Hey guys, welcome back. Sorry if any of you encountered a 404 error while checking sounds familiar yesterday, I was mucking with the .htaccess file in an attempt to block the glut of referrer spam I've been getting lately. Long story short, it didn't work quite as I'd wished... since it effectively took my site offline. But now I'm back, by the shack of a soul boss most turnin', stormin', sound o'soul!!
Tonight when I got home, I fired up Thunderbird to check my oft-neglected "primary" e-mail address. Among the usual spam messages and "FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW:" prefixed messages from my uncle, I saw something potentially interesting. The mail was titled: http://www.pharaohweb.com/pacman/files/pacman_repro_underlay.zip, which I recognized as the URL to a file hosted on my Pac Man pages. Some background: some time ago, a visitor to my Pac Man site used his Adobe Illustrator skills to create a reproduction of the Pac Man cocktail cabinet underlay artwork. The reproduction was outstanding, a dead ringer for the NAMCO original. The kind artist offered to let me host the file on my server, and asked for nothing in return. He figured, as I did, that we were doing the MAME community a favor by offering the file freely. Now, onto the e-mail that flickered back at me from my monitor:
While I appreciate the plug on your page at:
there is a link to your page at:
where you are offering a free copy of our copyright artwork:
Please remove the link as soon as possible to avoid further action. For your info, we sell the MsPac-man CT underlay pre-cut for a Pac-man table.
Don't take this as an attack on you or your great website; I get people referencing it to me all the time and I see that you haven't done anything with your pac page in a while, It's just that we pay the rent off graphics sales and NAMCO gets their pound of flesh on every piece. The ONLY thing we get from them is protection from counterfeiters.
Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.
PS Please don't blog our correspondence; it's for your eyes only.
Read more about the current NAMCO lawsuit.
I was kinda caught off gaurd, but I'm not going to say that I haven't wondered before if I'd eventually get a "cease and desist" letter regarding the copyrighted artwork. I always figured that if there was a letter, it would have come from NAMCO directly. A quick check of the TWOBITS.com website shows they do indeed proclaim that their "officially licensed graphics" are "Manufactured by TWOBITS.com under license from NAMCO Ltd." Taking a minute to re-read and digest the note, I realized that it wasn't really threatening at all... and seemed more like one man appealing to another to stop doing something that was impacting his bottom line. I immediately called Ben to tell him I was famous... and he agreed with my position, which is summed up in my response:
No hard feelings... to be honest I wasn't really aware you guys were paying any royalties on the artwork. Not to be accusing, but I figured you were in the same boat as the rest of us - using the graphics without permission. I mean, everyone and his brother says their graphics are "licensed," even the guys at the booth in the flea market. As much as I like being able to offer the file as a service to the MAME community, I'd hate to take money from the pocket of someone who went to the trouble of getting permission and is paying to do it right.
So, to sum it up - the file is gone. I didn't mean any harm by posting it.
However, there is one part of your message I find haaaard to abide... how can I not blog about my encounter with big brother? Seeing how we see each other eye-to-eye here, would you still deny me the retelling of this story?
Thanks, take care.
So, that's that. I took the file down tonight, and have replaced it with a link to this entry. In the end though, I guess my rebellious side had to make a concession to my empathetic side... because while I managed to comply with the request to remove the file, I simply couldn't resist documenting the exchange on this page. In the end, I'd still recommend taking your business to twobits, for underlay artwork or any other of the rad DIY arcade accessories they offer. I can't ding a guy for working to protect his income. And even though the file I hosted was in no-way pilfered from their graphic (it was painstakingly re-created from scratch), I don't think that'd hold up in court. And yeah, I do feel kinda bad for writing about it against Bob's wishes, but I'm hoping that since the whole thing was settled amicably he'll be willing to shrug it off as "what I do."
One last oddity that came from tonight's events, the mail I got from twobits was addressed to myself, and Sharaun, and had our last name to boot. Not that big of a deal maybe, but I pay fee to "mask" my personal info from the prying eyes of WHOIS. I asked twobits about how they got the info, which I'm assuming was obtained by querying my WHOIS proxy service, but I thought it was interesting. I guess if you have a legit need to contact the registered owner of a domain (such as that owner is using something you hold the rights to without your permission), the proxy service is bound to cough up.
Pac Man talk over, website admin nerd-talk coming.
Migrating to WordPress as my blogging tool of choice was a great move, the system is easy and works great. The only drawback is the fact that because WordPress is so popular as a blogging system, it's become a huge target for all kinds of spamming. Comment spam is the number one problem, where bots scour the web for the PHP submit methods of WordPress and input spam comments with links to poker websites and whatnot. Luckily, there are some killer plugins for WordPress which block comment spam based on keywords and IP addresses, all the while becoming "smarter" with each piece of spam identified. Each "holdem" ridden stream of consciousness, each "viagra" peppered extract from rare philosophical texts, each "low mortgage" and "weight loss" laden nonsensical rambling... they all work to make my comments even more spam-free.
Lately though, I've noticed an interesting comment spam phenomenon - an increasing amount of "benign" comment spam. I made up the term "benign spam," but it seems to fit here. These are comments that usually say something like, I like your website I will share this with friends, or, Wow, this is a great web site. I am so glad I found it, thank you. It is funny, I was just talking to my friend about their web site, and they said they like your site too! And that's all they say. They contain no links to porn or gambling sites, and usually list no author other than "Anonymous." Being that they're not linking to any websites, not pitching any product, or redirecting traffic - I have no idea what their goal might be. A simple Google search shows that these are not just a sincere comments from some English-as-a-second-language reader, but some kind of template comment spam.
I can only guess at their intent, but I'd say they are probably testing the "strictness" of my spam filter; seeing just how innocuous the structure of the comment has to be before it gets through the filter. Once they do this a thousand times on a thousand blogs, they'd have a pretty good idea of what most filters qualify as "spam." Then they can restructure their spam messages most like the comments that didn't get filtered. Otherwise, I have no idea what they're all about... unless they're just scouring the web for open and spammable commenting scripts. Maybe there is no motive, maybe these are just pure evil people wanting to pollute my database with inane comments about nothing. Stupid spammers, scourge of the internet.
I guess I'm an extremist - who thinks we should ban all mention of penis-enlargement, low interest rates, texas holdem, and xxx-teen from the 'net. OK, we may need some of those xxx-teen sites... to... keep the teens from being exploited and all. Poor teens.
Website admin nerd-talk over.
And that's it folks, enough for tonight. Before I leave you, you should check out this site. It’s totally amazing… you can play every video game for NES, Genesis, Gameboy, and MAME (arcade) online via Java applets.As for me, I'm going to bed... and hoping I don't awake in the morning to some kinda slander lawsuit or something. I mean, it's late... and this new Radio Dept. EP isn't doing a whole heck of a lot to keep me awake. Plus, it's lonely back here in the "data center." G'night, until tomorrow.