Anonymizer: What is it?

Anonymizer: What is it?
by Sue Basko, esq.

UPDATE JUNE 16, 2013: I had a nice interchat with Lance Cottrell, who developed Anonymizer.  He noticed my posting and was amused by the old screen shots from back when he was a struggling graduate student just starting Anonymizer. My question for Lance was whether Anonymizer keeps user logs, and if so, for how long, and what is on them.

This is Lance's reply:

“We do not keep any logs of user activity. Obviously we have billing records and such, but nothing that would allow us to connect users to their activities.

We have gotten about a subpoena a week on average for the last 15 years or more. You will not find a single incident where a user's privacy was compromised because we revealed their information. There is no effective way of resisting subpoenas if you have the info, and you are not allowed to pick and choose which are "legitimate". The only viable path is to not have the data at all.

If we had the data, and responded to subpoenas, that information would be well known. Just look at which was exposed when its logs were used to prosecute one of the members of Anonymous.”

Anonymizer is a corporation, a website, and a software product for anonymizing oneself while using the internet.   Anonymizer  is a trademark name for software that hides the IP address and provides anonymity in surfing the web.  Anonymizer is the baby of Lance Cottrell, a boyishly handsome man who is known to be well-liked. 

Let's jump in the Time Machine and go back to the mid-1990s.  Lance Cottrell was a graduate student who formed  Infonex with other members of his family trust, Don M. Cottrell and Ann B. Cottrell.  The Cottrells later formed Infonex Holdings, apparently for the Anonymizer software and trademark.  Infonex Holdings, a Nevada Corporation, merged with Anonymizer, Inc., a California Corporation, on June 16, 2003.  The directors and officers of Infonex became the directors and officers of Anonymizer, Inc, and all the employee benefits stayed the same.  Lance Cottrell signed the papers as President of both Infonex and Anonymizer, Inc.  Thus, Anonymizer, Inc. was born.

Lance’s early web pages for showed a mask, much like the Anonymous masks of today.  Have a look at a photo of a computer screen of an web page from way back then.    It's worth reading to get a taste for the history of the internet.  Compare this with today's  version of which is all corporate slick. early screen asking for donations.
 To view a picture larger, you must pull/ drag it off the page and click it.
"Many people surf the web under the illusion that their actions are private and anonymous.  Unfortunately, it isn't so.  Every time you visit a site, you leave a calling card that reveals where you're coming from, what kind of computer you have, and other details."  "Our "anonymizer" service allows you to surf the web without revealing any personal information.  It is fast, it is easy, and it is free."

  Then here is Lance asking people to subscribe to a faster, for-pay Anonymizer for $10 per quarter, or $40 per year. "These paid accounts are never turned off or slowed down to save bandwidth!"  It even gives an option to pay online with MarkTwain Ecash.

Anonymizer Screen shot offering the service for $10 per quarter.
Here is Lance just outright begging for donations.  This makes me like him a bit.  Also, the fact that he misspelled "operate."

"It is very expensive for us to opperate the Anonymizer.  While it is our intention to make the Anonymizer self-supporting through advertising, and to offer paid accounts, we are far from that goal right now.  We appreciate your support for this project."  This was 1997.    

In 2005, Mr. Cottrell applied for a patent for the Anonymizer software with co-inventors Brian Bennett, Daniel Tentler, and Gene Anderson.   The patent application is extraordinarily well-written,  making the program understandable to those without extensive computer experience.  The application immediately makes clear how the software works and why someone would want to use it.  The patent was awarded in 2008 for "A system for protecting identity of network devices in a network environment. The system includes an apparatus having an interface to the network for completing connections to destination devices on the public side of the network. The apparatus includes a masking element for associating at least one masking identifier with a communication from the network device and masking the identifier of the network device from the destination device."

Lance Cottrell continued along as the "President, Founder, and Chief Scientist" of Anonymizer, until 2008.  Then, Lance Cottrell connected  with Richard Hollis Helms, the former CIA agent and CEO of Abraxas Corporation, and sold him Anonymizer, Inc.   Mr. Cottrell then became the Chief Scientist/ Chief Technology Officer of both companies.  It was also in 2008 that Anonymizer, Inc. first started taking out loans on its intellectual property. In 2010, Ntrepid Corporation was formed and Mr. Cottrell became its Chief Scientist.  Today he is employed by  Ntrepid Corporation, and Anonymizer, Inc. and is a consultant to Taia Global, Inc.

Lance Cottrell no longer needs to hound people to buy $10 subscriptions to Anonymizer.  Today, offers Anonymizer for Home and Anonymizer for Business.  The home user can get a one year subscription to Anonymizer for $80 or a souped-up version for $100/ year.  Anonymizer also offers Nyms, which are anonymous email accounts for $20/ year.

