The violation of the CFAA — commonly referred to as ‘hacking’ — carries a minimum two year sentence, and Moore faces up to seven years in prison. It’s incredibly unlikely that Moore will receive the full seven years. More also faces fines which may reach as high as $500,000.
Moore’s charges stem from allegations, which he has admitted, that he solicited and paid co-defendant Charlie Evens to access e-mail accounts and search for nude photos, which Moore would then post on his website, IsAnyoneUp.
Evens still faces trial in March. There is no plea agreement with Evens that has been made public, if one exists, and Moore’s agreement does not include any indication that he has agreed to testify against Evens.
Last month, Ares Rights found itself the subject of renewed media attention asking whether the government of Ecuador employs the peculiar Spanish firm to deploy bogus copyright notices in an effort to censor or harass political dissidents.
(For background, you can read my original summary how Ares Rights has purported — for years – to act forf governments and officials of Ecuador and Argentina, to abuse American copyright law to remove criticism — including this very website.)
I’d begun to suspect that Ares Rights had decided to lay low for awhile, or perhaps that its ties to the government had been severed altogether — if they existed at all, anyway, as the rare statements by their purported ‘clients’ have been to deny that a contractual relationship exists. Comedic satirist John Oliver’s absolutely brutal takedown of Correa’s live-on-television doxing of his Twitter and Facebook critics only added fuel to criticism of Correa’s intolerance of dissent. (Curiously, HBO’s re-run of the episode was broadcast throughout South America –except Ecuador.)
But now, Ares Rights is back. In DMCA notices sent to YouTube, Ares Rights once again purports to act on behalf of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa (who, to my knowledge, has never denied hiring Ares Rights, even when addressing the issue), Ecuador’s state-funded television outlet ECTV (which has denied having a contractual relationship with Ares Rights), and Correa’s official television broadcasts. One of the DMCA notices sent to YouTube by Ares Rights is below.
The YouTube videos targeted by Ares Rights consist of a documentary criticizing journalistic freedom under Correa’s government. A few short clips of Correa’s televised addresses on his official program on ECTV are interwoven among interviews with various free speech advocates. In any nation with a remotely sane copyright law or a modicum of respect for the freedom of political speech, these would be fair uses exempt from claims of copyright. When the words of a politician can be subject to copyright, then the politician need only seek the removal of his own words when they’re used to criticize him.
In addition to the few clips of Correa’s speeches — which, with his handheld microphone, look more like televised sermons — the only other clip which originates from Correa’s government or television network is an advertisement, apparently produced by the communications arm of Ecuador’s government, which should be in any respectable documentary about freedom of speech in Ecuador, because it is alarming and has no place in a coherent democracy. In the ad, a woman and her son are appalled when they gather around the breakfast table and read a newspaper headline declaring, “Drunk woman crashes with her young lover.” The son says, “but mom, that’s a photo of you driving me to school.” Then the words literally start attacking the woman, and the son tells the viewer that a new communications law is needed to protect freedom of speech, as opposed to freedom of ‘distortion':
The above clip is identified in Ares Rights’ takedown notice as infringing on its putative clients’ rights. Critics of Ecuador can’t even reprint its official government propaganda in the context of criticizing it, because copyright. The government’s words, whether from the mouth of Correa or in the form of a slick public ‘service’ announcement, must come from “authorized official channels”, per Ares Rights’ claim.
The true role of Ares Rights remains unclear. Have they been hired by Correa or his government? Or are they acting independently? Until these questions are answered — and perhaps after they’re eventually answered — the content targeted by Ares Rights should be viewed and shared. Someone, whether officially sanctioned or not, doesn’t want them to be seen. Those efforts should — and must — backfire.
Kevin Christopher Bollaert has been convicted of 27 counts of felony extortion and identity theft in connection with his operation of revenge porn site YouGotPosted.com and its extortionate partner, ChangeMyReputation.com. Bollaert was acquitted of conspiracy and one charge of identity theft. More than thirty women testified to payments demanded by Bollaert’s operation.
