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Amazon Fights Piracy Tool, Creators Call It a Parody 268

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-uh-uh-art-yeah-that's-the-ticket dept.
jamie points out an interesting story which started a few days ago, when a pair of students from the Netherlands released a Firefox add-on which integrated links to the Pirate Bay on Amazon product pages. Customers who had the add-on would see a large "Download 4 Free" button next to items which were also available on the Pirate Bay. The add-on quickly drew notice, and the creators were hit with a take-down notice and threats of litigation from Amazon. Now, the students have removed the add-on, and they are claiming an unusual defense: "'Pirates of the Amazon' was an artistic parody, part of our media research and education at the Media Design M.A. course at the Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was a practical experiment on interface design, information access and currently debated issues in media culture. We were surprised by the attentions and the strong reactions this project received. Ultimately, the value of the project lies in these reactions. It is a ready-made and social sculpture of contemporary internet user culture."
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Amazon Fights Piracy Tool, Creators Call It a Parody

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  • So Where is it Now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:18AM (#26011053)
    So where is the plug-in hiding now? The Pirate Bay??

    Be interesting if the source was published to Wikileaks.

  • Defense for what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RockMFR (1022315) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:18AM (#26011055)
    What do they have to defend? What is illegal about this?
    • Re:Defense for what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:42AM (#26011151) Homepage Journal

      Indeed. What exactly are they threatening to sue them for? Contributory copyright infringement? Guess what? Amazon isn't the copyright holder of many (any?) of these works. They have no standing.

      Of course, there is that trademark issue ;)

    • by Alsee (515537) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:02AM (#26011261) Homepage

      What is illegal about this?

      I believe that would be the crime of pissing off a corporation with enough money to rape your pathetic ass in court.

      -

    • Amazon would probably claim some type of derivate work infringement of its website. Not sure it would fly in court though. But winning isn't usually the goal in this type of situation. Getting it to just go away is the main goal.
      • by hellwig (1325869) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:06AM (#26011439)
        Looks like it worked. Oh wait... no it didn't. [thepiratebay.org]

        p.s. I don't use FireFox, so I can't verify the link torrent is anything useful.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          p.s. I don't use FireFox

          Get off my Slashdot.

        • by dword (735428) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @08:30AM (#26012365)
          Great, now /. is guilty of conspiracy to copyright infringement by offering a link to a web page offering a link to a .torrent file offering links to trackers offering addresses of people that offer to share an application that offers links to web pages offering links to torrents offering links to trackers offering addresses of people that offer to share copyrighted content with you.

          There, I said it!
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by aminorex (141494)

            Think of Al Gore's responsibility in all of this!

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by orangesquid (79734)

            Yes, yes, but you could be more precise. Here, let me help:
            Since slashdot (in the US) has nonspecifically allowed a user (who appears to be in the US [slashdot.org]) to post a link to thepiratebay (in the netherlands) providing a mirror of a tool created (by students in the netherlands seemingly otherwise unaffiliated with thepiratebay) for the alleged purpose of allowing a user to automatically alter the appearance of the online catalog of (US) media vendor amazon to include links to thepiratebay, a website that offers

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Nothing, but you don't have to break the law to be punished.

    • by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @08:42AM (#26012409)

      What do they have to defend? What is illegal about this?

      The threat of litigation or the act of a lawsuit has gone way beyond "knee-jerk reaction" to "standard corporate policy" these days.

      Armies of Attorneys used to be an risk expense that had to be mitigated and controlled. Nowadays, it's a budgeted line item with it's own department number and P&L statements.

      The world price tag for almost everything is controlled by litigation history, which much like Moores Law, seems to double in size every 18 months. What does that affect you ask? Grab one of your old pay stubs from 10 years ago and tell me how much you were paying for better medical and dental coverage and compare it to your 2009 rates. (Try not to make yourself violently ill over the figures either, and certainly don't start calculating what they'll be 10 years from now, remember your emergency room co-pay ain't cheap...)

      • by aminorex (141494) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:46PM (#26013995) Homepage Journal

        Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ... whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

  • Ok. So what's new here? Nothing?

  • by rm999 (775449) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:26AM (#26011093)

    It sounds silly, but I see how this was a parody, and perhaps even some sort of statement. First off, anyone who installed this already knew how to install a bit torrent client, and probably knew how to go to piratebay and search for what they wanted. I think what the creators of this extension were commenting on is the ease of getting anything for free online; pretty much every mainstream downloadable product on Amazon is probably online somewhere.

