Milo Strikes Again / Crowd Funded Lawsuits

Ah the hilarity.

Sometime ago, I decided to comment on the Milo ban, mainly due to the  internet losing its collective shit. So many people shocked at social media censorship, and seemingly unintrested in a realistic solution. Because it’s easier to  convince multi million dollar companies to give up their internal sovereignty for the collective good

Just another day in the realm of social media.

I had (in a previous post) noted that high profile and fairly well to do free speech advocates like Milo Yianopolis should put their money where their mouth is and invest in the platform that they desire. You know, the liberation solution!

As it turns out, no such contribution was ever made, to my knowledge. Of which I am not surprised. Particularly considering this next new bit of information.

I remember him speaking of this campaign in a few places, months ago. But I had (like most everyone else aparently) forgetten all about it, until now. I likley thought it a stupid campaign at the time, but this certainly throws in an interesting twist. A twist that, it seems, could even be punishable by law. After all, fraud IS illegal.

Not to mention how this whole thing plays right into one of my criticsms of both anarchism and libertarianism. People generally tend to be far to self serving to be trusted in doing what’s right for the collective, if they may be affected negatively as a result. Thanks Milo for the anecdote!

Speaking of legal action, it seems that the whole Milo Twitter ban was about more than  just unprovoked censorship. For more on that, on to Secular Talk.

So, Milo was being a bit of a dickhead. Or as some would say, being himself. But he didn’t purposly threaten, sick, or otherwise direct his fans onto Lessie’s Twitter. That said however, reposting fake tweets posing as words of real people IS libel.

One would think a journalist (of all people!) would know this. But aparently, even I give people to much credit.

Crowd Funded Lawsuits

On the same topic (lawsuits), I have noticed a new trend that bugs me of late. That is, YouTube personalities using crowd funding as a means to aid their legal defence funds. This pandering also utilized the whole free speech bandwagon, with the funds presumably going into accounts meant only for funding possible suits against issuers of false DMCA’s.

First off, some background.

As many know, YouTube videos can be monetized. Meaning that every time you see an ad over a video, the creator gets a bit of a cut. Or if you share a copywrited work of an artist that has their intellectual property monetized, they (the owners of the IP) get a cut. This is why many privatly posted songs by artists often come with ads.

When you have a monetized channel however, you have to be careful of outside intellectual property, or the YouTube system (designed to prevent users from profiting from registered copywrited material) will trigger a warning. First off, the offending material must be removed. And as a result of the incident, your channel may receive a strike. Get 3, and your channel (along with all the work you put into it!) is gone.

Another way in which a content creator can receive a DMCA takedown notice is if a copywrite owner goes diectly to youtube. In which case the same process would go forward.

Being that YouTube relies  heavily on an algorithm in its automated issuing of notices on IP owners behalf, problems do occer. Another big issue comes in abuse of the system. Either issue usually rests in either the system or an IP owners misunderstanding of fair use.

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement.

It’s a section of the law that I have utilized in the past. Even seconds ago.

Either way, both auto and manually generated false DMCA’s can cause a youtuber a lot of grief, considering the ease of filing a claim but the difficulty in fighting a claim. So difficult is the end result (aparently) that some creators are turning to potential lawsuits as a way to stem the tide. Though there is not much that can be done about the YouTube algorithm (other than hoping it improves), the manually filed claims can warrant a lawsuit. Unfortunately that costs money. Which is where we come in.

Those that file false DMCA’S are stomping on a creator’s right to freedom of speech and expression, so they should be punished! And were going to be the ones that get the ball rolling! That is, with a little help from you.

Therein lies my first problem with this.

Many of the personalities doing this kind of stuff are more than just people that create videos and content alone. Many operate podcasts and other types of shows, but most importantly, many also sell various types of wares. Which would make their channel a brand, and all of it a type of home business.

If you do not already know where I am going with this, most businesses (small or otherwise) do not directly outsource their operating costs \ losses to the public. First off, I’m not even sure if that would be legal. And even if it was, who would give?

I suppose it all depends on the business. If it’s a small mom and pop store being attacked unfairly by a big entity, people may be sympathetic (and give to help the fight). But otherwise, I would not think people would be interested. When it comes to lawsuits, this is where liability insurance comes in. As for operating costs (minor AND major), this is why it’s good business to have an account set aside just for that. Drop 5 or 10% of the profit margin in regularly, and major costs should inflict have less of a blow.

When it comes to YouTube, I doubt that there is insurance for false DMCA litigation. Though that would be a great insurance product  (available for any content creator, and funded by the premiums of all creator’s, alike any other insurance company), it does not yet exist. Which is unfortunate. But if it can’t be insured, then it should be considered a cost of doing business. Like electricity, bandwidth, equipment and the like, DMCA Litigation should be accounted for with the same regularity and importance as any other regular operating cost. If the notice is indeed false and a lawsuit is filed, then you will likely recuperate costs anyway.

