[Plura-list] RIAA's war on youtube-dl; Trump abandons supporters to freeze

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Oct 28 12:31:31 EDT 2020

Today's links

* RIAA's war on youtube-dl: The rise of the resistance.

* Trump abandons supporters to freeze: More death cult shit.

* This day in history: 2005, 2015, 2019

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


🥉 RIAA's war on youtube-dl

Late last week, the RIAA sent a legal threat to Github, claiming that
the popular (and absolutely lawful) tool youtube-dl (which allows users
to download Youtube videos for offline viewing, editing and archiving)
violated Section 1201 of the #DMCA.


Even by the heavy-handed standards of the RIAA - a monopolist's
"association" dominated by only three members - this was extraordinary.
The law in question derives much of its efficacy from its vagueness,
which chills software developers from risking its severe penalties.

DMCA1201 is an "anti-circumvention" law, banning the distribution of
tools that bypass "effective means of access control" for copyrighted
work, with a $500k fine and a 5-year sentence for a first violation.

Thus 1201 gives companies the power to felonize any action, even lawful
ones. All you need to do is design a product so that using it in ways
that you dislike requires bypassing "access controls" and presto! Your
preferences are laws - "Felony contempt of business-model."

That's how Apple makes it a crime for me to write an app and sell it to
you for your Iphone without giving Apple 30% of the purchase price. It's
how Medtronic makes it a crime to fix its ventilators. It's how HP makes
it a crime to refill a printer cartridge.

For all its centrality to modern commerce, 1201 has seen precious few
cases litigated to judgment, so its contours remain fuzzy. That works to
companies' advantage. They know that risk-averse competitors, security
researchers and investors steer wide to avoid violating it.

Who wants to risk a wrong guess about the lawfulness of your activities
that can land you in prison for 5 years?

There have been moments when the RIAA's rage brought us close to
litigating key features of 1201, but cooler heads prevailed and they
surrendered rather than putting their theories in front of a judge and
risking a narrowing of 1201.


In threatening youtube-dl, RIAA is risking a lot. Like what is an
"effective means of access control"? There's an argument that goes, "If
I can bypass it, how was it 'effective'?" That was tried in the 2600
case over Decss, and it didn't fly.


But while the courts were reluctant to decide how stout an access
control must be to acquire statutory protection, they were unsympathetic
to the arguments of the defunct file-sharing tool Aimster, which used
Pig Latin to "encrypt" its filenames.

They argued that RIAA enforcers violated 1201 by "decrypting" them. This
was quickly dismissed by courts, putting a floor under what "effective"
means: "stronger than Pig Latin, weaker than Decss."


The "access controls" that youtube-dl bypasses are (AFAIK) somewhere
within those two bounds - basically a lot of obfuscation, but not
encryption. If this goes to trial, "obfuscation" methods could end up
being fair game for circumvention.

The other thorny question RIAA is raising here is standing - they're
arguing that since some of their members' works are restricted by
Google's access controls, then they have the right to sue over
circumvention, even if Google doesn't mind.

If this question is ruled on, then it could go badly for RIAA
irrespective of the ruling. If the court rules that only the creator of
an access-control can invoke DMCA 1201, the list of potential aggressors
under 1201 dwindles to a mere handful.

If the court rules that the RIAA *does* have standing, then that means
that every single rightsholder whose works are implicated by an access
control would ALSO have standing.

If the day comes that the RIAA's members want to break with a Big Tech
music company (like Youtube, say!), and authorize their customers to
jailbreak their music and take it with them to a rival service, any
other rightsholder with a file on Youtube could stop this.

Indeed, under this theory, there may be no way of *ever* authorizing a
circumvention - you'd need cooperation from every implicated
rightsholder and the access-control's creator. The RIAA's members
strongly value their own self-determination and this could really hurt them.

Will this go to trial? It's hard to say. Certainly, the RIAA has
firehosed around so many complaints that they've created a cohort of
potential defendants who might be willing to take their chances in court.

As Torrentfreak reports, before hitting Github, RIAA sent out notices in
Germany - to Uberspace (the youtube-dl project's host) and to former
project maintainer Philipp Hagemeister (no longer involved).


And Natfriedman, Github's CEO, joined the developers' IRC channel to
offer support (he told Torrentfreak, "We want to help the youtube-dl
maintainers defeat the DMCA claim so that we can restore the repo").


The notice seems to have radicalized the company: "We are thinking about
how GitHub can proactively help developers in more DMCA cases going
forward, and take a more active role in reforming/repealing 1201."

Interestingly, Github's owner, Microsoft, is an RIAA member.

In the meantime, copies of the youtube-dl sourcecode have proliferated
as developers and activists have mirrored it in protest of the RIAA's
heavy hand.

DMCA 1201 is unconstitutional: that's an argument EFF is making in its
lawsuit on behalf of Matthew Green and Andrew "bunnie" Huang, which
seeks to overturn the law.


A legal reckoning over 1201 is long overdue, thanks to the tactical
cowardice of RIAA, which has run from the victims that stood up to its
bullying rather than risking a day in court and the law's judicial
overturn. EFF's suit has been slow going, plagued by long delays.

It's never good to be on the receiving end of legal threats from
wealthy, powerful, connected industry groups. But here might be a case
that finally drives a stake through 1201's heart. It's not a silver
lining, but at least it's something.


🥉 Trump abandons supporters to freeze

Trumpism is an incompetent death cult. While the movement's incompetence
(embodied by the inability of many of its worst monsters to keep their
jobs long enough to enact their key policies) finally met its match with
the pandemic, though.

When the plague started, Trumpism's thought-leaders rushed to advise the
elderly voters who constitute its base that they should engage in
high-risk conduct:


They insisted that the answer to the plague was for the "free market" to
decide which countermeasures would save our lives:


And when that failed, they literally told old people it was their moral
duty to commit suicide-by-virus in order to save the economy:


Now, as Trump desperately hauls his mouldering carcass through the
precincts he needs to swing for him after he spent half a year telling
them to kill themselves, he's tripped over his own tie, hospitalizing
his few remaining stalwarts.


Last night, Trump rallied his heavily comorbid base at Nebraska’s Eppley
Airfield, finishing his speech and flying off in his presidential jet as
temperatures plummeted to 34' (about 1' C).

The thousands of attendees he left behind were at the mercy of the kind
of grifter Trump gets to throw rallies for him. Unfortunately for them,
that's the kind of grifter who provides no shelter for attendees and
takes four hours to bus them all offsite.

"We need at least 30 more buses" - Omaha officer on the scene.

Many experienced hypothermia. At least seven attendees were
hospitalized. Law enforcement reported elderly attendees were "frozen
cold unable to move with an altered mental status."


The fact that he can't bestir himself from attempting to murder his
supporters until *after* election-day really says it all.


🥉 This day in history

#15yrsago Science shouldn’t use copyright to silence Creationists

#5yrsago The two brilliant, prescient 20th century science fiction
novels you should read this election season

#5yrsago Modular spiral staircase system for trees

#5yrsago The more unequal your society is, the more your laws will favor
the rich

#1yrago The penniless hero of the ransomware epidemic has written more
decryptors than anyone else


🥉 Colophon

Today's top sources: Boing Boing (https://boingboing.net/), Slashdot

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 540 words (77815

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 20)

Upcoming appearances:

* 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:

* The Gould Standard:

* Attack Surface: A Reckoning

* TWiT: The J to J Protocol

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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