- Mozilla officially released Firefox 3.5 today. One of its touted new features is Private Browsing mode (also known as "porn mode").
While private browsing may be useful for protecting sensitive information from some prying eyes, it's important to note that private browsing only means that Firefox won't save browsing history and cookies on one's local machine. In other words, you can now search for that perfect anniversary gift for your spouse online without the fear that he or she will be able to figure out what you were doing just by launching Firefox. However, your activity is still just as easy to track from another computer. (So, if any member of your household knows how to use a packet-sniffer, she'll still be able to see just
how much porn you're watching how many gifts you're thinking about purchasing.)
- Turning piracy into profit for content owners:
Piracy watchdog Nexicon has found the ultimate way to turn piracy into profit for the fresh copyright holders added to their clientele. They offer alleged file-sharers the chance to settle for $10 per downloaded song or an equal amount for a pirated movie. If you decide not to settle, they promise to bankrupt you in court.
There's nothing wrong with content owners tracking the digital distribution of their work. And, there isn't necessarily anything morally, ethically, or legally wrong with pursuing infringers. However, Nexicon and its affiliates such as the Video Protection Alliance ("VPA") (which happens to deal exclusively with adult content) have crossed the line.
The article at TorrentFreak points the reader's attention to the FAQ on the VPA's website. While all of the questions and answers are obviously aimed to scare the recipient of a settlement letter into using the credit card processing system conveniently provided by the VPA to quickly settle the matter, there are two that are particular causes for concern. They are as follows:
How do I obtain a Liability Release & Settlement Receipt? Your Liability Release & Settlement Receipt will be automatically provided on screen and via email at the end of the settlement payment process.
Do I need a lawyer? As with any legal proceeding, the guidance and representation of a lawyer can be very important. It is likely that the cost incurred to retain a lawyer will exceed the settlement amount offered. The decision to hire a lawyer is entirely up to you.
Regarding the first question, the problem is that it doesn't provide any detail as to what a "Liability Release & Settlement Receipt" actually is. As far I as I know, there is no standard legal definition of a "Liability Release & Settlement Receipt." Nor would it be in the VPA's interest if there were a standard definition. While a "Liability Release & Settlement Receipt" could theoretically contain an actual settlement agreement and release from liability, there is nothing in the language used on the website to indicate that it actually does. Even if the receipt does contain language releasing the settlor from liability, it may be very narrowly drafted. And, of course, one doesn't actually get to see the "Liability Release & Settlement Receipt" until after payment is tendered.
Regarding the second question, it essentially advises the reader not to seek the independent advice of a lawyer, and simultaneously attempts to avoid advising the reader not to seek the independent advice of a lawyer. In my opinion, it is plainly unethical. In general, if a lawyer is going to advise an individual to take any sort of action that is in the lawyer's interest, but adverse to the individual's interest, the lawyer should encourage the individual to seek independent counsel. Although the VPA is neither a lawyer nor a law firm, to the extent that it offers legal advice, I see no reason as to why it shouldn't be bound by similar ethical standards. After all, the VPA's website isn't solely providing educational information, and it isn't just advertising--it's negotiating settlements.