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12.31.13

Copyright Promotes Censorship and Surveillance, Cannot Rescue Broken Business Models

Posted in Intellectual Monopoly at 11:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Thoughts and observations about who is being served by today’s copyright “law” (written by the copyright monopoly)

Copyright reform in the digital age is an important topic [1] because more often than not we see copyright abused to kill information or censor it. In a world of abundance through sharing everyone including artists would benefit; monopolists and middlemen, however, would not.

The Pirate Bay is not copyright abuse although it can, if misused, contain copyrighted material against the will of the copyright holder/s (not always same as the creator). The Pirate Bay is still online [2], but its founder gets treated worse than serial killers, showing perhaps that “law” these days is an instrument of the rich and powerful. Those who call for ridiculous new “laws” (like “Six strikes”) may actually be the real criminals [3] and when illegal raids are used against people like Kim Dotcom (with biased “justifications” to come only years after the act [4]) we just know that copyright “law” deserves little respect. It’s written by lobbyists and politicians funded by billionaires who profit from their cartels. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is currently being censored by those thuggish billionaires, using copyright “law” of course [5].

Torrents have just turned a decade old [6] and one must remember that a lot of this technology is being used for totally legitimate purposes by very legitimate entities, including businesses and governments. Torrents should be celebrated — not demonised — for they improve utilisation of the networks while reducing surveillance.

Don’t let scapegoat rulings [7] scare you and remember that those who hunt down sharers are deemed human rights violators, according to the European Court Of Human Rights [8]. A lot of those who are prosecuted are not even guilty of copyright infringement. Remember that “Google Discarded 21,000,000 Takedown Requests in 2013″ [9] (almost unworkable to do because the total number of requests was 235,000,000). How can any site keep copyrighted material (and check validity of claims) without employing thousands of staff to work 24/7 and hopefully make correct rulings 100% of the time? It’s impossible. Sites that have copyrighted material on them (uploaded by users) cannot honestly be prosecuted unless they deliberately turn a blind eye to the problem and support/advocate the problem. Some nations have already moved on, realising that it’s impractical to stop sharing [10] (one way or another people will share files, even using physical devices like portable drives) and some artists too are trying to evolve (even if it’s just a rumour [11]) rather than just litigate.

Google can explain the issue at hand pretty well because it does challenge current copyright law in various ways, e.g. in fair use of scanned books. To demonstrate the copyright problem of scale, consider YouTube. Every single second, hours of footage are uploaded. How can a moderator check the source, assess in context fair use (must view the original), assess satirical/critical additions, or even verify with the copyright owner whether takedowns are desirable? This is not possible. It’s infeasible even if Google had thousands of staff doing it 24/7. So should the only alternative be to completely ban all such video sharing sites? And if so, what about self hosting of videos? Who would regulate it, the ISPs and the hosts? The other problem with copyright “law” is that it destroys data hosting sites; some people may occasionally put infringing material in their Web-based filespace (e.g. DropBox) and in order to enforce copyright “law” scanners (in effect surveillance) need to go through personal files, essentially opening the door to the NSA (which sought to add DropBox as a PRISM partner). Hence, copyright law is not just a tool in the censorship toolbox but also in the surveillance toolbox. It’s clear who benefits from it.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Fundamental Cultural Rights Must be at the Heart of Copyright Reform in Europe!
  2. Pirate Bay Back in Sweden’s Calm Waters After .GY Suspension

    The Pirate Bay’s domain troubles seem to be never ending. Just a day after the troubled torrent site found a new home in Guyana, the site’s new .GY domain has already been suspended. The local domain registry informs TorrentFreak that all domains that violate its policies will be suspended immediately. The Pirate Bay, meanwhile, has decided to return to the relatively calm waters of Sweden for the time being.

  3. “Six strikes” Copyright Alert System may violate antitrust law

    Antitrust law is as thoroughly unlibertarian as IP law is, though my guess is patent and copyright do more damage to property rights, freedom, the free market, and the economy.1 The perverse thing is that the state helps to create monopolies by its various policies (patent, copyright, FDA regulations) and then it turns around and uses its antitrust regulations to punish companies for acquiring these monopolies.2 And, also perversely, the use of antitrust law itself can limit the abilities of private actors to deal privately with “piracy,” competition and knockoffs, which then supports the argument that IP is needed (and then the IP rights, once granted, get the companies in trouble with antitrust law if these IP monopoly rights are “abused”). (As an example: antitrust law has been used against the fashion industry, and the movie chain system, making it harder for these industries to engage in private measures in response to knockoffs and “piracy”.)

  4. U.S. Releases More Evidence of Megaupload’s ‘Mass Infringing Use’

    The U.S. Department of Justice has released a new 191-page filing in which Megaupload is portrayed as a massive piracy hub. The Government is using data obtained from Megaupload’s seized databases to back up and expand several of the allegations against Kim Dotcom and his co-defendants. Among other things, the evidence suggests that “repeat infringers” drove a lot of traffic to Mega’s sites. The document further shows that roughly 43% of all files streamed on Megavideo received a takedown notice.

  5. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town… And EMI Is Keeping The Copyright

    We were just talking about the latest efforts to remove termination rights from musicians (and other artists), and a number of termination rights battles are still ongoing. Most of the existing ones are slightly different from the ones we’re talking about — and it gets pretty down in the weeds technically. In short, there are different rules for works created prior to 1978 and those after 1978. Most of the focus is on the termination rights for works created after 1978 — though there are some interesting ongoing battles concerning works created prior to 1978… including that song you just can’t stop hearing this time of year: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

  6. The Matrix ASCII: Oldest Torrent Alive Turns 10 Years Old

    A fan-created ASCII version of the 1999 sci-fi classic The Matrix is currently the oldest torrent alive. Created exactly 10 years ago the file in question has achieved iconic status, piquing the interest of dozens of downloaders week after week. Warner Bros, is not known to go after this type of fan-art, so those who are interested can proceed to download without worry.

  7. Crazy Calculations Behind $652,000 File-Sharing Damages

    Earlier this week a torrent site user was hit with a damages claim of $652,000 for uploading one movie to the Internet. With the huge amount undoubtedly still ringing in the 28-year-old’s ears, questions are now being raised about how this figure was arrived at. It’s an amazing process that shows that sometimes copyright holders may as well just think of a number, double it, multiply it by the day of the week and then add it all to their dog’s age.

  8. Reminder 2: Hunt For File-Sharers Violates Fundamental Human Rights (Says The European Court Of Human Rights)
  9. Google Discarded 21,000,000 Takedown Requests in 2013

    Google discarded 9% of the 235,000,000 allegedly infringing links copyright holders asked the company to remove from its search engine this year. This amounts to 21 million URLs for which Google took no action, either because the requests were illegitimate or were duplicates already submitted in previous notices. NBC Universal, Fox and Lynda.com have the worst track record in this regard as more than a quarter of their requests were discarded.

  10. How To Solve The Piracy Problem: Give Everyone A Basic Income For Doing Nothing
  11. Why the Iron Maiden ‘Playing for Pirates’ Error is Such a Disappointment
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