First interview for Daily Paywall
for Motherboard VICE 2014
Can you tell me how you hacked into the paywalls and downloaded the content?
I paid for subscriptions to those main financial newspapers, and then I coded a script that automatically logs into The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and The Economist a hundred times a day. Through the RSS channels that they provide publicly, the script could get access to all the content they publish which successively got sucked into my database on DailyPaywall.com. I've been doing this for the past 12 months. My script has been running thousands of times a month in the background of my server.
To automatically log-in through a script, I had to hack their authentication systems and cookie sessions. Strangely enough, all of them used similar technology. Yet, just a month ago, WSJ increased their security, so I had to delve deeper in order to continue hacking them. Sick!
And where are you getting the money to pay readers who successfully take your quiz?
It functions as a crowdfunding system - the money is provided by whoever wants to pay someone else to read articles, buying artworks, or advertising on the newspaper.
It's a cocktail of sharing economy, crowdfunding, piracy, art market, and labor exploitation.
Participants have the option to fund, the readers of Daily Paywall (the audience), the authors of articles (the journalists) or the creator of Daily Paywall (the artist). The system only has as much financial capital as people put into it in return for the pirated material or ads.
I’d pose questions regarding the necessity of subscriptions to these financial publications. Do you think they really need extra revenue from subscribers, considering the readership of other popular media platforms is increasing without subscriptions? Also, how can we understand the crisis within the publishing industry and print journalism, as long as Google and social media as Facebook and Twitter continue to generate huge profits via advertising, without producing original content - purely for serving content?
This project poses several open questions that can’t be answered through the common understanding of the worn-out models and the conventions they impose on us.
I strongly believe that information must be free, and knowledge must be accessible to everyone, especially if the material regards the global economy - access to this information is crucial and enhances democracy. So, as an open-access activist, I proudly break barriers to access information, and as an artist I will always provide settings to better understand it.
Just wanted to followup on the story, I noticed the site was down - did the newspapers threaten a lawsuit?
My ISP (the Internet company hosting the site) took everything down (domain name, database and code of DailyPaywall.com) after they received a complaint from Financial Times on Christmas Eve! The same day, The Wall Street Journal terminated my subscription and banned me for violation of their Term of Service.
I pre-scripted that the performance would end this way, since, at its core the work was breaking copyright laws. However, this was the best outcome I could have anticipated. My concern was that they could have reinforced security on their paywalls or filed a lawsuit against me directly.
So far, I haven’t leaked the database of 60K articles, but I will have a private version of it when the legal pressure has subsided.
Overall, the project was a great success. In five days I raised around $500, and I was intending to pay $550 to around 200 readers. Many participants responded to the quizzes, some of them earning $8, and major funders donated $100. One journalist contacted me to find out how to claim compensation. So the system was functioning. Random people were willing to pay random readers because they connected with the principles of the concept.