Damage Identified: IP and Bigotry

As if the C4SS vs IP story wasn’t weird enough, it has taken a bizarre and unexpected turn in the past twenty four hours. The story so far:

On September 13th, 2013, C4SS’s student activist network, Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS), published a letter dissociating from the S4SS UGent chapter for violating and activating the third S4SS design principle by using racist language, affirming racist conspiracy theories and even advocating violence as a justified or viable response to said theories in a S4SS identified and organizing forum. The third S4SS design principle states:

3. S4SS spaces are safe and valued spaces. We are dedicated to not only identifying agents of aggression, but dissolving institutions of oppression. [emphasis added]

Around 10 days later, the C4SS and S4SS websites were taken down by “not your typical DMCA letter.” In response, we chose to defend our site — not by a legal fight, but by doubling down on our free speech. Rather than being isolated or intimidated into silence by the legal censorship, we spoke out on social media and our websites. We spoke out about the legal threat against us and we re-published copies of the censored exposé on our other websites (hereherehereherehere and here). We reached out to anarchist, anti-fascist, and information-freedom activists on the web and called on them to swarm against this censorious abuse of copy-power. And, to our immense gratitude, we got a lot of help from the web, including, but not limited to: Jad Davis at the jVerse, and wonderful stories in online media by Jesse Walker at Reason and Mike Masnick at techdirt. The social response to legal intimidation made it clear that bigotry could not count on copy-fascism to protect and hide it. We owe all of you a great debt of gratitude for what came next.

On September 26th, C4SS, regained access and redirected its domain back to its main site. That afternoon we received an anonymous 100 Bitcoin donation to our “Support the Center in this Fight” wallet: 129pipr12a5UUZ447bLYjx1paRnCXqG5vi. (Needless to say, “Some of us laughed, some cried, some screamed, but we were all in shock, until…”)

Later that evening we received an email from Olivier Janssens, the individual that had retained the lawyer, J.D. Obenberger, to draft and submit the DMCA takedown of the S4SS dissociation letter. In this email he identifies himself as the anonymous Bitcoin donor:

First of all, thanks for accepting my defeat. Lesson learned, for sure.

Even if it doesn’t matter to you, I’ve also learned a whole deal about getting ‘aroused’ by a group of guys and joining in bashing Islam. I have a whole other story to tell about that, but I guess thats for another time.

This escalated so far out of control, not just Streisand-wise, but for everything I stand for (intellectual property being evil is one of them). The choice was to pursue this further in court and fight for pro-censorship copyright, which I couldn’t even begin to imagine doing cause it would kill my principles. I am glad you guys were reasonable enough to accept my apologies. I can’t say this enough. I am grateful for the mature response on your blog.

In regards to the lawyer, I’ve been trying to get him to issue a takedown request all day. It seems this might be a first so I think he’s thinking on how to do it. He says that if I don’t counterfile, the site should go up again within 10 days ‘automatically’. I am still trying to push for him to send a letter asking for an earlier restoration, and will try to get you guys in CC or notify you as soon as it goes out.

As another token of good faith, and to make up for what happened, and to protect you from this in the future, I am going to send you 100 BTC.

That’s the story so far, but before you go C4SS would like to respond to a number points in this email and offer our reactions to it — so that our Supporters understand where we stand and everything else is crystal clear.

1. We did not accept anyone’s defeat. So long as IP and bigotry still exist as the damage holding back the vibrant social cooperation without aggression, oppression, or centralized authority that we desire, this fight is still very much on.

Does this mean we are pursuing state sanctioned legal action against Janssens, his Copyfascist lawyer or the cowardly Bluehost that thought it safer to pull a longtime customer’s site rather than look twice at a DMCA takedown notice that Mike Masnick said, “On my first read, I wondered if it was fake, because not only is it completely over the top, in it, Obenberger more or less admits that the takedown has little to do with copyright…,” no it does not. We are anarchists. We have other means of solving, resolving and dissolving situations.

Does acting like anarchists and not pursuing state sanctioned legal action count as “accepting defeat?” Again, no it does not.

2. Do we believe that he has “learned a whole deal” about this “group of guys and joining in bashing Islam”? We have no idea, but we like to think the best of people.

Philip K. Dick once apologized for “preaching” that “The devil has a metal face,” when what he finally realized was that “[it] was in fact not a face; it was a mask over a face. … You do not place fierce, cold metal over fierce, cold metal. You place it over soft flesh…”

We do not know if behind Janssens’s “fierce, cold metal” mask of IP and bigotry is another “fierce, cold metal” mask covering some other drive for control or intolerance. We do know that under all masks there is, finally, a human face.

We also know that S4SS UGent is still active, they have not reached out to the rest of the network, nor have they taken steps toward following the S4SS design principles. They have not changed their name signaling their change in status or orientation. They have switched their Facebook group, now, to “private,” they have set up a “like” page, and they are planning events and scheduling speakers, still, titled as a S4SS chapter.

In order to protect the S4SS network and prospective members the dissociation letter, “S4SS’ UGent Not Anarchists (or Comrades),” will remain up as a warning until they decide to render it irrelevant through their actions.

3. Are we reasonable enough to accept his apology? We can only accept an apology for actions done to us – the use of the state to take down our site for almost three full days. We cannot and will not accept an apology from him on behalf of any other group or individual harmed by him, specifically the Muslim community. We have neither the right nor inclination. That is for him to do and for that community to consider. This is his moment of reflection and reconciliation.

We would even be happy to encourage and facilitate a conversation with members of the Muslim community for him, if he so desires. It would be a good learning experience for all of us.

4. Good faith, making up and further protection. We are in the process of making sure our writers get paid for their work and moving our site to a secure and civil liberty conscious host. After all of that is taken care of we will be actively donating, supporting and promoting, anarchist, anti-racist and solidarity economy projects around the world. So it is true that with this donation we will be “making up” for the damage done and protecting ourselves better for the next fight, but good faith is something that is earned everyday with everyone individually.

We wish him all the best and we will try to help him along his way the best we can. But never mistake our best wishes and noblest intentions for passivity or leniency. We want that world of vibrant social cooperation and we are – teeth bared – ready to fight for it.

“Evil is real like cement. … I thought I hated those guys [Nazis] before I did the research [for The Man in the High Castle]. After I did the research, then I had created for myself an enemy that I would hate the rest of my life. Fascism – wherever it appears, whether it is Germany, United States, Soviet Union or anywhere – fascism, wherever it appears, is the enemy.” —Philip K. Dick

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory