MessageSpace is distributing copyrighted material without permission

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
10:59 am and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

I was unaware that MessageSpace was Paul Staines’ own personal plaything. Somehow, I got the impression that it was a group effort and he was merely an advisor of sorts.

Oh well. Live and learn…

You may recall that Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’), before releasing a Friday-afternoon press release (embargoed until midnight, no less), responded to the Telegraph’s discovery of his use of the Conservatives’ email system with a totally unrelated complaint that they had ‘stolen’ a cartoon (that he himself had unwittingly offered as a freebie by feeding it to one and all via an earlier press release).

But let’s take a look at Paul Staines’ past form when it comes to consistency on copyright…

PolDraw – Copy Right, Mr Dale…: Tribune cartoonist Matt “Hack” Buck informs me that Andy Davey was involved in a similar incident with Guido last year. However, unlike Dale, Guido immediately removed the cartoon when notified about it.

[Iain Dale being difficult about images that he’s nicked? Never!]

‘Guido’ followed up with this comment: As a capitalist I am a believer in property rights. I do rip off images ftom the BBC website because I regard them as public property. I do get sent a lot of images by people using photoshop and/or claiming original work. Beau Bo d’Or forinstance used Iain Dale, Recess Monkey and myself to advertise his briliance before he got picked up by the Guardian. I would not knowingly try to profit from someone else’s work unjustly. If you see an unfairly used image on my blog, email and it will be removed.

I’ll leave the juicy BBC quote and Staines taking credit for the talents of others finally being rewarded in a formal and monetary sense to others, as I want to keep this short…

Knowingly or not (I’m trying not to underestimate his ignorance) Paul Staines *does* profit from the work of others unjustly:

Here’s cartoonist and animator Matt Buck noticing Paul Staines leeching material from Channel 4’s servers**.

Here’s photoshopper and animator Beau Bo D’Or complaining about (ahem) an un-named party leeching material from his server. (Hint: It’s Paul Staines.)

Leeching: In computing and specifically on the Internet, being a leech or leecher refers to the practice of benefiting, usually deliberately, from others’ information or effort but not offering anything in return, or only token offerings in an attempt to avoid being called a leech… Direct linking is a form of bandwidth leeching that occurs when placing an unauthorized linked object, often an image, from one site in a web page belonging to a second site (the leech).

[Beginners: A commonly-known form of direct linking (also known as hotlinking) is video embedding, as when you see a video hosted on YouTube appearing on another website; it’s called up from YouTube’s servers by a bit of code and the rest of the page from the external website site loads around it. But in a situation like this, the creator of that video has the option to decide for themselves if they would prefer the traffic to go to another website or directly to their YouTube channel.]

Essentially, what Paul Staines is doing is borrowing other people’s work without permission, dropping in a credit to cover his arse, and calling this work up from the creator’s/owner’s server:

1. Credit links mean naff-all if Staines has not sought permission.

2. Credit links mean naff-all if visitors to his website do not need to visit the website of the creator to view the image or animation in full.

3. Paul Staines is benefitting from the resultant traffic while the creator/owner of the work foots the bill for the bandwidth that he’s responsible for.

I must admit that I was surprised by this. Staines is relatively street-smart, and must know that many dimwits have come a cropper after hotlinking material from a server under the control of the creator… as what usually follows is a change of that material designed to embarrass the hotlinker thief*.

[*Let’s not sugar-coat it.]

And yes, Beau Bo D’Or justifiably got a little miffed about Staines’ repeated hotlinking, and so – over the weekend – changed the code of an .swf (Flash animation) file that Staines was leeching so it redirected anyone visiting a page on where it appeared to

(I haven’t asked, but his photoshopping shows that Beau Bo D’Or is a clever guy with a sharp eye for overlapping absurdities, so I would guesstimate that he chose to redirect to the because of the very same Telegraph incident that kicks off this article. Staines should count himself lucky that he was dealing with a gentleman like Beau Bo D’Or… otherwise he might have found the redirection going to a copy of a certain Guardian article from May 31st 1986… while the hotlinked file was on the front page rather than in the December 2007 archives.)

After I blogged about this yesterday, it took a few hours for Staines to track down the redirection and address it… now take a look at his solution:

Did he withdraw the animation and apologise? No.

Did he simply withdraw the animation? No.

Even though he must know by now that he does not have permission to use it and the creator is unhappy about the way in which it was used.

If you take a look at the relevant post on Staines’ website, you will see that the animation is still there.

If you look at the code of that page, you will see where Staines is now hosting an uncoded copy of this stolen animation (lifted from Channel 4 or Beau Bo D’Or):

Yes, Paul Staines decided to host the stolen material in the primary directory of the MessageSpace website so he could continue to feature it – without permission – at his ‘Guido Fawkes’ website.

Paul Staines has been walking a fine line with MessageSpace for quite some time now… and he just tripped over it.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer parasite.

[Now we wait for Paul to explain this embarrassing little liberty to his business partners and then pretend in public that nothing of consequence has happened. I predict much spin and bluster, and perhaps even some sock-puppets and/or lackeys falsely claiming that I’m guilty of the same offence.]

UPDATE – **The famed libertarian suggests in another legal threat (under comments) that he had permission to leech from Channel 4. I am happy to correct anything in this post that suggests otherwise (I’m even now adding this voluntarily), but would like to note for the record how neatly this sidesteps the primary animation/issue in this post.

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