Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Young Man Being Extradited For What Grant Shapps Did

A 23 year old man faces extradition to the US and a possible ten year jail sentence for committing similar offences to the dodgy online company founded by Tory spiv Grant Shapps.

Richard O’Dwyer from Barnsley was just 19 when he set up tvshack.net, a website which indexed links to movies and TV shows hosted elsewhere.  Whilst O’Dwyer’s own website did not carry copyright material, he has still been charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright.  Both charges carry potential sentences of five years each.

Copyright violation is breach of criminal law in the UK, but prosecutions are rare.  This didn’t stop Theresa May agreeing to a request from the US to extradite Dwyer, despite a petition in his support which has now reached 225,000 signatures.

Grant Shapps, the new Tory party chairman, ran howtocorp, a company which sells software designed to steal content from other websites and use it to automatically generate websites.   This content is ‘spun’, meaning a few words are changed around to fool search engines into thinking that the websites are publishing original content.

It is not known whether this ‘spinning’ would allow the website owners to evade copyright legislation in the UK.  At some point a test prosecution is likely to establish to legality of the technique which allows shady online businesses quickly generate hundreds of websites based on other people’s work.  These website are used to host advertising (possibly fraudulently) such as Google Adsense.

In the US the legal situation is much clearer.  According to this lawyer, a test case has established that the practice is illegal in the US.  Shapp’s company, which largely operated in the US despite being based in the UK, sold this copyright violating software for a whopping $297.

There is also evidence that the company used the software themselves to generate Google Adsense revenue from plagiarised content. 

It is not known how much money Shapps and his company made from this copyright scam which is arguably just as serious an infringement of the law as the so called crimes that Richard O’Dwyer committed as a teenager.  O’Dwyer simply linked to copyright content.  Howtocorp not only used copyright material themselves, but made a small fortune from actively promoting copyright violation through their software.

O’Dwyer did not even host his websites in the US, unlike Shapps’ company who registered the website which promoted his software under a fake name.  Registering a domain name using a false identity is an aggravating factor in prosecutions of online scams in the US, which can see any sentence doubled or extended by 7 years.

If Grant Shapps were charged with the same offences as Richard O’Dwyer, his sentence would potentially be longer than that facing O’Dwyer.  Shapps, or his wife who now controls the company, could be looking at 15 years.

Shapps hasn’t even lost his job for committing similar offences to this young man who is staring into the abyss of the US penal system.  This follows revelations last week that two men were jailed last year for Andrew Mitchell style rants at police.  Mitchell hasn’t lost his job either.  Rarely has the double standard been so self-evident than within this Government of crooks.  It really is one rules for us and a quite different one for them.  Whilst Theresa May happily condemns a young man to brutal incarceration, Shapps’ shady online practices are swept hastily under the carpet.

Almost every website operated by howtocorp has disappeared offline in the last couple of weeks, suggesting that the company are all too aware of the potential seriousness of their money-making scams.  Perhaps most contemptuously, Shapps handed control of the company he founded in 2002 to his wife in 2008.  Shapps would far rather see his wife face any potential legal consequences for his company’s actions than have his own cheap suited image dented.

O’Dwyer is not the only person facing legal consequences for running websites which link to copyright material.  In the first verdict of it’s kind, Anton Vickerman was sentenced to four years in prison by the UK courts in August for his surfthechannel.com website.  Vickerman was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, a charge which will hopefully cause more than  a few sleepless nights in the Shapps household.

Richard O’Dwyer is appealing the extradition, you can sign the petition in his support at: http://www.change.org/petitions/ukhomeoffice-stop-the-extradition-of-richard-o-dwyer-to-the-usa-saverichard

For more details on the case visit: http://juliasblog-the-fight-of-our-lives.blogspot.co.uk/

Grant Shapps: The Not So Petty Criminal At The Heart Of Government

Grant ShappsFew people will have been happier at Andrew Mitchell’s latest outburst than online scammer Grant Shapps.  Whilst last week’s papers could have been about the shady world of Shapps’ online alter-ego Michael Green, instead an errant toff’s vile behaviour stole the front pages and obscured a far bigger scandal within this Government’s ranks.