Another interesting detail comes from this webpage.

The various associated costs (at least $10,000) are not as interesting as this part:

If you’re lucky, you won’t be paying any of the above costs yourself. Many lawsuits are funded by the lawyer, not the plaintiff. These are so-called contingency fee arrangements where the lawyer pays some, most or all of the costs and fees associated with the lawsuit and invests their time without charging the plaintiff. In return, the lawyer takes a percentage of the recovery from the lawsuit if you win (but they get nothing if you lose). So the lawyer ends up assuming most or all of the financial risk of the lawsuit.

In most cases, contingency fee lawyers aren’t going to want to invest their time and money into a case that’s frivolous. If they did, they wouldn’t be in business for very long.

It would seem to me that a false DMCA takedown suit would be a piece of cake. Though there is indeed a lot of ambiguity in terms of what constitutes fair use, there has to be a fairly set standard by now. Otherwise how would one EVER resolve these claims?

Going back to lawsuit costs, I recently stumbled across a GoFundMe campaign raising money for a lawsuit to fight several false DMCA takedown notices from the same entity. The thing has (so far) made about $64,000, with a set goal of $100k. Which makes one think . . . Jesus! Unless copyright cases are highly different than other typical cases, that seems at minimum of 30k more than necessary. 

Yet another podcast I heard (also asking money of its listeners to pad it’s apparently new legal fees account) called it (if memory serves) the DDOS Litigation Fund. Which peaked my attention, being that DDOS has nothing to do with copyright.

For non techies (or non-viewers of Mr Robot), DDOS (or designated denial of service) refers to a type of online attack. The goal is to flood a given server or destination with so much traffic (generated by a botnet consisting of thousands of compromised machines) that the server goes offline, or the destination becomes unreachable. 

I have seen this tactic used against live podcasts, or guests of said podcast’s. If they do not protect themselves by using a VPN and a fake (usually) Skype account, it’s (apparently) fairly easy to get their IP address and knock them offline (or at least severely throttle them) by flooding them with traffic. Idiotic attacks implemented by people like the Ashley Madison hackers. People that feel that whatever their grievance happens to be justifies the act. 

Either way, this is more an issue to be dealt with by an ISP than it is an issue of litigation. At least one ISP in my area offers DDOS protection and mitigation, so the service is likely available (though possibly for a fee). Which again, would be just another cost of doing business. 

Maybe I am being a bit to nitpicky on the language, but it is out of suspicion. Many people take the good word of their idols on faith, so I consider it a duty to look behind the curtain that the blind rarely see. It is worth it to nitpick why a podcast would need a DDOS litigation fund, when the name makes no obvious sense? Yes. The person may mean DMCA Litigation. In which case, why not name it that? 

It is likley plain as day by now, but I do not trust (and would not give to) around 99% of crowd funding campaigns. I also refuse to give to damn near ANYONE running a patreon account.

 I don’t care of you feel your effort deserves financial reward. I refuse to use ad blocking software (I consider it digital freeloading), so you get your little piece from those interactions. However, unless you are adding more to the public discourse than just more chatter, I feel no need to financially support your work. I would make allowance for creator’s that make meaningful contributions to society (for example, education resource videos). But if it’s primarily for the self, it’s not worth my money. 

In all honesty, I am fed up with crowd funding.

I have said this before (1 and 2) . But it is increasingly worrisome how much the ignorant are willing to finance both fantasy and whim. I would argue, at the expense of other (more pressing) social needs. For example, is 64 to 100k best utilized in a DCMA Litigation account of a YouTuber (no doubt earning interest!), or in disaster response and recovery? 

Louisiana is under water. I figure the residents of that already impoverished state deserve that cash a whole lot more than a business that can’t be bothered to factor in ALL its operating costs. 

I understand that most of these donations are small, unaffecting in personal budgets ($5 or $10). But as much as I agree that it’s your choice in how people spend their money . . . I wish people would be more careful. Even if they do not get swindled by a Milo type, or throw money into a money pit that no one wants to acknowledge, there are always better recipients.

I will personally put my money where my mouth is by making another donation to the Canadian Red Cross. $25 to the general relief fund. My words may mean little, but at least I can lead by example.

Though Milo had no comment as of publishing, he later downplayed the move as a consequence of being so busy. Though enough to appease his following, I do not share in the sentiment. 

If the excuse is not having a charity to handal such donations, the obvious answer is to create one. If time is a problem (of which I HIGHLY doubt. You can pay people to do the work), put the money aside. In an account with which has total transparency. 

Since school is in session, the grants are no good for this semester. Which means it will be minimum 6 months, maximum a year, before the money is even used. All the while no doubt earning interest in Milo’s account.

If there is ANYWHERE that interest should be going, it’s towards the grants and the affiliated charity. 

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