[Plura-list] Crooked cops play music to kill livestreams; Duke is academia's meanest trademark bully; Tory donors reap 100X return on campaign contributions; A criminal enterprise with a country attached

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Feb 10 11:31:48 EST 2021


This weekend, I'll be participating in Boskone 58, Boston's annual sf
convention, where I'm doing panels and a reading.



Today's links

* Crooked cops play music to kill livestreams: Beverly Hills Police
Department Sergeant Billy Fair blasting Sublime's Santeria.

* Duke is academia's meanest trademark bully: Empirically speaking, that is.

* Tory donors reap 100X return on campaign contributions: Stochastic

* A criminal enterprise with a country attached: Ladies and
Gentlebeings, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

* This day in history: 2006, 2011, 2016

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


📢 Crooked cops play music to kill livestreams

Sennett Devermont is a police accountability activist whose streams
police encounters to his Instagram followers. When he visited the
Beverly Hills Police Department last Fri to obtain a form, BHPD Sergeant
Billy Fair recognized him and began blasting music from of his phone.


Fair was following the example of other BHPD officers who have made a
habit of playing copyrighted music during encounters with the public,
apparently to trigger automated copyright takedowns on the major social
media platforms.


As Dexter Thomas writes for Vice, this form of copyfraud has a failsafe:
if the filter doesn't block the livestream, the archived footage might
be easily removed through copyright complaints.

Instagram's copyright policy suggests that videos with incidental music
are permitted, but the company's filters are incapable of distinguishing
"incidental" and "non-incidental" use, while its appeals process is a
long-running production of Kafka's Trial.


Moreover, the platforms use a "copystrike" system, which means that cops
who successfully deploy this tactic can chip away at activists' presence
on the system - three strikes and their accounts are permanently removed.

Thomas: "...[P]laying copyrighted music as a deterrent to the First
Amendment-guaranteed right to openly film police is, if not BHPD
official protocol, at least a technique that has been deployed by more
than one officer."

Back in 2019, anti-racist activists experimented with playing
copyrighted music at Nazi rallies to make them unpostable on social
media. At the time, I warned that this would end badly.


Exactly a year later, BLM protest videos started disappearing from the
internet thanks to copyfraud and overactive copyright filters.


Copyright filters are a terrible idea, not just because they have all
but eliminated the ability of musicians to perform classical music online:


Nor merely because they allow giant companies to steal from independent
video creators:


They're a bad idea because they create a backdoor system for censorship
of any and all material - because they fray the fabric of our online
speech forums, and give bullies a devastating weapon to use against
those who document their crimes.


📢 Duke is academia's meanest trademark bully

Two of the most astute IP scholars I know also happen to be two of the
best legal writers I know, and also happen to work at one of the worst
IP abusers in the country: Jennifer Jenkins and James Boyle, of Duke
University, the nation's leading academic trademark abuser.

Duke has a universal reputation for being a serious trademark abuser,
but Jenkins and Boyle wanted to empirically investigate that reputation.
The result is "Mark of the Devil: The University as Brand Bully,"
forthcoming in Fordham IPLJ.


To do empirical work, you have to find stuff to count. The problem is
that questions like "who is the biggest bully?" are stubbornly
qualitative, and quantizing Duke's conduct risks incinerating the most
important elements in the quest for some kind of quantitative residue.

But the authors hit on a very good quantitative/qualitative methodology:
they would count trademark oppositions, which are legal filings sent
after a trademark has received preliminary approval. That way, they'd be
counting oppositions to trademarks that had some merit.

Even better: trademark oppositions have to be accompanied by legal
arguments explaining why the university thinks the trademark should be
blocked, and that produces a qualitative account of how Duke thinks
about its trademark.

Then Jenkins and Boyle used their considerable legal knowledge to
characterize each opposition's argument on the basis of how plausible or
stupid it was, quantizing the qualitative question of whether Duke's
lawyers were fucking around.

Some background: universities have reinvented themselves as
brand-factories and oriented their activities around slapping their
logos on random shit and selling it. That's why Ohio State applied for a
trademark on, I shit you not, the word "the."

Boise State asked for a trademark on all non-green football fields. U
Texas wants the trademark over making devil horns with your fingers ("I
felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of metalheads
suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced").

