Posts tagged ‘law’


If you take out Tiktok, then why not Meta, too?

24.03.2023

The Hon Debbie Ngarewa-Packer MP was right when she questioned our government’s decision to ban Tiktok from parliamentary devices.

If it’s about foreigners getting hold of data, then why not ban Facebook and Instagram?

Last I looked, Tiktok had not, unlike Facebook, been party to any genocides.

Parliamentary Services says at least Meta is American and operates in line with our values. So being party to genocide is in line with our values? So information leaking to the likes of Cambridge Analytica—and its effects on democracy—are in line with our values?

It’s all about hopping on an occidental bandwagon over unproven claims that Tiktok hands stuff over to the PRC.

And if it is proven, then let us see the proof.

Let’s say our government doesn’t have the proof but it’s using Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US as a proxy of how data from social media companies wind up with their governments. That’s actually a fair point and we should expect that it’s probably happening. We can make a pretty reasoned guess that it is.

In that case, it’s all the more reason we should consider banning the lot of them, not just Tiktok. Keep our data in our country.

Remember, we’re not banning any of these platforms from private citizens, just what can be used by our Parliament. If it’s about private citizens, I’d be advising that we take out known disinformation ones, which are often funded or manipulated by shady overseas backers or even nation states. They’re literally placing New Zealanders in harm’s way. That would mean a pretty wide net, too, and I imagine no one in power would want to wield that responsibility. Or that the penny will drop, as it usually does, 10 years too late. (Hello, readers of 2033!)
 
Literally as I was completing the title and meta (small m) description fields for this, this Mastodon post from an ethics’ professor appeared.
 

 

In case it ever disappears, she writes:

As your resident TikTok micro-celebrity + tech ethics/policy professor, I have a lot of feelings about the proposed TikTok ban. I think that this statement from Evan Greer of Fight for the Future articulates some points well. If the sole argument is “but China” I would very much like to see something beyond speculation. And if it’s just not that, then go after Meta too. And either way maybe you could pass LITERALLY ANY DATA PRIVACY LAWS.


 

The image is from the Fight for the Future website, and the text reads:

“If it weren’t so alarming, it would be hilarious that US policymakers are trying to ‘be tough on China’ by acting exactly like the Chinese government. Banning an entire app used by millions of people, especially young people, LGBTQ folks, and people of color, is classic state-backed Internet censorship,” said Evan Greer (she/her), director of Fight for the Future. “TikTok uses the exact same surveillance capitalist business model of services like YouTube and Instagram. Yes, it’s concerning that the Chinese government could abuse data that TikTok collects. But even if TikTok were banned, they could access much of the same data simply by purchasing it from data brokers, because there are almost no laws in place to prevent that kind of abuse. If policymakers want to protect Americans from surveillance, they should advocate for strong data privacy laws that prevent all companies (including TikTok!) from collecting so much sensitive data about us in the first place, rather than engaging in what amounts to xenophobic showboating that does exactly nothing to protect anyone.”


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Why we’ve dropped Disqus, and the shenanigans of the online ad world

02.02.2023

When I first signed up to Disqus, there was the option to have no ads. But with Lucire we allowed them, because I figured, why not?

Disqus’s rules were pretty clear: you’d earn money on the ads shown, and once you got to US$100, they’d pay out.

The trouble is those ads made so little money it took ages to reach the threshold.

Last year, when looking at the revenue figures, I was surprised things had reset and we had only earned a few dollars. Where did the US$100 go? There was no record of a payout.

I began enquiring and it took them a while to respond. They said they would pay (what would have happened if I never asked?) but what hit our account was NZ$100.

In other words, 35 per cent short.

I guess they’re counting on people not chasing up NZ$35, and I’m wondering if it’s a worthwhile use of my time. Or maybe it’s better I write this blog post to warn others about Disqus.

Disqus either short-paid us by 35 per cent or they have no clue how currencies work. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on their company.

Unsurprisingly, I began taking Disqus off our sites, which was what I had always planned to do once we got to US$100. Off it went from Lucire for starters, though on Autocade it had been quite useful. I had signed up early enough to have the no-ads option, so I left it, especially as we had great commenters like Graham Clayton from Australia, who has a wealth of knowledge about cars himself.

