Tag Archives: WTF?

Monkey see, monkey sue

One of the disputed images (Wikimedia Commons / PD)
In case you hadn’t heard, animal rights organisation PETA and primatologist Antje Engelhardt, Ph.D., are suing photographer David Slater and self-publishing services provider Blurb, Inc., over photos of a crested macaque which Slater published in his book Wildlife Personalities. Motherboard has a pretty good series of articles on the subject.

The core of PETA’s complaint is that the photos were not taken by Slater, but by the monkey, who inadvertently pressed the trigger while looking at her reflection in the lens of a camera which Slater had left unattended. Therefore, quoth PETA, the monkey holds the copyright to the photos, and all proceeds from the use of those photos should go to PETA, because of reasons.

If you thought this was bizarre, it gets better: PETA and Engelhardt are not the nominal plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Instead, they claim to be merely representing Naruto, a male macaque living on the same preserve as the female macaque in the photo. In court documents, they consistently maintain that Naruto is the macaque in the photo; outside of that setting, they have repeatedly acknowledged, at least indirectly, that he is not.

Having read both defendants’ motions to dismiss (the title of this post was shamelessly ripped from Slater’s motion), I am left to ponder the questions of PETA’s standing and of the monkey’s agency.

Standing

Both defendants challenge the plaintiff’s standing on various grounds, including the fact that he is a monkey, but neither of them challenge PETA’s standing, which seems to me to violate the prohibition of third-party standing, unless PETA can show that they have power of attorney for the allegedly injured party (which is, apparently, a different monkey than the one on whose behalf they claim to be acting). I find that strange, but the case is ridiculous for so many other reasons that I doubt it matters, legally speaking.

Agency

PETA claims that the pictured monkey holds the copyright to the photo because she pressed the button that caused the picture to be taken, but they do not claim that she set the camera up, pointed it, or performed any other action integral to the art of photography. Blurb address this tangentially when they quote, indirectly, 100 U.S. 82 (1879):

In this as in regard to inventions, originality is required. And while the word writings may be liberally construed, as it has been, to include original designs for engravings, prints, &c., it is only such as are original and are founded in the creative powers of the mind.

Nor do they claim that she had any idea of what she was doing except looking at a shiny piece of glass at the end of a tube sticking out of a black box.

If PETA prevails, this means that the mere act of triggering a camera set up by someone else, even without any understanding of the concept of a camera or ability to comprehend that an image was taken, grants the subject the copyright to the resulting image. How far will this principle extend? Will it extend to motion-triggered game cameras? Would PETA sue hunters on behalf of deer for the rights to the footage? Would they sue an ornithologist on behalf of crows that trigger cameras set up to study their behavior?

Ah, who am I kidding, of course they would. Because PETA.

Everybody’s a journalist

…and a legal scholar, apparently. Fallout from the Patreon hack:

From: Matthew Hopkins <matthopkins@thewitchfindergeneral.com>
Subject: URGENT Media Inquiry – Randi Harper Patreon
To: des@des.no
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2015 00:33:26 +0100

Dear Dag-Erling Smørgrav ,

I am the author of the major blog www.matthewhopkinsnews.com. I am sending you this email because your name appears in a list of people who donate to a Patreon operated by a person called Randi Harper. The list was confidential but has been hacked and placed online by unknown third parties. As a result of the leak you may be named, so please read this email carefully.

Ms Harper is a controversial figure due to her extreme political views, including support for Sarah Nyberg, a political activist who at one time claimed to be a paedophile and supported white supremacism, although now claims they were ‘joking’. Harper has also admitted to drug abuse, including attempting to smoke meth from a broken lightbulb. She also irresponsibly dyed her dog blue and accidentally allowed it to lick up her drugs. The following Breitbart articles may be of assistance –

http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/07/21/feminist-champion-randi-harper-in-her-own-words-stop-making-everything-a-gender-issue/
http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/09/12/meet-the-progressives-defending-gamergate-critic-sarah-nyberg/
http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/09/11/leading-gamergate-critic-sarah-nyberg-claimed-to-be-a-pedophile-apologised-for-white-nationalism/

You are supporting a person who is associated with some of the vilest imaginable extremism. Your exposure is interesting, partly because a similar leak occurred a few years ago here in Britain, when the membership list of one of Britain’s far right parties was leaked online – http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/oct/20/bnp-membership-list-wikileaks

As a responsible journalist, I can assure you I shall not be publishing the list. However, some of you may work in regulated roles with responsible access to information, vulnerable adults or children. There may be a lawful public interest in my contacting the relevant authorities (including an employer). In addition, the third parties who obtained the data have, as I said, released it online and I suspect it will find its way to Wikileaks, amongst other places.

