RojaDirecta – the Hopefully Sweet Sweet Revenge of the Jedi

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In our first segment on RojaDirecta several years ago, we documented their success in Spain at defending a lawsuit vs. copyright-hostage-holders. However, the tides turned, and in our last segment, we mocked the idiocy of the US government for seizing the US domain name for RojaDirecta. Aside from the waste of tax dollars during a recession, the effectiveness was zilch. RojaDirecta, of course, now is available on a Spanish domain and Mexican domain.

But the tides have turned yet again. Sorta. Social media and search have dumped on RojaDirecta for no reason, but Roja has taken the fight to the US government. And so have other websites that have fallen prey to abuses by copyright-hostage-holders. Let’s review the third part in this harrowing tragicomic trilogy and keep our fingers crossed….

Ahh social media. How anti-social they can be. I, of course, speak of Facebook. In July, with no explanation or warning, Facebook unilaterally took down Roja’s fanpage with over 100,000 followers.

To their credit, after 10 days, Facebook did put the fanpage back up. And, in all honesty, it could have been due to Roja’s popularity – I’m sure Facebook’s servers, got, like, super super strained by such a popular fanpage and Mark Zuckerburger had to turn on another server computer in his basement. That is probably the most likely explanation.

Search has fared even worse. In April, Google eliminated Roja from certain search results due to frivolous complaints made by MLB. MLB’s complaints were the same as those addressed in the Spanish lawsuit – whether a link website actually infringes upon copyright-hostage-holders’ rights. Why didn’t MLB file a lawsuit? Well, why file a lawsuit you will lose when you can make a call to a corporate buddy with the spine of a melted snail. MLB, like every other TV broadcaster on a power trip and in decline, wants to subtly eliminate the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

What is a “safe harbor”? Basically, an internet service provider or a website with links has no say in the content, so they are not responsible for any copyright infringements. MLB and other copyright-hostage-holders hate this. And they don’t have the clout or moral weight to get the law changed, so they are now getting buddy-buddy or filing complaints with websites.

At the onset of the internet, even I admit that it was pretty wild west – a land of Napster and posting whatever you wanted on Youtube. Then, came the backlash with copyright-hostage-holders pressuring ISPs to block sites and the US government wasting taxpayers dollars to play whack-a-mole on behalf of billionaire corporations. But now we’ve entered a third chapter. The revenge of the kinda-little guy.

Roja filed a lawsuit in New York demanding the return of the domain. Roja relied on the “safe harbor” provisions of the DMCA, but the US government raised some novel theories, which, if accepted, would eviscerate the law. Basically, they claim that Roja’s link website is just as guilty as the broadcasters of copyrighted material. The term is “accessory.” For a comparison, this would be like blaming BigSoccer if someone posted a copyrighted pic in a thread. If you invite a friend over to watch a movie, and that friend brings over a pirated blue-ray, then you are guilty.

What is most terrifying is that Roja just posts links. If a “link” makes you an accessory to a crime, then heaven have mercy on us all. Imagine how many emails you’ve sent that may include a link to potentially copyrighted material? The copyright-hostage-holders, of course, make the counterargument that nobody would find these broadcasters if not for the popular linkfarms. Of course, this ignores the fact that RojaDirecta does not broadcast any material whatsoever, and also posts links to non-copyrighed material. A link is basically a friend telling you where to do something. Roja derives no commission from sending traffic to these broadcasters.

And, of course, the copyright-hostage-holders have zero moral credibility. Their thousands of P2P lawsuits are a major drag on our judicial system during a time of recession. Righthaven LLC turns a buck, but everybody else loses. They often offer to settle for a few hundred bucks, and a federal court filing fee is $350. Sheesh.

In terms of non-lawsuit options, copyright-hostage-holders point to Youtube as a symbol of compromise – they argue that websites should have “copyright complaint” forms. If a copyright-hostage-holder sees their material, they then contact the website to take it down. The major problem with this “compromise” is that it costs serious time and money for a popular website to process complaints. It also violates the principle of a safe harbor provision – the ISP or website does not control the content, the user does.

And, of course, the complaint compromise fails to work in practice. Why? Arrogant and abusive copyright-hostage-holders. As noted earlier, Google tossed Roja from some search results due to dubious complaints filed by MLB. Ironically, abuse of complaint mechanisms has led to a lawsuit by Hotfile against Warner Brothers. Sheesh.

Now, of course, let’s address the FakeSigi knee-jerk argument: I am complaining about copyright-hostage-holders, yet my own eBook is DRM. My response is a distinction between broadcasters and book creators – one is a distinctly original and creative process, the other is packaging the labor of 22 men or women running around a field. Granted, some broadcasts are much better than others. However, if anything, public domain broadcasts would encourage competition and allow the best broadcasters to get the most eyes and best advertising revenue. Right now, it’s just a monopoly that preys on a one-time live event.

Which is why they are filing frivolous lawsuits, leaning on ISPs, and the US government – they have no choice but to fight for their survival because they built a shitty house on stone turned quicksand.


AND be sure to follow Roja on twitter, check out their website, and be a fan on Facebook!

Note & disclosure: I personally have communicated via email with the fine folks at Roja. When I first heard about the US government seizure, I directed them to the totally kick-ass Bay area based nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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