C4SS And The Fair Use Streisand Effect
Prior to September 13th, 2013, chapter coordinators for the Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS) network were presented with screencaptures demonstrating that a number of individuals in the open and public “Students for a Stateless Society U Gent” chapter Facebook group were violating the third design principle of the S4SS federated structure by using racist language, affirming racist conspiracy theories and even advocating violence as a justified or viable response to said theories.
On September 13th, 2013, the S4SS UGent chapter coordinator and network representative was notified of the situation and asked to explain. No explanations were given, instead the chapter representative affirmed the claims, doubled down on the claims – making even more outrageous appeals to racism and justified violence – and concluded the conversation claiming that S4SS UGent did not need to explain or defend its position, but that it wouldn’t and the rest of S4SS would just have to deal with it.
It is true, as anarchists, S4SS does not demand, lobby or legislate for an explanation, instead we document, publish, explain and inform others regarding our network’s disassociation and attach our reasons.
As of September 23rd, Bluehost, the company that hosts C4SS and S4SS’s content, took down both websites citing a DMCA copyright infringement claim from lawyer J.D. Obenberger. Obenberger was acting on behalf of one of the individuals, quoted in S4SS’s disassociation letter, Olivier Janssens.
It also needs to be pointed out that Obenberger is explicit to Bluehost that he is using this DMCA claim in an unusual or atypical manner. He has even blogged about dirty little secret DMCA procedures on this website:
If you write the request for a takedown on a leaf of stale cabbage in magic marker, without stating any reason or offering any proof or affidavit pursuant to the DMCA, and transmit it by a casual, friendly courier, who works a garbage truck route running past their office and offers to drop it off for you, most of them will take it down fairly immediately, within hours, because they are more afraid of you and your attorneys than they are of the posters. …
The second dirty little secret is that a very tiny number of the videos released via the Internet are ever registered with the Library of Congress. You have no legal right to maintain any lawsuit for infringement on the basis of an unregistered copyright. Period. (Look at Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act.) While your copyright theoretically exists in US law and under the Berne Convention from the time that it is first reduced to a tangible medium (there are exceptions allowing preregistration of things that are first fixed at the time of transmission, like the 6pm Network News and Trailer Park Sally’s webcam show), it is a hollow and illusory right upon which no lawsuit can be maintaineduntil you’ve registered it. On the motion of the defendant, it will be dismissed without prejudice. …
For more information and perspective regarding this situation, I recommend checking out the blog posts found here, here, here, here and here and the original, now “wayback”, posts here and here. We encourage everyone to to help C4SS fight back with the full force of the fair use Streisand Effect – blog it up and share it far and wide. This group tried to shut up C4SS/S4SS for protecting its federated organization and prospective members by appealing to intellectual property and resorting to state force, well they have failed.
Below I have included a rough draft of one of the “counter-notices” that C4SS considered submitting to Bluehost. It was rejected for length and too much attention to internal details and network connections. It tells more of a story, instead of providing legal avenues of expected action and recourse. Enjoy:
To Whom It May Concern,
The DMCA filed by J.D. Obenberger against the hosting services for ”c4ss.org” and “s4ss.org” is candid that “what follows is not your typical DMCA letter.”
This is true because it makes two claims 1. an infringement of copyright and 2. a violation of privacy – both cannot be demonstrated only pleaded.
It should be noted that neither claim appeals to libel, Obenberger is explicit that what was posted by S4SS was truthful, “Your hosting customer … decided to embarrass Olivier Janssens in the worst and most effective way – by words out of his own mouth.” It even acknowledges that Olivier Janssens’s “comments may be understood as antagonistic to Muslims, at the risk of understatement,” which strengthens S4SS’s claim that Olivier Janssens’s speech was in clear violation of the affirmed design principles [bylaws] of the student group, Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS), that he was attending and representing.
1. The post in question, “S4SS’ UGent Not Anarchists (or Comrades),” posted on the s4ss.org site Septemebr 13th, 2013, was explicit that the intent of the post is not to embarrass, but to inform all other affiliate chapters of the S4SS network and prospective members of local S4SS chapters that the identified individuals where no longer in good faith or good standing with the affirmed S4SS design principles. From the S4SS disassociation letter:
“In response to the evidence provided above we have decided to dissociate ourselves with S4SS UGent as well as the members that most prominently voiced racist opinions and threats … We suggest that the members of S4SS UGent who are not part of its racist core to start a different chapter, a safe and valued space, so that the idea of a stateless society may continue to grow in their university and their country.”
The post, “S4SS’ UGent Not Anarchists (or Comrades),” was mentioned and linked – not copied in a way that named Olivier Janssens – in the blog section of the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) on September 16th, 2013. The student group S4SS, the media center C4SS and the activist network Alliance of the libertarian left are all explicit about their connections to one another and their open opposition to racism, sexism and cultural intolerance. S4SS is explicit, in there design principles [bylaws] that they will “identify agents of aggression.” From their respective “about” pages:
A. The Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS) is [from the about page on s4ss.org] a network affiliated with the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS). [emphasis added]
B. C4SS is [from the about page on c4ss.org] an anarchist think-tank and media center. Its mission is to explain and defend the idea of vibrant social cooperation without aggression, oppression, or centralized authority. … along with the Alliance of the Libertarian Left [ALL]… [emphasis added]
C. ALL is [from the about on all-left.net] a multi-tendency coalition … untied by an opposition … to cultural intolerance (including sexism, racism, and homophobia)… [emphasis added]
D. The Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS) agree to the following four design principles [from the about page; emphasis added]:
[Design Principle] 3. S4SS spaces are safe and valued spaces. We are dedicated to not only identifying agents of aggression, but dissolving institutions of oppression. [emphasis added]
It is because of these explicit group connections, commitment to open opposition to cultural intolerance and our clear intent to notify existing S4SS chapters and prospective members of local S4SS chapters that this information was posted under fair-use provisions to facilitate “commentary, criticism, news reporting and research.” Not to embarrass or place Olivier Janssen in “particular danger,” but to notify our affiliate chapters and prospective members that the quoted/listed individuals have expressed hostile positions that are explicitly incongruent with S4SS’s agenda or objectives.
2. The claim regarding “particularly dangerous violation of his right to privacy which affects his personal safety and security” seem particularly overwrought based upon the fact that the mentioned group, “Students for a Stateless Society UGent,” as late as September 14th, 2013, a day after the s4ss.org post, was still listed as an “Open Group.” [They have, as of September 25th, 2013, either switched the group to "secret" or deleted it from facebook] On 4 of the 6 “screencaptures” used as evidence in the September 13th, 2013, post the group is listed as “Openbare Groep” or “Public Group” in Dutch.
“Open Groups,” according to Facebook terms of services are groups where ”Anyone can see the group, who’s in it, and what member’s post.” The group is now listed as a “Closed Group” where “Anyone can see the group and who’s in it. Only members see posts.” Facebook even offers, for those concerned and conscious about their privacy, a “Secret Group” option where “Only members see the group, who’s in it, and what members post.”
If the quotes that where “screencaptured,” translated, transcribed and published in the September 13th, 2013, s4ss.org post when the group was “Open” and and while all its content was available to and searchable by the public, then the claim of “privacy violations”, seems to not only be an inappropriate use of the DMCA but completely unfounded. There is no expectation of privacy in a open and publicly searchable group.