    Honestly, what serious extension has adds big "'Download 4 free,' 'Not Downloadable,' or 'Not Available'" buttons to your browser? Any way, there's no way to sue an extension out of existence - if people really want it, they'll get it. This extension is probably pretty useless, so I think Amazon should just let it die.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by VinylRecords (1292374)

      This extension is probably pretty useless, so I think Amazon should just let it die.

      Instead of letting it die Amazon.com brings everyone's full attention to it instead, brilliant PR move.

      I use Amazon.com and Pirate Bay all of them. If I had known the companies were merging I would have purchased more stock in both of them.

      • by rm999 (775449) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:03AM (#26011265)

        Classic example of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect [wikipedia.org]

      • by dacut (243842) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:50AM (#26011583)

        Amazon has inked distribution deals with a bunch of record companies -- deals which are certainly not permanent. If anything, given that Amazon is the first major seller of non-DRM-encumbered MP3s, these deals are probably subject to renewal in a short period of time (so that the record companies could pull the plug if need be).

        Now a way of circumventing sales -- however obvious and silly -- which places links on Amazon's pages is featured on Slashdot, a fairly well read site. You're Amazon's legal department. Do you decide to:
        (a) Exert pressure on the authors of this tool to remove it, thus demonstrating to the record companies that you are serious about your agreement with them and make the next round of negotiations easier? If so, turn to page 72.
        (b) Do nothing. If so, turn to page 93 -- and prepare to get reamed in the ass when the record labels demand $2.50 per download.

        This has nothing to do with public relations and everything to do with vendor relations.

        • If anything, given that Amazon is the first major seller of non-DRM-encumbered MP3s, these deals are probably subject to renewal in a short period of time (so that the record companies could pull the plug if need be).

          This being Slashdot, I feel free to be pedantic - but this is a serious question as well.

          Is there such a thing as a DRM-encumbered MP3?

          Some of the AAC files iTunes sells are DRM-encumbered, and I imagine Sony has (at least in the past) sold it's own DRM-encumbered Sony format (whatever it was called) - bot does anyone put DRM on MP3 files and sell them?

          • by dacut (243842)

            Is there such a thing as a DRM-encumbered MP3?

            Touché. :-) You're right, I was being redundant; my intent was to call out the non-DRM-ness of the offering.

            Indeed, no, at least that I'm aware of. It is possible to watermark them, but such marks are easily removed by re-encoding the MP3 file. Now, it's possible to use MPEG 1 Layer 3 encoding technologies and layer DRM on top of it, but the result would not be what anyone would consider to be an MP3 file.

        • Yes, probably Amazon was obliged to do this, still, if they don't, i would have missed this 'great' add-on.

    • by bahstid (927038) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:42AM (#26011557)

      What might have made a nice further comment would have been to code an extension that would show e.g. "available on Amazon for $2.00" on the pirate bay site, and see what kind of traffic would go in the other direction. ...or maybe the comment was that more insightful media corporations would have thought this up for themselves a while back.
       

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        I would actually install that plugin, too. Take it a step further and link to a shop aggregator (to get multiple prices and pick the best) and it's even better.

        I must admit, though... If I'm willing to buy and I'm at a torrent site, I've already failed to find it anywhere that I would shop at.

      • by bondsbw (888959)
        Sure, and I wonder why Amazon didn't just make a tiny change to the page source to break the add-on? They might chase each other for a while, but people will eventually get rid of the add-on if it causes problems every few days.
    • " a feeble or ridiculous imitation " ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/parody [merriam-webster.com] )

      Imitation.

      If would have been hugely parodyc to build a similar website, that could have got feeds from Amazon itself mind you, and to prominently put the button there.

      That is parody.

      To do so on top of the website itself is not parody, is naked provocation, almost trolling, which seems to be working nicely.

  • by Erikderzweite (1146485) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @01:34AM (#26011119)

    I have just downloaded and installed this extention. Not that I would ever use it -- if I need a torrent, I'd go to thepiratebay.org in the first place.
    But as amason tries to forbid this thing, I think I'll give it a try. Somehow it feels really good browsing amazon with this add-on knowing that this is exactly the thing they don't want you to be able to do.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:17AM (#26011483)

      That sounds a bit juvenile really.

      • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @04:14AM (#26011649)

        That sounds a bit juvenile really.

