back to article My life as a criminal cookie clearer: Register vulture writes Chrome extension, realizes it probably breaks US law

Over the weekend, I created my first Chrome extension and prepared to publish the project to GitHub until I realized it was possibly illegal under America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It's not a great loss to the world. The extension, which I called Bloom Broom, is about as basic as can be. I wrote it after completing …

  1. heyrick Silver badge

    not just to protect copyright but to protect access rights.

    Seems an almost pointless crusade in a world where it's apparently illegal to "bypass" a lame-ass "protection" method that relies upon leaving rubbish behind on the user's machine; yet it's all too easy to spot a photo or whatever that one likes and "Share" it with the world. Just think how empty sites like Pinterest would be if all the material that wasn't created by the uploader was cleared out...

    Meanwhile Orphan Works battle it out with the mighty Mouse for interesting ways to further break the concept of copyright that does exist, along with the wheeze of "licensing" content simply because it is supplied as a stream of zeroes and ones.

    The whole thing is not fit for purpose.

    1. sad_loser

      however on the good side

      The magnificent work of Adnauseam is not illegal because we are still seeing the ads (as far as the ad broker is concerned) but the really good news is that we are poisoning the well by clicking on all of their links (as far as the ad broker is concerned)

      It is the only way of fighting fire with fire - ad blockers and cookie removers on their own are fine - the easiest thing to use Firefox's inbuilt settings to throw the cookies when you shut the browser.

      1. Drew Scriver

        Re: however on the good side

        Looks like I might be the first (and only?) one to point this out, but this is about more than potentially breaking the law. What about ethics? Seems to be that it's a case of misplaced entitlement. It's available, so I should be able to get it for free.

        Here's how I see the situation. Content provider (say, a magazine or newspaper) offers products (articles) for purchase. After all, they've got to eat too. First five or so are on them. Then you're supposed to pay.

        How is this different from a food place that hands out free samples to passers-by - one per visitor, please? Do you just keep coming back in a different disguise?

        If you want to down-vote this, fine. But it'd be good to also drop a comment on your rationale.

        1. Jan 0 Silver badge

          Re: however on the good side

          Not the same argument, but:

          @Drew Scriver. yes, "they've got to eat", but why does that make them too lazy to sort out micropayments.? Why do we have to set up a pricey monthly or annual subscription for all we can read, when we only want to read a couple of articles?

          1. Robert Grant

            Re: however on the good side

            "Sort out micropayments" does indeed make that sound easy.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: however on the good side

          No, this is more akin to them stamping your hand with a "free sample received" stamp, and then claiming it's illegal for you to ever wash your hands again, because that would break their system.

          (I didn't downvote you)

        3. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: however on the good side

          I accept that other people have got to eat.

          However, I don't believe they have to resort to mildly-dishonest tactics to get their food money.

          1. Dinanziame Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: however on the good side

            Just checking: By mildly-dishonest, you mean "showing you ads"?

        4. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: however on the good side

          I never buy anything I see advertised on TV - does that mean I'm breaking the law watching that. If I use an add-blocker I am saving the advertiser the effort of sending me an advert that I will either ignore or pointedly not buy.

          If you want people to pay for your content dont give it away like free samples all the time, because yes I will continue to eat your free samples if you are dumb enough to keep giving them away.

          Pubs used to get it right - free snacks on the bar to make you thirsty. My old local used to do peanuts, crisps, roast potatoes and home made scratchings on the old time limited Sunday lunch and it was mobbed. Co-operative marketing is far better than the snipey shit you get now.

        5. steviebuk Silver badge

          Re: however on the good side

          I see your point but I think because most of us see the national newspapers that do this as not very nice, we don't have much sympathy.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Don't need it

    I still use Firefox v43, which allows you to pick and choose which cookies get stored from where, and stores that choice. Removed in v44.

    1. Len

      Re: Don't need it

      Instead of running an ancient version of Firefox, why not just install CookieAutodelete?

      I run that as standard so only cookies on the allowlist are kept, the default is to remove cookies after a session.

