Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Piracy and the Legal System

The New York Times recently headlined "Four Convicted in Sweden in Internet Piracy Case". The Washington Post headlined "Pirate Bay's fileshare four get year in jail". As a summary, the New York Times wrote: "The court found on Friday that the men — the three founders, Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Peter Sunde, as well as Carl Lundstrom, who provided financing — had aided copyright infringement by operating the site, which provides links to thousands of songs, films, video games and other material, and helps users download them."

What is also interesting is that the New York Times ran an editorial "Unreasonable Search". The editorial concerns 13 year old girl who was strip-searched based on a false report by a fellow student. The Times rightfully concludes that "The invasion of privacy was extreme and the security rationale weak. The court should rule, as a lower appellate court did, that the search was unconstitutional."

Coincidentally, the Washington Post ran the following story "High Court Limits Searches of Suspect's Car After Arrest". In this case the Post writes "In a decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens, an unusual five-member majority said police may search a vehicle without a warrant only when the suspect could reach for a weapon or try to destroy evidence or when it is "reasonable to believe" there is evidence in the car supporting the crime at hand."

What is the relationship of unreasonable search to Pirate Bay? We seem to be developing two legal themes, that are applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner. The media fans the flames of moral outrage when a child or a suspect does not receive due process . However, when it comes so-called intellectual property there is at best silence from the media. Usually the media portrays the copyright owners as a "victim" protecting their property. Not mentioned is the itty bitty detail that the copyright owners are violating the rights of the accused.

For example Mike Masnick writes that the verdict on Pirate Bay is flawed because: "The idea that a toolmaker can be liable for the actions of its users should trouble everyone -- especially when the tools have plenty of legitimate uses as well."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article: "Doctorow's Law: Who Benefits from DRM?" the critical quote is that: "Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, they're not doing it for your benefit." A few months ago Walmart, Yahoo, and Microsoft, all attempted to turn off their music servers. So here we have companies who in theory oppose stealing, yet when they deem something is unprofitable they have the ability simply press a "kill switch" and presto the consumer losses their investment in the music. Clearly those who claim that you should respect their property rights have little respect for your property rights. Disabling a consumers product constitutes a form of "stealing".

TechDirt reports: "Senator Feinstein Trying To Sneak ISP Copyright Filtering Into Broadband Stimulus Bill". TechDirt writes: ""allow network management" for "deterring unlawful activity"". If one translates this Newspeak into simple English, it would allow whoever is "authorized" to "read" your data steam without any pretext of a reasonable cause. In fact, the data could be searched based on the mere allegation of wrong doing. If one where to apply this search standard to the girl who was strip-searched based on a false accusation or to the police who searched the car without a warrant - these would turn out to be justifiable actions. Moreover, there would a quagmire over what would constitute an "unlawful" activity. Its a slippery slope, So it amazes me that the media will scream moral outrage on one hand while conveniently ignoring equally atrocious behavior on the other hand. Truly we are in Orwell's world of 1984.

1 comment:

Crosbie Fitch said...

The media that rely upon copyright (suspending the liberty of the public to share the news) are logically going to be very tempted to portray all enforcement of copyright as appropriate and proportionate.

We'll have to wait for non-copyright business models to arise so that the new media that use them won't be biased in support of the continuance of such unethical privileges and enforcement thereof.