        So does calling someone a name and posting anonymously. I say go for it dude! Look, he's not collapsing the economy by doing it, some greedy bankers and a lot of irresponsible lenders already did that. Some college kid getting some free songs is not something you really need to get all huffy and righteous about. What you need to get huffy and righteous about is all of the powerful people who have destroyed the economy and your parents' retirement. But wait! Downloading a song is sooooo much more important, right?

        To all of the righteous "downloading is a crime" types: get some priorities and complain about things that really matter, children.

        • Lets just say I wish I had a private corporate jet and could fly to DC and ask for large billions of dollars because "I made Bad Business Decisions".

      • by TheLink (130905)
        But juveniles are the target market, and a fair sized one :).
  • Phew! (Score:5, Funny)

    by quag7 (462196) <deepspace@dataswamp.net> on Saturday December 06, 2008 @02:54AM (#26011417) Homepage

    Well thank God, because now people won't download shit for free anymore and instead buy it on amazon.com.

  • Parody (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Catil (1063380) * on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:22AM (#26011505)
    Amazon is kind of doing the opposite for years now - placing ads on torrent-sites and the like, where you can buy the same item from Amazon you are about to download for free. Therefore 'parody' is indeed the right term to use for this plugin.
  • by madhatter256 (443326) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:32AM (#26011537)

    Nope. Apparently, this tool created for this school project is not over. The second half of the experiment, after they take down the software, should be to see what kind of punishment they would receive if this were to happen in the real world.

    Then they will really know, not just by the reactions of Amazon and their take down notice, but through the legal system about the social feedback such a software will receive...

  • by Alsee (515537) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @03:45AM (#26011565) Homepage

    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    The 2007 CIA World Factbook by United States. Central Intelligence Agency
    The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
    Dracula by Bram Stoker
    Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Ulysses by James Joyce
    Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
    The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
    Paradise Lost by John Milton
    A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
    Grimm's Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm
    The Marvelous Land Of Oz by L. Frank Baum
    Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
    The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

    Amazon.com has all or nearly all of those books, some as DRM-Kindle ebooks.

    Now... what idiot here wants explain to me why the hell I SHOULDN'T have this convenient Download-torrent-from-ThePirateBay button show up on the page in my Firefox browser? And offer me their brilliant rant on how this browser extension is or shoud-be illegal?

    -

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Now... what idiot here wants explain to me why the hell I SHOULDN'T have this convenient Download-torrent-from-ThePirateBay button show up on the page in my Firefox browser?

      I guess I'll be that idiot (hey, arguing on the internet is like competing in the special Olympics; win or lose, you're still retarded!).

      1. Not directly related to your point, but do you really think that largest use of this device is going to be downloading public-domain books with this thing? Be honest.
      2. There is already a wonderful site that already has these books available for download. If a greasemonkey user script was written that would pull the book from gutenberg.org, I don't think anyone would be com
    • by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @09:08AM (#26012485)

      The "official" answer is that a current version of something like Ulysses is going to have lots of notes at the back trying to explain what on earth the author was on about, and that the text of these notes will have been added recently.

      If you want to read the pre-1923 version of e.g. Ulysses, feel free:

      http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4300 [gutenberg.org]

  • Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Kooning Academy.

    That sounds just like a joke name but this place does seem to exist. 'Zwarte Piet' is dutch for santas helper.

    I don't think courts normally allow the 'My school has a stupid name' defense.

  • Pirates Of The Bay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by biocute (936687) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @04:09AM (#26011643) Homepage

    Amazon should instead create another Firefox add-on, when users are browsing through TPB torrents, a large "Buy Genuine 4 Cheap" button next to those torrent listings would appear and link back to Amazon.com.

  • I guess the OJ break-in was simply a work of "performance art", too.

    Yes, I know that these folks didn't do anything illegal, but the "I'm an artiste" defense has got to be one of the dumber ones I've heard. Damn, if you are an artist, stand up for your art and have Amazon really come after you before you cave. Especially if you are actually an artist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531)

      The "experiment" stuff wasn't just an off-the-cuff excuse. They did write a paper on it.