I first identified the extortionate and fraudulent practice of Bollaert and his partner, Eric Chanson, almost a year before Bollaert’s indictment. 1 The state’s evidence — which I will detail in an update to this post later this evening — demonstrated that Bollaert operated both the revenge porn site and ChangeMyReputation, which purported to be an independent company that could remove the photos from YouGotPosted.com. Chanson, at some point — apparently after my initial post — asked Bollaert to disassociate Chanson’s name from the sites, but Chanson’s accounts were used to establish the means of soliciting payments through ChangeMyReputation. My research demonstrated that, among other things, emails sent from both YouGotPosted and ChangeMyReputation originated from the same San Diego IP address, and that the “ChangeMyReputation” operator could not identify a single other site from which photos could be removed. At the time, I called this practice “extortionate.”
After a friend — who shall remain nameless, but to whom much gratitude is owed — assisted in terminating the site’s PayPal account, Bollaert began demanding that victims pay him in Amazon gift cards. Bollaert shut down the sites almost immediately after law enforcement contacted him.
I won’t pretend to have an educated guess as to the amount of time Bollaert faces, but it’s safe to say that it’s substantial. While I could not attend the trial, I do hope to attend the sentencing.
Bollaert did raise what appears to be a defense based, in part, on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I would be surprised if this verdict were not appealed, as it’s circumspect as to whether the extortion and, in particular, identity theft charges impermissibly treat Bollaert as a publisher, which would prevent prosecution at the hands of state authorities.
I don’t know whether law enforcement relied on my research in targeting Bolleart. I can only hope. ↩
Perhaps inappropriately so. My contribution amounted to writing a blog post. The real credit goes to the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who were willing to listen and try a difficult case, the attorneys who sued these guys pro bono, and, most importantly, the dozens of victims who were willing to speak up. ↩
It’s been almost two years since we last heard from Craig Brittain, one-time proprietor of revenge porn site “Is Anybody Down?”, but he has reappeared to apologize for the harm that his site laid upon its hundreds of victims, promising to make amends by returning the payments he extorted through his fake “lawyer,” “David Blade III.”
The revolving door of attorneys momentarily employed by censorious asshats Roca Labs has now produced this gem: the company wants to amend its complaint in its suit against PissedConsumer.com to allege that it’s defamatory to call them “censorious asshats” (which they are.)
In a complaint so long — clocking in at three hundred and fifty-four paragraphs — and saturated with images that it had to be sent to the court in four separate files, Roca “Censorious Asshats™” Labs is very angry. I’ve stitched the complaint together below, if your computer is capable of handling seventy-four pages of censorious asshattery.
From the Athens Banner-Herald comes a report of two people escorted by Athens, Georgia police officers from a high school basketball game because they wore t-shirts apparently sympathetic to alleged murderers. The article does not suggest that either of the two expelled persons disrupted the event or otherwise acted unruly. They simply wore t-shirts, one depicting a photograph of Andre Ruff smoking marijuana and the other depicting mug shots of Ruff and Cormaine Goss. Both shirts included the slogan “free my family,” and one of the people wearing the shirts is apparently related to Goss. Ruff and Goss were recently arrested on charges of murdering a student at the University of Georgia.
Sometimes the best response to a censorious threat of litigation — especially when the saber-rattler has a lengthy history of filing dumb lawsuits — is to show up first and put them on the defensive.
Roca Labs’ litigation history is fairly extensive for the short period of time in which they’ve made the courts their sandbox, so I won’t repeat it here, but Techdirt’s coverage has been fairly comprehensive and is well worth perusal. In short, Roca Labs is a Florida company which produces a nutritional supplement purporting to allow amazing weight loss, but it’s so amazing that in order to buy it, you have to promise not to criticize the company. Roca has issued threats of defamation lawsuits against many critics and has followed through on some of them, including a series of lawsuits targeting consumer gripe site PissedConsumer.com and reviewers who criticized Roca on that site. These lawsuits are frivolous abuses of the legal system designed to intimidate critics into silence.
Around the time that Roca Labs was losing its quest for a court order mandating that PissedConsumer stop letting people criticize the company, Roca issued a demand under the DMCA, asserting that PissedConsumer was using a thumbnail version of Roca’s logo and a photograph of Roca’s product. Plus, the complaint continued, PissedConsumer was infringing on Roca’s trademark by using its name “in the URL and pages.”