      1. Rich 2 Silver badge

        Re: Don't need it

        Another option is uMatrix - gives fine grained control over what you will let your browner do and read (and which cookies it will accept), on a per-URL basis. It’s a faff and takes time to set it up so that stuff you’re interested in still works, but if you want fine control it’s difficult to beat

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Don't need it

      To view (and remove) individual cookies in the latest Firefox hit the F12 button to bring up the Developer Tools when the open tab is the site you want to clear cookies from. Click the Storage tab and expand the Cookies option in the left hand menu. Click the relevant site name and all cookies for that site will be listed in the main pane. Select any you want to remove and hit the Delete key.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Removed in v44"

      No, it's still there.

      Go to Options, Privacy & Permission, Cookies and Site Data, click "Manage Permissions...". Here you can set which sites are always allowed to set cookies, which are always denied, and which can store cookies for the current session only.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: "Removed in v44"

        All of those options are a major PITA compared to a dialog that pops up for a new site and you just say Y/N

        > hit the F12 button to bring up the Developer Tools when the open tab is the site you want to clear cookies from. Click the Storage tab and expand the Cookies option in the left hand menu. Click the relevant site name and all cookies for that site will be listed in the main pane. Select any you want to remove and hit the Delete key.

        Seriously? Fuck that.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: "Removed in v44"

        > No, it's still there.

        Yes, that is still there, but Preferences -> Privacy -> History -> Keep Until "ask me every time" is gone.

        And the point is that you don't know what sites or subdomains are setting cookies, and that "Manage permissions" requires the full subdomain.

        1. Phil Koenig

          Re: "Removed in v44"

          "Ask me every time" became ridiculous on the web like 15+ years ago.

          Nowadays the best strategy is use an extension that auto-deletes them, make the default "session only" and set the timeout after tab close to delete to ~60 seconds. (In case you're doing an e-commerce transaction or some other page that pops a new window to enter credentials in and then redirects back to the original page afterwards to complete the transaction with cookies carrying the login status)

          Then just add the few sites you do need persistent cookies on as necessary and that's that.

          Of course, now that we have reasonably effective cookie management tools, site developers are moving onto other mechanisms that don't rely on them, like local storage/DOM storage and browser fingerprinting.

          Goodness forbid you're using a mobile browser, the choices there are bleak.

    4. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: Don't need it

      I tried that, too; but I didn't bother recompiling it across an OS upgrade because it was getting to be a pain in the backside saying no to all the cookie requests. Between NoScript, Adblock Plus and Privacy Badger, I think I've got the Internet almost how I want it; especially when I had my DNS-based advert and tracker blocking solution in place.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    My computer, my rules.

    Fresh incognito window each time. Sue me, motherfuckers.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: My computer, my rules.

      "Deleting cookies, using ad-blocking software, or other routes past the paywall could be said to 'deactivate' or 'impair' the paywall protecting the online news article,"

      That's me. I delete cookies every time I close Firefox (checkbox in current Firefox options) and trackers aren't allowed to store cookies in the first place. I run uBlock Origin to block ads and other annoyances. If I run into a hard paywall I avoid the site.

      DCMA has gotten far too big for its britches.

      1. Spacedinvader

        Re: My computer, my rules.

        That's all of us...

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: My computer, my rules.

        DCMA has gotten far too big for its britches.

        It's also worth remembering that if, like most of the people on this planet, you are not USAin, the laws of the USA do not apply to you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My computer, my rules.

          Whilst others will shortly be incorporating American law into their (unwritten) constitution...

        2. NZ Journey Man

          Re: My computer, my rules.

          Unfortunately there are US laws that apply to everybody on the planet. However you'll only find out when you visit/transit through the US and they toss you in jail for unknowingly breaking a US law from your home country

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: My computer, my rules.

            Right, which is one reason why I haven't set foot in the USA since 2002, and fully expect to live the rest of my life without ever doing so again. I was a regular visitor once, but it's just not worth it any more.

    2. ratfox

      Re: My computer, my rules.

      Some websites refuse to show you articles if you are incognito, though. In principle, it should be impossible to know that you're in incognito mode, but preventing detection is an arm race between browsers and websites...

      1. Phil Koenig

        Re: My computer, my rules.

        Considering the fact that Google isn't particularly interested in making it easy for people to circumvent advertising and paywall tech, don't expect much help from them in Chrome/Chromium (and all its forks) either.

        Yes, it should not be easy for websites to ascertain if someone is using incognito mode. Or any other privacy/security enhancing tactic if the user so chooses.

    3. shortfatbaldhairyman

      Re: My computer, my rules.

      Exactly what I do.

