[Plura-list] Amazon says only corporations own property; Violent cops' deadly victim complex; Sue your medical bully

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Oct 29 11:14:13 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Amazon says only corporations own property: Everyone else is a licensor.

* Violent cops' deadly victim complex: Murderers hiding behind victims'
rights laws.

* Sue your medical bully: A recipe for small-claims victory.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

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


🧩 Amazon says only corporations own property

If you visit Amazon's Prime Video homepage, you'll see that the title of
that page is "Rent or Buy: Prime Video." There's a plain-language
meaning of "buy" that most of us understand, but Amazon says we're wrong.


Amanda Caudel is a Prime user who brought suit against Amazon for
embedding a gotcha clause in its sprawling terms of service that allows
it to revoke the videos you "buy" from it, calling the practice deceptive.


Amazon's motion to dismiss is telling: they say that you're not buying a
video, you're buying a license for "on-demand viewing over an indefinite
period of time." That is, a pig in a poke.

Amazon's attorney wrote, "An individual does not need to read an
agreement in order to be bound by it."

Amazon's position is that rightsholders might cancel its license to the
movies you buy and then they'll have no choice but to snatch your
"purchase" back.

But what Amazon conveniently ignores is that this is only
technologically possible because Amazon has designed a system that
doesn't let you download and keep the videos you've bought from them
(that is, DRM).

It's been more than a decade since Amazon deleted copies of 1984 from
its customers' Kindles after a complaint from the professional
descendants who control the Orwell estate.


After the scandal that followed, Amazon pledged not to delete any more
of the books its customers' buy unless they're legally required to.

Translation: "If you want to delete some books from the public
discourse, find a legal way to force us to do so."

This is such an obvious danger to free expression, but Amazon's position
is understandable when you consider the larger context. The company
"sells" many digitally enabled goods whose fine print asserts the right
to modify those goods without notice.

For example: To sell you a Kindle that can read any book you buy aloud
to you via text-to-speech, and then change its mind and revoke that


Even when it comes to nondigital transactions, Amazon goes to enormous
lengths to ensure that the traditional property rights that we take for
granted do not apply to its customers, workers or suppliers - but remain
intact for Amazon itself.

Think of its onerous terms of service, its binding arbitration waivers,
its confidentiality agreements, misclassifying the bulk of its workforce
as "contractors" who are not entitled to workplace protections and the
remedies of labor law.

In this regard, Amazon is no different from the bulk of large firms,
whose preference is that property rights - and all other rights - are
the exclusive purview of transhuman, immortal colony organisms called
Limited Liability Corporations.

Artificial persons are the only people who get to own property, or seek
protection under the law. Flesh-and-blood humans - customers, workers,
etc - are little more than occasionally inconvenient gut-flora.

We have a name for a system in which only a tiny elite get to own
property and everyone else has to lease that property and confine their
uses to those that are in the interests of the aristocracy: it's called

We're in a golden age of digital feudalism. Its hallmark is privilege,
from the root, "private law." The public laws - the statutes passed by
Congress - exist only to punish those who thwart the private,
self-serving choices of firms, whose choices represent the real law.

When I was a bookseller, my store sometimes had times when it struggled
to pay its bills and ended up on hold with publishers and distributors,
situations where they wouldn't let us sell their books anymore.

When that happened, I didn't have to go over to our customers' houses
and take their books away. Creating systems that have this capability,
in a time of fusion between large corporations and unaccountable,
minority-rule governments, is a reckless and terrifying act.


🧩 Violent cops' deadly victim complex

Marsy's Law is a model victim's rights law that many states have adopted
(it's on the ballot in Kentucky next week), often at the behest of law
enforcement agencies that argue for the right to anonymity for the
victims of crimes.

But Marsy's Law is so broadly worded that one of its primary uses is to
shield violent cops - even those who kill - from public scrutiny, as USA
Today's Kenny Jacoby and Propublica's Ryan Gabrielson write today.


A Florida deputy handcuffed an intoxicated homeless man to a hospital
bed and pepper-sprayed him in the face, then invoked Marsy's Law to
remain anonymous on the grounds that his shoulder had been grazed by the
wire from a pulse monitor, making him victim of a "battery."

