Thursday, June 2, 2016

Getty images has joined the ranks of fraudulent copyright claimants.
Fraudulent practices include claiming ownership of artwork or photos that the service does not own. I call it "copyright squatting." It happens when a publisher uses an automated system to crawl blogger sites to determine ownership of artwork, and when no copyright is found, they claim it as their own, wait a while, and then send an extortion letter, hoping you will not know who owns the photo or artwork. A simple way around this kind of fraud is to use a cloud-based backup service that will date-stamp your photo when it is ready to be published. It also doesn't hurt to also backup date-stamped copies of preliminary versions of the artwork.

Another form of fraud specifically being used by Getty images has been to assign an outlandish and illegal fee for the use of such images. The law clearly specifies that only a usual and customary charge for licensed artwork can be claimed in a lawsuit against a non-commercial blogger who uses artwork without permission.

Here is what the Art Law Journal suggests to those facing an extortion letter from Getty.

Here is what I suggest people do to protect themselves from fraudulent lawsuits from Getty images:

1) Block Getty Images so you will never see an image that has their copyright notice on it. (A symbolic boycott which probably won't affect their business, but it also decreases the chances that you will ever use one of their images.)

2) Always verify the owner of any pictures you post using a reverse image search program such as Google Images or TinEye

3) Use your own photos and artwork to illustrate blogs. If part of your artwork is based on portions of material taken from someone else, credit the owner with a citation listing the name of the artist or photographer, the date the image copyright (or the date the image was retrieved), the publisher that handles copyrights, and the address where an official copy of the image can be retrieved.

4) If you use someone else's work, ask permission to use it. If they fail to grant permission, find something else, or create your own derivative artwork, and credit them for the idea, i.e. original artwork by David Lloyd inspired by Photographer, T.(2016). Company that owns the artwork. Retrieved from

5) If you want to use the original artwork, buy the necessary license to publish it on your blog. Fees for one-time use as a blog illustration are normally in the $5.00 to $15.00 range (at least I have never been charged more than that for one of the images I have licensed, and in the case when I couldn't afford the license, I contacted the artist and got permission from the artist (which I have been careful to keep documented, and the artist has been credited, fully cited, and publically thanked for his permission).

6) A fair use workaround I have used for blog illustrations has been to use a link published by the owner rather than to upload a copy of the photo. (It's not fair use if you link to a stolen image). The owner must still be credited with a proper citation, and the blog must not make a profit from using the photo, nor can it be a fan page that promotes a business. The safest scenario for a fair use case is a not-for-profit use of a published link (published by the owner only) by a blog that exists primarily for educational purposes.

The downside of the fair-use route is that the publisher retains control of the source you have linked, and may take it down at any time. It is good to supply alternate text to be displayed if access to the image is later removed.


Steve Schlackman. (2014, April 13). Tips for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter. Retrieved from

Image--Original mashup by David Lloyd of artwork from:

Kalina, A. (n.d.). Background Money [Image]. Hemera Collection. Getty Images Royalty-Free No Release Required. Retrieved from


Steve Schlackman. (2014, April 13). Tips for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter. Retrieved from

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Amendment to Rule 41, Title 28, Section 2072 of the US Code Extending 1st Amendment Rights Violations Made Possible By The Patriot Act

An extremely dangerous amendment to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Title 28, Section 2072 of the United States Code, which defines the procedural rules for the implementation of the US Constitution) affecting how Search and Seizure warrants can be issued, has been ordered by the US Supreme Court. The changes go into effect December 1st of this year unless Congress rejects the amendment. The changes to Rule 41, could provide a legal loophole that could be used to violate 1st Amendment rights, based on the frequent 1st amendment violations already being committed by the NSA under the Patriot Act. Those excesses are currently under review, and pending legislation is expected to rectify them, but this amendment to the United States Code will make those reforms pointless because the rule change will have the same practical effect.

Although Rule 41 specifies how warrants are issued, the changes to the rule would also affect procedures used in those situations in which search and seizure are legal without a warrant.

One problem with the changes is that the new rules assume that attempts to maintain online privacy, such as disabling the ability for computers and cell phones to report their location, using network services such as TOR and VPNs, all constitute evidence of criminal intent. While these technologies are used to hide criminal activity, they are far more commonly used to protect individuals from malware attacks and identity theft, to enable secure online shopping, for off-site data backups, and to provide privacy and data security for cloud-based services including various virtual meeting and conferencing software packages, online seminars, online support services in which support companies use remote control software to access customer computers, people taking online classes, voice-over-IP technology (which enables my cell phone to work in areas where my phone company doesn't provide service), Skype visual telephone and teleconferencing, and applications that create massively parallel virtual supercomputers for weather forecasting, investment research, and scientific research. In fact, there are so many pervasive and legitimate uses for this technology that criminal activity probably constitutes a fraction of one percent of all such traffic.