  4. Dahhah6o

    I clean out cookies many times per day. Just the other day I was considering learning to write an extension to auto-clear the rubbish for all sites except for those I have actually logged in.

    1. Graham 32

      For Firefox there's CookieAutoDelete and Forget Me Not. They might also exist for Chrome.

    2. Proton_badger


      If you use Firefox you can use the Temporary Containers extension set to Auto. This will run each new tab in a new temporary container that gets deleted when you close the tab, including not only cookies but also on device storage, etc.

      With the multi account containers extension you can also assign permanent containers to sites where you want to be permanently logged in.

      Containers are an isolated browser environment preventing sites from sharing data. They also allow you to have multiple simultaneous logins to the same site in different containers/tabs.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1. LucreLout

      I don't generally believe in skipping around pay walls but I do understand why some folks do. Many of the major print titles simply took their old print budget as profit rather than sharing the cost reduction of digital with the consumer, leading to some quite large subscription costs.

      Much as I might malign the BBC and its telly tax, it is remarkably better value (if you ignore the insufferably left leaning slant) than most of the publications listed on that github page.

      1. First Light

        The Beeb is left-leaning? That's news to me!

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          If the Right thinks the BEEB is too left-wing, and the Left think that it's too right-wing, it's probably just about right.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legal opinions

    This article reminds me of the old joke.

    Q. How do you get three different legal opinions on a subject

    A. Get two lawyers to discuss it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legal opinions

      Or interview a single government minister

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doncha love those sites (like <cough> El Reg) that display a popup with their 'cookies policy' that invites you to click to accept all their cookies but has a smaller 'learn more' link that displays options for Functional/Necessary, Performance and Advertising and only the Functional/Necessary is (permanently) ticked... it's as if they read my mind

    1. nagyeger

      Privacy regulations compliant in other words.

      I believe.

      I am not a lawyer.

      Don't base any decisions on comments here.

      Please don't sue me.

      Or sew me. Or sow me for that matter.

      Where's my coat?

    2. Phil Koenig

      That happens to be a legal requirement in the EU that they are complying with.

    3. JetSetJim

      This is better than sites like HuffPost whose "cookie choices" page is a link to about a hundred different ad-farms policy pages, each with options buried in different sub-pages, such that you can't actually realistically disable them within a working day

      1. JulieM Silver badge

        That's probably illegal, since they are specifically not allowed (a) to make accessing the site without intrusive surveillance unreasonably burdensome or (b) to refuse point-blank to show the content without intrusive surveillance.

        1. Adelio

          But who has the authority to enforce these sites to behave properly?

      2. Boothy

        Or sites like rockpapershotgun who won't enable some content unless you accept targeting cookies!

        Quote: "To experience this #content, you will need to enable targeting cookies."

        This seems to block images in some articles, and you can't use their built in search function to find articles either without accepting targeting cookies!

        Is this even legal?

      3. NZ Journey Man

        Any site that doesn't easily let me opt out of targeted advertising, or are bitchy about it, gets instantly closed. They track this stuff, so will know that some of us are voting with our feet. Some of those sites have seen the error of their ways and now allow an easy opt out

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Private browsing

    Is private browsing (e.g. Safari) illegal as well, as that doesn't allow sites to store stuff between sessions?

  9. iron Silver badge

    Standard browser features can defeat these soft paywalls so I think it can be argued that they are no barrier at all. And, who is going to sue Google, Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla for including them?

    The simplest way is 'open in private tab' or if you have Firefox with Containers (invaluable for keeping work + personal accounts on the same site separate) open in a container. Alternatively deleting the cookies form a particular site is more awkward but is a feature that is in all browsers and has been with us since the first cookies were baked.

    Since these paywalls rely on cookies on MY computer I would counter that they placed the cookie without my permision so who should be suing who here?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would counter that they placed the cookie without my permision so who should be suing who here?Remember the bit where they make you click accept cookies when you visit a website? That'd be the bit where they get permission.

      1. Sven Coenye

        Developer tools -> Delete node

        What bit are you talking about? ;-)

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        "where they make you click accept cookies when you visit a website?"

        Except it's probably not legally viable as the cookies have usually been placed before showing you the request.

      3. stiine Silver badge

        re: clicking accept

        I never do that, I just browse with a big "accept cookies" banner across the bottom of the screen because I'm too lazy to use uBlock Origin.

