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Join Us to Stop ACTA & TPP!

stop acta
Together, we beat SOPA in a huge victory for internet freedom.  But this Saturday, internet freedom protests are breaking out in over 200 cities across Europe.  Why?

Because the companies behind SOPA are using international trade agreements as a backdoor to pass SOPA-style laws

SOPA’s supporters are pushing two agreements: ACTA and TPP1.  ACTA would criminalize users, encourage internet providers to spy on you, and make it easier for media companies to sue sites out of existence and jail their founders.  Sound familiar?  That’s right, ACTA is from the same playbook as SOPA, but global.  Plus it didn’t even have to pass through Congress2.

TPP goes even farther than ACTA, and the process has been even more secretive and corrupt.  Last weekend (we wish this was a joke) trade negotiators partied with MPAA (pro-SOPA) lobbyists before secret negotiations in a Hollywood hotel, while public interest groups were barred from meeting in the same building.3

Trade agreements are a gaping loophole, a secretive backdoor track that–even though it creates new laws–is miles removed from democracy.  Trade negotiators are unelected and unaccountable, so these agreements have been very hard for internet rights groups to stop.

But now the tide is turning.  Fueled by the movement to stop SOPA, anti-ACTA protests are breaking out across the EU, which hasn’t ratified ACTA.  The protests are having an impact: leaders in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia have backtracked on ACTA.4  Now a massive round of street protests in over 200 cities is planned for this Saturday February 11th.

We’re planning an online protest this Saturday to support the protests in the streets.  Why?  Because together we can drive millions of emails to key decision makers–and start tipping the scales like we did on SOPA.

Can you take part?  Click here to get the code to run on your site!

We just built an ACTA & TPP contact tool, and it’s not just a petition.   It’s code for your site that figures out the visitor’s country and lets them email all their Members of European Parliament–the politicians who will be voting on ACTA in June–or the trade negotiators behind TPP.  This direct contact between voters and their officials, driven by websites of all sizes, was instrumental in the fight against SOPA.  

We can use the same tactics to defeat ACTA & TPP, but we need your help!

Support the street protests with a flood of emails to the officials responsible for ACTA & TPP.  Get the code for your website!

Don’t have a website?  Tell officials in your country to scrap ACTA & TPP!   And spread the word about Saturday’s protests! 

This is going to be tough fight.  But we need to make secretive trade agreements harder to pass than US law.  If we don’t, our internet’s future belongs to the lobbyists behind SOPA.

This is just the beginning,

–Holmes Wilson, Tiffiniy Cheng, Joshua Blount & the whole Fight for the Future team.

P.S. This map of ACTA street protests in Europe is amazing. The largest has almost 50,000 RSVP’s!

Sources:

1. For more information on ACTA, read these excellent articles from Techdirt and La Quadrature du Net. For information on TPP, read this Ars Technica piece. For video, watch this.

2. Obama’s signing of ACTA may have been unconstitutional. See Anti-counterfeiting agreement raises constitutional concerns and Techdirt.

3. Hollywood gets to party with TPP negotiators, public interest groups get thrown out of the hotel.

4. Ars Technica: Czech, Slovak governments backing away from ACTA, too.

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The Best SOPA Blackout Pages on the Internet :)

SOPA/PIPA protest

The Funniest

There were many sites that blacked out, went dark or just had anti-SOPA/PIPA messages on them for the protest, but there were some that deserve special recognition for being just plain out hilarious. The Oatmeal page, above was my favorite.

Then there was FARK:

While a bunch of other sites are going “dark” to protest SOPA/PIPA, we’re over the moon about the whole thing. Why? Honestly, we’ve been bringing you the latest news happening across the internet for 12 years, and we’re tired. And SOPA/PIPA is the perfect excuse to quit.

While SOPA might be “almost dead,” it’s not quite all the way there, and under various drafts of both SOPA/PIPA, Fark could have its DNS assignment (the thing that turns an IP address, like 10.0.0.1, into words like Fark.com) revoked without notice simply for linking to content that could come under foreign copyright claims. This means, even if it is actual news in and of itself, if we link to it, we can be shut down. And thank God, cause we’re about ready to crack under the strain of being on top of the news all the time.

Here’s a helpful video we’ve put together to explain why you should support SOPA/PIPA:

Most Visually Appealing

American Censorship.org

american censorship org

Others

Wikipedia
Mozilla
Google.com
Wordpress.com
Reddit.com
Warrior Forum
Full list here

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Should I Register a Trademark Domain?

trademark infringement
There are some Internet Marketing courses floating around that advise you to register an exact match domain name for trademarked products to promote those products. There are numerous reasons why this is a bad idea.

The number one reason why it is a bad idea is that using a company’s trademark can get you into trouble with the company that owns the trademark. They can send a cease and desist through their legal department, they can sue you for big money or they can file a UDRP to get the domain from you.

