Legal Issues

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YouTube Pranksters Jailed

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

The rise of YouTube has shifted the way people think about media, fame, and, definitely, pranks.

YouTube’s “user-created content” has always been conspicuously subject to Sturgeon’s Law, but over time, its most popular and influential celebrities have concentrated their power while newcomers have found it harder and harder to break through.

“YouTube pranksters” generally perform “social experiments” (read: wacky stunts) in public, preferably for unwitting audiences. As their attention economy becomes more stratified, certain performers have become increasingly confrontational and occasionally felonious.

The UK-based channel TrollStation operates on the genre’s outer fringes. TrollStation affiliates have violently broken the law and alienated some in the YouTube community before, but achieved peak notoriety with two fake museum heists on July 5, 2015, that just landed three (more) of them behind bars. Their sentences were light – 20 weeks is nothing for genuine art theft or violent B&E – and their case was complicated by the fact that, although they definitely horrified innocent bystanders, they didn’t actually steal anything.

Upon release, they can doubtless expect increased viewership.

For the details, read Katie Rogers’ May 19, 2016 article in The New York Times, “When YouTube Pranks Break the Law”.


STEM, Social Engineering and Stealing

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues

The Kernel delves into the hidden subculture of liars, thieves, and hackers who expose and exploit gaping loopholes in e-commerce via Jonah (not his real name), someone who’s been there and back.


“Confessions of a social engineer”
by Dell Cameron
The Kernel
August 9, 2015

serialcodegenerator…Part theater and part science, social engineering is the method by which hackers, for lack of a better term, exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology; for Jonah, it was a key to getting anything he wanted, from televisions and laptops to smartphones and expensive wines. One of his largest takes netted him around $60,000 worth of product, he says. He showed me a Rolex Daytona watch—part of a gallery of stolen goods he’d photographed in his bedroom—which retails on Amazon for around $26,000.

Whether through face-to-face interaction, by phone, or by email, the human gatekeepers of any network can be exploited—if you know how to play the game. They’re the weakest link in any company’s security.

Almost every major electronics company is vulnerable in nearly the same way: They all have warranty-based replacement systems that can be exploited. Most companies, for instance, don’t require a defective item to be returned before mailing out its replacement. It’s likewise difficult to prove that an in-warranty item has been lost or stolen.

Through repeated phone calls, social engineers develop strategies for navigating a company’s customer help line. They get a feel for which sob stories and which “yes” or “no” responses will work best toward achieving their objective. Intelligence, temperament, and even humor all come into play. The questions and responses are then mapped out, as if composing a flowchart, with the goal of expediting the con. Read the whole article.


Flappybird Photo Hijack

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoax Etiquette, Legal Issues

In case you think the risque photos on your Android phone are secure…


Hackers plotted fake Flappy Bird app to steal girls’ photos from Android phones
by Graham Cluley
September 6, 2014

Next time you install an app on your phone, you’d best think twice if it asks permission to access your photos.

As The Guardian reports, following a tweet from security researcher Nik Cubrilovic, the very same hackers who merrily collected naked photos of more than 100 female celebrities, including Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, had plotted a variety of dirty tricks to increase their haul.

At least one hacker openly posted on the AnonIB image board, proposing what he called a “genious” idea: (more…)

Have a Secret? Good Luck

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues

Ever wonder what’s happening with all the data the NSA has collected on you?


New Snowden Leak: NSA Shares 850 Billion Metadata Records Via Search Portal
by Graham Cluley
Tripwire.com
August 27, 2014

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Some are starting to consider Edward Snowden as the NSA’s old, boring uncle. His leaks grimly pass around secrets of the NSA: online surveillance disclosures, the MonsterMind program and privacy invasion of international governments. And still revelations about the NSA’s classified activities continue to tumble out.

The latest? The National Security Agency is supplying data to two dozen US government agencies courtesy of a “Google-like” search engine designed to share 850 billion records about emails, cellphone locations, Internet chats and phone calls, according to classified documents provided to The Intercept by none other than Edward Snowden.

The tool, called ICREACH, includes millions of records on innocent US citizens (not accused of any wrongdoing), as well as private communications of foreigners. While a multitude of NSA programs have been exposed for collecting large data of communications, and the NSA has admitted sharing some of the collected information with domestic agencies, no one had a clue about the scoop and insights of its sharing. Read the rest of this article here.

The Royal Prank: Unintended Consequences

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Filed under: Legal Issues, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, You Decide

The Royal Prank: The Story Behind The Worst Radio Stunt In History
by Andrew McMillen
Buzzfeed
Aug. 1, 2013

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When a pair of Australian DJs went viral by prank calling the London hospital treating Kate Middleton last December, they were lionized at home and vilified in the U.K. Then the nurse who answered the phone committed suicide amid the outrage, raising questions about mental health, privacy, and the very definition of a joke. What responsibility do pranksters have to their victims?