        1. J27

          Re: re: clicking accept

          If you check the code, you'll find a lot of websites actually set the cookies, then display that warning. The cookie laws that require notification of cookie use actually just require the web site TELL the user they use cookies. Not get approval. The "Accept" or "Close" button normally just sets a cookie so that it doesn't show the banner again.

  10. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Don't Feel Bad...

    Everything breaks US law nowadays.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Don't Feel Bad...

      Read and understand the reason you can be fined and imprisoned for picking up a feather. If more people do perhaps the problem will be solved ... next century.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't Feel Bad...

        I came across that issue a week ago... and promptly figured out how to identify the large feather I have on my desk, intended to use as a quill pen when I get around to it. Turkey. Ok, I'm safe. (Not all feather ownership is prohibited.)

        Cool website, by the way.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Don't Feel Bad...

          Is it really safe though - some turkeys migrate to bread, only 100 miles or so but its still migration.

      2. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

        Re: Don't Feel Bad...

        @Floche Kroes

        That was a very cool read, thanks for the link!

        Have a cold one on me

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't Feel Bad...

      Be thankful the DMCA enforcers don't have guns. (surely they don't........)

      1. NetBlackOps

        Re: Don't Feel Bad...

        Since the FBI and Secret Service joint digital task force are often on the case, they do have weapons.

      2. NightFox

        Re: Don't Feel Bad...

        I'm betting on the heavily armed, full black Kevlar body armour and Ray-Bans ensemble, because America

  11. Kevin Johnston

    Ah...the law of unintended consequences

    You have to love how often this hits in areas which seemed to be very simple and clear. Clearing a cookie could be illegal because it tracks your usage while that cookie over there is unlawfully tracking your usage and you are encouraged to delete it.

    Reminds me of an online banking Catch-22...a certain Spanish bank suggest installing Trusteer to help defeat ungentlemanly attacks such as man in the middle (also know as 'Variations on Verified by Visa') but while you can say no, this pops up every time you log in unless you allow it to set cookies. So you have a choice of trying to be secure or to clear these annoying adverts (no, AdBlock et al do NOT block it and it needs you to say No multiple times before it will set the 'do not ask again' cookie).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah...the law of unintended consequences

      Human rights legislation generally (always?) trumps commercial law.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Ah...the law of unintended consequences

        Not on 1/1/21

  12. a_yank_lurker

    Congress Critters

    Remember the DMCA was written by a group know for their venality and stupidity according to Mark Twain and Czar Reed. So the idiocies in the law should be expected both to keep the money (bribes) rolling in and the fact average Congress critter would have trouble carrying on a conversation with the vast intellect of a rock.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Alternative approach


    It has come to my notice that you are storing data on my computer. Please find attached my invoice for storage costs at 1 [currency unit of choice] per byte. Payment is due in 7 days. If this invoice is not paid all such existing data will be removed as will any further data you may attempt to store.

    They can't complain about the consequences they were warned about and which result from their own inaction. They should consider themselves lucky that you didn't get a winding up order on non-payment.

    1. Phil Koenig

      Re: Alternative approach

      I love this - call it a "Reverse EULA" - presented in the HTTP handshake with every website you open. :-D

  14. whitepines

    Information cannot be contained

    What would happen if, for every paywalled news article found, a quick Wikipedia stub with the bare essence of the restricted article was added?

    Should do a lot more damage to the bottom line than just letting people read it who aren't going to pay in the first place, no matter the strong arm tactics tried. Whenever I see that pop up, reflex action ^W kicks in and goodbye tab (and a little memory is created of "don't bother with greedy site [X]", which gets reinforced every time this happens).

    I know this doesn't work for proper written "art" type articles, but then again, you probably know paying for those in one way or another is the right thing to do? Myself, I won't pay for them if I can't get them in dead tree print form so I can share the ideas with friends / family, but others have looser standards. If the author uses non-tracking static ads (no JavaScript) and lets me save off a personal copy, then I'm also perfectly fine leaving those ads enabled in exchange for access to good quality written material. If not, well, there's an entire library of ideas (literally) that I can select from instead of the article beyond the rental-only paywall.

    Threaten me with the DMCA for viewing something on my computer that you published online, however, and I hope your works die, still encrypted, in obscurity, and that your name (along with the decryption keys) is absolutely and utterly forgotten.

