Bird Rides Inc. demands removal of news report on legal reuse of scooters

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From time to time, we must remind someone that it is not illegal for people to report facts that they do not like. This time, the offender is the electric scooter rental company Bird Rides, Inc.

Electric scooters have invaded a number of cities in the United States, many of them being carelessly discarded in public spaces. Bird, however, has devised a new way to pollute common resources by sending a despicable withdrawal letter to a reporter covering the subject. The company cites the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and implies that even writing on the subject could be illegal. This is not it.

Bird has sent an "Alleged Violation Notice" about this article on Boing Boing, one of the main sources of Internet and commentary on the social, educational, political, artistic and scientific development of popular culture. The article describes the fact that a large number of Bird scooters end up in pound and that it is possible to legally buy these scooters when cities auction them and then modify them. legally so that they work without the Bird application.

The letter is necessarily vague about how the message violated Bird's rights, and for good reason: the message does not do that, as we explain in a letter on behalf of Happy Mutants LLC, who owns and operates Boing Boing. The post reports on lawful activities, nothing more. In fact, the First Amendment would have protected him even though he had been denounced as unlawful behavior or had pleaded for people to break the law. (For example, a person could legally advocate starting an electric scooter as a violation of local parking ordinances.

So, in a way, it does not matter that Bird is right or wrong to pretend that it's illegal to convert a Bird scooter into a personal scooter. Whatever the case may be, Boing Boing was free to report it.

But here's the fun part (we may have a strange idea of ​​fun): Bird cites Article 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is the section that prohibits you from circumventing technologies that prevent you from accessing copyrighted works, such as software, even when you own the device on which this is located. software. It also prohibits various forms of "traffic" of products designed to circumvent this type of technological restriction.

Mr. Bird probably did not know that the journalist who wrote this post, Cory Doctorow, was reporting on this overly broad law and its damaging, challenging, Boing Boing and Special Project Advisor implications. Apollo 1201 of the FEP for years. They also probably did not know that EFF had Litigation launched invalidate the law in its entirety and, in the meantime, pushed successfully for many exemptions to the law – including one that specifically permits the repair and modification of motorized land vehicles (eg, an electric scooter).

As fun as it may have been (again … amusing for us) to have a legal battle about the nuances of Section 1201, it's pretty clear here that there's has no claim to make. The fundamental reason why Bird does not claim is that the prohibition of trafficking in Section 1201 concerns products that circumvent access control or use the control of a copyrighted work. . To simplify a little, it is a device that corrects a technological measure to access or use an copyrighted work.

To turn a Bird scooter into a regular personal scooter, simply open it and replace the motherboard containing the Bird code with a different motherboard (you can even use the official stock motherboard for this scooter model , the Xiaomi Mijia m365). You are literally throwing away the copy of the Bird code residing on the unwanted motherboard, instead of accessing, copying or modifying it. We have a long time serious concerns Section 1201 can be used to block repair and DIY. But if the law is too broad, it is not so wide that it forbids you to simply replace a motherboard.

In summary, Bird has sent an "Alleged Violation Notice" to a news site to report cases of people engaging in legal acts that he does not like. If Bird plans to send letters like this to all outlets that act the same way, his legal team is faced with a monumental task – almost as vast as the collection of scooters jabbing parks and sidewalks.