The trademark and licensing business is a squalid affair. The (grossly
overstated, rarely realized) risk of a mark lapsing into the public
domain ("genericide") justifies endless bullying of people who say and
do normal things that glance off your trademarks.

Trademark was established to protect buyers, by allowing the makers of
well-known goods to punish rivals who sought to deceive their customers.
Over the years, trademark has been distorted into just another grift, a
way to make the rich, richer.

As the authors point out, citing Mark Lemley et al, there's no good
trademark justification for allowing a university to snuff out
"counterfeit" tees  - the buyers of these items haven't been tricked
into getting a bargain on a way to advertise their team allegiance.

But the expansion of trademark into an economic right for mark-makers
(and away from a way of protecting the public from deceptive sellers),
combined with the bogeyman of genericide add up to a perfect business
for the greedy and unscrupulous. For bullies.

So, is Duke a bully?

Oh shit yes.

Let's look at some graphs. Here's how Duke stacks up against comparable
US institutions in terms of how often it challenges a trademark.

They slice this data many ways but it always looks like this: Duke is a
huge outlier.

But wait! Maybe those trademark cancellations are good, actually. So
let's go to the quantized, hand-coded qualitative assessments of Duke's

They're garbage.

"85% of Duke’s oppositions were coded either clearly erroneous or

But wait! Maybe the authors are being mean to Duke. What's "erroneous or
far-fetched?" Well, it seems that Duke challenges any trademark
application containing "Duke," the letter "D," a devil, the world blue,
or any word that sounds like "duke."

All of this is laid out with beautiful clarity in the paper, and the
back third of the paper moves on to ask What It All Means - why is Duke
such a godawful bully. The authors entertain several possibilities, like
perverse incentives in trademark, etc.

But they don't draw conclusions. I have one, and it may be uncomfortable
for my honorable and good lawyer friends, which is that law has a
bullying problem. There are many fields where esoteric knowledge gives
you the power to coerce others, but the law is especially bad.

Luckily, most of my experience of lawyers has been with people who fight
for the underdog, but honestly, I think they're the exception. I had a
very eye-opening experience about 15 years ago, when a friend asked me
to come speak to some co-workers.

My friend worked at a giant company in a creative unit, and he asked me
if I'd come speak to his group. It was close by home and I told him of
course I'd do it. A day before I was meant to come by, he emailed
apologetically to say that legal had sent him a contract for me.

Now, I wasn't charging this massive, profitable company a dime. It was a
favor for a pal. But I looked at the contract and it was bonkers - like,
I promised I'd never mention the name of the company in print, ever,
without written permission.

I told my friend I couldn't sign that clause and he told me he
understood, but the legal department wouldn't let me in the building
unless I signed it. I canceled the talk. A couple months later, I met a
lawyer from the company at a signing and I told him this story.

He grimaced and said he knew whose doing that was, another lawyer in the
department who counted their successes by how badly they could humiliate
the people who contracted with the company. He listed several of these,
each more outrageous than the last.

This wasn't just a power-trip, it was sadism. And it's not limited to
that lawyer or that company. I sent back two minor, small-dollar
publishing contracts today that had abominable language in them -
blanket indemnities, binding arbitration, huge rights grabs.

These aren't (or weren't) standard. There's no business reason for them.
I mean, I *can't* indemnify a multinational corporation against all
claims for the simple reason that I couldn't afford to hire lawyers to
argue their case. I'd just go bust.

There is a toxic strain of competitive sadism in the law, an ethic of
victory through someone else's humiliating defeat. If I had to guess why
Duke smashes all those trademark applicants' dreams, I'd say that sadism
is playing a major role.


📢 Tory donors reap 100X return on campaign contributions

Walmart founder Sam Walton had an iron-clad rule: his buyers were not
allowed to take so much as a glass of water from salespeople. He
understood that favors create an involuntary urge to reciprocity, and
even the tiniest kindness from a salesman would corrupt his buyers.

Walmart is a prolific campaign contributor, funneling millions to
lawmakers under the fiction that this will not corrupt them or cloud
their judgment so that they legislate to Walmart's benefit and the
public's detriment.


This story epitomizes the contradiction of corporate lobbyists and their
tame lawmakers: when corporations manage their own affairs, they place
strict limits on conflicts of interest; but in the public sphere, they
insist that these conflicts are immaterial.

