The scooters, which have swarmed Santa Monica and other cities across the country, can be used and then left in a public space. The scooters are then collected and returned to various locations for recharging. The scooters allegedly can’t be used without activation via an online app.
The article on Boing Boing talked about ways to modify the scooters that are discarded so that they work without going through the Bird app, using a Chinese modifying kit. The article talks about purchasing scooters from city impound lots, where many wind up, not stealing one off the street.
Bird took offense at the article and sent a Notice of Claimed Infringement to Boing Boing, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The implication was that writing about hacking the scooters was illegal.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group focused on the digital world, sent a letter on behalf of Happy Mutants LLC, parent of Boing Boing. Citing the First Amendment, the EFF said the story reports on lawful activity.
The EFF has launched litigation to invalidate the DMCA law and has successfully pushed for numerous exemptions to the law, including specifically permitting repair and modification of motorized land vehicles.
“If Bird plans to send letters like this to every outlet that (writes about the modification), its legal team faces a monumental task—almost as vast as collecting the scooters littering parks and sidewalks,” the EFF concluded.
The article’s author, Cory Doctorow, recently had Topic Studios acquired film and TV rights to his upcoming novella, Unauthorized Bread, the first in a four-part short story series Radicalized that will debut in early 2019.
Doctorow, who has written more than 20 books, is a research affiliate and professor of computer science at the UK’s Open University, a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-owner of Boing Boing.