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Amazon Pirate Firefox Plugin Was Art Project
A 'practical experiment' Amazon lawyers didn't like much...
by Karl Bode 01:20PM Friday Dec 05 2008 Tipped by Cheese See Profile
User Cheese See Profile sends in a link to this Daily Tech report that claims Amazon's lawyers quickly killed a new Firefox plugin that directed Amazon shoppers to free, pirated alternatives via a link next to every book, CD, or film. Meanwhile, Wired's Threat Level Blog contacted the Pirate Bay, who say they weren't responsible for the plugin. However, a short while ago, we noticed the plugin's website changed, claiming the entire thing was simply a Netherlands art school project aimed at studying the response to the plugin:
quote:
"Pirates of the Amazon" was an artistic parody, part of our media research and education at the Media Design M.A. course at the Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was a practical experiment on interface design, information access and currently debated issues in media culture. We were surprised by the attentions and the strong reactions this project received. Ultimately, the value of the project lies in these reactions. It is a ready-made and social sculpture of contemporary internet user culture.
The website claims that one day after publishing the plugin, they received a legal takedown notice from Amazon. Guess we'll have to wait and see whether Amazon lawyers are big art aficionados, and whether this was simply a post-release attempt by the plugin's author to cover his legal posterior.

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Matt3
All noise, no signal.
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join:2003-07-20
Jamestown, NC
kudos:12

Yeah ... right

Someone is in CYA mode.

FFH
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Tavistock NJ
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Re: Yeah ... right

said by Matt3:

Someone is in CYA mode.
I agree. I'll bet the school involved got real worried after the schools students put this project out for public consumption.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
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1 recommendation

So when you get caught in a stolen car, your new defense should be "I was just testing the anti-theft security --- for my school project!!"
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini
Kearnstd
Space Elf
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i personally think this plugin was rather funny, just to see the MAFIAA shit themselves.
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[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

The Limit
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Greensboro, NC
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1 edit

And what do we know about the Netherlands?

That's a little TOO random. Someone behind the scenes is pulling the strings more than likely. Hmm, the pirate bay may not be responsible for the link, but what about the content found on the pirate bay? I guess they aren't responsible for what's on their website?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like a red herring has wormed it's way in on this, and someone bit.
DTStone

join:2008-08-05
Cincinnatus, NY

Pirate Bay...

Pirate Bay hosts no content. It's just a search engine.

The 'art project' thing is, however, rather amusing.

jjoshua
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kudos:3
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1 edit

Amazon who?

What was Amazon's reason for the takedown notice?

Surely, there is no reason to stop someone from distributing a plug-in and surely there is no reason to stop people from installing it if they want to.

The plug-in could have redirected people to the Border's web site instead of TPB. No difference.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Re: Amazon who?

It is a copyrighted website that is being altered.

That would be my guess as to the reason the would give.
amigo_boy

join:2005-07-22

1 recommendation

Re: Amazon who?

said by Skippy25:

It is a copyrighted website that is being altered.
That's an interesting proposition. Once they deliver the page to me, it should be mine to do whatever I want as long as I don't distribute a derivative work.

If modifying a page delivered to my machine (to be displayed to me) is a problem, it seems like Ad Block Plus would be too.

Mark
k1ll3rdr4g0n

join:2005-03-19
Homer Glen, IL

Re: Amazon who?

said by amigo_boy:

said by Skippy25:

It is a copyrighted website that is being altered.
That's an interesting proposition. Once they deliver the page to me, it should be mine to do whatever I want as long as I don't distribute a derivative work.

If modifying a page delivered to my machine (to be displayed to me) is a problem, it seems like Ad Block Plus would be too.

Mark
This is correct. Once you visit the website, it is cached data that resides on your HD. You own the right to modify the bits on that HD, but let me make it clear you do NOT own the right to the content but you have the right to modify the content as you please. However, redistributing the content would probably be crossing the line, but if its a modification for personal use only, it would be kinda hard to argue that in court.

