its founders having already been sentenced to incarceration (The Pirate Bay was sold and transferred to Reservella in 2009).

So as more and more nations continue to attempt to censor websites, accused of alleged copyright infringement, across the internet, the level of futility shown continues to increase exponentially in direct proportion to the number of websites upon which censorship is attempted. A few years ago, when another popular torrent site by the name of Demonoid.ph packed up shop and left Canada after their Canadian hosting provider received legal threats from the CRIA. Demonoid would return a few months later, more popular than ever, and (with a new domain to avoid domain seizure by the US. Their new domain would later become the most popular site with a .me TLD; and that is still in spite of a ban placed on IP ranges originating from China and Taiwan due to incessant denial of service attacks. Currently, the site appears to be hosting out of the Ukraine.

There have, however, been sites which have been successfully shut down such as the now-defunct, private, torrent tracker Oink’s Pink Palace (commonly referred to as OiNK), an invitation-only tracker dedicated to music. The shutdown of Oink, and seizure of its servers, was heavily covered by international news media, and referred to as “Operation Ark Royal” by Interpol (who was operating in conjunction with the IFPI, BPI, and various other media organizations) after a 2-year investigation into the site’s operations. The IFPI and BPI celebrated the shutdown while the Dutch and British Pirate Parties questioned the circumstances (especially those allowing the representatives of the alleged aggrieved parties being allowed to directly participate in the investigation). The effects of the shutdown, however, would not be felt for long as not one, but two new private torrent trackers (both invitation-only) dedicated to music would open their doors in direct response to the closure of OiNK: Waffles.fm, and What.cd. Further more, Alan Ellis, the operator of OiNK, walked free on charges of conspiracy to defraud stemming from illegal file-sharing. Several other defendants would face relatively small fines and/or community service, while the case against one was dropped entirely by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Screenshot of the home page of The Pirate Bay

This ship will very likely continue to sail, despite all attempts to bring her down.

The mythological beast, the hydra, would respond to attempts to kill it by beheading by growing 2 heads in the place of one. This is essentially what has occurred with site seizures and shutdowns by the media industry and various governments. Furthermore, the Streisand effect drives more and more attention to these sites as they are shutdown (where few may have known about the site prior to the shutdown, many learn about it, and others, resultant from the shutdown). So, while the idea of shutting down these sites is to drive them deeper into obscurity in order to drive them out of existence, the opposite actually occurs from the increased attention these sites get from what is essentially free advertising. Meanwhile, the restriction of these sites, and the circumvention of that restriction becomes little more than a never-ending cat-and-mouse game.

It has become more than clear over the better part of the past decade that shutting down sites or seizing domains does not solve the problem. The current business model obviously does not work and should be re-evaluated on all sides, because short of implementing measures similar to the Great Firewall of China (and even that hasn’t been entirely effective) or shutting down the internet entirely, these operations will continue to operate successfully through current and newer technologies. That said, we will close out this series of articles with a quote from EFF founding member John Gilmore, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

IP Addresses Not An Effective Way to Identify Pirates According to New York Judge

Over the past couple of days, we’ve been exploring the history of litigation based around alleged Intellectual Property violations on the internet. New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown, this week, while presiding over a John Doe case relating to the alleged piracy of several adult films by way of BitTorrent, ruled that an IP address is not an effective way to identify pirates. “[The] assumption that the person who pays for Internet access at a given location is the same individual who allegedly downloaded a [...] film is tenuous, and one that has grown more so over time,” he stated in his ruling.

Notable points cited by Judge Brown included the fact that multiple users often share a single internet connection (and the associated IP address), and that Wi-Fi (especially unsecured and undersecured access points / routers) further adds another facet to the equation (such as an outside party piggybacking on the connection).

In other news, The Pirate Bay, which recently was blocked in the United Kingdom, is enjoying the Streisand Effect; seeing a spike in traffic to the point of setting a new daily traffic record. More on this in Part 3 of our series of articles on the futility in blocking a website.

Blocking a Website: An Exercise in Futility (Part 2)

Yesterday, it was explored how sites such as The Pirate Bay were being targeted in courts to be blocked by ISPs in an attempt to curb online piracy. Today, we’ll examine litigation arising from copyright infringement based lawsuits in addition to arrest resultant from online infringement.

