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The error message that launched this whole investigation.

Darrell Whitelaw / Twitter

For years now, Internet users have accepted the risk of files and content they share through various online services being subject to takedown requests based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and/or content-matching algorithms. But users have also gotten used to treating services like Dropbox as their own private, cloud-based file storage and sharing systems, facilitating direct person-to-person file transfer without having to worry.

This weekend, though, a small corner of the Internet exploded with concern that Dropbox was going too far, actually scanning users’ private and directly peer-shared files for potential copyright issues. What’s actually going on is a little more complicated than that, but it shows that sharing a file on Dropbox isn’t always the same as sharing that file directly from your hard drive over something like e-mail or instant messenger.

The whole kerfuffle started yesterday evening, when one Darrell Whitelaw tweeted a picture of an error he received when trying to share a link to a Dropbox file via IM. The Dropbox webpage warned him and his friend that "certain files in this folder can’t be shared due to a takedown request in accordance with the DMCA."

Whitelaw freely admits that the content he was sharing was a copyrighted video, but he still expressed surprise that Dropbox was apparently watching what he shared for copyright issues. "I treat [Dropbox] like my hard drive," he tweeted. "This shows it’s not private, nor mine, even though I pay for it."

In response to follow-up questions from Ars, Whitelaw said the link he sent to his friend via IM was technically a public link and theoretically could have been shared more widely than the simple IM between friends. That said, he noted that the DMCA notice appeared on the Dropbox webpage "immediately" after the link was generated, suggesting that Dropbox was automatically checking shared files somehow to see if they were copyrighted material rather than waiting for a specific DMCA takedown request.

Dropbox did confirm to Ars that it checks publicly shared file links against hashes of other files that have been previously subject to successful DMCA requests. "We sometimes receive DMCA notices to remove links on copyright grounds," the company said in a statement provided to Ars. "When we receive these, we process them according to the law and disable the identified link. We have an automated system that then prevents other users from sharing the identical material using another Dropbox link. This is done by comparing file hashes."

Dropbox added that this comparison happens when a public link to your file is created and that "we don’t look at the files in your private folders and are committed to keeping your stuff safe." The company wouldn’t comment publicly on whether the same content-matching algorithm was run on files shared directly with other Dropbox users via the service’s account-to-account sharing functions, but the wording of the statement suggests that this system only applies to publicly shared links.

We should be clear here that Dropbox hasn’t removed the file from Whitelaw’s account; they just closed off the option for him to share that file with others. In a tweeted response to Whitelaw, Dropbox Support said that "content removed under DMCA only affects share-links." Dropbox explains its copyright policy on a Help Center page that lays out the boilerplate: "you do not have the right to share files unless you own the copyright in them or have been given permission by the copyright owner to share them." The Help Center then directs users to its DMCA policy page.

Dropbox has also been making use of file hashing algorithms for a while now as a means of de-duplicating identical files stored across different users’ accounts. That means that if I try to upload an identical copy of a 20GB movie file that has already been stored in someone else’s Dropbox account, the service will simply give my account access to a version of that same file rather than allowing me to upload an identical version. This not only saves bandwidth on the user’s end but significant storage space on Dropbox’s end as well.

Some researchers have warned of security and privacy concerns based on these de-duplication efforts in the past, but the open source Dropship project attempted to bend the feature to users’ advantage. By making use of the file hashing system, Dropship effectively tried to trick Dropbox into granting access to files on Dropbox’s servers that the user didn’t actually have access to. Dropbox has taken pains to stop this kind of "fake" file sharing through its service.

In any case, it seems a similar hashing effort is in place to make it easier for Dropbox to proactively check files shared through its servers for similarity to content previously blocked by a DMCA request. In this it’s not too different from services like YouTube, which uses a robust ContentID system to automatically identify copyrighted material as soon as it’s uploaded.

In this, both Dropbox and YouTube are simply responding to the legal environment they find themselves in. The DMCA requires companies that run sharing services to take reasonable measures to make sure that re-posting of copyrighted content doesn’t occur after a legitimate DMCA notice has been issued. Whitelaw himself doesn’t blame the service for taking these proactive steps, in fact. "This isn’t a Dropbox problem," he told Ars via tweet. "They’re just following the laws laid out for them. Was just surprised to see it."

via Dropbox clarifies its policy on reviewing shared files for DMCA issues | Ars Technica.

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

  This archive contains 18,592 scientific publications totaling
33GiB, all from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
and which should be  available to everyone at no cost, but most
have previously only been made available at high prices through
paywall gatekeepers like JSTOR.

Limited access to the  documents here is typically sold for $19
USD per article, though some of the older ones are available as
cheaply as $8. Purchasing access to this collection one article
at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Also included is the basic factual metadata allowing you to
locate works by title, author, or publication date, and a
checksum file to allow you to check for corruption.

ef8c02959e947d7f4e4699f399ade838431692d972661f145b782c2fa3ebcc6a sha256sum.txt

I've had these files for a long time, but I've been afraid that if I
published them I would be subject to unjust legal harassment by those who
profit from controlling access to these works.