    Strangely, if a site is greedy enough, I also remember not to sign up for their dead tree subscription version, where I might have otherwise. Odd that!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Information cannot be contained

      One thing which amuses me is sites which aren't paywalled but retaliate against blocking their Javascript by fuzzing the pictures that punctuate the article. Pictures that contribute nothing to understanding the article but which presumably cost the site good money from a picture library.

  15. Long John Silver


    Why should anyone residing in the civilised world beyond USA borders give a damn about the DMCA?

    1. whitepines

      Re: Contempt

      Because the USA has a long history of extraterritorial action?

    2. LucreLout

      Re: Contempt

      Why should anyone residing in the civilised world beyond USA borders give a damn about the DMCA?

      Well, I've no prior experience with any custodial establishment, however I have seen a few on TV, and without exception the worst seem to be in America as opposed to say Sweden where they seem almost nice.

      America regards its judicial law as having global reach, which may or may not amuse you, but its quite difficult to avoid having anything to do with either the USD or an american company - for all I know El Reg is hosted on AWS and so we're interacting within the bounds of American legal oversight.

      Idealism is one word and reality is another because it is something else. I'd not fancy a decade or two in Terror Hut or San Quentin because I wanted to watch something for free. Ripping off Sweden and stuffing it through google translate if you don't speak the language is far safer :)

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    DMCA was and is a horribly written law

    DMCA was, and still is, a horribly written law. Also poorly understood. For example, there is a penalty clause for companies (or whoever, but lets face it, it'll be a company) that make false DMCA claims -- they are legally attesting the content they file against IS violating their copyright, not that it MIGHT be, with penalty of perjury plus additional penalties for false claims (intentional or not.) I.e., they can automatically scan for files, but each and every time they file based on those scans without checking the content first, they are committing perjury, and it can be shown they committed perjury when they flag files that are nowhere related to the song or movie or whatever they are filing about. There are DMCA penalties for this besides the perjury. BUT, I've only ever heard of this clause being used once.

    I'm with EFF on this one. I will absolutely NOT be told what kind of software I can or cannot write, or what I can discuss; this thoroughly violates people's first ammendment rights. In a more specific sense, your site sends data to a web browser, the browser can interpret it however it wants. It is NOT obligated to track cookies, it is NOT obligated to run javascript, it is NOT obligated to pop a giant "buy it" box over the text on the screen. My personal preference now, so during the prohibition, several beer and liquor companies published pamphlets or booklets "warning" people how beer is produced so they don't accidentally leave the hops and such in there to ferment and produce beer, since that's illegal.

    My personal objection to these paywall sites right now, the "new tabs" thing in firefox has article links with no indication of if they are "3 free articles then you are done" sites or not, often I would not "use up" my free articles to click on some link. In one case the page failed to load properly, so I reloaded, at which point that had used up my "free" article for the month. On several sites... and per the DMCA, I'm warning you so you don't accidentally do this... you better not hit the "stop" button too quickly, on several sites the article will load but the box covering it will not if you simply hit stop early enough; whatever you don't do that because it may violate the DMCA supposedly. Thank you, I'm here all night!

    1. NetBlackOps

      Re: DMCA was and is a horribly written law

      Yep, I've become well trained on propr timing of said stoppage. Hey, new internet game!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The wrong attack

    Maybe, instead of using a botched-"privacy" browser like Chrome and try to write an auto-delete cookie add-on to do what you want, you could use a real browser like Firefox that gives you two different methods to accomplish your task: cookie blocking and/or NoScript (because that cookie that you think is the cause is in fact just a switch examined by the JS, and if you block the JS you disable the soft firewall completely).

    Anonymous, because experience and DCMA firewalls.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Script avoidance?

    There are a couple sites I read that I didn't even realize had paywalls until I saw how they rendered in someone else's browser, because I'd been reading the sites with NoScript. I wonder how the DMCA would treat it if you're not deleting anything, just never loading it in the first place?

  19. Jonathan Richards 1

    quoth El Reg: remember the First Amendment?

    "People have a First Amendment right to browse the Internet anonymously, ..." [Naomi Gilens, EFF Legal Fellow]

    The full text of the First Amendment to the US Constitution reads

    Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    So in fact the First Amendment confers no rights whatsoever. It explicitly and solely limits the ability of Congress to legislate limitations to certain specified rights and freedoms which the framers clearly think are conferred by the Constitution itself. Now, I understand that law is interpreted for situations that the framers did not envisage, and that Thos Jefferson et al had not clearly foreseen the Internet, but, since IANAL (unlike Ms Gilens), I struggle to see how one reasons from Amdt I to the opening quote.

