17
Jul/06

Senator Stevens, Tubes, MySpace, and Bad Robots


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All things considered, I would rather not start the day reading in the NY Times that someone who works for me was accused of copyright infringement, even erroneously, but there you are.
Net Neutrality is an important issue and Seante Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R, Alaska), who was ridiculed last year for the Bridge to Nowhere, was ridiculed again last week for making a speech about the Internet that was widely viewed as being, uh, incoherent.
Part of that ridicule consisted of a song composed by Andrew Raff, blogger and attorney here. He put together The Ted Stevens Fan Club on MySpace. 2500 users last week accessed the site to hear the song about Internet tubes.
Then the site was taken down and Andrew received an email from MySpace stating:
MySpace has deleted your profile because we received a credible
complaint of your violation of the MySpace Terms of Services.
Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to:
-Any automated use of the system, such as using scripts and/or bots
to add friends, send messages, etc.
-For band and filmmaker profiles, MySpace prohibits sexually
suggestive imagery or any other unfair, misleading or deceptive
content intended to draw traffic to the profile.
-MySpace also investigates credible complaints of copyright/
trademark infringement and will delete any materials that infringe
upon the intellectual property rights of third parties.

Now Andrew certainly didn’t do the first two things, and he composed the music and the lyrics (other than those that quote the Senator) for the song, so we, and the NY Times, wondered whether the Senator, or someone acting on his behalf, had brought the complaint.
Which would have many disturbing ramifications.
So I wrote the general counsel of Fox Interactive this morning and asked who brought the complaint and what work was infringed. He responded:
. . .the account was not suspended due to a user report.
Our customer service group monitors “fan sites” through arrangements
with record labels whose artists have official pages on the site.

This actually makes sense. MySpace would have to use crawlers to monitor all that user content. Andrew’s site attracted a lot of traffic in a short period of time, to download an audio file, and had ‘fan club’ in its title to boot. This fits a music pirate profile.
And what of the first email that said a credible complaint had been received? Simply put, it was wrong.
The site was put back up, and the song is available again, so no harm, no foul?
However that a policing ‘bot (or human supervision thereof) should be empowered to take down the site for 40 hours – that’s of some concern.
As is the fact that someone such as Senator Stevens has so much power of the issue of Net Neutrality.
Australian government explanation of the Internet here.

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