For those who want to argue this. What can you argue? That you don't have the right to read/write/delete data (bits) to your own HD? Yeah, let me know when you find a law that says that .

ninjatutle
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Chicken sheets

haha

Dogfather
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Laguna Hills, CA

3 edits

Under what law can Amazon take action?

FBI sure. The MPAA/RIAA sure. My point is those products aren't Amazon's intellectual property so how is this plug in actionable by Amazon's lawyers?

With their logic any "price comparing" plug-in that directs away from Amazon products would be actionable.

Karl Bode
News Guy
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2 edits

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

I was curious about this as well, and fired an e-mail to a lawyer friend. Would there be much of a case against a plugin, created in the Netherlands, that doesn't actually change the target website?

Morac
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Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by Karl Bode:

I was curious about this as well, and fired an e-mail to a lawyer friend. Would there be much of a case against a plugin, created in the Netherlands, that doesn't actually change the target website?
The thing about law suits (in the U.S.) is that anyone can file a law suit against anyone else for any reason. The only thing it takes is money for court costs and lawyer fees. Once a person is sued, they have to respond otherwise he/she will lose the suit.

If a large corporation decides to sue you, it's going to take a large amount of money and time to defend yourself, even if you have a good chance of winning the suit.

This is the MPAA/RIAA's method of operation. Many people would rather settle than go through that process.
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RARPSL

join:1999-12-08
Suffern, NY

1 recommendation

said by Karl Bode:

I was curious about this as well, and fired an e-mail to a lawyer friend. Would there be much of a case against a plugin, created in the Netherlands, that doesn't actually change the target website?
It did however change the display of the Web Site between the time it was sent by Amazon and when it was displayed on the user's screen. Thus it was, in theory, in the same class as the man-in-the-middle injection of ads that was occurring a while back and was discussed here. Thus I think that the same arguments that applied to the Ad Injection can be claimed to apply here. I am not saying that Amazon has a case but only that one may be possible to make.
8744675

join:2000-10-10
Decatur, GA

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

The link scanner on my antivirus changes the display of search results from Google, by placing an green icon next to links it deems safe to visit. It does it on my PC as the page is loading, and is somethng I willfully installed. Same as the Amazon plugin. Amazon has no say what happens on your own PC with a plug-in you installed yourself. It only changes your view of the page, not everybody's.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
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1 edit
if it really was where it says its from it US laws would be totally powerless and if the MAFIAA wanted action they would have to suffer the stress of Netherlands laws where they dont already have 60% share of the government on their payroll.
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[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports
openbox9
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Germany
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Copyright violation? Infecting content into Amazon's copyrighted webpages?

Dogfather
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Laguna Hills, CA

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

I've never actually seen screenies of how it works. Does it 'inject' into the HTML sorta like Nebuad? On the flip side, the end user can certainly pick and choose what they want to display (just like ad blocking). In this respect, it's not like Nebuad when changed the HTML code (to inject the javascript that inserted the ads) whether the end users wanted it changed or not.

RARPSL

join:1999-12-08
Suffern, NY

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by Dogfather:

I've never actually seen screenies of how it works. Does it 'inject' into the HTML sorta like Nebuad? On the flip side, the end user can certainly pick and choose what they want to display (just like ad blocking). In this respect, it's not like Nebuad when changed the HTML code (to inject the javascript that inserted the ads) whether the end users wanted it changed or not.
Yes it is injecting into the HTML in that it places a hotlink area image that if/when clicked will send you to PirateBay.
SilverSurfer1

join:2007-08-19

2 edits

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by RARPSL:

said by Dogfather:

I've never actually seen screenies of how it works. Does it 'inject' into the HTML sorta like Nebuad? On the flip side, the end user can certainly pick and choose what they want to display (just like ad blocking). In this respect, it's not like Nebuad when changed the HTML code (to inject the javascript that inserted the ads) whether the end users wanted it changed or not.
Yes it is injecting into the HTML in that it places a hotlink area image that if/when clicked will send you to PirateBay.
But the plugin does not inherently change the code to anyone else's pc except the person who installed it to his or her browser, therefore, Amazon has no cause of action. What they do have, however, are very deep pockets with a fleet of in-house attorneys which is why the plugin was quickly labeled an art school project.