Whilst Shapps’ dubious ‘get rich quick’ schemes reveal the character of the new Tory party chairman, they probably didn’t break the law.  And perhaps Shapps’ really can turn $500 into $20k in just 20 days as he claims – in which case we should put the fucker to work in the Treasury and let the good times roll.

It is his former company’s spam website generating software however that will be the focus of any police investigation.  Sadly most coppers are not the sharpest tools particularly when it comes to the internet.  So in simple language, here’s an explanation of what Shapps and his company did, why it was wrong and more importantly why it was probably illegal.

Shapps company, Howtocorp, produced a piece of software which automatically generates websites.  Website owners can then place advertising, such as Google Adsense on the site and generate income.

The software works by ‘scraping’ content from other websites.  So for example, if you wanted to run a website about posh cars, which may attract significant advertising cash, you would simply type some keywords into the software such as Mercedes, luxury cars, Jaguar etc.

The software will then search for online content on other people’s websites which matches the keywords you’ve chosen and automatically publish the content on your own website.  This means that hundreds of websites can be generated very quickly.  You can then add Google Adsense or other advertising networks to your websites.   Even if each site only generates a small amount of advertising cash it all adds up.  Grant Shapps is a very rich man and unlike most Tories he didn’t inherit his wealth.  How much of his cash came from activities of dubious legality may never be known.

Google Adsense works by scanning the content on your website and attempting to match it with appropriate advertising.  In the above example a luxury car showroom may use Adsense to have their business advertised on websites about posh cars.

The businesses who use Adsense and other ad networks either pay each time someone clicks on their advert or in some cases according to how many times the advert is seen ie the number of hits on the website which displays the ad.

These type of websites are banned by google’s terms and conditions and despised by most internet users who would far rather see quality websites with original content than endless spammy sites which exist purely to generate advertising revenue.

In a crude attempt to get round google’s terms and conditions, Shapps’ software automatically spun the content.  This just means changing a few words around so that google is tricked into thinking it is original content.

Copyright violation is both a criminal and a civil offence.  Whether ‘spun’ content is a violation of copyright under UK law would require a test case.  Under US law the situation is a little clearer according to this lawyer who confirms that the practice would be illegal.  As Shapps (or his wife) registered their website in the US under a fake name, this would be an aggravating factor which could lead to up to seven years in prison. 

Theresa May recently approved US attempts to extradite Richard O’Dwyer to the US on charges of copyright violation.  O’Dwyer is appealing.  His lawyers could do worse than point out that the Tory party chairman acted in much the same way.

It will be down to the CPS ultimately to decide whether they wish to pursue Shapps or the company, which is now controlled by his wife. Don’t hold your breath. It’s only a matter of time before someone is hauled before the courts to establish the legality of ‘spun content’  but the CPS are unlikely to make a government minister, no matter how crooked, the first offender.

Of equal interest to the CPS should be the question of fraud.  Every website who signs up to Google Adsense agrees to abide by the Terms and Conditions.  A business contract is created, one that Shapps and his company have clearly breached.  More importantly the company always intended to be in breach of these terms & conditions.  The was a deliberate and systematic attempt to generate revenue from Google Adsense – and by proxy the many small businesses who use the service – by thoroughly  dishonest means.

Imagine this took place offline.  A shady publisher claims to advertisers that they intend to publish a magazine featuring original content from up and coming writers.  Instead they simply steal previously published content from other magazines.  Their magazine, and their whole sales pitch, would be just as much of a fraud as someone promising you a genuine Rolex whist actually flogging you something from Argos with Rolex scrawled across the front in Tippex.

This is what Shapps and his former company have done and they are no different to the geezer knocking out fake DVDs down the market.

There is no question that Shapps’ company employed these dodgy methods to make cash themselves, as this blogpost (now cached after the original blog ‘disappeared’ last week) easily establishes.  They also not only incited this behaviour in others but arguably aided and abetted it.

Shapps sold this software for $297 promising untold wealth to gullible purchasers.  When questioned about whether this software was in breach of google rules the company attempted to vehemently deny it.  The truth is any website using this software, however naively, is likely to find themselves not just banned from the google advertising networks, but also delisted from google search results.  Once again Howtocorp knowingly misled customers about what they were actually buying.