Continuing on from the last paragraph of yesterday’s article – USA Law Enforcement agencies have worked with other nations to seize servers hosted internationally as recently exemplified in the seizure of servers belonging to the now defunct, popular, file-hosting service MegaUpload (pending litigation at the time of this publication). MegaUpload was shutdown by the FBI after the unsealing of a 72-page Federal Indictment handed down by a grand jury in Virginia which concurrently resulted in the arrest and charging of seven individuals – an action which, coupled with other shutdowns by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, and the DHS, such as the 2007 shutdown of a site which sold modchips, raised queries as to the necessity of controversial legislation such as SOPA and PIPA.

Such legislation is resultant from political pressure from Industry Groups on the US Government, and subsequently from the US Government onto other countries, such as that seen in that push for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Countries such as Spain and Canada have also been subject to pressure from Industry groups such as the RIAA who dubbed them as so-called “Piracy Havens”. Canada has also been subject to pressure from the US governemnt. In example, The US Trade Representative, Monday, published the annual “Special 301 Report”. This report details the state of intellectual property rights worldwide pertaining to American trading partners. According to Ars Technica, Perennial contenders Russia and China made the top spots on the listing while Argentina, India and Canada were noted as being on the “priority watch list”, a listing which Canada has “enjoyed” time-and-time again. The International Intellectual Property Alliance even went so far as to state that “no other country is farther behind the curve in combating copyright infringement in cyberspace.” Then there’s a certain document leak from this time last year to consider. This is despite observations that Canada’s copyright laws are tougher than the USA’s, and the recent passing of Spain’s Snide Law.

These measures are easily achieved by IP holders who argue that they lose millions and billions of sales and lost jobs to piracy online whilst simultaneously arguing that these pirates rake in millions in ill-gotten profits – a claim which many a study has been commissioned to support. Opponents, however, argue that this is no more than a straw man with little factual basis. It has been noted that organizations such as the RIAA have expended millions more in lawsuits against internet pirates than they’ve gained by a wide-margin. Despite this, organizations continue to exert pressure on nations to act against these sites which leads us to incidents such as the now-infamous May 31, 2006 server raid of The Pirate Bay which led to the prosecution of its facilitators. There’s also the cases of litigation against indexing sites such as TorrentSpy, isoHunt, and others whom were sued by the MPAA for “abusing technology to facilitate infringement of copyrighted works,” leading to the shutdown of TorrentSpy and many other sites. Such has led to things such as the “You can click, but you can’t hide” campaign, and the “Downloading Films is Illegal” campaign, both from the MPAA; and all reminiscent of the “Don’t Copy That Floppy” and “Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaigns from the Software Industry and RIAA respectively.

(Further Reading)

Individual file-traders have also been prosecuted. This includes the infamous Capitol v. Thomas case (which was notable for being the very first copyright infringement based on file-sharing suit to be brought to trial by jury as opposed to electing to pay a settlement which most individuals opt for) in which defendant Jammie Thomas-Rasset refused to pay the $5,000 settlement offered by EMI (the parent company of Capitol Records). She was later found liable for infringement and ordered to pay $222,000. She sought re-trial where she was once again offered an option to settle for $25,000; however, she did not and was found by a jury to be liable once more to the tune of $1,920,000 ($80,000 per song) – an amount which was later reduced by a judge to $54,000. The recording labels refused to accept this amount and sought retrial based on the amount of the judgement – an action that led to a jury awarding $1,500,000 to the labels. A judge, once again, lowered the amount to $54,000. The labels have indicated that they plan to retry for a larger amount.

There is also the case of Sony BMG Music Entertainment et al. v. Tenenbaum in which, in 2003, Joel Tenenbaum (then, a 20 year old student of Goucher College in Maryland) received an infringement notification offering a settlement for $3500. Joel, explaining his financial situation as a student, offered $500 as payment. This offer, however, was rejected. In 2007, five record labels (Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Bros. Records, Arista Records, UMG Recordings (also representing Interscope Records), and Virgin Records America) filed suit jointly against Joel Tenenbaum. The case would go to trial in July 2009 to the tune of a $4,500,000 lawsuit, but not before the court (presided over by Judge Nancy Gertner of the U.S. District Court in Boston) would dismiss Tenenbaum’s claims of Abuse of Process against the plantiffs, excluded his expert witnesses, denied a motion to exclude evidence from MediaSentry, excluded Jurors who had previously used social networks to obtain music, and ruled that Tenenbaum could not argue a fair use defense. This led to Tenenbaum being found liable of copyright infringement and the labels were awarded, by a jury, the amount of $675,000. Charles R. Nesson, council to Tenenbaum and a Harvard Law professor claimed the trial had been unfair as his client could not be judged by a jury of his peers. In the judge’s ruling, however, Nesson was chided for presenting a “chaotically bad defense” – a sentiment echoed by many of his peers. The next year, Judge Gertner reduced the judgement amount to $67,500 – a ruling which both parties immediately appealed to the First Circuit Court which would go on to reinstate the original judgement owed and remand the case back to District Court. Tenenbaum later petitioned for a rehearing before the First Circuit, however, that hearing was denied.