The bottom line is that the plugin in question does not infringe upon Amazon's Intellectual Property anymore so than extensions such as No Script and/or AdBlock Plus, et al. Unfortunately, the creators weren't willing to go head-to-head against the suit. And who could really blame them. The case, however, should be fwded to the EFF for further review since this is a clear cut case of the chilling of free speech, and by association, innovation.
amigo_boy

join:2005-07-22

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by SilverSurfer1:

The bottom line is that the plugin in question does not infringe upon Amazon's Intellectual Property anymore ...
The plugin is creating a derivative work. I can kind of see Amazon's point that it is defeating their IP in searching/selling.

I think the question is whether it's the recipient, installing a plug-in to create a derivative for themself. Or, the plug-in maker creating derivatives for many people who choose to install the plug-in (and therefore "distributing" derivatives of copyrighted works).

This seems like the old broadcast argument in the early 80s. People bought antennas to pickup pay-for tv they didn't pay for. The argument was, you put it in my home, it's mine. The broadcasters encrypted their signal. Then people began making chips to decrypt the signal. Suddenly the act of decrypting signals sent into your home was illegal. And, providing chips to help people do it was illegal. The juice was in attacking the chip makers, not those who bought the chip (which was impossible).

I could see sites like Amazon arguing a similar point. Attacking those who facilitate creating a derivative instead of the individual who creates the derivative.

Mark

Dogfather
Premium
join:2007-12-26
Laguna Hills, CA

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

But it's not a 3rd party doing the changing. It's the user doing it, just as if you installed an ad-blocker or changed the fonts.
amigo_boy

join:2005-07-22

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by Dogfather:

But it's not a 3rd party doing the changing. It's the user doing it, just as if you installed an ad-blocker
I agree. I'm just saying I can see at least a basis for their point. The principle has already been established in the early '80s (pirate tv kits) that helping people do something carries more weight than the individual doing it.

said by Dogfather:

just as if you installed an ad-blocker, or changed the fonts.
I agree that it would have far-reaching implications. But, it's not as simple as changing fonts. The supplier of the page probably doesn't have a profit interest in the fonts. But, they do in the products/prices displayed using those fonts.

I don't like it, but I predict this topic has legs. It will only be a matter of time until someone attacks Ad Block Plus.

Mark

Dogfather
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Laguna Hills, CA

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

That is what I was wondering. Certainly piracy or aiding piracy is illegal, but that is a job for the FBI and the owners of the intellectual property. I don't see what Amazon could do about it as it's not their content being infringed. I have a right to change how a page renders on my screen just as I have a right mute a TV broadcast during a commercial or even fast forward through it.

IMO, it just ends up being a lawyer-letter aiming to scare someone into compliance and I don't think Amazon could prevail if it actually went to trial.
amigo_boy

join:2005-07-22

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by Dogfather:

I have a right to change how a page renders on my screen just as I have a right mute a TV broadcast during a commercial or even fast forward through it.
I see your point. But, browsing a web site might be different. This might be a culmination of various legal changes over the years. That 1) you don't own anything beamed into your home. 2) So-called shrinkwrap licensing (a subtle way to modify copyright and enter you into a contract without proper deliberation and consummation).

All someone has to do is alter the concept of shrinkwrap licensing *slightly* and say that just visiting a site you accept the ToS, blah, blah.

I don't know. I just think I'm seeing the future. Not that I like it.

Mark

POB
Res Firma Mitescere Nescit
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Stepford, CA

Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by amigo_boy:

This might be a culmination of various legal changes over the years. That 1) you don't own anything beamed into your home. 2) So-called shrinkwrap licensing (a subtle way to modify copyright and enter you into a contract without proper deliberation and
consummation). [...] All someone has to do is alter the concept of shrinkwrap licensing *slightly* and say that just visiting a site you accept the ToS
Not only is that a leap of logic you're making there, it also completely voids established case law. Just because XYX corporation inserts a clause in its ToS, doesn't make it legal to equate content that is received in the home via any mechanism as borrowed and therefore, something to paid for repeatedly with each viewing. The MAFIAA would dearly love this to be the law, however, wishing does not make it so.
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amigo_boy

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Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by POB:

[Not only is that a leap of logic you're making there, it also completely voids established case law. Just because ...
I agree. But, that's the same hubris offered in the late '70s, early '80s concerning some early pay-per-view teevee that was broadcast over microwave(?). At that time nobody could believe that anything broadcast over the air, into your home, could be protected from your use.