Microsoft recently (2014) embarrassed itself and exposed itself to extreme financial risk by grossly underestimating the legitimate use of a dynamic DNS service in an attempt to shut down two people who were running a botnet to steal credit card information from people using Microsoft Wallet. Microsoft, using flawed reasoning very similar to the reasoning behind the upcoming changes to Rule 41, talked a naive judge into issuing a court order that enabled Microsoft to intercept a free dynamic DNS service. In asking for the court order, Microsoft assumed most of the affected traffic was related to the criminal activity affecting them, however, they failed to mention that the participating computers in the botnet belonged to roughly 5,000 innocent people, and their action, done illegally in secret (which the judge would never have allowed had Microsoft presented him with accurate information) shut down approximately 5,000,000 internet servers, each providing various important services to large groups of people. I am amazed Microsoft appears to have gotten out of their extreme mistake with only an apology! (I understand they did capture the two criminals, which is good, but their action caused far more disruption to than it stopped.)

However Microsoft's action did not harm any computers, and the disruption they unintentionally caused only lasted three days. The effects of Rule 41 will necessarily involve installing malware on the computers of millions of innocent people, not only within US Jurisdiction but worldwide, which will not only violate the US Constitution but will also violate a number of US Treaty obligations to foreign allies. Of the computers infected, all will run just a little slower as a result of installing the Government's spyware, some equipment, which may be far more than anticipated, will be permanently damaged, and possibly worst of all, the US Government has a HORRIBLE track record of implementing technologies that give our enemies (including everyone from petty criminals to enemy nations) access to the computers they tap for their own purposes.

The court system is far-outreaching both its authority and its [technical] competence in enacting such an invasive rule change. Even if such surveillance is possible without violating the US Constitution, the technology involved is too new to be safely hacked even by those with the best intentions. It can be assumed at this stage, that any benefit that might be gleaned from this rule change would be greatly outweighed by the unintended injustices that would result from its use.

Rather than usurping the authority of the legislature while it violates the US Constitution and Foreign treaty obligations, it would be better to leave any changes of this magnitude to the US legislature, where the implications of such drastic change can be considered, weighed, and openly and publicly debated, as our Constitution requires.

(not attempting to document everything I wrote, but here are some of my more important sources of information)

Cardozo, N. (2014, July). What Were They Thinking? Microsoft Seizes, Returns Majority of’s Business. Retrieved from

Reitman, R. (2016, April). With Rule 41, Little-Known Committee Proposes to Grant New Hacking Powers to the Government. Retrieved from

Stepanovich, A. (2009). Testimony of Amie Stepanovich Senior Policy Counsel, Access on behalf of Access and the Electronic Frontier Foundation Before the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules on the Matter of Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 41. Retrieved from

Supreme Court of the United States. Proposed Amendments to Criminal Rules 4, 41, and 45 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in Section 2072 of Title 28, United States Code (2016). USA. Retrieved from

1. That the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure be, and they hereby are, amended by including therein amendments to Criminal Rules 4, 41, and 45. [See infra pp. .]
2. That the foregoing amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure shall take effect on December 1, 2016, and shall govern in all proceedings in criminal cases thereafter commenced and, insofar as just and practicable, all proceedings then pending.
3. That THE CHIEF JUSTICE be, and hereby is, authorized to transmit to the Congress the foregoing amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in accordance with the provisions of Section 2072 of Title 28, United States Code.

(I don't think my software correctly formatted my court order citation, but I think all the important information is supplied, regardless.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

46 minutes well spent: Edward Snowden Interview on Apple vs. FBI, Privacy, the NSA, and More

There's a very real difference between allegiance to country–allegiance to people–than allegiance to the state, which is what nationalism today is really more about," says Edward Snowden. On February 20, 2016, the whistleblowing cyber security expert addressed a wide range of questions during an in-depth interview.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The One Fix That Could Save Windows 10

 The One Fix
 That Could Save Windows 10


This animation depicts repeated failed update attempts WIndows 10The One Fix That Could Save Windows 10 would be giving clients the ability to prevent updates.

Until Windows 7, there was NEVER a version of Windows update that worked consistently enough that I could just trust it and leave it alone, and even with Windows 7, I made sure I had done a good backup before I ever flipped the switch to allow an update to proceed. In those cases when I had to revert to the pre-update state, I checked my hardware drivers related to the problem, updated the driver (or waited for the update), and then ran Windows Update manually. I did not allow my computer to remain in a pre-update state, as happens now when auto-updates fail. Every version of Windows I have used has occasionally attempted an update that disabled my computer. Sometimes it disables printing, sometimes it disables an input device, sometimes it disables network access, and sometimes the computer just has to be wiped and everything reinstalled after a Windows update. Nothing is more dangerous to people who need a dependable computer than an operating system that auto-updates without regard for what damage may be done by their random changes.

When Microsoft advertised that we should trust them, that Windows 7 would be an improvement, I held out a long time before trying it, but once I did, I wished I had trusted them a lot sooner. So when Microsoft told me I should trust them, that they had fixed their problems, and were so confident in their technology that they would be able to enforce Windows Update with no anticipated problems, I got suckered into believing them.

They broke my trust. Worse, I 
believe they have broken their future. Windows isn't the only OS that can do all of the things

Microsoft advertises. In fact, it is likely Microsoft took this irresponsible gamble to prevent them from being left in the dust. Unfortunately, instead of being destroyed by their competitors, they are doing it to themselves, because I will never again run an OS that dictates how I configure my computer.

As soon as I find a reliable way to maintain my software investment, I'll be purchasing another SSD, and I'll be booting to Linux Mint. However, I haven't made the switch yet, Microsoft.

This is your chance to fix everything.

Just get rid of forced updates on incompatible equipment, and this vitriol that you are getting from so many people will vanish overnight.