The Business products offered by Anonymizer, Inc. have a darker, more sinister tone.  These include such things as Non-Attributable IP (internet protocol) addresses and IPs that change addresses and locations automatically.  Anonymizer Inc also sells harvesters which gather information anonymously using fake IP addresses.  These products have so much potential for abuse in the hands of businesses and governments.

Anonymizer now also sells products geared to the spy crowd.  Do they make distinctions between government spies and private spies acting on behalf of governments, such as Stratfor?  Let's look at an ad for a service Anonymizer, Inc aims at governments, called Enterprise Chameleon.  (see AD BELOW THE ARTICLE.)

As with Abraxas Corporation and TrapWire, Inc. the sales pitch for Enterprise Chameleon is one of fear of terrorists.  The ad explains how the government can use anonymity to spy on others.  This is a sad turn for a product associated with Lance Cottrell, who started his career designing software  to give online privacy to the individual user.  Now, in this Orwellian present, "privacy" means "spying on others."

Lance Cottrell is widely known as a champion of online privacy.   He recently wrote on his blog that others have questioned his allegiance to privacy.  I assume they are questioning this since he is involved in the development of products that take away peoples' privacy and allows them to be spied on.   He wrote this blog post where he explains that he thinks he can comfortably supply services to players on all sides - the spies, the spied upon, and the spied upon who are spying right back:"Some users of my personal / consumer privacy services see themselves as in opposition to some or all of my corporate or government users, and vice versa. I think both are important and I protect the anonymity of all of my customers equally. There is no “crossing of the streams.” None of my customers get any special insight into the identities or activities of any of my other customers. As above, there are no secrets like that which would last very long, and it would destroy my reputation.

Honor, reputation, and a man’s word being his bond may be very old fashioned ideas these days, but they carry great weight with me. I hope this clarifies where I stand."

Terms of Service for Your Website

Terms of Service for Your Website
by Susan Basko, Esq.

If you have a website that offers any kind of interaction or service, you need a Terms of Service (TOS) or  a Terms of Service and Use (TOSU).  The terms are interchangeable, but TOSU tends to list the responsibilities of the user in greater detail.   Here, we will call them both TOS.

The TOS forms a legally-binding contract between the site owner and the user.  It is also possible that violation of some TOS may be violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the Federal Criminal statute that lists computer crimes.  

Therefore, because of the incredible importance of the TOS, the TOS should be:
  1. Written by a lawyer.
  2. Written by a lawyer who knows internet law.
  3. Written by a lawyer who can write well.
  4. Written specially for your site.
  5. Written in clear language that can be easily understood by most everyone.
  6. Available on the site to be viewed by the public, before joining or paying anything.
  7. Not posted as a scroll and click.
  8. State some method of agreeing with the contract.  This is often by using the site.
  9. Posted in big enough font with plenty of spacing and appropriate numbering.
  10. Not contain extra verbiage or repetition.
  11. Be divided into pertinent sections with useful titles. 
  12. Written after the website is ready for launch, but before it is launched.
  13. Written by the lawyer after viewing and using the site and discussing with site owners.
  14. Updated frequently to address changes in the site, changes in policies or practices, or concerns that have arisen through use or abuse of the site.
  15. Every TOS is tailor-made for that site and service.
  16. Some sites may have multiple TOS to address different types of users or segments of the service provided.
  17. A TOS is never completed; it is constantly growing and changing.
  18. A TOS represents a significant, necessary, ongoing legal expense.   
  19. The TOS should be adequately budgeted for.  It is a start-up cost and an ongoing cost for the life of the site.  
The TOS should address these and many other topics:
  1. Copyright ownership of any user materials.
  2. Copyright ownership and use of site materials.
  3. Allowable use of the site.
  4. Disallowed uses of the site.
  5. Dispute resolution, remedies, liquidated damages.
  6. Conduct and speech of users. 
  7. Privacy policy and compliance with privacy laws.
  8. Subpoenas and queries from legal entities and how these will be handled.
  9. Explanations of costs and payments for using the site.
  10. Explanation of what the site provides; disclaimers. 
  11. DMCA information.
  12. Contact information.  
When I write a TOS:  First, I have to see the site and work with it, play around a bit and see how it is functioning.  I will have many questions. Once I think I have a good grip on what the site does and how the users will interact with it, I will write  a draft TOS.  After that is looked at, I will make needed changes.  Then, as the site is used and difficulties or abuses arise, and as any proposed changes are to be made to the site or policy, I will be informed promptly. Then, I will update the TOS to reflect this added knowledge or the changes.  Maintaining a good TOS is an ongoing process that spans the life of the site.   