    Edit: source for Amdt I Cornell Law School LII

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: quoth El Reg: remember the First Amendment?

      From The Onion:

      "Area Man Fierce Defender of What He Believes the Constitution Says"

      Meanwhile, here's a primer from someone who understands it.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: quoth El Reg: remember the First Amendment?

        Cheers! I am a big fan of Ken, and I read his post carefully, and while I am prepared to believe that I might be wrong about the First Amendment, I am not wrong in either of the ways he mentions. My point was only that a lawyer (I guess) said that the First Amendment gave people rights, and... it just doesn't. It gives them protection from laws which would take away those rights, one of which is free, and as Carlie points out, anonymously free, speech.

    2. Carlie J. Coats, Jr.

      Re: quoth El Reg: remember the First Amendment?

      But US Supreme Court says First Amendment requires permissions for anonymous speech: see McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995).

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: quoth El Reg: remember the First Amendment?

        in re McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission

        Thanks for that, I think it is an example of the law being extended and interpreted for changing conditions, as I said. It still doesn't get us as far as Ms Gillens' statement, though.

        In a 7–2 decision authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court found that the First Amendment protects the decision of an author to remain anonymous.

        So clearly by this precedent an author can be anonymous, but it says nothing about readers.

  20. Lorribot

    My understanding of US law is that if you manufacture a gun you can't be done for murder if some uses that gun to kill someone (other laws around gun manufacture may apply). However it seems tha the DMCA would turn that on its head and say someone how provided code ( as was published above in the article) could be liablefor someone else using it to bypass a paywall. On this basis anyone that manufactures or sells a crowbar that is used to break in to a house could be done for breaking and entering.

    I am afraid America appers to heading in to a world of stupidity and nonesensical law making *has been for a awhile) because most law makers don't understand technology or how to apply existing laws to it.

    Frankly the more I learn about the governance layer in the US the more it seems to be destroying itself and dragging the country down with it. China and Russia have pwnd the US and its once great companies so many times it can't belong before they either up sticks and move elsewhere or just wither and die.

    One good natural disatser and ....oh we have one.

    1. Spacedinvader

      Heading in to one?!

      Text is required here - have a beer

    2. Alumoi Silver badge

      Idiocracy was just a movie but, like 1984, it seems people think it's a manual.

      1. Andy1

        1984 which was first a book by George Orwell was a WARNING which seems to have worked well almost.

    3. Mike Moyle

      My understanding is that, supposedly, intent counts when providing a tool or service. To use your example, a licensed firearm manufacturer may advertise a a shotgun, say, for hunting. If someone buys that model of shotgun and uses it to rob a bank, the manufacturer is not liable because the purpose for which the gun was used is out of bounds of the intended and advertised use. OTOH if someone offers to sell you a shotgun with a 15" barrel, a pistol grip instead of a shoulder stock and the serial number filed off, and tells you that "those stupid bank guards will never see you coming," that seller IS liable, since the whole intent of the sale is to enable an illegal use.

    4. Adelio

      The America Legal system seems to have been designed to NOT m ake any sense and the seed as much confusion as possible. Just like the tax system!

  21. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Its my browser and therefore any cookies installed on my device are using my paid for storage space (even if a they only take up tiny amount) so if I want to delete them I can't see how the DMCA laws would have the power to stop me. Besides the DCMA is not a law where I live, and bypassing a paywall is hardly going to be a crime large enough to get extradited to the states over no matter what Team America world police think about how their laws should apply world wide.

  22. rcxb Silver badge

    False and misleading

    But claiming cookie cleaning was carried out due to privacy or security concerns doesn't guarantee immunity under the DMCA. As Troupson's article notes, the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision lacks any intent requirement.

    This is false, or at best playing word games... The term in US law is "substantial noninfringing use". If you write an extension that refuses cookies, or accepts and deletes them after a short amount of time (I use "Cookie AutoDelete"), then the fact it works-around restrictions on some sites is only incidental, there are lots of other users of your extension that never use it for that purpose, and you are quite safe. You can even HINT that is makes certain sites more usable/private/etc, as long as you're not dumb enough to come out and admit you're trying to break digital access controls.

