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It's funny.  Laugh. The Media Amiga The Courts

Plagiarizing a Takedown Notice 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the cheaper-than-paying-lawyers dept.
ChipMonk writes "Over at hobbyist site OS News, editor-in-chief Thom Holwerda published a highly skeptical opinion of the announcement of Commodore USA's own Amiga line. Within hours, Commodore USA sent a takedown notice to OS News, demanding a retraction of the piece and accusing the site of libel and defamation. What's funny is that the takedown notice was mostly copied, with minor edits, from Chilling Effects, a site dedicated to publicizing attempts at squelching free speech. The formatting, line breaks, obtuse references to 'OCGA,' and even the highlighted search terms were left largely intact."
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Plagiarizing a Takedown Notice

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  • boilerplate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:48PM (#33492412)
    Can boilerplate language be "plagiarized"?
    • Re:boilerplate (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:56PM (#33492472)

      I suppose it can. There are legal companies that sell boilerplate contracts online like for a landlord/tenant, so people can print them out and use them for a fee. I don't suppose if another company sprang up and used their templates, those companies would be too happy. If the original companies wrote the templates themselves, I can't imagine why they wouldn't have a case.

      IANAL though.

      • This isn't something that is being invented, or a work being created. Since the boilerplate is not a copyrightable work there's no issue with plagiarism.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Copyright violations and plagiarism are not the same thing. One has a narrow (or not so narrow) legal definition while the other is a common word indicating an generally unethical copying of work and presenting it as one's own. So IMO yes it can be plagiarized even if it isn't a legal issue.

        • by digitig (1056110)

          Since the boilerplate is not a copyrightable work

          Why not? Somebody at some point created it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by John Hasler (414242)

            > Why not? Somebody at some point created it.

            Under US copyright law only "creative expression" is protected, not mere "sweat of the brow".

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by modecx (130548)

              Hrm. Lately, i've seen a lot more 'creativity' in contracts, EULAs and the such, than I've seen in many other industries.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by mysidia (191772)

              The selection of words used in boilerplate are not dictated by circumstances. Many different choices of words are possible to express essentially the same idea, as with any letter.

              So how is the choice of wording for a particular boilerplate letter, not a 'creative expression' ?

              • Why is this marked Troll?
                • by mysidia (191772)
                  I guess someone was looking for -1 Disagrees with Parent, or -1 Reminder of inconvenient facts, but couldn't find those?
              • by sirlark (1676276)
                Although for most any boilerplate text there is "prior art". The exact wording may be copyrightable, but the general gist and I imagine large amounts of common 'legalese' are not, but then IANAL
        • by Sparr0 (451780)

          Why isn't the boilerplate a copyrightable work? There are a million different ways to convey the intended message, and the one they chose is a matter of expression in the same way that a news article is.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mysidia (191772)

          What criteria makes you think it is not a copyrightable work?

          The person who makes boilerplate text has created:

          • An original work, if no one else had written that particular boiler plate text before
          • They authored it
          • The boiler plate is literary in nature, being as it is comprised of words, numbers, or verbal/numerical symbols, and it is non-dramatic, being that it is not a work that is performed.
          • The boiler plate is fixed it into a tangible form (ASCII coded text stored on a computer disk
      • That depends on country. For example, in Russia by law texts of all legal contracts and notices are out of copyright.

        The only exception is contracts which are not yet used, which can be treated as literary works. I.e. if you ask a lawyer to write a contract then it'll be protected by copyright. But once you use this contract in a deal with a customer, this contract falls out of copyright. Your counterparty can freely post it, shamelessly plagiarize it and so on.
    • by JustOK (667959)

      I asked that very same question in a manifesto I published a few years ago. Ye shall be sued.

    • Re:boilerplate (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rm999 (775449) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:09PM (#33492574)

      Not really, but it is still copyright infringement and hence you can be sued for it.

      IANAL, but Wikipedia, the most reliable legal source known to man, says that plagiarism is not a legal concept, is not the same thing as copyright infringement, and is "concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarizing author's reputation that is achieved through false claims of authorship".
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism#Legal_aspects [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mysidia (191772)

        Arguably if they are sending down a takedown notice, this is not about getting 'credit ' for authorship. In fact they are not publishing anything when they send a takedown letter, or authorizing anything to be published. So it is questionable that it could be called plagiarism when they aren't even publishing a work.

        The letter has a specific utilitarian purpose, and while the sender may be signing a statement to swear in affirmation to what the letter says is true... Signing a legal statement does no

  • and not copyright infringement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mounthood (993037)

      Well, the accusation of libel and defamation and not copyright infringement.