Recording and Producing:
Interview with Joe Connors at Paragon

  Recording and Producing: Interview with Joe Connors at Paragon

Interview by Susan Basko, Esq.

Today's blog guest is Joseph Christian Connors, known to most as Joe Connors. Joe is the Chief Engineer at Paragon Studios in Chicago. He is also a Producer and Composer. Joe attended the University of Montana in Missoula, studying Music Composition and Linguistics. He speaks English, Brazilian Portuguese, and Russian. He plays upright bass, cello, piano, and other instruments. Joe is a Gemini, and has that Gemini vibe of clear-thinking dreaminess.

Since 2007, Joe has worked as a Recording Engineer and Producer at Paragon Studios in Chicago. Paragon is an interesting place with a colorful history. The studio has had various incarnations in different locations. Today it is located in Chicago's Fulton Market District, just northwest of the Loop, an area of loading docks and warehouse type buildings that have mostly been turned into fancy loft apartments and overpriced bistros. Indeed, a sandwich counter type restaurant down the street sells an order of French Fries for $8.

The building in which Paragon resides is still rather warehouse district spooky. It has one of those incognito entries where you get buzzed in and take a freight elevator up to the studio. Upon entering, you are in a massive living room area, with old couches and Persian rugs. There are old organs, a grand piano, an aluminum standing bass (from a ship, I am told), lots of items that look like they would do well on the Antiques Road Show.

The studio is a warren of rooms and spaces, large and small. There is a huge recording room, with enough space to spread out. There is a vocals room with a purple Indian print fabric on the wall. There is a soundproofed drum room. There are other smaller studio rooms, a kitchen, space for classes, a fix-it shop, a room that might one day be used to shoot video. And on and on. Interesting people -- men mostly -- are here and there, recording a session, teaching a class, playing a guitar, talking, sipping tea in the kitchen. Everywhere is a hush, an intensity. I love this place and these people.

In the darkened control room for the big studio, standing in softly glowing light is The Board. A sign on the wall says this board was used to record Pink Floyd's The Wall. The Board is Joe's altar of music -- the place where he creates aural offerings for the gods of music. And most days and nights, Joe is at The Board, creating delightful sounds.

I have some questions for Joe. He says it is hard to talk about himself, yet he does a remarkable job:

You have the board used for Pink Floyd's The Wall. It is your baby and no one is allowed to dis the board. Tell me about it.

It is a beautiful thing. The sound is incredible. I just found out that Dark Horse Studios in Nashville has two of these boards as their main consoles. This is impressive because the “sound” of Country Music has always meant, to me at least, while still being rock, having that really clean sound.

Our Trident TSM is, well, clean would not be the word. More like electric! The board needs lots of TLC due to the all- analog design. We go in monthly and clean IC chips, replace bad capacitors, clean and lube up faders and pots. I think the board was used mainly as a tracking console in the studio before ours. Someone had disconnected the stereo buss. It was fun trying to find that without a schematic.

Your background is in music rather than in tech. Tell me how this enriches your skills as a producer.

The only reason I got this job in the first place is the fact that I did not go to school for audio engineering. Then, in my beginning internship when my “mentor” decided to disappear after me being here only for a month and a half or so, I was left having to learn the hard way about how everything worked. Running sessions and not knowing what I was doing… but I had no choice.
The reason I bring this up is that while my background is in music composition, if I would not have had that “thrown into the fire” type experience, I don’t think I would ever be able to know what a snare should really sound like. The owner of Paragon, Mr. Ned Engelhart, would come in and say “That’s not the way a fucking snare should sound!!” In other words, I learned by making mistakes.

On my first two real projects, I was also a producer. I can relate to a lot of different musical styles, because I always found myself out of my element. For instance, I was pretty much hardcore into prog rock and metal, until I moved to the Southern states when I was 15 and found that my peers did not listen to my style of music. So, I got a dose of jam band and jazz in high school.

Then, I met some kids and started up a hip-hop band. We toured around a bit. Then, I moved again to go to college in Montana. I got really into classical music there. Heavy into classical!! Then, I joined a punky/bluegrass band. So, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this and how it could “enrich” my already mad crazy producer skillz…. I jest -- but this industry is essentially music-based, so my background is perfect for the job.

When I am at Paragon, I feel like I am in a Monastery of Music -- all these quietly passionate music men lurking about. What is it like devoting this portion of your life to this place?