In Florida, Marsy's Law has been used "to hide the names of officers who
sent a 15-year-old boy to the hospital, officers who fired bullets into
moving cars and officers who released their K9 dogs on drunk and
mentally ill people."

In some Florida counties, 1 in 3 incidents in which a law enforcement
officer commits a violent act against a member on the public leads to an
invocation of Marsy's Law, which renders that officer anonymous.

These cops cite minor injuries ("minor, blunt-forced injury to my left
index finger") or no injury at all. Police departments often make the
final determination about who gets Marsy's Law protections and when.

Marsy's Law heads off civil cases related to public injuries and deaths
at the hands of police, by making it impossible to look up officers'
prior conduct.

And recall that Marsy's Law is on Kentucky's ballot: if it had already
been in effect in 2019, it might well have shielded the identities of
the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor.


🧩 Sue your medical bully

One of my favorite podcasts is Arm and a Leg, a show about self-defense
from medical billing in the US health care system. As a Canadian in the
US, I often feel gaslit by the system, as my doctors and their offices
act as though predatory, disgusting practices are natural.

Arm and a Leg documents these unethical practices in eye-watering
detail, making it clear at ever turn that these are Not Okay, and that
they are victimizing the American people, and must be overturned. And,
in the meantime, they focus on practical ways to protect yourself.

This week's episode is a short masterclass in using small claims courts
to fight predatory billing. It builds on the tale of Jeffrey Fox, a
lawyer's son who has mastered the small claims system as a means of
holding corporate bullies to account.


Fox sued UCLA health in 2015 over a  $1,444.37 co-pay (the total had
been $1,698.70, but his insurance picked up some of it) for a simple
procedure that other local facilities charged $180 for.


UCLA was a no-show at the hearing, and Fox had an exquisitely prepared
case to show the judge, who issued a judgment in Fox's favor, including

Naturally, UCLA stiffed him on the judgment, too, so Fox wrote a letter
telling them he'd pay the sheriff to confiscate the hospital's computers
and auction them off to pay the judgment and the sheriff's fees. A check
arrived promptly by Fedex.

The Arm and a Leg episode that tells Fox's story explains the full
procedure: how to deal with the billing department, how to research the
fair price for your procedure, how to go to court, and how to collect
your judgment. It's amazing.


It's a sequel of sorts to another episode: "Can They Freaking Do That,"
which documents how even a credible threat of a small claims action can
get predatory medical bills reduced or eliminated.


It's a wonderful and heartwarming David and Goliath story, but there's a
sting in the tail: this works fine if you're on the receiving end of one
or two predatory bills, but if you're struggling with a chronic illness,
you might get several of these bills every month.

In other words, fighting those bills could easily become a full time job
for someone who's already struggling. And while Arm and a Leg has
practical advice for dealing with medical bill collectors, the whole
enterprise is a source of national shame.


Arm and a Leg is a reminder of how a country has turned its back on its
people, literally left them to die, rather than stand up to the investor
class and demand the same health care that every other wealthy nation in
the world guarantees to their citizens.


🧩 This day in history

#5yrsago Christ, what an asshole.

#5yrsago Charity with US Characteristics: how our oligarchs buy their
way out of criticism

#5yrsago UK police & spies will have warrantless access to your browsing

#5yrsago EU Parliament votes to drop criminal charges and grant asylum
to Snowden

#1yrago The Internet Archive’s massive repository of scanned books will
help Wikipedia fight the disinformation wars

#1yrago Facebook sues notorious spyware company NSO Group for 1,400
attacks on diplomats, journalists, dissidents, and government officials

#1yrago The First Scarfolk Annual: a mysterious artifact from a
curiously familiar eternal grimdark 1970s


🧩 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 518 words (78328

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:

* Author Stories Podcast

* The Gould Standard:

* Attack Surface: A Reckoning

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:

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the
basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and


Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):


When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy"

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 195 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <http://mail.flarn.com/pipermail/plura-list/attachments/20201029/db2ad48e/attachment-0001.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list