      From the summary: "Chilling Effects, a site dedicated to publicizing attempts at squelching free speech"

      • by fluffy99 (870997)

        Well, the accusation of libel and defamation and not copyright infringement.

        From the summary: "Chilling Effects, a site dedicated to publicizing attempts at squelching free speech"

        Try reading the actual letter instead of the misleading summary. It's not a takedown notice.

        • by mounthood (993037)

          > It's not a takedown notice

          Right. The OP implied that it wasn't ironic because they copied text, but didn't accuse a copyright violation. It's humorous because it's an attempt to chill free speech, made by copying a letter from a site working against this.

  • So, why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pedantic bore (740196) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:54PM (#33492456)

    I would guess that most takedown notices look pretty much alike.

    Might as well save the money that a lawyer would charge to cut and paste this document... because you're probably going to pay that money to your lawyer for something else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by unixan (800014)

      Might as well save the money that a lawyer would charge to cut and paste this document.

      On the flip side:

      A. This is results in very asymmetric lawyer costs. The recipient is going to have to spend lawyer time to defend against it that the sender didn't just to send it.

      B. By not spending time on a decent lawyer to ensure the takedown is unique and covers the case law for their own jurisdiction, Commodore may have unwittingly given up any legitimate rights they might have had in this dispute.

      C. Lawyers are truly valuable at convincing clients to not start legal disputes. By not vetting this by

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        The recipient is going to have to spend lawyer time to defend against it that the sender didn't just to send it.

        Please note that the recipient has delivered the reply from Arkell v. Pressdram [wikipedia.org]. How much lawyer time does it take to draft two words?

  • Clearly, (Score:5, Funny)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@NosPAM.justconnected.net> on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:55PM (#33492462)

    The correct situation in this, as in all cases, is for the original author to issue a takedown notice. I bet they already have one on hand...

  • Yes, it's slightly amusing given the context but it's certainly not actionable. It's perfectly normal to copy a boilerplate legal notice from some template you found on the Internet and change it around to suit your purposes. Is anybody seriously suggesting that every DMCA takedown notice has to be originally written from scratch?
    • by perlchild (582235)

      Normally a template written in that way wouldn't be quite so recognizable. Would you leave highlighted search terms(from the summary) in a template you sell?

      This is more on the "we don't care about anyone's right to be copied but ours" area of legal that can get them slapped by a judge, hopefully.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        This is more on the "we don't care about anyone's right to be copied but ours" area of legal that can get them slapped by a judge, hopefully.

        Except their complaint has absolutely nothing to do with copyright. Theirs is one of libel and defamation.

        The fact that nearly everyone around here instantly assumes that any legal action has to do with copyright says a lot about the level of critical thinking that goes on here.
        • by cgenman (325138)

          If you were sending out a legal letter about defamation, would you do so while indulging in copyright infringement?

          Similarly, not only was the take down notice embarrassingly amateurish and potentially criminal, it was an attempt to take down an article that claimed they were embarrassingly amateurish and potentially criminals. I could definitely see this takedown notice being used by the defense in a civil proceeding to show the article's merit.

    • Is anybody seriously suggesting that every DMCA takedown notice has to be originally written from scratch?

      It would be a start...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mounthood (993037)

      Its not a DMCA, and saying "It's perfectly normal" doesn't make it legal. Who owns the copyright on the text which was copied?

    • I'll go you one better. I think every legal notice should need to be written from scratch. There can be standardized language, but any and all legal notices should come from a lawyer, not a template or for-sale pre-written package. My reasons for wanting that have absolutely nothing to do with this story in any way, shape, or form, however. I want it so that there is greater specificity in legal notices given out, and that the merits are strongly considered before being issued.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        There can be standardized language, but any and all legal notices should come from a lawyer, not a template or for-sale pre-written package.

        So someone who does this as a hobby and can't afford a lawyer should be prevented from having the same right as coprorations?

        Or, to look at it from the flip side, clever crooks get another loophole -- you can't hold them responsible for anything they say or write or sign, unless it's through a lawyer. "Y'r'onor, the sales contract for [something] wasn't signed by a rea

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Yeah... and it's perfectly normal to copy clip art images from some template you found on the internet and use them on your web site too. But some folks may still take exception [slashdot.org] to this.

      For now, though, RIAA, MPAA, ASCAP, and patent trolls are the big thing, though, I guess.