It is hard to argue that Shapps and his company acted within the law. Unfortunately it is not in google’s interests to bring a prosecution.  They would far rather that the many businesses who use Google Adsense were unaware of the number of spammy fake websites that trick google into hosting ads with them.

Whether the police investigation which has been called for by the Labour MP Steve McCabe results in charges remains to be seen.  But if it doesn’t it is really only down to a lack of knowledge about how the internet actually works amongst coppers and prosecutors than any true exoneration of Shapps and his sleazy online scam.

Howtocorp’s websites are currently disappearing from the internet faster than the Lib Dem’s electoral prospects. The company’s Google Adsense accounts will reveal a wealth of information and Shapps can’t hide those.

And if all that’s not enough, Grant Shapps just knocked down Ringo Starr’s house.

Sack the Co-op Until They Ditch Atos

The Co-operative Bank’s claim to be an ‘ethical investment’ company – as if such a thing exists – are looking increasingly dubious after it has emerged that in 2009 they signed a four year contract with disability denying poverty pimps Atos Healthcare.

The company claim to have been unaware of the activities of Atos who carry out the government’s notorious Work Capability Assessment aimed at stripping benefits from sick and disabled people.  An increasing number of people have ended their lives after stress and poverty inflicted by the Atos testing regime whilst a recent investigation found that 32 people a week die after being found ‘fit for work’ by the company.

The Co-op claim they have ‘contractual  obligations’  to Atos but have announced they will take customer’s views into account when deciding whether to renew the contract.  You can tell them how you feel at:  http://www.facebook.com/TheCooperative

Serco and Reed – The Profit Hungry Vultures at the Heart of the Big Society

David Cameron’s flagship Big Society initiative, the National Citizen’s Service,  is set to be dominated by profit hungry vultures like Serco and private training company Reed in Partnership.

The National Citizen Service was launched to much fanfare shortly after the current government weren’t elected, as a shining example of the Big Society at work. It has now been announced that a consortium including the multi-national security and workfare company Serco have picked up the largest share of the contracts to expand the scheme, winning 6 out of a possible 19 lucrative regional contracts.  Reed in Partnership, another company with a background in workfare, have also been awarded a contract.

Under the scheme 16/17 year old can take part in a short programme which involves sport, outdoor pursuits and ‘volunteering’ (such as, according to the Daily Telegraph, clearing wasteland). The involvement of Serco and Reed suggests that unpaid work is likely to remain at the heart of the project.

Whilst Cameron clearly launched the scheme in an attempt to appease the ‘bring back National Service’ brigade, at present it is entirely voluntary and not based on a military model.   Cameron has claimed that: “This is about sowing the seeds of the Big Society – and seeing them thrive in the years to come.” 

The truth seems to be that this is a gimmick designed to further profit the private sector at the expense of properly funded youth services working with the most excluded young people.

After last year’s riots the Cameron announced the scheme would be hugely extended, eventually becoming available to every young person in the UK.  Despite this one major national young people’s charities, the YMCA, has claimed that  the project is largely benefiting middle class families.  Certainly the picture above, taken from the scheme’s facebook page, does not seem to represent the diversity of the communities affected by last year’s disturbances.

The true face of Cameron’s Big Society is starting to emerge.  Whilst youth clubs in inner city areas close due to funding cuts, middle class kids are sent on tax payer funded jollies which serve to line the pockets of private sector poverty pimps.

Cutting Welfare is an Aphrodisiac to Lib Dem Lapdogs

Nick Clegg and his vile party’s support for further cuts in welfare spending shows the true face of the Liberal Democrat Party.

Clegg’s support for a further £10 billion cut to the welfare budget will mean more suicides, more homeless families, and more children forced to depend on foodbanks just to survive. That his wretched supporters in the party should still cheer him shows that every last one of them has blood on their hands.

His position – which is that he will only agree to further cuts aimed at the very poorest if there are tax rises for the very rich – is as perverse as it is brutal. Few rational people would disagree that the rich should be taxed more, but that won’t help the people plunged into poverty by further welfare cuts. And if more money is to be generated from taxing the rich then why the need for more cuts aimed at the poorest?

