[Plura-list] Davis Haunters rise from the grave; RIAA kills youtube-dl

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Oct 24 10:29:03 EDT 2020


This weekend's events:

Milehicon (Fri/Sat/Sun): https://milehicon.org/

Toronto International Festival of Authors (Sat):


Today's links

* Davis Haunters rise from the grave: Oregon's Hallowe'en is saved.

* RIAA kills youtube-dl: Everything not forbidden is mandatory.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


👻 Davis Haunters rise from the grave

The Davis Graveyard is a Portland, Oregon treasure: a family run,
nonprofit annual haunt that is indescribably ambitious, spooky and
brilliantly executed.


The Davises have been serving their city for more than a decade, but in
Sept they announced that they would not be putting on a show this year,
due to the risk of exacerbating the pandemic. It was a heartbreak, but
it was also the right call.

But this story has a happy ending. The Clackamas County Scare Fair is a
20-30 minute drive-through, pandemic-safe haunt with a soundtrack
broadcast on low-power FM radio, and the Davis Haunt has been integrated
into it!


Tickets are $20 for "as many people as you can legally fit in your car"
or $11 for a solo. It's yet another reason I wish I lived in the region
(I tried to move my family there in 2015 when we emigrated to the USA,
but we ended up in LA, which has some badass haunts, too).

Dan "Journal of Ride Theory" Howland says "This is going to be a cross
between Lion Country Safari and The Haunted Mansion!"


👻 RIAA kills youtube-dl

In 1998, Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act into
law. At the time, most of the attention was on Section 512 - AKA "notice
and takedown," which absolves platforms from liability for users'
infringement provided they respond quickly to removal demands.

Over the years, this has been horrifically abused, with everyone from
post-Soviet dictators to sexual predators to cults and literal Nazis
using spurious copyright claims to censor their critics, often without

But the real ticking time-bomb in the DMCA is Section 1201, the
"anti-circumvention" rule, which makes it a felony (punishing by a
5-year prison sentence and a $500k fine) to help people tamper with
"access controls" that restrict copyrighted works.

This rule means that if a company designs its products so that you have
to remove DRM to use them in legal ways, those uses become felonies.
DMCA 1201 is how Apple and John Deere make it a felony for anyone except
them to fix their products.

They just design their devices so that after the repair is complete, you
need an unlock code to get the system to recognize new parts. Bypassing
the unlock code defeats an "access control" and is thus a literal crime.

But there's no copyright infringement here! Swapping a new part into a
phone, a tractor or a ventilator is not a copyright infringement. And
yet, it is still a (criminal) copyright VIOLATION. DMCA 1201 lets
companies felonize ANY conduct that is adverse to their shareholders.

It's "felony contempt of business model" and you can go to prison for it.

Thing is, it would be easy to fix this law. If you thought that DRM
deserved its own legal protection, you could get there just by adding
"this only applies when copyright infringement takes place."

But from the very first days, it was clear that DMCA1201 was NOT about
preventing copyright infringement, it was about enforcing business
models. The first users of this law were DVD manufacturers who wanted to
stop the public from "de-regionalizing" their DVD players.

The manufacturers and studios had cooked up a racket where they would
sell DVDs at different prices in different countries, and they didn't
want Americans shopping for cheap DVDs in India.

But going into a store in Mumbai and paying the asking price for a
licensed DVD and watching it in NYC is NOT infringement. It is how
copyright is supposed to work: a rightsholder names a price, an audience
member pays it, then they get to enjoy the work they've bought.

Likewise the early consoles that also took advantage of DMCA 1201. If
you own a Sega Dreamcast and I write a game for your Sega Dreamcast and
sell it to you, we are doing copyright right: a creator and an audience
member exchanging creative works for money.

But Sega - and the App Store businesses it spawned up to and including
Apple - used DMCA 1201 to make it a felony for creators to sell their
works to audiences without cutting the device manufacturer in for a

Now that everything has software in it, DMCA 1201 can be brought to bear
on an ever-widening constellation of devices, from medical implants to
kitchen appliances, from printer ink to insulin pumps.

My novella Unauthorized Bread is fiction, but the DRM abuses in it are
deadass real:


The metastasis of DRM is a gift to monopolists, who can corral
customers, independent competitors and toolsmiths into arrangements of
their design.