Of course, there are legal uses for trademarked domains, but you would need to hire a trademark attorney to determine that for you to avoid trouble. There’s parody and fair use, but most of the time, your use will not fall under either one of these if you plan to use it for commercial use.

One place on the Net to check for US Trademarks is TESS. You can check for international trademarks here. It’s still a good idea to get a trademark attorney to search for you, especially if you are creating a long-term brand and want to be absolutely sure there are no trademarks on the name you choose, but these two sites are good for a quick check for trademarks.

There are occasions when a company that owns a trademark will allow you to use their trademark. It never hurts to contact the company and ask them for permission and get it in writing if they allow it. It’s the quickest and safest way to find out if using a trademark will be safe.

Another reason not to use trademarks in domains is that quite a few affiliate programs, like Amazon for instance, does not allow you to promote their products with trademark domains. They will close your account right up if you use one.

There are other types of trademark infringement that are also a bad idea. One of those is called Cybersquatting.

Wikipedia: Cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting), according to the United States federal law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, is registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cybersquatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price.

This not only includes a company brand name, but can include celebrities names and typo domains where the misspelled domain is very close to a trademark.

One thing I hear frequently in forums is “there’s a million domains registered with iPad in it.” Don’t take that for permission to use Apple’s or anyone else’s trademark. They’ll get around to you sooner or later. Most companies that have gone to the trouble of registering and getting a trademark, are going to do what they need to do to protect that trademark, so don’t be stupid. Either hire a trademark attorney or just don’t register trademarked domain names.

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Stop Sopa/PIPA

stop sopa stop pipa

Contacting your representatives is easy!

Contact your Represenative. – All you have to do is enter your zip code in the box on the right and hit “Submit Zip”. Your representatives information will be displayed, then all you have to do is CALL THEM or FAX them! You can use this FREE Fax service to Fax them.  I’ve even included a template letter to send at the bottom of this post.

Contact your Senator by using this look up tool. – Simply select your state from the drop box on the left. CALL BOTH OF THEM!

How long will this take?

3-5 Minutes per representative if you keep to simple talking points. 9 – 15 minutes for all 3 representatives.

Will my representative actually listen?

YES!…Well maybe. Most have no idea what SOPA is. Mine didn’t, his aide had some ideas but not a clear understanding. But that is beyond the point, he now knows someone in his district cares about this bill being defeated. I HIGHLY DOUBT ANYONE IS GOING TO CALL IN TO SUPPORT THIS BILL. The more negativeness this bill generates, the better.

What are some talking points?

I would recommend reading up a little on SOPA, as it has changed in the past few weeks from its original version. The EFF has this PDF with a very basic summary of the bill.

 
Source: Warrior Forum
Stop SOPA … or else you could find many of the sites you use on a regular basis permanently closed to you. And maybe find your sites closed to many of your regular visitors.

The Basics

SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) is a bill currently in the US Congress that would allow the US Government to add sites to a blacklist, preventing anyone in the United States from accessing them. The stated goal is to limit access to pirate (“warez”) sites, and sites that sell counterfeit physical products. Fake Rolexes, designer clothes, prescription drugs, etc.

The intent of the bill is something we strongly support. Piracy affects those of us in the Warrior group more than most, as a lot of us make our livings selling our own intellectual property. Our membership includes tens of thousands of authors, musicians, graphic designers, photographers, programmers, copywriters, videographers, public speakers and others, from nearly every creative field.

We feel the impact of digital thievery first hand.

This bill is not the way to handle the problem. It is a disaster in the making.

It would damage the Internet’s basic security infrastructure, possibly require ISPs to monitor every site you visit, and make the operation of any website that contains user-generated content (blogs, forums, digital marketplaces, and social media sites) too risky for investors and new developers.

Wikipedia has posted a good basic summary of the potential problems. Read it. It is frightening. And you need to be scared.

How It Would Work

Here’s the simple version: If the Justice Department or any copyright holder accused a site of “encouraging or facilitating” piracy, the government could order that site removed from US-based search engines and ad networks, forbid payment processors from handling transactions for them, and require ISPs to block access to those sites by their customers.

Let’s consider how that might apply to this forum… There are currently over 335,000 pages on this site. If just one of those pages contained a single post promoting an illegal download, or one WSO seller has used graphics or code from a copyrighted product without permission, or we miss just one Chinese spam for counterfeit goods, we could be blocked.

Would it matter that we actively look for and delete those posts? Maybe, but only after the process had begun. And we’d probably never know about it until the block was in place.

The amount of time that it would take to correct such an unjustified blocking would cause permanent damage to any interactive site. Shifting the membership away from a destination for that long nearly guarantees the site would never recover.

