The Slow Checkmate Of Internet Control

How copyright lawyers are taking over

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The specious arguments made and overly harsh penalties sought by the copyright (Big Media) industry would be comically absurd if systemic corruption didn’t immediately transform them into tragedies.
Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay trial is the latest example. The Swedish judge swiftly laying down prison time along with multimillion-dollar fines against four Pirate Bay operators, running a service essentially the same as Google’s, was outed shortly after the verdict as a copyright industry puppet.

Many awaited the logic of the Pirate Bay’s prosecutors. What kind of argument would support high fines and jail time for “assisting copyright infringement”? Would that logic apply to the makers of VCRs, DVD recorders, and MP3 players? Mix tapes? People who lend books to others? The entire Internet?

Well, yes, to the entire Internet question. The entire Internet is the problem. Just think of the multitudes of people now who didn’t have access to one another previously. But going after individuals proved very unpopular, so bigger targets were necessary to instill the proper fear. Pirate Bay is perfect for that, and Sweden apparently doesn’t offer protection to website operators from third party content, the way the Communications Decency Act in the US does.

Yes, the good ole US of A, the shining city on the hill, the land of the free, the home of the DMCA takedown notice. This type of government favor can’t be bought there, right? Um, right?

The White House finally, after initial objections, declassified ACTA, an international copyright treaty, a matter of national security only those with highest security clearances and entertainment companies could be previously privy to. It mirrors the call made by an RIAA-backed international report calling for harsher penalties on infringers and ISP/government policing of the Internet. Why was it a matter of national security? Because the report linked pirating to counterfeit gangs contributing to terrorism, the sex trade, and Asian knife-fights.

Sadly, I’m not kidding.

What about a study showing that those who download music illegally also buy ten times as much music than those who never download illegally? Likely you’ll never see that study quoted by the one industry not financially strapped during the economic downturn. Likely you’ll never see it quoted by Vice President Joe Biden, either, who knows where Democratic campaign coffers are buttered, and whose biggest donors from his Senate days included law firms and entertainment companies.
Biden suddenly became a copyright champion in the Senate in 2002, and continued to push for stricter laws favoring copyright holders until his selection as Barack Obama’s running mate. Obama had been very quiet on the issue until about that same time, when he added a vote to the unanimous Senate to increase copyright penalties just before the election, and reversing himself on FISA (which grants increased Internet policing) while he was at it.

It’s unclear which is ultimately behind the appointment of five top RIAA lawyers to the Department of Justice. This copyright realm is traditionally more Biden’s, but of course the President signs off on these nominations. The new RIAA Gang of Five at the DOJ were instrumental in some famous cases. The guys suing grandmas for supposedly downloading hip hop songs? Yep, these guys. The guys pushing for ISP customer information without subpoenas? Right again. The guys presiding over the mistrial of Jammie Thomas? You got it. The guys who shut down Grokster? Right again. The guys pushing for hundreds of thousands of dollars per infringement? It goes on and on.

What chance you think the CDA and fair use have now?

Meanwhile, Biden is assuring the MPAA they’ll be just thrilled with Obama’s choice for the new “copyright czar.” Also meanwhile, the administration agrees with the previous administration that both phone companies and the government should be immune from lawsuits over spying on citizens. Obviously the network policing goal is one shared by the government, Internet providers, and by the entertainment industry.

So good luck in calling those dogs off.

What we’re seeing here is the slow checkmate of Internet control, a seizure by government and industry. The Cybersecurity Act of 2009, ACTA, FISA, and the sudden death of Net Neutrality in committee is all part of an enormous money and power grab that very much excludes citizens and businesses benefiting from the “Wild West” of competition on the Internet.

The champion many thought they had in Google becomes a tinier David to one enormous Goliath, and that may be why we’ve seen sudden sheepishness from the company in its dealings with the AP, the AAP, and other copyright muscle-flexers. Though it may be too big a fight for even Google, it seems the company is going to have to start swinging sometime, because first it’s the Pirate Bay, then it’s them, and then it’s the rest of us on the Internet.     

The Slow Checkmate Of Internet Control
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  • Sam I Am

    Jason, the moment you suggested that TPB was running “a service essentially the same as Google

  • Mike Hunter

    Wow what a tool the previous commenter was. Yes your right lets just do away with those silly privacy laws and let the government monitor, and control every facet of our lives. That ended up working out really well for the citizens for authoritarian countries like the USSR, Nazi Germany, and North Korea.

    • Sam I Am

      Mike, you either missed or ignored my point entirely. I’m very much in favor of retaining our privacy and freedoms and I’ve said nothing to indicate otherwise. The majority of folks online are not the lawbreakers, that’s confined to a relative few who are presently spoiling things for everyone. For the moment, we are largely paused, weighing what path to take forward.

      My point is that no government, at least not historically, turns away from anarchy and lawbroken chaos so that it becomes the status quo in a given geographic area or region, and to my knowledge no one has ever offered a rational reasoning of why the network will or should be any different. When internet freedom is curtailed and everything we do is on full display for surveillance by law enforcement, we’ll have internet pirates to thank.

      Or perhaps you can build a case why healthcare and financial data, copyrighted material, webpages and so on should be allowed to be ransacked, defaced or hacked with no oversight, rendering the network largely useless for anything requiring some degree of security. I’ve no doubt some twisted mindset would love to see this become the norm. I also have little doubt that the majority of internet users and the governments that represent them will have different priorities.

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    You are very right in lots of ways, Jason, and I agree with you more than I disagree. I always tell friends of mine, though, that there’s nothing wrong with the Internet, just in it’s use and misuse, checking and no checking. This resembles what someone once said – there’s nothing wrong with the ATOM(mic bomb?)… only men’s hearts!

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    hoh boy, that last comment was extremely well written and very specific. Ill think twice before putting myself under the bus.

  • http://www.linksgift.co.uk links of london

    Nothing wrong with the ATOM. Keen observers know exactly what the Pirate Bay was doing and your determined spin won’t change any of that.

  • http://www.ledgerservices.co.uk Steve

    Surely the whole point though, is that if people did not spend their time ripping off each others software, copy etc etc, in the first place, there would be nothing for the copyright lawyers to do.

    Much as I don’t like lawyers in the first place, they will always appear if any person or industry gives them the opportunity.

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    Yeah I definitely agree with you. Key to understanding that issue, Nice post. I learned a lot.

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