When the Napster Wars began, the RIAA represented the Big Six record
labels. Today, it represents the Big THREE labels, as an entire realm of
human endeavor stretching back to a time before language itself is now
the near-exclusive purview of three giant corporations.

They are tightening the noose. Yesterday, the RIAA sent a DMCA 1201
takedown notice to Github demanding the removal of youtube-dl, a
venerable and popular tool for format-shifting Youtube videos.


As Parker Higgins documents in a brilliant, scathing thread, the
complaint is a masterwork of legal shenanigans, claiming that because
someone COULD infringe an RIAA member's copyright by saving a Youtube
video, Github MUST remove tools that permit this.


The RIAA's lawyers don't mention the millions of hours of public domain
Youtube videos that archivists have preserved using youtube-dl, nor the
Creative Commons licensed videos that are unambiguously lawful to
download with youtube-dl.

Nor do they mentions the limitations to copyright that sometimes make it
lawful to download ANY video from Youtube.

DMCA 1201 isn't just a charter to transform your commercial desires into
legal obligations, it is also a powerful censorship tool.

I started this essay talking about DMCA 512, the "notice and takedown"
rule. That says that if you believe your copyright is being infringed,
you can fire off a notice to the host and demand its immediate removal.
If they comply, you can sue their user, but not them.

In 1998, Congress recognized that this was ripe for abuse, and created a
"counternotice": if your material is taken down and you think you are in
the right, you can counternotify the host and they can put your stuff
back up, again, without being liable if you're wrong.

If the rightsholder complains again, the host either removes the content
(the rightsholder and user can go to court), or they can leave it up if
they think the complaint is BS. This system has been wildly inadequate
at protecting legit speech, but it's better than nothing.

And "nothing" is what you get under 1201. When the RIAA complains about
youtube-dl to Github, Github pulls it down, but if the developers
counternotify them, Github can't restore the files without facing
CRIMINAL liability (5  years/$500k).

Copyright trolls have long figured this out: DMCA 1201 is a superweapon
for getting content removed from Google and elsewhere: if you assert
that someone who recorded you doing something abusive is violating 1201,
that video goes down and STAYS down, with no counternotice.

DMCA 1201 is a goddamned dumpster fire, a surefire recipe for
techno-corporate dystopia. EFF is suing to overturn it. That trial can't
come fast enough:



👻 This day in history

#5yrsago Globe and Mail: TPP’s copyright chapter will cost Canadians
hundreds of millions

#1yrago BBC launches a Tor hidden service mirror to help people evade
their countries’ censoring firewalls

#1yrago The Youtubers’ union just wants Google to give them the rulebook


👻 Colophon

Today's top sources: Dan Howland (https://twitter.com/ridetheory/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 518 words (76615 total).

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Upcoming appearances:

* Fantasy and Dystopia with Richard Kadrey, Litquake, Oct 23,

* Milehicon (Guest of Honor!), Oct 23-5, https://milehicon.org/

* Keynote, Privacyweek, Oct 27

* Coding Democracy/Toronto International Festival of Authors, Oct 24

* Keynote, Privacyweek, Oct 27

* How to Fix the Internet/Reboot 2020, Nov 9,

* Cyberterrorists, Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes, and
Were-Pomeranians/Texas Book Festival, Nov 12,

* Let's Talk About Influence/Designthinkers, Nov 16,

* Shaping the Digital Future Summit/Kaspersky, Nov 17, details TBD

* Misinformation and Disinformation in Science Fiction and Fantasy/LITA,
Nov 17, details TBD

* Keynote, Data Natives, Nov 18, https://datanatives.io/tickets/

* Keynote, Cologne Futures, Nov 20, details TBD

* Keynote, Cybersummit 2020, Nov 26 https://www.cybera.ca/cyber-summit-2020/

* Beaverbrook Lecture: How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, Nov 30,

Recent appearances:

* TWiT: The J to J Protocol

* Writing Excuses: Researching the FCK out of Things

* SRSLY WRONG: Stop Techno Dystopia!

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies
* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

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Cory Doctorow
doctorow at craphound.com
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