This week, we noticed the no-ads option had disappeared and the bottom of Autocade’s pages had turned into an ugly mess, at least on the desktop version. We already had our own ad in the footer, so we didn’t need multiple ones cheapening the site.

Not only did Disqus pay us short by 35 per cent last year, I discovered their ads don’t even pay. Yes, Disqus was included in our ads.txt. But here’s a site that gets 1,000,000 page views every quarter (roughly) and we had earned zip. Zero. Nada.
 

 

Once I understand how to update a Mediawiki database, we’ll have Mediawiki comments instead, and I’ve exported what we had from Disqus.

It’s been a bad run, but there you go.

Media.net also said they would drop publishers from certain countries, without naming them. That was fine by me since they also had odd discrepancies between what I knew to be the traffic and what they recorded. At one point, the Media.net ad code was hard-coded on Autocade’s pages, and still they were recording a minuscule amount of traffic.

With time zone differences (their person was in India) we never solved it.

Maybe an inordinate amount of people use ad blockers?

We had till February 28 to remove their code but I took it off as well—no point dragging out yet another non-paying service.

It really feels like yet another area where Google has wrecked the advertising ecosystem for legitimate publishers. Oh for the days when there was more quality control over where ads appeared.
 
Ten years ago, we were hacked. That is a story in itself, which I documented at the time, along with Google’s failings. What also struck me was that the hack used what appeared to be Google Adsense code:
 

 

I had come across fake ads taking you to malware sites before, even with legitimate ad networks. (I still remember seeing a fake ad for a job-seeking website that wound up on our sites in April 2008.) But for some reason in 2013 it still seemed strange, since I didn’t deal with Google and some legit ad networks were still hanging on.

However, I noted on April 7, 2013, when researching what had happened, that it was entirely possible. And Google makes money no matter what.

I wrote: ‘The publisher’s site gets blacklisted and it takes days for that to be lifted, so the earnings go down. Who gains? The hackers and Google.’

The quotations I included in the 2013 post are sobering, with other publishers negatively affected by Google’s systems and inaction.

This week, almost 10 years later, I came across this.
 

 

Google, still useless after all these years. But hey, as long as they’re making money, right? Because the rest of us sure as heck aren’t, at least not through anything they touch. Their core business is a negligence lawsuit just waiting to happen.


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Confused Google doesn’t understand email preferences

26.01.2023

As if to prove my point about lies, Google spammed me right after my last post. In its footer:
 

 

No, I didn’t. I logged into Google to see my settings. Sure enough:
 

 
As I always say, when it comes to computers, I’m right, they’re wrong. I have a better memory.

I unsubscribed:
 

 
But I’m not signed up to ‘News and tips’. Not on any menu. Remember, Google? What’s the point of managing my preferences when you don’t know how to use them?
 

 

Basically, they’ll spam you when they want regardless of what your settings are.

Where’s the accountability here? Or are they desperate to shore up things now that the US Department of Justice has suddenly discovered it has some balls to take them on in an antitrust case?


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‘Google … broke the web’

23.01.2023

Nice to see I’m not the only one who sees Google for what it is today. Warning: coarse language.
 

 

What’s bizarre is a reply I wrote largely in agreement (and had a few likes to) has vanished. Maybe some Google lovers didn’t like what I wrote?

Sometimes I can make the point better the second time around.

Strange, a reply I wrote in agreement has vanished.

Basically my earlier point was that Google has also destroyed a lot of legitimate publications’ earnings through depressing ad prices, diverting income to splogs, content mills and spun sites. Not to mention taking a decent cut for itself.

The whole enterprise is a massive con.

From a legal POV I would even say it was all foreseeable and a negligence lawsuit waiting for someone to take it on. It would be great to close it down.

The original reply linked to this post, which is also saying the emperor has no clothes—except this time it’s applied to Google. If Googlers are worried about that, then maybe I’ve cut very close to the chase. The one part which, when attacked, destroys the entire corrupt system.
 

 
PS.: Don Marti expresses my point far better than I did.
 


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When reverse image search services allege you’ve stolen work

23.12.2022

I think these are going to get more frequent. We received another copyright claim, accusing us of publishing a photograph without authorization. They wanted around €500, part of that for the licence, and part of that for running it since 2009.