It is exactly that. A crazy, mad devotion to this place. This entity. When I first came here, I was blown away. It was like this studio was, and still is, a big ball of potential energy. Ever heard of the Fulton Market Vortex?

Anyway, in reality, it is a serious sacrifice given how much it takes to create a stable and get past the initial lack of monetary compensation. We have some really talented musicians and producers that rent productions rooms here now. Their dynamic, it seems, is perfect.

MTV was just here shooting video for Max-a-million. He just did a remake of a couple of The Drifters songs with the original members. Max technically works out of 40 Hz Productions with Terry “Trademark” Martin, but they have a production room in our facility, so I consider them family.

Other studios brag about their facility or their equipment. The main thing you seem to have going is deep creativity. Please talk about the drums in the staircase and other recording adventures.

We have a large space. It’s easy to get ideas about how cool it would be to record the drums in the bathroom or Studio C, which is all concrete and meant more for video work. So then it is just taking control and saying “Okay, lets run the cables to the stairwell and track some drums.”

It’s really quite nice, the reverb in our stairwell. We are on the forth floor of a meat distribution company. The third floor is wide open and the stairwell is quiet for the most part. We’ll throw the drums on the second landing and have a mic overhead and another one about 2 floors up. Huge drum sound. I like to double track the drums but you better be able to play to a click track!! We have a few rooms that can act as cool “effects” for drums or others as well.

We have been lucky to have some excellent musicians working here, be they interns or employees. When writing for clients, I like to get as many versions on the song as possible. “Lets do it rock. Now lets do it like Dave Mathews. Now how about the way MGMT would play.” It adds to the dynamic of the song when you have multiple options.

You teach some classes. What and for whom?
We teach for the Recording Connection in LA. It has served both parties well, I believe. We get free labor and an authentic bond between student and teacher and the student gets an excellent education based on real world applications. This industry is a lot about what you make of it. We give the students a chance to stick on board and work out of our studio. They also get the knowledge it takes to take their career anywhere in the world.

Tell me about interns at the studio.

Without interns, there would be no studio!! Lol, once again I jest, but at the same time I’m dead serious. There is only so much a single person can do before time starts becoming an issue.
Interns come and go. It seems that if you have the drive and abilities, then we have the space. Paragon has been around for a long time. We are not going anywhere anytime soon. We have a new label and a publishing company is in the works. The reason we are able to do this is through interns. Research can be time consuming. Starting these endeavors is excellent on-the-job training for our interns. The opportunity to carry through and become employees is an option and also is welcomed. We are growing and good talent is always appreciated.

Tell me about collaborating on musical compositions there with clients.
I love it.

Influences. Musical and otherwise. What are yours?

My influences really are across the board. Younger years, my dad listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Beatles and Frank Zappa. My Mother was into Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega and Bonnie Raitt.

I got this game as a kid called something like “the game of great composers.” I remember taking the cd and listening to it over and over again. Never did play the actual game. It had Bach, Mozart, Debussy, etc. Seriously, I would sit by the speaker and listen for hours and hours. I have lots of odd, but interesting, stories about music as a child. For another time maybe.
I think, though, that the moment of truth was when I was in a musical, playing bass, and one of the actors gave me a lift home. He was driving my favorite car of all time and listening to this haunting music. I fell in love. I found out it was Danny Elfman. The man had a Danny Elfman cd. Well, a few months later I received a package in the mail. Turns out it was from this guy and it contained “Music for a Darkened Theater” by Mr Elfman himself. Just a compilation of all his movie scores, but it changed my life. Too much to say on influences, so one day I’ll write a book, haha.

Tell me about world energy forces and how those relate to music production.

Oh boy… You are asking for it now. Energy is a seriously powerful thing. God… is energy. You are energy. Music is energy. It’s what life is. When I meet people, I usually get a vibe. I know whether or not we will be friends, lovers or enemies, for the most part at least.

The clients that I write music for get a bit of my energy and influence, as to be expected. But it really is a beautiful thing. Music is intimate. I usually will not rest until I know that the music I write will be able to be felt as well as heard.

What is your favorite meal?

Mmmmm. Osso Bucco with polenta is an all time favorite and so is Eggplant Parmesan. I like healthy food.

Can music improve the world? If so, what are some examples- real, theoretical, hypothetical, or dreamlike?
Music brings people together. It always has and always will. That is one of its powers. It helps out you as an individual also. So just by saying that, we have answered the question in a nutshell at least!

What is your favorite microphone and why?
Every mic has its place.

This is a dream. You are dancing. It is very freeing, cleansing. What is the music?
Anything that grooves.

