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The W - Random - An ethical dilemma
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ironcladlou
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Since: 2.1.02
From: Quincy, MA

Since last post: 2233 days
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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.18
I don't know about the rest of you, but outside of their site trying to give my machine the computer herpes, I find PWInsider to be an informative and worthwhile site. Not worthwhile enough to actually buy a subscription, mind you, but I generally have a hard time justifying paying for information. Imaginary property, and all that. Lately, they're been implementing more intrusive features using AJAX, like preventing the text in their articles from being selected, ostensibly to prevent other sites from ripping off their stories. A minor annoyance, but I let it slide. Today, I went on the site, and was greeted with a message saying that since I was using Adblock, I couldn't read their articles. Something had to be done.

I poked around in their source code for a while, and ended up discovering a pretty simple way to change the URL of a page and get the text, and nothing but the text. Now, I'm no coder, so it took me a little longer to translate that simple hack into a Greasemonkey script, but I got it done. I was testing it, and was all set to upload it for the whole world to use, but then I discovered that the script allowed me to access their subscription-only content. That set off a little bit of a red flag for me. I mean, yeah, I just want to read the articles, and I'd like to share that ability if I can, but I don't want to put these guys out of business, and I damn sure don't want a phone call from their lawyers. So what should I do here?



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FriedEgg
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Since: 13.6.03
From: Washington, DC

Since last post: 2401 days
Last activity: 2401 days
#2 Posted on
As soon as they switched to the AJAX mode, I figured out what they were doing, and documented it. It's a stupid move in the long run because it means their pages are no longer worth anything to Google or other search engines.

When I saw those new messages yesterday, I dug up my previous research, and figured out what they were doing, and wrote a workaround as a bookmarklet/Greasemonkey script. I didn't realize how easy it was to get the Elite article (I just tried and I can), because my little script simply skips the variable check the script page uses and re-runs the function to get the article, overwriting the anti-ad message. Because of that, the rest of the elite page seems to protect the page.

There's really no excuse for the Elite content to be available like that. If I paid someone to write a login system, and there was that big of a hole in it, I'd want my money back. One of the big rules of web programming is that you can never trust the user, and they are trusting the user to play by the rules.

As for the ethical dilemma, if you don't post yours, and I don't post mine, someone else will eventually. For someone that knows anything about AJAX or even just Javascript, it's a fairly simple thing to figure out. It'll just keep escalating, and I have ideas for what I'd do in their place although I'll keep my mouth shut since I'd rather not have to try to work around some of those.

Jason Powell's new ProWrestling.net looks like a good alternative, and I'm sure this couldn't have come at a better time for him.



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ironcladlou
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Since: 2.1.02
From: Quincy, MA

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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.18
An excellent point. It really is idiotic that they left a hole that big in their security. Given how ugly the site itself is, even without the ads, it's not terribly surprising, though. I guess I'll keep reading the site with my script...let the lawyers pester someone else.



"I could drown the pain, and drink upon commuter trains, and here you stand in eastern standard time"
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drjayphd
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Since: 22.4.02
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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.07
You wanted the best, you got... Out of Context Quote of the Week.

"Jesus Christ, he's got a fucking Sherman tank between the legs." (Cerebus)


Ordinarily, I'd say no, but if they're locking you out of their content because you're blocking their ads, that's just overstepping the lines. I wouldn't post it here either, but I'd say just using it is fair game.

(Avoiding the conflict of interest: since we don't get ads on this site when we're logged in, it's a different issue.)



SEADAWG
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Since: 5.7.03

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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.19
As a moderator of this fine site, I suggest PM'ing me the details on this workaround and then I'll be in a better position to offer an opinion.
thecubsfan
Scrapple
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Since: 10.12.01
From: Aurora, IL

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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 10.00
I'm thinking, if they're loading the pages with so many ad banners, they're probably not putting too much into the ol' legal budget.



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Eddie Famous
Andouille








Since: 11.12.01
From: Catlin IL

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#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.29

So the information isn't worth you paying for it, or allowing ads to infect your computer, but the information IS worth you hacking into their system to steal it.

Which is exactly what you are doing, you are stealing it.



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FriedEgg
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Since: 13.6.03
From: Washington, DC

Since last post: 2401 days
Last activity: 2401 days
#8 Posted on
I guess it depends on your definition of hacking. I don't considering it to be a problem if my browser lies about what it is, what it is capabable of, or what it really did. I'm not lying about who I am. I write web stuff all day, and when it matters, I don't trust the user. There's NEVER a guarantee that the user will give you back a value you expect. That's why shopping carts don't (well, shouldn't) use javascript to be an authoritative source on the price of things or the final cost.