I don't think it would take much more of a stretch to apply the same concept to web pages (with a dose of shrinkwrap, "usage equals acceptance" stuff).

Again. I don't like it. But, if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on that outcome.

Mark

POB
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Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by amigo_boy:

I don't think it would take much more of a stretch to apply the same concept to web pages (with a dose of shrinkwrap, "usage equals acceptance" stuff).

What you're describing is called a contract of adhesion and they are frequently heavily tilted in favor of one entity over another, however when challenged, they don't hold up legally. As f*cked up as IP law is becoming in the U.S., specifically, copyright law, I don't think it will come to that without a lot of kicking/screaming and a whole lot of bad PR for the litigator(s). The only reason Amazon isn't leaning harder on Enrique B. & John S., creators of the plugin, is because it knows it has the propensity to be a PR nightmare and generate a lot of consumer backlash.
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amigo_boy

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Re: Under what law can Amazon take action?

said by POB:

As f*cked up as IP law is becoming in the U.S., specifically, copyright law,
I agree with that. It's really disgusting how a balance between social moderation in property transfers (to promote creative people to create by facilitating a market for them in return for social benefit via the "public domain") has become so perverted over the past 40 years. It went from 28-year durations (with optional renewals for another 28 years, which often weren't requested) to something like "life of the author + 75."

We've gone from encouraging creative people to create, to giving their heirs (like Julian Lennon) no reason to work at all.

And the crazy thing is, the Public Domain receives *nothing*. Windows 3.1 won't enter the Public Domain until around 2060. It wouldn't be useful to anyone today, let alone 50 years from now.

So, Bill Gates used the social device called "copyright" to facilitate his commerce (instead of a staff of salespeople to enter into licenses with every purchaser). And society's Public Domain receives nothing in return. And, to top it off, Gates uses "shrinkwrap" licensing to give himself even *more* than copyright offers.

I think there's a huge opportunity for civil disobedience (violating copyright, EULAs, etc.). But, most people who do that aren't even aware of these larger issues. They just do it to get something for nothing (the same calculus Gates uses).

Mark

PolarBear03
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Anyone care to share

Crap, I didn't get a chance to grab the plug-in. Anyone wanna email it to me?

•••

dadkins
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Ha Ha!

Funny as hell!

Doctor Four
My other vehicle is a TARDIS
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The correct response to Amazon is to file a counterclaim

If in fact this was considered a parody and art as the authors claimed, they ought to file a counterclaim against Amazon's DMCA takedown notice.

I wonder if they got in touch with the EFF, and what they might say about this. It sounds like something which is within the scope of their work.
--
"The trouble with computers, of course, is that they are very sophisticated idiots." - Doctor Who (from Robot)

Ytsejamer1

join:2008-01-18
Somersworth, NH

1 edit

gave it a whirl...

It was an interesting little application. At first I couldn't see what it was doing, I had to refresh the page a couple of times before I saw anything.

I did try it twice at work, and twice at home. Earlier in the day it actually pointed to a torrent that contained the content i had clicked on. (both times the content was NOT downloaded - CYA here) Later on, I tried it on two different CDs and twice it pointed to the wrong content.

I have since uninstalled it, but damn...that's blatant...but slicker'n'snot.

SlickEnW
Premium
join:2003-01-21
Seattle, WA

Just for this...

I'm going to go to Amazon's headquarters here in Seattle and giggle.

insomniac84

join:2002-01-03
Schererville, IN

What a joke.

If it was art they would have posted pictures of it. Not released the program to the public. It was a project just like any other software project. They deserve to be sued just for trying to call it art.