This one, from a German company, was easier to deal with than an American firm that approached us with a similar accusation some years back, using the same tactic of including a pro forma invoice in the body of the email. I don’t remember the US firm’s name, and right now I’m not comfortable revealing the German firm’s since I’m still checking to see how legitimate they are.

I remember the Americans dragging it out over days, never answering the substantive parts of my legal arguments—gaslighting is part of their intimidation tactics. They wanted me to cough up, citing sections from our Copyright Act—an act which I knew better than they did and how the sections actually operated.

Their last email was citing one section which I knew they would fail on if they were to go to court, so I said, ‘You already have my response.’

They never actioned any lawsuit and I felt the whole thing was a scam. The way the American was avoiding getting to the core of the argument and not understanding commercial law (which could come into it as well as copyright law) told me as much.

Of course the image at issue was used legitimately, but in this case I didn’t have any evidence where it was from. All I knew were our procedures.

I never let on I had a law degree and he was emailing our main work email, so he never saw my signature file with my qualifications.

In this latest case, the approach was a little softer. In addition, things were a lot clearer, since I recall how we came to run the allegedly pirated photo of a Coty perfume: it came via a press release.

The beauty of having used Eudora as my email program—and still using it 27 years later—is being able to grab old mailboxes and load them up again.

And there it was, the press release from October 2009 in the inbox—twice, in fact, one sent to a former editor and one to our general media wire address. In there was the download link, which, happily, made it into the Internet Archive so I could confirm for myself that that was the source.

This German company had an online process where you could feed your evidence and details of your licence. I provided one of the releases and fed in the name and company of the person responsible. One of the companies was Coty, Inc., whom I very much doubt would not have made sure we in the press were covered.

In the message field I advised that if there were a claim for costs, they should approach Coty, Inc. and Coty SAS—all the while knowing that they would have secured the necessary licence.

Tonight, the German company emailed to say they would not pursue the claim further, which was a speedy resolution—but I wonder if they will continue going after people who got their image the same way but not having records stretch back that far. If they are con merchants, they will. If they’re legitimate and professional, they won’t.

A few things strike me here. The first is the timing: sending out on December 21 and demanding a reply by December 28. There’ll be offices that aren’t working through the Christmas break.

Secondly, my memory is that pro forma invoices, as far as New Zealand is concerned, are illegal. I can also think of them breaching other legislation. (N.B.: this blog post doesn’t constitute legal advice.)

Thirdly, will everyone still have their 2009 emails and will the Internet Archive have found the download link to spider? Unlikely—and this makes it unfair on the publisher.

Fourthly, I would say this claim falls outside the Limitation Act.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe photographers, indeed any author within the meaning of the Copyright Act, should be rewarded for their work. We send out DMCA notices a lot—but only after we have written a velvet-gloved email to the publisher or a comment on their blog.

I’ve even toyed with using such services ourselves over a series of articles, some hosted by Go Daddy who seems reluctant to have their customer remove them.

I would only consider them if I can identify the parties who have allegedly pirated, and not leave it to their systems, which appear to make overly sweeping approaches.

Further, I do not approve of the pro forma invoice tactic.

I can see through the legalese as I’ve had legal training and specialized in intellectual property. But I don’t believe everyone can see through it. They’re designed to intimidate, and based on some forum discussions, that intimidation works.

And I fear we are going to see many more of these. Like our experience earlier this year with a Spanish company, it seems they automate their processes too much, identifying piracy where there isn’t any. Gullible companies like Facebook and Google believe them and act against a smaller player.

Typically, copyright owners have turned a blind eye to the use of images of, say, packaging if the associated article is about them and promotional in nature (again, as this was—we alerted our readers to a fragrance launch).

I can’t promise you that we have records of every image we’ve used, because we might have clicked on the email server-side to get the download link, and Eudora’s filters took out the actual message once it was imported, for example. Or one of us went to a free photo site where an uploader hadn’t done their checks.

All I know is that we’ve behaved ourselves. I’d never accuse someone of doing something that they didn’t do and make my approach look like a scam. One hopes copyright reform will balance things on this front.


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Google’s advertising business is a negligence lawsuit waiting to be actioned

09.12.2022

Apparently the New Zealand government says Big Tech will pay a ‘fair price’ for local news content under new legislation.