(Time for an analogy!) To me this is the equivalent of wearing a blue shirt to Best Buy. If the cashier gives me an employee discount because they see me wearing a blue shirt, is it my fault they're not looking any closer?



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Since: 4.1.02
From: The Hague, Netherlands (Europe)

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#9 Posted on
    Originally posted by FriedEgg
    To me this is the equivalent of wearing a blue shirt to Best Buy. If the cashier gives me an employee discount because they see me wearing a blue shirt, is it my fault they're not looking any closer?


Yes, because if we are comparing your analogy to the website, you are aware of the fact that they might confuse the shirts. You are purposely wearing a blue shirt in this case hoping they give you discount.

Back to the website though. I assume that from a legal point of view, you could be in trouble. They might be sending you all sorts of crap, but that doesn't mean you are allowed to steal something (take without paying)
I guess you'd have to either ignore it or report it.

But I can see the dilemma and sure I'd be tempted myself (and perhaps just do it..)
Not sure if I'd put it online though.

(edited by dMp on 22.2.08 1433)


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Since: 11.12.01
From: China, Maine

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#10 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.30


    Originally posted by Eddie Famous
    So the information isn't worth you paying for it, or allowing ads to infect your computer, but the information IS worth you hacking into their system to steal it.

    Which is exactly what you are doing, you are stealing it.
Well, this was my first reaction, but I am not very savvy about this new fangled interweb thing either.




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dMr
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Since: 2.11.02
From: Edinburgh, Scotland

Since last post: 13 days
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#11 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.20
Fraid I've got to go with stealing even if they do write cruddy code.

If someone goes out and leaves their front door wide open with a gift wrapped plasma TV and suitcase full of cash in the hallway, it's still not OK to take em.

I mean said someone is absolutely a moron and has it comin' to them, but still stealing.
Alex
Bratwurst








Since: 24.2.02

Since last post: 12 days
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#12 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.59
I wouldn't go as far as calling you a thief, but it seems to me the kind of thing that they could cry "DMCA violation!" over.
ironcladlou
Potato korv








Since: 2.1.02
From: Quincy, MA

Since last post: 2233 days
Last activity: 2085 days
#13 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.18
dMr: Okay, with the plasma TV analogy, I have an issue. I'd say it's more like they left the door open, and I walked in and read their newspaper.

Eddie Famous: You obviously don't understand the situation. What you're calling "hacking" is actually going up into the address bar (that place where you type in websites to go to them) and changing what's in it. If that's hacking, then every damn one of us is a hacker.

Alex: Yeah, the DMCA is exactly what's worrying me here.

OOOOH! I just figured out what I'm going to do! I'll write it as an article for 2600!



"I could drown the pain, and drink upon commuter trains, and here you stand in eastern standard time"
- Mike Doughty
Eddie Famous
Andouille








Since: 11.12.01
From: Catlin IL

Since last post: 303 days
Last activity: 297 days
#14 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.29

    Originally posted by ironcladlou
    Eddie Famous: You obviously don't understand the situation. What you're calling "hacking" is actually going up into the address bar (that place where you type in websites to go to them) and changing what's in it. If that's hacking, then every damn one of us is a hacker.


Obviously, it's YOU that doesn't understand, since it was YOU who started the thread asking for advice.

You are stealing a product. The information you are gleaning is meant for paying audiences only, and you are intentionally getting around the "paying" part of the deal. In any language that is stealing.



As of 2/28/05: 101 pounds since December 7, 2004
OFFICIAL THREE-MONTH COUNT: 112 pounds on March 9, 2005
OFFICIAL SIX-MONTH COUNT: 142 pounds on June 8, 2005
OFFICIAL ONE YEAR COUNT: 187 pounds on December 7, 2005
As of 2/27/06: 202 pounds "I've lost a heavyweight"
As of 7/31/06: 224 pounds

As of 10/31/07: Still 217 down!
Now announcing for the NBWA!
www.wdws.com home of DWS Sportsnight and downstate radio home of thecubsfan!
FriedEgg
Polska kielbasa








Since: 13.6.03
From: Washington, DC

Since last post: 2401 days
Last activity: 2401 days
#15 Posted on
As my current script stands, it'd probably be arguable as a DMCA violation (but it is a terrible law). However, I can think of a way to rewrite it so it wouldn't violate it (ie, actually "view" the ad and click continue for the user). DMCA would also only apply to the US. It all comes down to whether one variable is set or not, and my little script just bypasses that check.

There are really two issues here: skipping ads, and accessing the paid content. On the skipping ads, there's never been a guarantee that users will download any images, flash, etc, or run any javascript that you tell them. Some browsers simply aren't capable of that. And most people have no ethical or moral problem fast-forwarding through ads (or missing them while in the bathroom) while watching TV, so I don't see why they should treat the web differently.