      But how long will it be seriously, before we have an association of legal/public document trolls?

      They must find it sickening that sites like chilling effects are even allowed to exist. And US code and the text of actual laws

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Sorry, in my haste, I made an error

        Should be:

        And US code and the text of actual laws is allowed to be published online, without the US and state LOBBYISTS who wrote the law getting any royalties for each view??

    • by Peeteriz (821290)

      As for any other document, you don't need to write it from scratch - you can reuse parts from documents you have previously written, or you may copy documents that the author has given you permission to copy and adapt - but you are not allowed to copy&adapt other authors works that you somehow downloaded from the internet.

      Copyright applies to legalese letters in exactly the same manner as to novels or music.

  • Freedom of the Press belongs to those who can afford it.

    We had it good for a while, but the powers that be want the old structure back. You'll be able to talk trash on some small, out of the way website, but if it's large and part of the "new media" they'll want it to play by the old rules; meaning, he who has the gold, rules. You don't have to hire lawyers, just cut-and-paste a threat.

    • by Swanktastic (109747) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:47PM (#33492858)

      The "powers that be" in this particular case is some guy in Florida who buys China Ubuntu boxes, slaps a Commodore sticker on them and sells them as Commodore machines. It's not some Fortune 100 company, it's a dude who runs the business out of his furniture warehouse. He hasn't even filed a suit or hired a lawyer, so it's the internet equivalent of "Take that back." I don't think this particular incident is terribly good proof that "He who has the gold makes the rules."

      I mean, right now I could paste some legal jargon into this post demanding that you admit your statement was injurious to me, and it wouldn't really indicate anything at all about our legal system.

      • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @02:50AM (#33495564)
        On the other hand, your taking the action of pasting "some legal jargon into this post" might be a seen as an indicator that the U.S. legal system has become so seriously flawed that those who wish to abuse it feel no compunction against doing so, while those who take the pasted "legal jargon" seriously may be doing so because they are only too aware that the U.S. legal system has indeed been weaponized.
  • Yay!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 7bit (1031746) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:09PM (#33492570)

    Yay!!! Thank you for this story! Whatever your point is or the controversy is supposed to be, all that matters is that I now know that there is movement again on the Commodore/Amiga front. Who knows when I would have learned about any of this otherwise? CommodoreUSA owes you a debt of gratitude for this advertising I'm sure.

    Most of what brought me into the computer age was my C64 and later my Amiga. Many today won't have been old enough to remember that computer/software/game stores like Software Etc. in the malls at one point were at least half Amiga software, written by Microsoft even. If that oil barron hadn't bought out Commodore and purposely run it into the ground to bankrupt it Commodore would have shaped the entire computer industry!

    Today a computer is a computer, but back then an Amiga was so far ahead of everything else it was amazing! A fully windowed multitasking color OS that was easy to use 10 years before Windows 95. Think about that shit. Even Billy Gates was writing software for it. God, what could have been... And the games for it were amazing, and not just for when they came out.

    I'll have to read up on what the new version of the company is up to but good luck to them. Years ago I thought about how Amiga would be the perfect way to reintroduce the concept of a complete computer in a keyboard etc. I'm gratified to see that someone else had the same idea and dream. I hope it succeeds in some way.

    • If that oil barron(sp) hadn't bought out Commodore and purposely run it into the ground to bankrupt it Commodore would have shaped the entire computer industry!

      So you're saying the whole computer industry would now be companies producing machines made of glued together proprietary custom chips, which was the architecture of the Amiga. We should thank said 'oil baron' then.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        So you're saying the whole computer industry would now be companies producing machines made of glued together proprietary custom chips,

        Where are you getting your non-proprietary chips from? It doesn't matter whether you buy from Intel, AMD or any other chip maker. The chips in your computer are patented, trademarked and copyrighted out the wazoo.

    • by Jaime2 (824950)
      Read the press release. All they plan on bringing back is the Commodore logo and form factor. It's pretty obvious that they are going to put commodity parts in the box and run either Windows or Linux.

      BTW, Bill Gates wrote software for everything. Back when Microsoft had nothing but BASIC in their product portfolio, they'd port it to anything with a blinking light.
      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        anything with a blinking light.

        Indeed, even HTML had a version of BASIC.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Back when Microsoft had nothing but BASIC in their product portfolio, they'd port it to anything with a blinking light.

        Except that you needed to install Service Patch 2 for blinking light compatibility.