Had Google accepted Roca’s complaint, it likely would have resulted in Google removing the PissedConsumer criticism of Roca Labs from Google’s search results. Of course, this is exactly what Roca is trying to do, as it has gone as far as to file a lawsuit with that explicit goal. And, of course, it didn’t work.
Now PissedConsumer is going on the offensive, filing a lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida under the DMCA. PissedConsumer alleges that Roca Labs knew or should have known that its DMCA takedown notice was frivolous, as the use of the logo was clearly a fair use, rendering Roca Labs liable for damages caused under 512(f). While there are some potential pitfalls for this claim — I won’t help Roca by pointing them out here — there is some support for the notion that a takedown notice issued against clear fair uses runs afoul of 512(f). Plus, PissedConsumer has added a cause of action for Roca Labs’ attempted use of the DMCA to assert a trademark right, which was clearly an inappropriate use of the DMCA takedown mechanism.
PissedConsumer is also seeking declaratory relief that its use of Roca’s name did not infringe on its trademark, as well as declaratory relief that various statements — for example, that “Roca Labs […] believes that it can silence you through fear and intimidation directed at Pissed Consumer” — are not defamatory. Because they aren’t. PissedConsumer also asserts that Roca’s conduct has amounted to an abuse of process. Which it is.
Jason Willick of the Stanford Political Journal has a well-considered post criticizing Stanford’s recent suspension of a fraternity’s housing ‘privileges’ over an evening of patently offensive, misogynistic jokes. 1 Willick’s criticism effortlessly weaves themes of free speech, from the evolution of speech codes to Charlie Hebdo. You should read it.
Were Stanford a public university, its suspension of the fraternity’s housing privileges would likely violate the First Amendment: uncouth, cringeworthy jokes do not fall within any exception to the First Amendment. But Stanford is a private institution and a private institution can dictate what is acceptable discourse.
Except in California. And definitely not when you’re Leland Stanford Junior University. Because when you’re Stanford, a California judge has already explained this to you.
Stanford’s press release — which Willick rightly notes “presents the facts in the light most favorable” to Stanford — also chalks up its actions to a few other concerns, including reports of women being drugged, but concedes that these reports “could not be substantiated.” ↩
In September, Ares Rights directed three DMCA takedown notices to my web host, demanding removal of an entire post because it contained “private and not public data” — that is, an “address, email and telephone” — and “a document with copyright.” The complaint also implied that the post infringed on a trademark. The post in question, however, had redacted any contact information and the ‘copyright’ in question arose from a composite image created by a newspaper which contained the logo of Ares Rights.
Yesterday, Ares Rights 1 tried its luck again, complaining to Twitter that I had tweeted an image linking Ares Rights to (what appears to be) a DMCA notice to Facebook targeting a critic of Ecuador’s government — a notice purportedly sent on behalf of Ecuador’s state-owned television station ECTV. The complaint cited a violation of Twitter’s “rules regarding posting information or images that the individual claims as private.” Twitter suspended my account until I promised to comply with the rules, then deleted the tweet in question. That tweet and the complaint I received from Twitter are below.
The ‘private’ information consisted of an email address belonging to Ares Rights: a professional address associated with a firm purporting to act on behalf of the government of Ecuador. That email address is easily found on the Chilling Effects database of DMCA notices.
Twitter is, of course, free to establish their own rules and enforce them as they please. Their sandbox, their rules. 2 But Ares Rights’ invocation of ‘privacy’ is a fig leaf. The firm is engaging in a pattern and practice of cynically invoking laws or policies, whether in copyright or privacy, to attempt to harass and intimidate critics of Ares Rights or Ecuador. I’m not the only critic of Ares Rights to be targeted in this manner. Twitter has repeatedly yielded to these demands, so Ares Rights will continue to abuse them.
Ares Rights presumably sent the notice. Twitter does not disclose the identity of the sender. But what are the odds that someone else would be interested in a three-month-old tweet about Ares Rights? And what are the odds that someone else is dedicated enough to do this to multiple critics of Ares Rights? Given Ares’ record of invoking dubious policies to harass critics, I would be surprised if this were not Ares Rights. ↩