As for the paid content, I'm not advocating people "steal" their content, but I do believe if you put content on a public website, you have to expect people to access it. I've never been a fan of the newsboards that just cut and paste news, which is why my site sends people to the actual news sources. But if you want to offer paid content, then you're going to have to really protect it. Cable companies don't send out HBO to everyone and just hide the channel number. When I looked at the javascript, seeing the paid content wasn't my goal, and I won't be using what I found for that access, but the fact remains that it is there and anyone with a little bit of knowledge can find it, too.



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ironcladlou
Potato korv








Since: 2.1.02
From: Quincy, MA

Since last post: 2233 days
Last activity: 2085 days
#16 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.05
    Originally posted by Eddie Famous


    Obviously, it's YOU that doesn't understand, since it was YOU who started the thread asking for advice.

    You are stealing a product. The information you are gleaning is meant for paying audiences only, and you are intentionally getting around the "paying" part of the deal. In any language that is stealing.


Okay, here's another analogy. There is no legal way to watch a DVD on a computer running Linux. A guy named DVD Jon wrote a simple program to decrypt a DVD's contents to allow the DVD to be watched under Linux. As a side effect of the decryption, the contents of the DVD can be copied and redistributed.

My script was written to give ME access to the free articles on PWInsider's website. I never thought for a second that it would give me access to their paid content, and quite honestly, I'm really not terribly interested in accessing the paid content.

The reason I started this thread was to determine whether I should distribute the script. I've come to a decision on that, and trust me, you calling me a thief was really helpful in that regard. In case the sarcasm passed you by, let me explain it more simply: in any language, you're an ignorant ass.



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- Mike Doughty
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Since: 9.12.01
From: ミネアポリス

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#17 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.00
While I'm not going to come down on either the black or white side of this issue in this thread at this time, I DO know that you're not exactly the best person to make determinations on the ignorant assery of your fellow posters, so I'd appreciate you just not doing that here. (I'd also appreciate you not placing any more replies in this thread because WE GET IT ALREADY)

(edited by CRZ on 22.2.08 1431)


Leroy
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Since: 7.2.02

Since last post: 6 days
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#18 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.80
    Originally posted by ironcladlou
    Okay, here's another analogy. There is no legal way to watch a DVD on a computer running Linux. A guy named DVD Jon wrote a simple program to decrypt a DVD's contents to allow the DVD to be watched under Linux. As a side effect of the decryption, the contents of the DVD can be copied and redistributed.


Jon has always been extremely clear that his decryption software was released because he felt such encryptions denied consumers their legal right to fair use (e.g making backups, playing media on non-proprietary hardware, etcetera). He has always been EXTREMELY clear - and I think he is quite sincere - that he does not advocate piracy, and that he doesn't want his software to be used to facilitate copyright infringement.









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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

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#19 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.81
Everyone else has had their say, so I'm going to make one final comment and close this thread.

You shouldn't distribute your script. There are any number of good reasons not to, but let's get down to the most basic of them:

The site intends to keep you out, and you are circumventing this protection. That's pretty clear cut, and we can all agree to that.

Because of this, no matter how poor the lock, not matter how weak the door, no matter how open the window - it's not the same thing as simply sending a GET to a basic web server out on the internet.

It's not your decision whether or not people visiting that site see ads or not. Maybe he has to have a certain volume of ads served for the rates he gets? Maybe you are the one who is ignorant of what his actions are doing?

If you can't stand to look at the website as it is normally (without adblock) then why on earth do you trust the information presented on it?

For your TiVo analogy - I think it is flawed. A TiVo still records all of the ads, you just are choosing to fast forward or not watch them. If a TiVo stopped recording at the end of the show and started up again at the beginning, and didn't require user intervention to skip the ads, that would be more like what you are doing. TiVo is obviously a much more complicated case than what you are talking about anyway.

You should probably surf the web without tools like Adblock, if you really want to do the right thing. Just have some self control and don't purchase things you see ads for.

Advertising allows us to run this server at a minimal cost and without much interruption to our end users. Advertising is a good thing.




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Since: 2.2.04
From: Austin, TX

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#20 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.08
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    A TiVo still records all of the ads, you just are choosing to fast forward or not watch them. If a TiVo stopped recording at the end of the show and started up again at the beginning, and didn't require user intervention to skip the ads, that would be more like what you are doing. TiVo is obviously a much more complicated case than what you are talking about anyway.


I know ReplayTV when it was out had the built in ability to skip all commercials without you even having to press a button. It ruled. And it got them sued in a case I'm pretty sure they lost.

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