I would like to invite you to answer the following questions –

  1. Did you know about Randi Harper’s history?
  2. Do you endorse her extremist views?
  3. In light of the revelations about her, and her support for Sarah Nyberg, will you continue to donate?
  4. Are you aggrieved at Ms Harper’s failure to safeguard your personal data?

Please provide comment as soon as possible.

About Me
I am the author of www.matthewhopkinsnews.com, a Conservative leaning blog that has had over 188,000 unique visits since January this year. My pen name is Matthew Hopkins and my real name is Sam Smith. My blog has sourced stories for some of Britain’s largest newspapers.

I am studying a Master’s Degree in law combined with an LPC (attorney’s certificate). In fact I was praised in the British Parliament by then Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming for my legal skills representing a vulnerable woman in the High Court, who faced being declared mentally incompetent – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140113/petntext/140113p0001.htm.

Kind regards,
Sam Smith
writing as
Matthew Hopkins
The Witchfinder General
www.matthewhopkinsnews.com
http://www.thewitchfindergeneral.com
@MHWitchfinder

He clearly expects me to be intimidated. Should I be flattered?

Highlights:

  1. Citing Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart, a far-right blogger whose idea of investigative journalism includes such gems as “there is no evidence that Randi Harper is actually a crack whore” (paraphrased);
  2. “Nice job you have there, it would be a shame if my journalistic and personal ethics compelled me to tell your employer that you support paedophiles” (but don’t worry, it’s totally not blackmail);
  3. Complex question fallacy (“have you stopped beating your wife?”);
  4. Patreon was hacked, the British National Party was also hacked, therefore supporting Randi Harper on Patreon is equivalent to supporting the British National Party;
  5. Randi Harper is responsible for the security of Patreon’s network and therefore for the theft of Patreon’s user database.

His mother must be really proud.

You know what, Sam-Smith-writing-as-Matthew-Hopkins? I just doubled my pledge to Randi Harper, pledged similar amounts to Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, and signed up for a monthly donation to Feminist Frequency. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to donate to Sarah Nyberg.

How about them apples?

EDIT: various markup and spelling fixes

On petroleum and the cost of higher education

I came across this Google+ post by Pierre Bonhomme via a fellow FreeBSD user who is currently a researcher at the University of Oslo. The gist of it is that Norway is a land of milk and honey with free higher education for all and sundry, financed by our bottomless oil and gas reserves.

This is, in fact, a collection of mostly factual statements arranged in such a way as to lead the reader to incorrect conclusions in furtherance of the author’s agenda (opposition to the introduction / increase of tuition fees in Canada), buttressed by an impressive collection of links which the author fervently hopes the reader will not bother to follow, because they do not support his message.

Allow me to rebut a few of his points.

Continue reading “On petroleum and the cost of higher education” »

On standards (and testing)

RFC 4648 defines the Base16, Base32 and Base64 encodings. Base16 (aka hex) and Base64 are widely known and used, but Base32 is an odd duck. It is rarely used, and there are several incompatible variants, of which the RFC acknowledges two: [A-Z2-7] and [0-9A-V].

One of the uses of Base32, and the reason for my interest in it, is in Google’s otpauth URI scheme for exchanging HOTP and TOTP keys. I needed a Base32 codec for my OATH library, so when a cursory search for a lightweight permissive-licensed implementation failed to turn up anything, I wrote my own.

My OATH implementation is currently deployed in an environment in which OTP keys for new users (or new OTP keys for existing users) are generated by the primary provisioning system, which passes them on to a smaller provisioning system in charge of firewalls and authentication (codenamed Nexus), which passes them on to a RADIUS server, which uses my code to validate user responses. When we transitioned from generating OTP keys manually to having the provisioning system generate them for us, we ran into trouble: some keys worked, others didn’t. It turned out to be a combination of factors:

Continue reading “On standards (and testing)” »

Book review: Priceless (Shannon Mayer)

Q: How bad can a book get and still get 4.5 stars and hundreds of rave reviews on Amazon?

A: Pretty bad, if it’s a shortish genre novel with a $2.99 digital list price.

I’m not a litblogger, but I do read a lot, and once in a while I come across a book which I feel so strongly about that I absolutely must share my enthusiasm or revulsion, just to get it off my chest. Shannon Mayer’s Priceless, the first in a series of novels about supernatural detective Rylee Adamson, falls squarely in the “revulsion” category.

Continue reading “Book review: Priceless (Shannon Mayer)” »