      • by JackDW (904211)

        Amiga has been on the point of resurrection for nearly two decades now. It has never happened. The idea of an Apple-like rebirth was being seriously discussed in the late 90s: products were even planned. As a little historical curiousity, this video, Back for the Future [google.com], was doing the rounds amongst Amigans. It even seemed like it might happen for a while. But the "year of the Amiga desktop" has been and gone.

        Like you say, Commodore is just a brand now. You can find Commodore machines in PC World. They ar

    • by Fumus (1258966)

      Years ago I thought about how Amiga would be the perfect way to reintroduce the concept of a complete computer in a keyboard etc.

      You mean a laptop?

  • From the article:

    Unless proven otherwise, I'm assuming for now that Commodore USA is, at best, a hoax, and at worst, a very inept con.

    If you're going to claim someone's business is somewhere between a hoax and a con, you'd better have something better than supposition based off a legal settlement and your subjective opinion of the company's website.

    It's called libel, and it's not free speech- and the author seems to be assuming they're guilty until proven innocent. He's got no right to complain abou

    • by KibibyteBrain (1455987) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:23PM (#33492672)
      He didn't saying that Commodore USA is a hoax or con merely that he is "assuming" they are, which I presume is a way of trying to say he will treat them with such skepticism in his actions. While probably not the clearest wording those still mean different things. Something like the difference between writing"Joe is a murderer." and "Until proven otherwise, I am going to assume Joe committed the murder."
      • by Opyros (1153335)
        But does that make enough difference? IANAL, but my understanding is that the use of weasel words such as "allegedly" is no defense in defamation cases; this sounds all too similar.
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Weasel words work if correct. If you are the one and only one person that thinks Jeb Bush is really a Martian, and you announce "Jeb is allegedly a Martian" with no other sources, then you, in fact, called him a Martian. If you say, "I believe that Jeb appears to be of Martian heritage." Then you likely weaseled your way into giving a non-professional opinion on the matter, which is mostly protected (baring things like actual malice). If someone else told you he was definitely a Martian, then "Jeb is alle
      • In five minutes worth of googling, I found : Barry's homepage, a page [bcpa.net] showing he doesn't own the "building" for his world headquarters, two press release articles showing he likely has the licensing rights, wikipedia articles not edited by him saying he owns the company etc, and three engadget [engadget.com] pages which showed the guy has been working this deal since 2009. He began selling machines, and after Commodore Gaming [engadget.com] said he didn't have the rights back in April he updated his site to indicate that he didn't yet

    • by mdmkolbe (944892)

      The words "I'm assuming" change the sentence from a potentially libelous statement about Commodore USA to a factual statement about the author's opinions and thus make the statement not libel (at least in the USA).

      He never claimed they were a hoax. He claimed he is assuming they are a hoax. Under US law, "I believe they are a hoax" is not libel even when "They are a hoax" is.

    • by azior (1302509)

      You quote the article but apparently still haven't read it. I sure hope you won't sue me for saying your comment is stupid.

    • by mounthood (993037)

      If you're going to claim someone's business is somewhere between a hoax and a con, you'd better have something better than supposition based off a legal settlement and your subjective opinion of the company's website.

      I am a Nigerian Prince who needs your help.... Now I know what your thinking, but you'd better not say it because that would be libelous.

      See how that works? Do you think people shouldn't be able to call a scam, a scam?

      • by cgenman (325138)

        On less straightforward fronts, The Phantom console [wikipedia.org] was an outright scam and The Gizmondo [wikipedia.org] was a way of laundering money. Both of these smelled incredibly fishy to tech journalists. And a properly informing press would tell their clients that neither of these developers seemed on the up-and-up. For the first year or two the press gave The Phantom a mostly free pass, allowing investors to be suckered into pouring money into an organization that didn't seem to be producing anything other than doctored scree

      • by Carmody (128723)

        A prince, really? How can I help you, mounthood?

    • by Dhalka226 (559740)

      Statements of opinion are not libel; to qualify as such, they must be malicious, knowingly false statements of "fact."

      "SuperBanana is a child molester" can be libel. "I think SuperBanana is a child molester because I saw him talking to some kids on a playground" is not. (Unless of course you never did any such thing -- then it's an entirely different ballgame.)

      So far as I'm concerned, "Unless proven otherwise, I'm assuming for now" is sufficiently opinion to qualify for protection, particularly when h

      • by moortak (1273582)
        In the case of child molester you would probably not be okay. It might very well fall under libel per se.
  • 'OCGA' (Score:5, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:27PM (#33492718)

    Official Code of Georgia Annotated, in case you were wondering.