    The same intent issue is true for many other areas of criminal law... You can carry a sword around legally, as long as you have an excuse that has not the faintest whiff of even potentially using it against someone. Meanwhile, any mundane object, like a pencil, can be illegal if you're dumb enough to admit you're carrying it because you think you might possibly have a need to stab someone... (self defense or not does not matter).

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: False and misleading

      "You can carry a sword around legally"

      No, the girls with swords are warrior nuns.

      For the rest of us, I rather suspect any sword carrying that isn't directly within the sphere of some sort of reenactment would lead to a world of pain. This is a world where people carrying swords (and other large sharp pointy objects) tend to want to do grisly things. I think most people would not consider it acceptable to carry a sword, and the fuzz would likely treat you as hostile from the outset, because, well, it ought to be bloody obvious...

      1. NetBlackOps

        Re: False and misleading

        Not if you're a member of the SCA, in costume of course. I've never been bothered carrying a sword.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: False and misleading

          Well, if you're referring to the Society for Creative Anachronism, then that would blur the lines between reenactment and roleplay. And, in costume, would justify carrying medieval weapons.

          As for the rest of us......

      2. keith_w

        Re: False and misleading

        May I suggest that you read "Glory Road" for a discussion on whether or not carrying a sword is permissible and whether or not carrying it in a sheath makes it a concealed weapon. Also it's a good story.

  23. cb7

    "But I decided not to publish my extension"

    But I decided to publish its source code in the guise of an article that explains why I couldn't publish the extension itself...

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      > cb7

      > But I decided to publish its source code in the guise of an article that explains why I couldn't publish the extension itself...


  24. Povl H. Pedersen

    EU law

    EU law prevents them from setting the cookies in the first place without consent. So say no to tracking cookies instead. Or sue them if that does not work.

    Better attack than defend

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: EU law

      That's great for everyone who hasn't had EU soil pulled from beneath their feet .....

  25. randon8154

    live system

    I'm using knoppix/tails, fresh system at every boot

    I don't mean to cheat your paywall, this is the way how work live system.

  26. DrXym

    Two options and a few other tips

    Clear your cookies when you exit or use private browsing. This works okay for the Washington Post although they still make you click through a cookie acceptance popup for European visitors.

    A few more tips

    1) Some websites that truncate articles are still readable if you hit esc in the time between them loading and their paywall / article truncator Javascript kicks in

    2) Others don't truncate at all if you use Firefox's reader (F9) mode

    3) Tunnelbear and other VPNs circumvent those blocks that some US news websites put on European visitors. If you ever wondered why they do this then it's because they must exploit the ever loving f out of US visitors with hundreds of scrapers, trackers etc. and have chosen to block Europeans rather than fix this.

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: Two options and a few other tips

      If you ever wondered why they do this then it's because they must exploit the ever loving f out of US visitors with hundreds of scrapers, trackers etc. and have chosen to block Europeans rather than fix this.
      This is technically illegal, but unenforcible as long as the perpetrator and victim disagree over jurisdiction.

      It's still not a good look to be doing things to your audience that are illegal in some countries of the world, though .....

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Two options and a few other tips

      "Others don't truncate at all if you use Firefox's reader (F9) mode"

      This. It's great that it " simplifies the page to the point where it throws away all that rubbish and just shows the article.

      "those blocks that some US news websites put on European visitors"

      For a quick fix, go to and choose a US proxy.

      "and have chosen to block Europeans rather than fix this"

      And yet, don't we suppose those same news outlets would scream bloody murder if websites in other places actively blocked Americans?

  27. Steve Graham

    I also have my browser (Vivaldi) delete all cookies when closed down. The one downside was that Google Maps would keep bugging me for consent to store cookies.

    So I wrote a one-line Tampermonkey script to re-create the consent cookie, which, to my surprise, is plain text, not encrypted or obfuscated in any way. (Until they read this.)

    I might add some code to mess with their "NID" cookie, which is a long hex string acting as a browser identifier.

  28. Llcodejason


    .... it is my favorite of all the places I have lived, and has the legal system I'd least like to cross (except perhaps DPRK or Russia). I've never given much consideration to foreign law while I've worked, only to the laws of the nation I was working in and perhaps to UK law as my home nation. This article has opened my eyes to some of the challenges of writing software for an international market.