  • by cliffski (65094) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @05:25AM (#26011819) Homepage

    Regardless of its legality this is truly self-destructive and silly. I can understand how people want to get stuff for free, even though I fundamnetally disagree with piracy. What I do NOT understand is why those peole cannot see that if everyone does what they do, no new content will be produced. (Mainly thats why piracy is unethical, because it relys on you leeching off everyone else).
    So where you may have an economic incentive to pirate stuff, there is also a clear incentive not to let anyone else know how to do it.
    So why as so many hardcore pirates such evangelists for piracy?
    They are making it easier to get caught (by always seeding and promoting it), inviting much heavier penalties, and ultimately destroying the income of the exact content producers they like.
    The rational pirate would keep a low profile, or at most, only distribute links to really poor content. It just goes to reinforce my belief that its mainly immature kids who do this kind of thing.

    • by eddy (18759) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @06:01AM (#26011917) Homepage Journal

      >What I do NOT understand is why those peole cannot see that if everyone does what they do, no new content will be produced.

      Well, I don't think I have ever seen an explanation of how the imperative/compulsion to create gets overridden by the need to make money doing it.

      I mean, our oldest paintings are something on the order of 30000 years old, are you trying to tell me they only got painted because the painter got paid and hade copyright protection?

      • 100% Correct. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joe U (443617) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @09:40AM (#26012613) Homepage Journal

        You are 100% correct.

        The ability to make money over and over on creations like this is a relatively recent idea. People, in general, are not going to stop writing, painting, or making music because of a lack of copyright.

        The only change is the other people who make money off of the artists are not going to get paid. Those people have made a lot of money over many years and will do almost anything to keep that money coming in.

    • by srussia (884021) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @07:36AM (#26012165)

      Mainly thats why piracy is unethical, because it relys on you leeching off everyone else.

      That reminds me of Bastiat's "The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else."

      The big difference of course is that you are talking about non-rivalrous goods (copies of works), while Bastiat was referring to scarce, rivalrous goods.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jmorris42 (1458) *

        > That reminds me of Bastiat's "The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else."

        Except the dude was just a little pessimestic. It appears MOST seek to live at the expense of everybody else through the power of socialism. Some of us though, still vote for limited government as envisioned by the US Founders. The US Constituition. That would be Change I can Believe in. Doubt I'll ever see it practiced again, but I can keep trying for a little while long

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by wild_quinine (998562)

      Regardless of its legality this is truly self-destructive and silly. I can understand how people want to get stuff for free, even though I fundamnetally disagree with piracy. What I do NOT understand is why those peole cannot see that if everyone does what they do, no new content will be produced.

      What browser are you using? The way I see it, either you're using Firefox, and therefore wrong, Q.E.D.

      Or you're using I.E., and therefore of inconsequential opinion.

    • Piracy is illegal (by which I mean copyright infringement is illegal in most localities), period.

      But copyright in its current form is immoral, so I am not surprised many folks are prepared to brake a law that is clearly flawed.

      Your argument that without copyright there would be no artistic output is easily debunkable, many great advances of humanity were achieved before copyright arrived to the scene, and actually lack of copyright is demonstrably better for the spreading of ideas and science.

  • Shame... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nigel999 (883244) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @06:10AM (#26011933)
    Before it was taken down, I managed to download a pair of wool slippers, a Brompton folding bike and a sweet KitchenAid stand mixer. Thanks, piratebay!
  • Are they stupid ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @09:24AM (#26012549) Homepage Journal
    I really don't see how Amazon have any claim to make here. The Amazon site is not being changed in any way whatsoever. The Firefox addon only modifies the way the page appears to the user of the browser where that addon is installed. They can't claim breach of copyright as no unlicensed distribution has taken place, and it has nothing to do with trademark law as there is nothing claiming to be Amazons property. The domain name (Pirates-of-the-Amazon.com) they chose to distribute the addon was the only possible flaw. The addon itself doesn't capitalise the word amazon so cannot be considered breach of trademarking, and *the* amazon is a natural feature. Nobody buys stuff from The Amazon - The Amazon.com website sure, but the latter statement has been qualified.

    Amazon may as well make it a condition of using their site that you may NOT maximise your browser. Mind your own f*kin business. Whatever I choose to do with information legally obtained, after it gets to my machine, is my business, and my business alone. They should go after Opera the browser too. After all, you can make Amazons websites text be rendered in any font you like using CSS preferences. And Opera is a commercial venture, so they may be able to pay.
    • You either believe this:

      "The Amazon site is not being changed in any way whatsoever"

      or this

      "The Firefox addon only modifies the way the page appears to the user of the browser where that addon is installed"

      The mental gymnastics that some people perform are worthy of an Olympic gold medal...

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp

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