    • by Timex (11710)

      What does that have to do with anything? Is Commodore USA based in Georgia? Why would the "official code of Georgia" apply? (I'm not criticizing you, just wondering stuff without going to read TFA or do any background checking on Commodore USA....)

      • by socsoc (1116769)
        Well then RTFA, it doesn't. The presence of OCGA gives support to the idea that this guy just copy and pasted it.
        • by Timex (11710)

          Well then RTFA, it doesn't.

          I was on a mobile device at the time and download times are a mess on it, that's why I didn't. Had I been on a PC, I would have chased the link. ;)

          The presence of OCGA gives support to the idea that this guy just copy and pasted it.

          It also lends credence to the hypothesis that the person/people that sent the message from Commodore USA are complete and utter dolts. If they aren't going to read (and re-read) documents they are sending out that might carry any legal weight, then they certainly shouldn't be trusted with anything that is going to be court-bound. One simple oversight could mak

      • What does that have to do with anything? Is Commodore USA based in Georgia? Why would the "official code of Georgia" apply? (I'm not criticizing you, just wondering stuff without going to read TFA or do any background checking on Commodore USA....)

        The letter the Commodore CEO copied had been sent to a company based in Atlanta - so leaving the "OCGA references in there 1) was just stupid; and 2) basically showed the CEO had no idea what the letter actually meant.

        FWIW I agree with your fundamental point - these Slashdot submissions should actually spell out what the non-obvious acronyms stand for because 1) the reader shouldn't have to follow several links just to find out about some tangential info, and 2) then the submitters would learn something (I

  • Who owns the amiga rights now?

    The announcement say people are makeing a case over that as well?

    Is that the next step you can use a Takedown Notice for stuff that you don't even have to rights to but just have a clam to the rights?

  • Stolen Picture Too? (Score:5, Informative)

    by StarWreck (695075) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:04PM (#33493750) Homepage Journal
    The top CGI picture of an Amiga with a CD-ROM, at http://www.commodoreusa.net/products.html [commodoreusa.net], I recognize from an Amiga forum from at least 3 years ago. It was made by a forum user, not any employee of Amiga or related company.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by prowler1 (458133)

      Are you referring to the Amiga Fantasy pictures, located at http://aminet.net/pix/trace/AMIGA-fantasy1.jpg http://aminet.net/pix/trace/AMIGA-fantasy2.jpg and http://aminet.net/pix/trace/AMIGA-fantasyB.jpg which were uploaded back in 1999 to http://aminet.net ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StarWreck (695075)
        dang, 1999? I suddenly feel so old.
      • by cgenman (325138) on Monday September 06, 2010 @11:40PM (#33494606) Homepage

        That's extremely damning. For those following along at home, this [commodoreusa.net] is the image up on Commodore USA's website, and this [aminet.net] is the original image from ten years ago. The difference? The image up on Commodore USA's website has a bad photoshop hack job of removing the word "fantasy" from the top right of the keyboard, and the word fantasy from the mouse cord (and the cord itself). It still attributes the image to Marko Hirv.

        I don't think there can be more irrefutable proof that this is a scam.

        • by oobayly (1056050)
          I'm especially liking the fact that they forgot to photoshop out the mouse cable going into the back of the system, it's rendered with a CRT (a pretty small one at that) and the disk in the tray is a CDR. They really are going for the retro look & feel.
          • by Fumus (1258966)

            Last, but not least, they didn't even bother to change the file name. They just added _3_2_3 to the original file name.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mwvdlee (775178)

          Marko Hirv probably has sufficient evidence to sue Commodore USA for copyright infringement on this image.

          I don't quite know US laws, but under Dutch laws (which, AFAIK, are pretty much similar to most of the western world), Marko Hirv could probably also sue Commodore USA for altering his artistic vision.

          Actually, mr. Hirv would probably be wise to accept a financial settlement, but a lawsuit would be funnier for the rest of us.

        • by Pigeon451 (958201)

          Maybe Marko Hirv sold/licensed the image to Commodore?

  • by SheeEttin (899897) <sheeettin&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @01:30AM (#33495200) Homepage
    When I clicked the link to TFA, I thought I recognized some of those pictures...
    Sure enough, from back in March: Commodore 64 Primed For a Comeback In June [slashdot.org].

    Basically, this is a Chinese knockoff company selling PCs built into the keyboard and/or monitor (from modern hardware) with a Commodore logo slapped on.
  • Commodore must think that they're in England.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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