Along with that, there is no requirement that payment processors re-accept a site that has been blocked this way. You know how these guys work: They don’t care if the site is eventually found innocent. They’d label it as “high risk,” and never deal with it again. And they’d probably start creating whole new categories to lock out, just to avoid the headaches.

“You let visitors post on your site? Sorry. We don’t accept interactive services in our network.”

And, unless the ISPs are working from a centralized and regularly updated database, it’s unlikely most of them would ever remove the blocks once they were in place.

Mistakes would almost certainly be fatal to the target sites. We’re talking about legitimate sites that provide real value for their visitors and real incomes for their operators and their families.

It is unclear at this point whether the legislation would affect sites based in the US, or if it applies only to “foreign” sites. Even if it doesn’t start out applying to sites hosted in the United States, do you really think it will stay limited to “offshore sites” for long?

And how do we justify sitting by while our friends around the world are subjected to this potential for arbitrary blocking within the US?

Don’t Think This Will Affect You?

Maybe you aren’t involved in a market where this would seem to matter, and you’re not interested in the principle of the thing. Consider a few possible examples that might make the reach of this Congressional folly clearer.

Any blogs you like? Keep in mind how many of them are hacked every day. One of the main activities for those hackers is pointing the victim sites to online shops selling illegal drugs.

*POOF*

Gone.

Hang out at any scrapbooking sites? A lot of them let the members share their original page themes and other digital scrapbooking elements. If one clueless designer uses graphics from a catalog or other copyrighted source, your fun little hobby community could be taken away from you. And the site owner could lose their income.

Use shareware or freeware? Legitimate software libraries, like CNet’s, would be prime targets. After all, it only takes one mistake.

Do you surf using proxies to protect your privacy? Forget that. It’s only a matter of time before that’s marked as a refuge for pirates and they’re blocked.

Have you ever tried to keep track of which sites are pirating your products? If you live in the US, you can forget that, too. Once they hit the blocklist, you can’t see them. Which means you can’t take any action to reduce the damage.

That’s just the tip of the virtual iceberg.

The real damage will begin when the pirates implement new systems for distributing their warez. Evading a domain-based list is child’s play for experienced people, and pirates really don’t care if it’s illegal. If they did, they wouldn’t be pirates.

And it won’t just be the traditional pirates who join in. Anyone who’s studied history knows that prohibition just romanticizes the suppliers and users, and creates networks dedicated to serving that “heroic” image.

And, of course, there’s the problem of retribution. If the US starts arbitrarily blocking access to foreign sites from within our country, how long do you think it will be before other countries develop similar approaches to advancing their political goals, and block their citizens from accessing sites they don’t deem suitable?

At that point, it isn’t even nominally about piracy any more. It’s about politics, pure and simple. If you doubt the temptation, consider how quickly nations in the Middle East tried to block their citizens from accessing western social networks at the first sign of unrest over the past few years.

Think about how this would look to the world after all our comments about the Chinese “Great Firewall.”

If you believe our bureaucrats would be careful enough to only list sites that existed for the sole purpose of piracy, remember: These are the same bureaucrats who listed a then-sitting US Senator (the late Edward Kennedy, of MA) on our anti-terrorist “no fly” list.

What’s your recourse if someone accuses you of “encouraging or facilitating” piracy and you’re found to be innocent? Good luck with that. The only way you could get any satisfaction there would be if you could prove they wilfully and knowingly made false allegations.

Ask your lawyer what the chances are of proving that. Be prepared from them to laugh and say “Zero.”

This is the single most dangerous piece of legislation to regulate the Internet that has ever had any real chance of becoming law in the US.

What Can You Do?

If you live in the US, contact your Senators and Representatives and encourage them to vote against SOPA (H.R. 3621) and PIPA, the Senate version (S. 968).

When you contact them, be calm, clear, and concise. Tell them that you support the goal but oppose the legislation, because of the damage it will do to small businesses and the security of the Internet in general.

If you feel the need to cite a source for them, point them to the Wikipedia article, which lists a number of US government studies and reports that show just how much damage the legislation could do.

And be clear that you don’t want to see an edited version of the bill passed. This thing is not just poorly implemented. The concept itself is flawed and dangerous.

Emails count a little. Phone calls and faxes count more. A short, clear printed letter mailed to them counts the most.

If you’re contacting your representative, mention H.R. 3621 (SOPA). If it’s your Senators, the bill number to mention is S. 968 (PIPA).

You can find the contact information for both Senators and Representatives at Contacting the Congress. Just select your state, type in your zip code, and click the “Submit It” button.

When contacting them, be sure to either mention your name and address to the person you speak with on the phone or include it in your correspondence. They want to know you’re actually one of their constituents.

Remember to be polite, clear, and brief. These folks are trying to protect your interests. Most of them simply don’t understand the potential problems the bill would create.