I now feel that I've been making the wrong decision.

On July 19th 2011, Aaron Swartz was criminally charged by the US Attorney
General's office for, effectively, downloading too many academic papers
from JSTOR.

Academic publishing is an odd systemΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥the authors are not paid for their
writing, nor are the peer reviewers (they're just more unpaid academics),
and in some fields even the journal editors are unpaid. Sometimes the
authors must even pay the publishers.

And yet scientific publications are some of the most outrageously
expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access
fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals,
but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.

As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little
significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The
"publish or perish" pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly
weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.

Those with the most power to change the system--the long-tenured luminary
scholars whose works give legitimacy and prestige to the journals, rather
than the other way around--are the least impacted by its failures. They
are supported by institutions who invisibly provide access to all of the
resources they need. And as the journals depend on them, they may ask
for alterations to the standard contract without risking their career on
the loss of a publication offer. Many don't even realize the extent to
which academic work is inaccessible to the general public, nor do they
realize what sort of work is being done outside universities that would
benefit by it.

Large publishers are now able to purchase the political clout needed
to abuse the narrow commercial scope of copyright protection, extending
it to completely inapplicable areas: slavish reproductions of historic
documents and art, for example, and exploiting the labors of unpaid
scientists. They're even able to make the taxpayers pay for their
attacks on free society by pursuing criminal prosecution (copyright has
classically been a civil matter) and by burdening public institutions
with outrageous subscription fees.

Copyright is a legal fiction representing a narrow compromise: we give
up some of our natural right to exchange information in exchange for
creating an economic incentive to author, so that we may all enjoy more
works. When publishers abuse the system to prop up their existence,
when they misrepresent the extent of copyright coverage, when they use
threats of frivolous litigation to suppress the dissemination of publicly
owned works, they are stealing from everyone else.

Several years ago I came into possession, through rather boring and
lawful means, of a large collection of JSTOR documents.

These particular documents are the historic back archives of the
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal SocietyΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥a prestigious scientific
journal with a history extending back to the 1600s.

The portion of the collection included in this archive, ones published
prior to 1923 and therefore obviously in the public domain, total some
18,592 papers and 33 gigabytes of data.

The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind,
and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available
freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each--for one month's
viewing, by one person, on one computer. It's a steal. From you.

When I received these documents I had grand plans of uploading them to
Wikipedia's sister site for reference works, WikisourceΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥ where they
could be tightly interlinked with Wikipedia, providing interesting
historical context to the encyclopedia articles. For example, Uranus
was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel; why not take a look at
the paper where he originally disclosed his discovery? (Or one of the
several follow on publications about its satellites, or the dozens of
other papers he authored?)

But I soon found the reality of the situation to be less than appealing:
publishing the documents freely was likely to bring frivolous litigation
from the publishers.

As in many other cases, I could expect them to claim that their slavish
reproductionΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥scanning the documentsΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥ created a new copyright
interest. Or that distributing the documents complete with the trivial
watermarks they added constituted unlawful copying of that mark. They
might even pursue strawman criminal charges claiming that whoever obtained
the files must have violated some kind of anti-hacking laws.

In my discreet inquiry, I was unable to find anyone willing to cover
the potentially unbounded legal costs I risked, even though the only
unlawful action here is the fraudulent misuse of copyright by JSTOR and
the Royal Society to withhold access from the public to that which is
legally and morally everyone's property.

In the meantime, and to great fanfare as part of their 350th anniversary,
the RSOL opened up "free" access to their historic archivesΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥but "free"
only meant "with many odious terms", and access was limited to about
100 articles.

All too often journals, galleries, and museums are becoming not
disseminators of knowledgeΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥as their lofty mission statements
suggestΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥but censors of knowledge, because censoring is the one thing
they do better than the Internet does. Stewardship and curation are
valuable functions, but their value is negative when there is only one
steward and one curator, whose judgment reigns supreme as the final word
on what everyone else sees and knows. If their recommendations have value
they can be heeded without the coercive abuse of copyright to silence 
competition.

The liberal dissemination of knowledge is essential to scientific
inquiry. More than in any other area, the application of restrictive
copyright is inappropriate for academic works: there is no sticky question
of how to pay authors or reviewers, as the publishers are already not
paying them. And unlike 'mere' works of entertainment, liberal access
to scientific work impacts the well-being of all mankind. Our continued
survival may even depend on it.

If I can remove even one dollar of ill-gained income from a poisonous
industry which acts to suppress scientific and historic understanding,
then whatever personal cost I suffer will be justifiedΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥it will be one
less dollar spent in the war against knowledge. One less dollar spent
lobbying for laws that make downloading too many scientific papers
a crime.

I had considered releasing this collection anonymously, but others pointed
out that the obviously overzealous prosecutors of Aaron Swartz would
probably accuse him of it and add it to their growing list of ridiculous
charges. This didn't sit well with my conscience, and I generally believe
that anything worth doing is worth attaching your name to.

I'm interested in hearing about any enjoyable discoveries or even useful
applications which come of this archive.

