Ashley Madison's Response to Hacking Involves Abusing Copyright Law to Remove Info

Somebody's making a desperate effort to try to maintain control of the situation.


I feel an urge to listen to Alanis Morissette's "Ironic."

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is supposed to be a tool to fight piracy online. It's supposed to be used by companies to protect their intellectual property and force the removal of illegally uploaded televisions shows, songs, music, photographs, et cetera.

But because the law gives intellectually property owners such broad powers to lay claims of violations with very little oversight, it gets abused very frequently to try to censor information. That's apparently what is happening with the hack of Ashley Madison, the online affair-based matchmaking service that just had a ton of data on its estimated 37 million users leak out this week.

Joseph Cox, a contributor to Vice's Motherboard, was alerted by Twitter that Avid Life Media, the company that operates Ashley Madison, had filed DMCA takedown demands on three of his Tweets. He explains:

The first tweet included a partial screenshot of an apparent floor plan of the Avid Life Media office. This was removed by Twitter.

But the DMCA request also asked for another two to be removed. One was a heavily censored screenshot of a spreadsheet which details the shareholders of the company and the percentile of shares they own. The screenshot did not include any names, figures, or other data, but simply the headers of two columns. Another screenshot showed the column headers of a spreadsheet detailing the company's bank accounts. No actual bank data was included. Twitter apparently did not remove these two tweets. …

The motivation behind flagging both tweets was that "Avid owns all intellectual property in the data, which has been stolen from our data centre, and disclosed in this unauthorized and unlawful manner." This statement presumably confirms the authenticity of the data posted online.

Obviously, Avid is not protecting its intellectual property from online pirates but rather trying to keep a lid on potentially damaging information it doesn't want released. This is a not uncommon, (presumably) unintended consequence of the DMCA. I took note in April of how the law has resulted in significant, sometimes very serious, attempts at censorship in the years since its passage. Read more here.

Meanwhile, feel free to check if you (or anybody you know) has been exposed in this hack, here.

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  1. Reading this article was like having ten-thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.

  2. Let’s ask Hyperion about this – he’s a known customer of Ashley Madison.

      1. Hey – he called ME.

  3. This is awesome. I really don’t have a political dog in this fight at all. People are free to do whatever the fuck they want. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think this is mostly a bunch of pretty weaksauce individuals and watching them all get a little burned is entertaining. My only hope is that this will lead to a bigger push for cyber security. But it won’t. So I’ll just make some popcorn.

    1. I’d think it’s awesome except for the other spouses who now find their marriage a public matter.

      It is a shame already that so many people need to come to terms with a cheating spouse. However, they cannot even deal with it privately in their own way. They have to deal with the fact that all their friends and colleagues can easily find out as well. That action- the public humiliation of people whose only crime was being lied to- makes this a very sad affair.

      1. Hillary got over it and went on to be a Senator, Secretary of State and our NEXT President.

        1. ‘d think it’s awesome except for the other spouses who now find their marriage a public matter.

          Yeah, there are a few that I feel sorry for.

          I’ve worked in/around more than one credit fraud center that dealt with this sort of thing. For every one incident where you have to let someone know that (e.g.) their recently deceased spouse had a secret porn account there are 50 who make the people who either just admit to viewing porn or admit to having made a mistake seem upstanding.

          Lowlifes who blatantly and abusively blame their kids for it (exceedingly unconvincingly, i.e. after months or years of recurring charges) to strangers on the phone and people who find out their spouse is cheating again because their spouse used their credit card.

  4. I dunno, maybe it’s lost on me, but hacking and releasing stuff like this is different than hacking and releasing stuff the government does. This doesn’t compel participation or taxes.

    I am not saying they should be using the DMCA but isn’t what the hackers did just plain old theft? What would be the preferred libertarian remedy to this sort of problem?

    Black fly, Chardonnay; Ironically that isn’t irony.

    1. I agree. For all the “karma, bitches” bs going around about this there is little talk about how these hackers just decided to steal and release other people’s private information. I realize a lot of people think adultery is pretty shitty but really that’s an issue for the parties involved.

      1. really that’s an issue for the parties involved.

        Get government out of marriage and I would agree with you. But not when married people receive perks and tax breaks paid for by other people. Cheaters are committing fraud at the expense of others.

    2. I would argue that consumers being able to hold the businesses liable for poor security would be a major part of the remedy, which is why the immunity proposed in CISA is such a problem.

      And, of course, theft would still count as theft. But that involves tracking down the actual hackers, not attempting to censor the deliverers of the information.

    3. What would be the preferred libertarian remedy to this sort of problem?

      You mean the actual preferred libertarian solution or the one Reason will advance that involves zero measure of accountability at a personal level?