Calling them, or typing a brief letter and putting a stamp on it, will probably take less time than you were about to spend in this forum today. And it could make a huge difference.

If every US citizen who reads this takes that few minutes’ worth of action, we can generate a ton of pressure against the bill. If we all just leave it to everyone else, we’re likely to be stuck with this as law, along with all the problems it brings.

It’s up to you. Choose wisely.

Source: Warrior Forum

 

Contacting your representatives is easy!

Contact your Represenative. – All you have to do is enter your zip code in the box on the right and hit “Submit Zip”. Your representatives information will be displayed, then all you have to do is CALL THEM or FAX them! You can use this FREE Fax service to Fax them.  I’ve even included a template letter to send at the bottom of this post.

Contact your Senator by using this look up tool. – Simply select your state from the drop box on the left. CALL BOTH OF THEM!

How long will this take?

3-5 Minutes per representative if you keep to simple talking points. 9 – 15 minutes for all 3 representatives.

Will my representative actually listen?

YES!…Well maybe. Most have no idea what SOPA is. Mine didn’t, his aide had some ideas but not a clear understanding. But that is beyond the point, he now knows someone in his district cares about this bill being defeated. I HIGHLY DOUBT ANYONE IS GOING TO CALL IN TO SUPPORT THIS BILL. The more negativeness this bill generates, the better.

What are some talking points?

I would recommend reading up a little on SOPA, as it has changed in the past few weeks from its original version. The EFF has this PDF with a very basic summary of the bill.

 

LETTER TO YOUR CONGRESSMAN

 

Dear Congressman xxx,
I am deeply concerned about the potential passing of both the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. The Internet is an absolutely amazing creation that has connected people together from all parts of the globe in ways we once never imagined could be possible. Not only has it connected people, but it has also encouraged the sharing of knowledge, information, and ideas.

I understand that piracy is an issue that affects not only large industries and their businesses, like Viacom and NBCUniversal, but also smaller companies and individuals, including songwriters and authors. However, there are already measures in place to protect copyright holders, and there are actions that they can take when they see violations involving their copyrighted work.

The passing of these bills would have a severely negative impact on websites where people go to look up information, share ideas, learn, and connect with others. Websites such as YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, and Google, along with our Internet Service Providers, would be overburdened by having to police their users. Such stringent regulations against them would hinder technological innovation and make innocent service and information providers be held liable for copyright violations committed by users of their services. Focus for these companies would have to go towards censoring and policing users instead of further innovations with their services, and I do not believe it is the place of any company to act as Internet Police looking for copyright violations uploaded by third parties/users of their services if they do not wish to.

Such legislation is unlikely to be effective because American Internet users will simply switch to offshore DNS providers. And at a time when American jobs are desperately needed here in our country, the passage of these acts will encourage companies to simply move their bases offline so that they do not have to bother with such restrictive and disruptive legislation.

Furthermore, the technological and security implications of this legislation remain unknown. It would leave both websites and consumers open to hacking, phishing, and identity theft. Again, instead of encouraging innovation, companies would instead be forced to deal with such security matters instead of furthering technological advancements.

I implore that you not only vote against the passage of these bills, but that you passionately defend technological innovation, Internet security, economic growth, free speech, and creativity through vehement opposition of these acts and the encouragement of your fellow legislators to oppose these acts as well. The future of the Internet is at stake.

Sincerely,
name

Address and zip

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Google Profits from Piracy

I was sending out some DMCA notices for something that belongs to me that was being uploaded to filesharing and BlackHat sites … you know the drill. Typical low life pirate crap. I came across several sites that were promoting pirated products and running Adsense at the same time. I know that Google has a link to report Adsense abuse and spam in their index, so I used that and reported at least 20 sites that were promoting pirated products and running Adsense.

You know what their response was? In spite of sending a DMCA with the infringing page listed and the product name listed, etc., they issued a response saying they didn’t see any infringement and therefore would not be suspending the Adsense account of the [pirate].

All the hoopla over the big, bad Panda update and how Google wants only relevant results and “quality content” and blah blah blah.

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What You Can Do About “Paypal Dispute Ripoff Artists”

dmca

If you do business online and receive payments via Paypal, you probably already know that Paypal does not protect sellers of digital downloads from unscrupulous buyers.  A buyer can, and many do, purchase an item and then immediately file a Paypal dispute.  Many sellers will just issue a refund to keep their Paypal accounts in good standing, even if they know that the dispute has been filed fraudulently for the sole purpose of receiving the product for free.

I have heard over and over in forums that there is little you can do to fight back against this type of Paypal fraud, but that isn’t exactly true.  You can’t recover the money they sent if you refund, of course, but you can prevent them from using the product they bought on a website. Continue Reading

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