    I wonder how that scales. If I buy a toy or gadget certified for Australia and I later bring it to Europe and sell it second hand online, which laws apply? I presume I would be breaking some law, and in the event of a 3rd party injury potentially face some liability?

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: America....

      "sell it second hand"

      Doesn't caveat emptor generally cover sales of second hand goods?

      "some of the challenges of writing software for an international market"

      The attitude that I take is that I'm based here so the laws of this country/EU apply. If this is invalid in their country, then their use of the software is conditional upon them accepting all liability and responsibility for their use or misuse of the software.

      Well, if the American giants think they can only be taken to court in California, allow me the right to demand that I'm only taken to court in a place in rural France that probably nobody has ever heard of...

  29. Flywheel

    If it's a Murdoch publication ..

    .. I just block it anyway - no need for extensions. Give 'em a wide berth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it's a Murdoch publication ..

      Tea and Kitten Block also stops you accidentally needing eye bleach as a result of accidentally clicking on Mail or Express links.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: If it's a Murdoch publication ..

        "clicking on Mail or Express links"

        Sometimes the Daily Fail can be amusing comic relief. Try reading a... uh, what's his name... Littleton? Littlejohn? The ranty opinionated columnist that's like a second rate Piers Morgan clone. Anyway, try reading one of his rants in an over dramatic way, as if it's utterly a matter of life and death. I don't get far before cracking up.

        See here for an example of what I mean​MBHOL1PcPR8 (don't worry, it isn't DM, it's a dramatic reading of a mad breakup letter)

  30. Stuart Castle Silver badge


    I personally don't run ad blockers. While I don't particularly like advertising, I help run a small forum that likely wouldn't be viable to run if it didn't carry adverts, which are there purely to cover hosting costs. So, I am perfectly aware that sites have costs that need to be covered. That actually applies whatever the size of the site.

    Where I do have a problem is the tracking advertisers want. They say they need it to ensure we get relevant adverts, and to reduce their costs. But the advertising industry survived (indeed prospered) for decades without that level of tracking.

  31. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Ask John Choon Yoo

    Don't ask the experts, pick a lawyer who will translate the law into something that allows you to torture any website that you want.

  32. Big_Boomer Silver badge


    Whenever a paywall pop-up appears, that website gets closed. I don't need their information. I only clicked on a link someone else provided out of interest. If others absolutely have to have that access, then they can pay for it. I can't be bothered to run scripts or add-ons or extensions to get around these sad attempts to market their "product" to me. There are plenty of news sites out there that get by with advertising so why would I pay? Now if they delivered VALUE FOR MONEY then I would consider paying for it, but so far I have not seen one single news site that operates a paywall that I consider value for money. Others obviously do get value for money (or else they just have so much money that the cost is irrelevant to them) and good for them. As for those ultra-irritating Cookie notification messages, if they are mandated by the EU do we get to no longer see those after the 1st Jan? Did I just find the first actual benefit for all of us from Brexit? <rotlmao>

  33. Chronos


    Thomas Claburn in San Francisco

    That, right there, is your problem.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Right to be forgotten ...

    I've often wondered if the right to be forgotten is compatible with a lot of commercial strategies. For instance - 20% of your first shop? Sign up, get 20% off, demand to be forgotten, rinse and repeat ... Or is there some GDPR getout where you can keep a name and address to ensure someone does not repeatedly present themselves as a new customer?

  35. chivo243 Silver badge

    Advice given!

    Hmm, ever try to do something with a browser and it shits the bed? One of the first things you are asked "Can you empty the browser cache and try again?" That is one of the first questions more than one of our SW vendors asks.

    Isn't advising someone to do something illegal, also illegal??

  36. steviebuk Silver badge


    ... we'll be arrested for skipping adverts on TV using the fast forward on the Virgin box (other providers are available)

  37. holmegm

    Wait, what?

    You are a brave rebel because you *almost* published something that you *think* "probably" breaks some law?

  38. arctic_haze


    Luckily the US law does not cover the whole Universe. Doesn't it?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let the owner show a little baker's house,bottom left corner, where I can buy cookies 10 for a dime. CCard/ Debit card accepted.

    When I buy a dozen, I can can then peruse any article. If a whole paper cost a dollar, the each individual item is pennies, or even groups of items for one penny. I could then spend as I see fit!

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