      Because some of us frown on State Licensure of Marriage and some of us think it’s a great thing and we need more.

    4. Married people receive a tremendous amount of extra rights, benefits, perks, and tax breaks that those of us who don’t believe in marriage don’t get (but still have to pay for). Cheaters are perpetrating fraud and with the current system deserve jail time. I would prefer to live in a LIbertarian world where people’s relationships are strictly between them and their spouse(s). But that’s not the world these people want, so fuck ’em!

  5. OT: So I just passed by the women’s bathroom in our office. WTF. Anyone who thinks sharing a bathroom with a bunch of women would be at all pleasant is a crazy person.

    1. As a former janitor, I can attest. Women’s restrooms are always far more disgusting than men’s restrooms. I believe the main reason women’s restrooms have a sofa or cot in them is so they have a place to rest after making a mess of the place.

      1. That’s funny and probably true. Women have more uh, bodily fluids to deal with.

        However, when drunkenness enters the equation guys bathrooms are much worse.

        1. I think when it comes to homes, men’s bathrooms tend to be dirtier and cleaned less often than women’s. Perhaps most women feel that they spend too much of their lives cleaning up after others, so when they are in the rare position of having a stranger clean up after them then they get their revenge by being extra sloppy. Just an opinion…

          1. Could be, but I was referring to public restrooms actually, from past experience bartending.

            1. My mother was a motel maid and said the rooms where only women stayed in were almost always worse than those that only men did. I also worked as a busboy for awhile, but the biggest messes were always left by families with young kids, which is somewhat understandable.

        2. However, when drunkenness enters the equation guys bathrooms are much worse

          I worked at Chuck E Cheese when I was 17. Majorly drunk guys can just lean in and hold on to the plumbing fixtures. Women who attempt to “hover” while intoxicated have a remarkable ability to paint the walls…

  6. Broadly written laws will be abused by parties who want to protect themselves from embarrassment? Color me shocked.

  7. Meh.

    AM is in crisis mode. They are going all over trying to pull down sites that are publishing searchable databases and real information about its subscribers. In other words, the vast majority of their takedown requests are for their actual IP. It is unsurprising that in some cases, their requests cast too broad of a net.

    In the cases mentioned above, there was no abuse. AM complained and Twitter rejected those complaints that didn’t have merit. The law (and I am not a big fan of it) is working as expected.

    There is a lot about this event that could be discussed. From the shady intent of the service to begin with, to the “victims” whose identities were revealed and the real victims- their spouses whose personal matters are now public knowledge- as well as the ins and outs of the hackers perpetrating the crime. Vigilantes punishing lawbreakers without due process, and enforcing social norms without the need of a government.

    But reason writers want to talk about some takedown requests on tweets? Weak sauce, man.

    1. In other words, the vast majority of their takedown requests are for their actual IP.

      Data is not copyrightable. Only a particular representation is. This is very settled law, to the chagrin of phone companies that wanted their customers’ phone numbers out of third-party phone book publishers.

  8. That website is a little weird. It encourages you to share on social media about how you didn’t get caught.

    1. Even better, if you did get a hit (try it gives you buttons to tweet “I found my friend” or “I found my ex”

      1. And if you didn’t know, Trustify is a service that connects people to Private Investigators for a fee. So this is basically the PI equivalent of a lawyer hanging out in the ER.

    2. Presumably, smart people would at least start by checking on *other* people who might be involved. I admit I was tempted to look for my cheating X, but didn’t want to put her public email address out there if it wasn’t there already.

    3. That website is a little weird. It encourages you to share on social media about how you didn’t get caught.

      So the ‘married with desire to hook up with random strangers’ part and the ‘the internet will fix my needing sex/having spouse problem’ part both make complete sense to you but the ‘idiotically revealing personal information on social media’ is the part where the line gets crossed?

        1. I forgot about the ‘paying membership fees to “meet” sex partners online’ part.

          Social media just seems like the obligatory sprig parsley at the side of a big plate of contradiction and stupidity, IMO.

          And, of course, you wash that all down with Pina Coladas.

      1. I didn’t see him mention a line. Do we have to write a dissertation in full now? Because that would be a little weird.

        1. Due at the end of class, AND SPIT OUT THAT GUM, GODDAMIT!

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  10. First (semi) famous adulterer exposed: Josh Duggar

    1. Confirming what I’ve known for a long time: people who wear their religion (or morality) on their sleeve are usually the biggest scumbags of all.

  11. Oh and it would seem that there were 15k .mil or .gov addresses in there as well.

  12. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

  13. You can’t copyright data, only a specific representation of data.

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