Unsanctioned Art’s Guilty Pleasures

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Filed under: Legal Issues, Pranksters

Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty: Five Other Art-Related Crimes
by Dale W. Eisinger
International Business Times
February 27, 2012

When we reported Shepard Fairey pleaded guilty to charges of contempt in Manhattan federal court Friday, it closed the book on an admittedly strange battle that Fairey initiated, and then tried to cover up — the 42-year-old artist ended up forging documents in an attempt to steer clear of legal problems altogether. Now he faces jail time and fines.

A lively discussion is still bubbling around whether or not his use of an AP-licensed photo of President Barack Obama was “fair use”” or not, but the fact is: dude’s in deep do-do. However, I find it kind of admirable he’d go to such a great lengths to conceal and deceive and commit crime for his art. With that in mind, here are a few risk-laden art endeavors, some of which went off better than others.

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Art Vs. Vandalism: LA’s Unsanctioned Mural Debate

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues

Saber, Graffiti Artist, Fights To Lift Mural Ban In LA
by Andrew Reilly
Huffington Post
October 14, 2011


For the artist Saber, participation in the democratic process has always been complicated. He’s an international graffiti legend, holding the world record for the largest graffiti piece, done along the LA river in 1997. Despite its place in the history books, the city of Los Angeles spent a whopping $837,000 to paint over it in 2009. Now Saber is approaching public art laws from a different angle, spearheading an effort to reform Los Angeles’ mural policies.

At the moment, LA’s regulations don’t begin to reflect the city’s vibrant public art culture; uncommissioned murals are banned outright, even if the mural is painted on private property with the consent of the owner. Violators are subject to serious punishment, as was the case with prominent LA artist Revok, who received 180 days jail time over various vandalism charges. (more…)

Universal Studios Promotes Movie with Fake News Articles

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues

Studio settlement reported for fake movie news
1010WINS
November 12, 2009

the-fourth-kind-movie-200Fairbanks, Alaska (AP) — Universal Pictures has agreed to pay $20,000 to the Alaska Press Club to settle complaints about fake news archives used to promote the movie “The Fourth Kind,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The Anchorage lawyer who negotiated the settlement for the Fairbanks paper and six other media outlets, John McKay, said the fake online stories undermined the credibility of the news organizations.

Universal created a series of fabricated online news articles to publicize the movie about a purported plague of alien abductions in Nome a decade ago. The articles posted appeared to be from real Alaska publications.

The articles included a fake obituary and news story about the death of a character in the movie, Dr. William Tyler, that supposedly were from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. (more…)

Vietnam’s Fake Art Legacy

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Legal Issues

A Legacy of War: Fake Art in Vietnam
by Seth Mydans
The New York Times
July 31, 2009

Hanoi, Vietnam — Even the director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum here doesn’t know how many of the artworks and artifacts under his care are genuine and how many are extremely skillful copies. But he says he is going to try to find out.

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There are nearly 20,000 of these mystery objects, on the walls and in storage, including paintings, sculpture, lacquerware, pottery, ancient statues and traditional crafts.

“We are making efforts to have a comprehensive review of items on display and in our warehouse,” said the director, Truong Quoc Binh. “After we evaluate the whole exhibit, we will try to label them all to show if they are original or not.” (more…)

FBI Probes PrankNET Over Hotel Pranks

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Filed under: Legal Issues, Phone Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:


FBI probes PrankNET over thousands of dollars in damage caused to hotels and restaurants
by Tom Leonard
Telegraph.co.uk
15 July 2009

The FBI is investigating an anonymous prank-calling internet group which has reportedly duped people into causing thousands of dollars of damage to hotels and restaurants.

0_1443529c-200Some former fans of PrankNET have expressed misgivings about the increasingly violent nature of the pranks

PrankNET posts its “greatest hits” on YouTube and streams its calls live on internet radio.

Investigators say its creators are difficult to identify due to the diffficulty of tracing prank calls placed online.

Dex, the pseudonym for the group’s purported leader, has claimed credit for various expensive scare calls, although others have been attributed to “copycats”. (more…)

MBTA: Don’t Sue These Students, Hire Them!

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues

Court blocks MIT students from showing subway hack
1010WINS
by Oskar Garcia
August 11, 2008

d040boston-greenlinetram-200.jpgLas Vegas (AP) — A federal judge ordered three college students to cancel a Sunday presentation at a computer hackers’ conference where they planned to show security flaws in the automated fare system used by Boston’s subway.

The temporary restraining order, issued by a U.S. district judge in Massachusetts, prevented the Massachusetts Institute of Technology students from demonstrating at the Defcon conference in Las Vegas how to use the vulnerabilities to get free rides.

The Electronics Frontier Foundation, which is representing MIT students Zack Anderson, R.J. Ryan and Alessandro Chiesa, plans to fight the order, said Jennifer Granick, the group’s civil liberties director.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said in a complaint filed Friday that the students offered to show others how to use the hacks before giving the transit system a chance to fix the flaws. MIT is also named in the suit.

But Granick told The Associated Press on Sunday that the students were simply trying to share their research and planned to omit key information that would make things easier for anyone who actually wanted to hack the payment system. (more…)

Striptease Performance – Art or Tart?