Photo Credits: Top to bottom: Joe at The Board: Shannon Anastasia Page. Joe at the Board and Trevor Hougardy: Shannon Anastasia Page. Vocals Room: Sue Basko. Joe standing at The Board: Lindsey Major. Joe at piano: Shannon Anastasia Page. Joe and Bob Picha do a mic set-up in the main recording room: Ryan Diemer. Joe doing complex mic set-up: Lindsey Major. Black and white - Joe Connors, Trevor Hougardy, John Marino: unsure who took picture. Joe in brown hoodie at The Board: Ryan Diemer. Joe on aluminum bass: Shannon Anastasia Page. Joe conquers French Toast: Shannon Anastasia Page.

Legal Checklist for Apps, Websites, and SaaS

Legal Checklist for Apps, Websites, and SaaS
by Sue Basko, esq.

If you are developing an app, starting a website, or planning to run a software as a service site, your project has special legal needs.  Legal work should be included in your budget. You should have a lawyer working with you from the earliest phases of your project and on through the life of the business.

One of the first major things to consider is coming up with a name that can be trademarked.  This is crucial.  Facebook would not be what it is without the trademarked name Facebook, and all its other trademarks, including the like icon and that particular shade of blue and the word face when used to denote a social website.  Twitter started out as Twittr and had to wait to acquire the Twitter name from a previous owner.

You should work closely with a trademark lawyer to help you pick a name that can be trademarked.  When I do this kind of work, I search databases and the internet.  I combine what I find with my knowledge of trademark law to assess whether a proposed name is likely to be able to be registered as a trademark for the goods or services it is to denote.  To be registerable as a trademark, a name has to meet many requirements, including not creating confusion with other trademarks.

A registered trademark is a key component of a successful business. Most successful businesses start off with one registered trademark and move on to acquire many more.  For example, Guitar Center is registered as a trademark for stores, but also has many more trademarks and categories for the website and various services.

Don’t come up with the name first and simply hope you will be able to register trademark on it. You can waste huge amounts of money on legal filings, products, packaging, advertising, etc., that you then must pay to do over again.  Instead, work with a lawyer from the get-go in choosing a name.

Apps, SaaS and websites need a catchy, easy-to-spell, and unmistakable name.  Preferably, you will be able to get a matching domain name, facebook page, twitter account and registered trademark.  This is no small accomplishment. 

Once the name has been chosen, have it registered by a trademark lawyer. The process takes about one year, but dibs on the name refer back to the date of filing.  Don’t try to register trademark on your own or using one of those do-it-yourself websites. There are many phases of the trademark process and making the application is just the beginning.  The Trademark Office database is overwhelmingly stuffed with dead trademark registrations that failed because the do-it-yourselfer did not know how to handle the challenges from the examiner that inevitably come 6 – 8 months into the process.  Just have a lawyer do it.

The next consideration is getting a patent or copyright on your app, or web service.  You also need a lawyer to do this. If yours cannot be patented, you need to consider if you are violating someone else’s patent and if so, whether you need to get licensing from them. 

Next, you will have your app or site and you will need design.  That can be copyrighted. Any elements such as music or pictures must be licensed from the copyright owners, or must be created specially for you under  a work for hire contract.  You must have a lawyer draft that for you.

Next to consider is how you will collect money, taxes, and possibly import or export fees.  If you cannot afford yet to build your own store, you will probably be selling off a pre-built store such as one by paypal, or selling on an existing site, such as Itunes.  To sell off Itunes, you become a content provider. That’s something else where you can use legal help.

Next to consider are privacy laws.   Also, if your product or service will allow users under age 13, you need to follow a very special set of rules regarding information gathering and use.

The next huge consideration is the Terms Of Service or Terms of Service and Use. The TOSU forms a binding contract between the service and the user.  It must be written by a lawyer.  Each TOSU will be different, according to the factors involved in that website, app, or SaaS.  Most limit future legal costs by mandating binding arbitration as the ultimate dispute resolution and having the users revoke any right to class action suits.  The TOSU will also specify ownership and usage of materials on the site and of those placed on the site by the users.  The TOSU will also list acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and uses.   The TOSU will usually reserve the right to revoke permission to use the site at any time for any or no reason.

Another legal consideration involves registering an agent with the DMCA list.   In addition, Help and Remedies should be made available. These will grow with time and usage.  There should always be a way for Users to contact the site.

All of these legal needs will grow as the website or app grows in usage.  As problems arise, the TOSU will be tweaked by your lawyer to reflect those topics.  New trademarks will be acquired, new services may be offered.

There will always be legal issues that arise in any business, and especially in a software-based business.  You will always need good lawyers to help you.   You should consider this a crucial part of your budgeting and planning, right from the start.