A possibly related fact: the top UK Conservative Party donors gave £8.2m
to the party, and then secured £881m in no-bid government contracts to
provide covid-related services, many of which were spectacularly botched.


It's tempting to see £881m in chumocratic largesse as a 100-to-1 return
on investment, but that's not precisely right. Rather, as The Byline
Times points out, it's a kind of stochastic corruption.

For decades, the Tories have promoted themselves as the party that would
end public provision of services and replace it with fat private
contracts, and so it attracted donors who valued this proposition, who
then won those corrupt contracts.

Top Tory donors get to join the elite party "Leaders' Group," which
regularly dines with the PM and their ministers, guaranteeing them
insider access when contracts are being drafted.

114,000 Britons have died of covid.


📢 A criminal enterprise with a country attached

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a founding member of the EU, but it's
also a rogue state, enabling massive corruption throughout the trading
bloc; while Cyprus and Malta will sell any corrupt robber-baron EU
citizenship, it's Luxembourg that leads in laundering their money.

As the Tax Justice Network's Nick Shaxson memorably put it, Luxembourg
is "a criminal enterprise with a country attached" - a country where
corporations are guaranteed "an easy ride on taxes, disclosure,
financial regulations, and criminal enforcement."


2014's Luxleaks exposed some of the worst corruption, whereby
Pricewaterhousecooper worked with Luxembourg officials to secure illegal
tax benefits for major corporations and the world's richest people.


Luxleaks lead to a 2018 EU directive that required member states to
publish registers of the true owners of the companies they registered.

Luxembourg published theirs in 2019, and Le Monde partnered with ten
media orgs for a year-long analysis of the register, which was published
this week: Openlux. The findings reveal that Luxleaks was just the tip
of the iceberg.


Luxembourg claims that it primarily registers companies to serve
Luxembourgers, but 90% of the country's companies are controlled by
foreigners, lead by the French, who control 17,000 Lux companies.

All told, Luxembourg is home to 55,000 offsore companies with more than
€6t in assets. Much of this wealth belongs to Russian oligarchs, Italian
mafiosi, corrupt latinamerican leaders, and far-right EU parties like
Italy's Lega.

Whole neighborhoods in large cities like London and Berlin  are owned by
Lux companies, empty safe-deposit boxes ultimately controlled by the
wealthiest, most corrupt plutes of 157 countries.

279 of the world's ~2,000 billionaires park their money in Luxembourg
through shell companies. But the country only employs 59 enforcers
charged with monitoring compliance with corporate transparency laws. All
told, the country's finance regulator has a mere 900 employees.

Thus, the secrets unearthed through Openlux only represent a fraction of
the country's corruption - those companies that complied with the
registration laws rather than risking enforcement by the minuscule
cohort of vastly outnumbered legal enforcers.


📢 This day in history

#15yrsago Canadian Red Cross vows to sue first aid kits, too

#15yrsago How statistics caught Indonesia’s war-criminals

#10yrsago Monkey Truck: colorful picture book with banana-farts and

#5yrsago Hackers stole 101,000 taxpayers’ logins/passwords from the IRS

#5yrsago Detoxing is (worse than) bullshit: high lead levels in “detox
clay” https://www.statnews.com/2016/02/02/detox-clay-fda-lead/

#5yrsago CIA boss flips out when Ron Wyden reminds him that CIA spied on
the Senate


📢 Colophon

Today's top sources: Nick Johnson (https://twitter.com/nicksdjohnson),
Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), James Boyle

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 521 words (108776 total).

* A short story, "Jeffty is Five," for The Last Dangerous Visions.
Yesterday's progress: 265 words (4294 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 30)

Upcoming appearances:

* Boskone, 58, Feb 12-15, https://boskone.org/

* Keynote, NISO Plus, Feb 22,

*  Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Contemporary Political Struggle: Social
Movements, Social Surveillance, Social Media (with Zeynep Tufekci), Feb
24, https://ucdavis.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_I99f4x8WRiKCfKUljVcYPg

* World Ethical Data Forum keynote, Mar 17-19,

* Interop: Self-Determination vs Dystopia (FITC), Apr 19-21,

Recent appearances:

* Chop Shop Economics

* Monocle Reads

* Hedging Bets on the Future (Motherboard Cyber):

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
(print edition:

* "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
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