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Filed under: Legal Issues

Iowa case raises question: Is stripping an art?
by Melanie S. Welte
1010WINS
July 27, 2008

stripper_candy_girl_a_year_in_life_of_20-200.jpgDes Moines, Iowa (AP) — Iowa doesn’t have any all-nude strip clubs – but it does have performing arts centers where women dance naked.

However, the loophole in the state’s public indecent exposure law that allows nude dancing at “art centers” is under attack in the small community of Hamburg, a town of 1,200 just across the Missouri River from Nebraska.

The case pending before a Fremont County judge effects only one business in Hamburg, but if he agrees with the prosecutor, it could eventually threaten the legal standing of nude dancing clubs across the state.

District Judge Timothy O’Grady heard arguments in a one-day trial on July 17 and took the case under advisement.

It all began on July 21, 2007, when a 17-year-old niece of Sheriff Steven MacDonald climbed up on stage at Shotgun Geniez in Hamburg and stripped off her clothing. Owner Clarence Judy was charged with violating Iowa’s public indecent exposure law.

Judy responded that the law doesn’t apply to a “theater, concert hall, art center, museum, or similar establishments” devoted to the arts or theatrical performances.

“Dance has been considered one of the arts, as is sculpture, painting and anything else like that. What Clarence has is a club where people can come and perform,” said his lawyer, Michael Murphy.

Murphy noted that the club has a gallery selling collectible posters and other art, and it provides patrons with sketch pads. Read the rest of the article here.

photo: Blogs.KansasCity.com

Artist Steve Kurtz Cleared of all Charges!

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues

We’re very pleased to post following press release received today:


Artist Cleared of all Charges in Precedent-setting Case
Department of Justice Fails to Appeal Dismissal
Kurtz Speaks about Four-Year Ordeal
June 11, 2008

scales_of_justice-200.jpgBuffalo, NY–Dr. Steven Kurtz, a Professor of Visual Studies at SUNY at Buffalo and cofounder of the award-winning art and theater group Critical Art Ensemble, has been cleared of all charges of mail and wire fraud. On April 21, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the government’s entire indictment against Dr. Kurtz as “insufficient on its face.” This means that even if the actions alleged in the indictment (which the judge must accept as “fact”) were true, they would not constitute a crime. The US Department of Justice had thirty days from the date of the ruling to appeal. No action has been taken in this time period, thus stopping any appeal of the dismissal. According to Margaret McFarland, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Terrance P. Flynn, the DoJ will not appeal Arcara’s ruling and will not seek any new charges against Kurtz.

For over a decade, cultural institutions worldwide have hosted Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble’s educational art projects, which use common science materials to examine issues surrounding the new biotechnologies. In 2004 the Department of Justice alleged that Dr. Kurtz had schemed with colleague Dr. Robert Ferrell of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to illegally acquire two harmless bacteria cultures for use in one of those projects. The Justice Department further alleged that the transfer of the material from Ferrell to Kurtz broke a material transfer agreement, thus constituting mail fraud. (more…)

Old Adage – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” – To Be Challenged in Federal Court

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Filed under: Legal Issues

Neighbor Indicted in MySpace Sucide Hoax
by Scott Michels and Mary Fulginiti
May 15, 2008

Lori Drew Faces Federal Charges for Alleged Online Hoax That Led to Girl’s Suicide

ht_meier_071205_mn-200.jpgA Missouri woman was indicted Thursday on federal charges for allegedly perpetrating an online hoax that led to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl.

Lori Drew was indicted by a grand jury in Los Angeles for her role in allegedly creating a fake MySpace page, in the name of “Josh Evans,” that was used to contact Megan Meier.

Meier committed suicide in October 2006 and her parents have said their daughter’s death was the result of the rapid decline of her online relationship with “Josh,” whom she believed to be a 16-year-old boy who first flattered the self-conscious girl and then taunted her.

She hanged herself an hour after Josh allegedly said he no longer wanted to be her friend and told her the world would be a better place without her, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Drew, 49, knew the Meiers and lived down the street from them for years. She was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on Megan. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison. (more…)

Artist Steve Kurtz Vindicated!

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Editor’s note: For the official press release, visit Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund Web site.


Federal Charges Against Steven Kurtz Dismissed
by Jeff Woodard, Executive Producer
WGRZ.com
April 21, 2008, updated April 22, 2008

Dr. Steven KurtzThe indictment charging UB professor Steve Kurtz with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, has been thrown out.

Judge Richard Arcara dismissed the charges in federal court Monday.

FBI agents in Haz-Mat suits went into Kurtz’s Buffalo home in May, 2004. Kurtz had called 911 after finding his wife unresponsive. It turned out that Hope Kurtz had died of natural causes.

But once police entered Kurtz’s home, they found biological samples inside. The F.B.I. was called and a huge investigation followed.

Kurtz told authorities that he used the samples as part of his performance art that deals with bio-technology.

After a lengthy investigation, Kurtz was charged not with bio-terrorism, but with fraudulently obtaining two of the samples that were in his home.

The following is an interview Kurtz conducted with Channel 2’s Scott Brown in 2007, when the indictment was still in place: (more…)