- ---- 
Greg Maxwell - July 20th 2011
gmaxwell@gmail.com  Bitcoin: 14csFEJHk3SYbkBmajyJ3ktpsd2TmwDEBb

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via Papers from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, fro download torrent – TPB.

Now, the cyberspace metaphor is thirty years old. You can see how violently it has been reshaped by the passage of time. It's not bad that these things happen — but you need to understand that these historical formulations are mortal. They're not false. It's not like the “information Superhighway” never existed. It existed. It got federal funding. There were political issues about it, newspaper stories. It's not false, it's just mortal. You don't want to tie your fate to such mortal things. Universities need to be places in our society where young people, who know very little — young, innocent, ignorant people — are put directly in touch with things that are less mortal than we are. Less mortal than we are — not more mortal than we are.

via Program » Bruce Sterling’s Keynote :: Communia 2010 :: University and Cyberspace :: 28-30 June 2010 :: Torino, Italy.

YouTube Blog: Broadcast Yourself

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube — and every Web platform — to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.

Viacom’s brief misconstrues isolated lines from a handful of emails produced in this case to try to show that YouTube was founded with bad intentions, and asks the judge to believe that, even though Viacom tried repeatedly to buy YouTube, YouTube is like Napster or Grokster.

Nothing could be further from the truth. YouTube has long been a leader in providing media companies with 21st century tools to control, distribute, and make money from their content online. Working in cooperation with rights holders, our Content ID system scans over 100 years worth of video every day and lets rights holders choose whether to block, leave up, or monetize those videos. Over 1,000 media companies are now using Content ID — including every major U.S. network broadcaster, movie studio, and record label — and the majority of those companies choose to make money from user uploaded clips rather than block them. This is a true win-win that reflects our long-standing commitment to working with rights holders to give them the choices they want, while advancing YouTube as a platform for creativity.

We look forward to defending YouTube, and upholding the balance that Congress struck in the DMCA to protect the rights of copyright holders, the progress of technological innovation, and the public interest in free expression.

Posted by Zahavah Levine, YouTube Chief Counsel

a href=”http://torrentfreak.com/music-piracy-not-that-bad-industry-says-090118/”TorrentFreak/a:blockquoteEvery year, RIAA’s global partner IFPI publishes a digital music report, which can be best described as a one sided view of the state of digital music consumption. For several years in a row the report has shown that the sales figures of digital music have gone up, but still, the industry continues to blame piracy for a loss in overall revenue. One of the key statistics that is hyped every year, is the piracy ratio of downloaded music. Just as last year, IFPI estimates that 95% of all downloads are illegal, without giving a proper source for this figure. Interestingly, those who take a closer look at the full report (pdf), will see that only 10% of the claimed illegal downloads are seen as a loss in sales./blockquote

NYTimes.com

Since 2004, Google has been working with university and research libraries to create digital scans of their collections. Of the approximately seven million books that Google has already scanned, four million to five million are out of print.

Google now makes the content of those books available in its book search service but shows only snippets of text, unless it has permission from the copyright holder to show more.

Under the agreement, Google will now show up to 20 percent of the text at no charge to users. It will also make the entire book available online for a fee. Universities, libraries and other organizations will be able to buy subscriptions that make entire collections of those books available to their visitors.

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CNET News.com

[O]ne preservationist believes the answer might be found in an expression that most curators don’t consider art–online pornography.

“I guarantee that a wealth of pornography from the late 20th century will survive in digital distributed form (because) it’s a social model that’s working extremely well,” said Kurt Bollacker, digital research manager at the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit fostering several digital-works preservation projects. Bollacker spoke Thursday at a symposium called “New Media and Social Memory” at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

He held up the adult industry–always the digital pioneer–as one example of a self-selected community on the Web that swaps images and videos so regularly and widely that that activity will ultimately help preserve an archive over years. Similarly, he pointed to successful niche archives like the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator, or MAME, a collective of programmers who preserved video games from the 1980s with CPU and hardware emulators.

GOOGLE’S MOON SHOT

by JEFFREY TOOBIN
The quest for the universal library.
Issue of 2007-02-05
Posted 2007-01-29

Every weekday, a truck pulls up to the Cecil H. Green Library, on the campus
of Stanford University, and collects at least a thousand books, which
are taken to an undisclosed location and scanned, page by page, into an
enormous database being created by Google. The company is also
retrieving books from libraries at several other leading universities,
including Harvard and Oxford, as well as the New York Public Library.
At the University of Michigan, Google’s original partner in Google Book
Search, tens of thousands of books are processed each week on the
company’s custom-made scanning equipment.
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The Splintered Mind: Still More Data on the Theft of Ethics Books

Last month, I noted that ethics books are more likely to be stolen than non-ethics books in philosophy (looking at a large sample of recent ethics and non-ethics books from leading academic libraries). Missing books as a percentage of those off shelf were 8.7% for ethics, 6.9% for non-ethics, for an odds ratio of 1.25 to 1. However, I noted three concerns about these data that required further analysis. I’ve now done the further analysis.

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