Copyright enforcer Ranger Online caught stealing content

Do as we say, not as we do

Internet spyware outfit Ranger Online has taken considerable heat for a little gimmick it's developed which, in the words of MSNBCi columnist Bob Sullivan, "cruises file-swapping networks like Gnutella to find copyrighted materials, hunts down the IP address of the poster, then discovers which Internet service provider is being used. Soon after, the MPAA sends its form letter to the ISP. Under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act, Internet providers are compelled to stop distribution of copyrighted materials when they are notified, so the ISP in turn forwards the note to the user, along with a threat of disconnection."

I quote Bob here deliberately because there's something deliciously ironic in my having copied and pasted that bit of his copyrighted text, not from the MSNBCi site where one would expect to find it, but from the Ranger Online site, where his article had been reproduced wholesale and obviously without permission.

That's right, our righteous copyright enforcement team is a copyright rip-off. Until hours ago, they were exhibiting content from MSNBCi, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian and ZD-Net as if it were their own.

Here's a screen shot of Bob's article. Note the curious URL.

Interestingly, soon after we started making inquiries, the Ranger admins disabled their news section, and an hour or two after that restored it, only with the proper sort of links -- that is, to the content on the original sites rather than to their own bootleg copies.

To compound the irony, Ranger makes much of their relationship with Microsoft, boasting of the company's support. Funny they should have ripped off their own patron, eh?

Well that's gratitude for you. But we're delighted to report that it all appears to have been sorted, and that at present we can find no further copyright violations by Ranger -- on their Web site, anyway. ®

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