Forget the newcomers like Stuff and The New Zealand Herald. The Fairfax Press, as the former was, was still running ‘The internet is scary’ stories at the turn of the century. What will Big Tech pay my firm? Any back pay? We have been in this game a long, long time. A lot longer than the newbies.

And what is the definition of ‘sharing’?

Because Google could be in for a lot.

Think about it this way: Google’s ad unit has enabled a lot of fake sites, scraped sites, spun sites, malware hosts, and the like, since anyone can sign up to be a publisher and start hosting their ads.

While Google will argue that they have nothing to do with the illegitimate usage of their services, some might look at it very differently.

Take the tort of negligence. To me this is classic Donahue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562 territory and as we’re at 90 years since Lord Atkins’ judgement, it offers us some useful pointers.

Lord Atkin stated, ‘You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be—persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.’

If you open up advertising to all actors (Google News also opens itself up to splogs), then is it foreseeable that unethical parties and bad faith actors will sign up? Yes. Is it foreseeable that they will host content illegally? Yes. Will this cause harm to the original copyright owner? Yes.

We also know a lot of these pirate sites are finding their content through Google News. Some have even told me so, since I tend to start with a softly, softly approach and send a polite request to a pirate.

I’d say a case in negligence is already shaping up.

If Google didn’t open up its advertising to all and sundry, then there would have been far fewer negative consequences—let’s not even get into surveillance, which is also a direct consequence of their policy and conduct.

Do companies that are online owe a duty of care to internet users? I’d say this is reasonable. I imagine some smaller firms might find it more difficult to get rid of a hacker, but overall, this seems reasonable.

Was this duty of care breached? Was there causation? By not vetting people signing up to the advertising programme, then yes. Pre-Google, ad networks were very careful, and I had the impression websites were approved on a case-by-case, manually reviewed basis. The mess the web is in, with people gaming search engines, with fake news sites (which really started as a way of making money), with advertising making pennies instead of dollars and scam artists all over the show, can all be traced to Google helping them monetize this conduct. There’s your obiter dicta right there. (Thanks to Amanda for remembering that term after all these years.)

Google hasn’t taken reasonable care, by design. And it’s done this for decades. And damages must be in the milliards to all legitimate publishers out there who have lost traffic to these unethical websites, who have seen advertising revenue plummet because of how Google has depressed the prices and how it feeds advertising to cheap websites that have cost their owners virtually nothing to run.

Make of this what you will. Now that governments are waking up after almost two decades, maybe Big Tech is only agreeing because it fears the rest of us will figure out that they owe way, way more than the pittance they’ll pay out under these legislative schemes?

Anyone with enough legal nous to give this a bash on behalf of the millions of legitimate publishers, past and present, directly harmed by Google and other Big Tech companies’ actions?


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Tesla to a typeface designer, and a big missed target

03.12.2022

Now that the quartet has been launched, it’s evident that Tesla’s naming strategy is all wrong. This is what they should be called.
 

 
On a related note:
 

 

Since I haven’t seen the March 15 video now circulating on OnlyKlans, I mean, Twitter, I can’t use the DIA reporting form. But those who have, should.

If it were a New Zealand website doing the distribution, a warning would have been issued at the least; and I bet it would have been blocked by now. The person running the site would probably have been charged. Basically what our government is signalling is that a foreign fascist sympathizer has greater freedoms than the rest of us. And what the opposition parties are signalling is that that’s OK, too, because here’s a real thing that they can sink their teeth into, but they prefer to gaslight over other stuff.

The Christchurch Call website has not been updated since September.

Anyone in politics who actually has some bollocks?


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Stop worshipping people based on wealth

28.11.2022


 
Salon is on to something.

I know from first-hand experience that those who hold political office are not always the smartest. When you run against others for the same job, it doesn’t take long to spot the less intelligent, some buoyed by privilege, others by an unshakeable belief in their invincibility.

Its headline: ‘Is America’s infatuation with billionaires finally coming to an end?’

Amanda Marcotte begins, ‘It has long been evident that Elon Musk is a moron, at least to those willing to see it. Well before the Tesla CEO overpaid for Twitter in the throes of a tantrum, there was a chorus of mostly-ignored people pointing out, repeatedly, that Musk’s mental maturity appeared to have stagnated around the sixth grade.’

After citing a handful of cases where Musk fell short, ‘The business and tech press would be startled at his dumb behavior, but within 48 to 72 hours, it was all forgotten and Musk went back to being covered as if he were a genius, if perhaps an eccentric one.’

I only personally know one milliardaire and he was a cut above the rest of us in brains.

But Marcotte notes that Musk, D. J. Trump, Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried are hardly geniuses, and takes aim at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, too.

If we can get this into our heads, we might stop a similar worship in this country. Just when did this start? Thatcherism? Rogernomics? Just because someone has made a few bob doesn’t make them a political messiah or great leader—so stop being their fans and start choosing people to support based on merit.

Here in Aotearoa we appear to have two main parties bereft of ideas, with the opposition so desperate it wishes to import the culture wars from the US while gaslighting whenever possible. Neither is particularly palatable to me, and thanks to MMP, I’m going to be quite happy to look at the next tier, as I have done for more General Elections than not. Greens? TOP? Not ACT.
 
When I think about some rich guys I’ve had run-ins with—including one I had to sue at the start of my career (and beat)—there’s one thing that ties them together. They have to be slaves to the system, the establishment. They have to play by its rules in order to retain their directorships and social standing. They have to walk the tightrope of convention. They have to conform. Ironically, the more to the right of politics you go here (and the more individual freedom is preached), the more conformity there appears to be. Conformity is valued over merit or honour. This explains Sam Uffindell.

How bloody boring is that? I’m so deeply grateful, particularly to my family, for giving me the chance to be my own person and walk the freer path that I create. My grandmother, mother and father all happy to support my interests as an infant and letting me draw all over newspapers and magazines. My mother for encouraging me to follow my interests in design. My father for literally working behind the scenes for decades to help build my businesses. Conformity is for suckers. Innovation and societal advancement never came from conformity, and societies are better for it.


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Google libels, and gets away with it

08.09.2022

This isn’t a dig at Red Points or Hearst this time, since I received an apology and they did what they said: the DMCA claim notices were withdrawn and they have revised their systems. If anything, Hearst SL wound up quite cordial, as their New York office has tended to be in my dealings with them.

This is a dig at Google who only today sent what appears to be the final confirmation that our URLs have been reinstated.

This sorry saga began on August 17 and essentially Google told people searching for various terms that we were thieves till today.

The fact this virtual monopoly can libel someone with impunity—and has done so for years—should disturb any right-thinking person.
 
Speaking of Google, we gave in and connected the revised about.shtml page on the Lucire website to a current page. This was a page we hadn’t linked since the 2000s, but kept coming up high on site:lucire.com searches on Google and, formerly, Bing.

Since I typically don’t use Google for searches, and have not done regularly for a dozen years, I had no idea until investigating the collapse of Bing’s index recently. (Itʼs still just as compromised, despite claiming it has a higher number of results for any given search. I see no real evidence of this.)

Admittedly, people might seek an ‘About’ page, so instead of their reading a 2004 page, we took the content from our licensing website and created a new one. The old one is linked from there, as it’s quite a novelty.


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The Red Points saga: this might finally be resolved

24.08.2022

Nine days since the first DMCA notice was lobbed against us, the saga has finally reached the powers-that-be at Hearst SL.

And once it did, things began happening quickly. I’ve heard from their head of legal, and what he’s outlined to me seems like a good resolution to the whole saga.

He tells me some changes have been made to Red Points Solution SL’s processes, which I think is a good outcome if it saves others the grief of what I’ve had to deal with—especially while contending with publishing deadlines and the day-to-day running of a company. It was a bigger distraction than I would have liked to admit.

In a gesture of goodwill, I offered to set to private the two stories we published on the Lucire website over the whole affair.

I suggested to him that I update everyone here, since you might have thought that the disappearance of the two articles was down to Red Points!

I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have contact email addresses for senior VPs at Hearst Communications, Inc. or former Lucire team members who wound up working for Hearst. Or how someone without a legal background specializing in IP would have felt. Not everyone would be in this position.

It’s still concerning to me that Google continues to state that results have been removed in site searches for us, and for the topics those articles covered. Basically, they’re saying we’re thieves, and I don’t think that’s fair dinkum. As Google works at a glacial pace, I assume the notices will eventually disappear once they receive Red Points’ withdrawals.

I’ve also received an apology from Red Points’ CMO. The gentlemanly thing to do is to accept it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google to stop saying we stole stuff.


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