The answer is that Clegg is only to happy to co-operate in the demolition of the welfare state. He, along with his supporters, are ideologically in favour in wiping out vital support for the very poor, even when it isn’t financially necessary.

So remember next time some bearded Lib Dem twat tries to get you to donate to Oxfam or sign a petition to help the poor – the Liberal Democrat Party is wholeheartedly behind the destruction of the scant support available for those with least. Despite their fake hippy pretensions, they are still in love with cheap suited posh boy Nick Clegg who has done so much to bring devastation into the lives of disabled people, struggling families with children or those unemployed or unwell.

No longer can Liberal Democrats hide behind their Big Issue buying, organic tofu eating, socially responsible veneer. They are not even Tories in disguise, but active and open collaborators in the attack on those with least. For these scum cutting benefits for disabled people is like an aphrodisiac. It gets them off to see just how much they can make the poorest suffer. It makes them feel like big men, making tough decisions. Nick Clegg wanks off over pictures of homeless children.

If there ever were any truly decent people in the Liberal Democrat Party they are not in Brighton this week. They have scurried away like rats, no doubt into the arms of the equally treacherous Labour Party.

The vermin that remain feel no shame in what they are doing. Every fake principle they ever had has been readily sacrificed for the illusion of power. They will neither profit nor prosper from this abuse but die slowly in front of our eyes. It will be small consolation to see their rancid hearts rot them from the inside out. But they should know, as the life slips from their party, that they are the enemy of all that is decent and compassionate within the human spirit. And their death will not come soon enough.

The Liberal Democrats are using what little time left they have on this planet to bring misery and mayhem whilst top-hatted toffs laugh at the squirming lapdogs beneath their feet. We should not wait for imaginary gods to judge them in the next life. If they wish to create hell on earth then let it be in their own lives it is felt, not ours.

Disabled People To Be Forced Back Into Institutions

The planned closure of the Independent Living Fund, the money which provides vital care for disabled people with the highest support needs, will see disabled people forced back into care homes campaigners have warned.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have produced a leaflet explaining the impact of the changes which can be downloaded at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2012/09/ilf-leaflet-for-printing-why-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-affects-everyone-in-the-uk/

From DPAC:  “There are 20,000 existing users of ILF in the UK. The Coalition Government wants to jeopardise their support too by forcing them to rely on local authorities from 2015 by closing the ILF permanently. Local authorities already face severe cuts and cannot provide adequate support. Some local authorities are already saying that residential care homes will be their only option: we expect others to follow.”

This change will devastate lives, sending society back to the days when disabled people were shut out of sight at the mercy of charities or even worse private care homes.  That it is even being considered tells us everything we need to know about this toff Government’s attitude to disabled people.

A consultation is currently taking place on the closure of the fund, to take part visit:  http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2012/future-of-ilf.shtml

Above cartoon from Crippen

Keep an eye on DPAC’s website for the latest action aimed at halting the cuts to benefits and services for disabled people, in the meantime sign Pat’s Petition!

Sign Pat’s Petition

There’s now just over a month before Pat’s Petition expires on the 1st November and already just short of 50,000 signatures have been collected.

The petition calls on Parliament to: “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families” and can be signed at:  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

If another 50,000 signatures can be found before the end of October – which is a big ask and will take some work – then it could force the cuts to disability benefits to be debated in Parliament.  Whilst this is unlikely to change much, it will at the very least nark them off and possibly slow them down a little.

I don’t generally get on with the never ending stream of petitions.  A government that is introducing sweeping cuts that are killing sick and disabled claimants as well as forcing children into homelessness and hunger is hardly likely to change because of a petition after all.  Government’s need to be forced into making concessions, not asked nicely.

But not everyone can get out on the streets or take part in direct action and there is no question that online campaigning has been effective so far in the struggle against benefit cuts.  A diversity of tactics is a good thing.

Signing this petition will at the very least show that despite the endless stream of crap about benefit claimants there is a significant number of people who support the welfare state.  And it will get up the Tory’s noses.  And it takes 2 minutes.  So sign it, share it and tweet it.