There have also been cases (such as those surrounding the 2008 film The Hurt Locker) in which large amounts of groups have been sued in so-called “John Doe cases“. Much of these cases are based around the idea that a “download equals a lost sale” or that just making something available on line is equal to copyright infringement (even if no exchange of data occurs), a theory which has been refuted by many observers and left more than one judge less-than amused. Indeed, even one of the world’s largest video game publishers and developers, Electronic Arts, has admitted that pirated copies of games do not equal lost sales. “[People] need to recognize that every BitTorrent download doesn’t represent a successful copy of a game, let alone a lost sale,” said Mariam Sughayer, a representative from EA’s corporate communications department. This sentiment was re-echoed by independent recording artist Jonathan Coulton who tweeted, “Any other musicians out there notice that ever since they shut down MegaUpload, the money has just been POURING in?” He’s not the only one. Studies have shown that artists don’t believe piracy hurts them financially. In addition, The Swiss Government (whose Supreme Court has already rendered it effectively impossible to sue anyone in Switzerland by ruling that tracking companies (such as the aforementioned and now defunct MediaSentry) are not allowed to log IP addresses) also commissioned a study finding that unauthorized downloading does not result in a loss of sales nor a loss of revenue for the entertainment industry.

So how does this all tie-together? We’ll explore that, and wrap this all up in Part 3.

Blocking a Website: An Exercise in Futility (Part 1)

Recently, the High Court of the United Kingdom issued a ruling that the popular file-sharing website, and former torrent tracker, The Pirate Bay, must be blocked by UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including, but not limited to: EverythingEverywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media (ISP BT has requested a moratorium to mull over it’s compliance).

This is not the first time that any entity of any nationality has attempted to censor The Pirate Bay. BREIN, a dutch media interest group, has argued in court since 2010 that The Pirate Bay should be shut down. A Dutch Court, however, saw differently and ruled that there was no evidence to support that the majority of ISP users in the Netherlands were using the site to engage in piracy. After further pressure from BREIN, and even the United States government to an extent, much to the chagrin of the two largest ISPs in the Netherlands (Ziggo and XS4ALL), a Dutch court ruled in January 2012 that all access to the Pirate Bay must be blocked by the two Dutch ISPs. BREIN, since then, has pushed for even more Dutch ISPs to be required to censor The Pirate Bay. However, as of April 2012, according to a research study by the University of Amsterdam, the censoring of The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands resulted in no impact on the number of pirates. Furthermore, it was found that there was no reduction in the number of pirates.

“The claim that The Pirate Bay blockade by Ziggo and XS4ALL leads to a decrease of copyright infringement by their subscribers via BitTorrent transfers must be rejected. There is no significant effect of this measure,” they stated. “Ziggo and XS4ALL subscribers who use BitTorrent apparently found different routes other than ‘The Pirate Bay’ to share files, and remain active as seeders to upload files to others.”

It is perhaps this notation which is the most striking of all resulting conclusions from this study. There are multiple ways for people to bypass ISP blocking which The Pirate Bay itself and other sites are already advising (potential) end-users upon in response to the UK Court’s ruling.

Yesterday, TIME’s Matt Peckham penned an article fathoming whether the United States would be soon to follow. The truth is, however, that the United States has been attempting to censor websites, including The Pirate Bay, for quite some time with mixed results. The primary methods the USA has gone with to restrict access to websites include domain seizures, particularly of the .com, .org, and .net top-level domains (TLDs) which are respectively administered by VeriSign and Public Interest Registry within the jurisdiction of the US government, and server seizure of domestically hosted entities. More on this will be discussed in the upcoming Part 2.