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Monday, October 17, 2011

Copyright Justice: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Victoria Espinel - US Copyright Czar
How would you feel if the IRS, based on a simple notification (just a quick phone call, not a formal complaint) from one of your neighbors, started sending you notices that you owed money and then, if you did not respond, started garnishing your paycheck?

You'd probably be upset; particularly if you hadn't done anything wrong and paid your taxes.

Yet in the perverse world of the US government and its arch sidekick Hollywood things are much different.

Here, according to this and this PDF, if you should download something someone who merely says they own the copyright your internet access may be directly affected: slowed down or even shut off.

That's right, if I think that you've downloaded tracks illegally from my new CD, all I need to do is contact the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) and let them know.  They'll handle the rest - for sending you notifications to slowing down or shutting off your internet - until you comply with my complaint.

Do I have to prove anything.  No.

Something you've bought and paid for legally - your internet service - is now at my whim.

No due process, no court, no nothing.

Simple, direct, cruel and unusual, and most importantly unconstitutional punishment.

Of course you can protest - by paying a $35.00 USD fee.

Can't get that big PowerPoint uploaded this morning to the office for the sales meeting?  Check that little Jr. hasn't been simply dismissing all those notifications from the CCI and your internet service has been downgraded 1,200 baud from 12 mega baud as punishment for Jr downloading a dodgy copy of the latest rap song.

Now simply mentioning something like this might bring the biggest arch-villain of all time to mind: George W. Bush.

But you'd be wrong.

Instead you'd need to get up to speed on the Obama administration's "Copyright Czar" Victoria Espinel along with other Obama Administration officials and members of Joe Biden's staff.

Old Victoria along with Hollywood elites including Disney, NBC, the RIAA and many of their same ilk have managed to coerce virtually all big-time ISP vendors (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) into going along with their version of "copyright justice."  The coerced agreement (linked PDF above) "requires internet service providers, for the first time, to punish residential internet-service customers who media companies suspect are violating copyright rules by downloading copyrighted movies or music from peer-to-peer networks" according to the linked Ars Technica article.

That's right - punish.

Kind of like shooting trespassers on sight.

Kind of like a lynch mob.

Kind of like debtors prison.

Kind of, well, so pre-US Constitution.

Now, given those who are so concerned about copyright, don't you think this sort of "cigar smoke filled back room deal" would be front page news?

Well its not.

In fact, Christopher Soghoian had to use the Freedom of Information Act to get the low down on this the participants were so forth coming with the details of their "deal" to the public.

Good thing this Administration is the most open so far...  otherwise we'd never know.

The real truth here is that "Big Entertainment" - like the military industrial complex before it - sees control of its "assets" slipping out of its grip.  For years big companies like Disney have lobbied to have copyright laws extended basically to infinity (see this in Wikipedia - authors life plus 75 years for corporate owners).

But along came file sharing and bingo - the tight control heretofore exercised over copyrighted material by "Big Entertainment" starts to phase out.  Worse, each new generation thinks that "stealing," particularly copywritten works, is less and less of a crime.

Technology - RIPing CDs, DVDs, audio and DVD software, etc. - all contribute to "Big Entertainment's" woes.

Of course, the real problem here is not so much little Jr. and his "latest hits" free download site.

The problem is that the existing legal agreements between copyright holders and "Big Entertainment" companies offer little wiggle room as far as courts are concerned.

This is like Adobe and font ownership.  Fonts, like music or movies, were kind of second class citizens with respect to the "I Agree" End User License Agreements.  After all, things like Acrobat were the real prize; no one, particularly Adobe, wanted them stolen.

But eventually the font owners woke up and forced Adobe to crack down on its lax policies - so things like font obfuscation were developed to prevent evildoers from pirating fonts out of documents.  Today its virtually impossible to get a piece of commercial software to embed a complete font.

No doubt "Big Entertainment's" agreements with folks like Michael Jackson's estate require them to basically do "anything required" to protect their licensed assets.

Hence we have punishment of retail internet users.

But this is okay because, well, "Big Entertainment" isn't the government, right?

Sort of like, well, "Big Finance" and all their evil...

Except the law prevents, say, Bank of America or BNY Mellon, from just "taking" your house back after you cease paying for it...

Where are the "Occupiers?"

Not down at Disney or NBC headquarters.

Yet no doubt soon, if they are not already, all those old 60's era copywritten protest songs being played in the tents of the Occupiers camping down in Washington Square, will be subject to NSA and CIA-type covert surveillance for copyright theft.

(Imagine the uproar when phone service is suddenly slowed to a crawl during the midnight Kumbya break.)

Well, I've got to go...  there's a lot to do.

There's a birthday party in the house tonight and we're planning on singing "Happy Birthday"...

I have to close and lock all the windows, check that everyone's cellphone is clear of the lyrics and any games or apps that might accidentally sing, play or show the lyrics to the song, I have to make sure that I put up the illegal cell-phone blocker and shut off the WiFi...

Otherwise this birthday will be like the last one were the RIAANSA-types in the bushes behind the house with the parabolic listening devices thought that my eighty year old mother was reading the "Happy Birthday" lyrics from one of the grandkids cellphones and broke the door down in order to confiscate it.  She had a hard time getting out of her wheel chair for the pat down so we spent the rest of the party at the local jailhouse where she was arraigned for resting arrest...

Thank God this is the most open Administration...  think were we'd be if it wasn't.

(No doubt Google, ever buddy-buddy with the Hollywood types, will be turning this blog over to the Feds - so this may be my last post...)

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