Why I’m not freaking out about the latest drama

Our press makes money by selling intense emotional reactions. These are most commonly achieved through fear, sadness and pity. As a result, it is necessary for our press to keep us in a constant state of fear by dramatizing news stories.

Here’s the latest:

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would give the Attorney General the right to shut down websites with a court order if copyright infringement is deemed “central to the activity” of the site — regardless if the website has actually committed a crime. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) is among the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy, and contains what some have called the “nuclear option,” which would essentially allow the Attorney General to turn suspected websites “off.”

COICA is the latest effort by Hollywood, the recording industry and the big media companies to stem the tidal wave of internet file sharing that has upended those industries and, they claim, cost them tens of billions of dollars over the last decade. – Tired

The story editorializes before the first word with a headline reading “Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee.”

Yet it’s not a censorship bill. Much like its predecessor, the DMCA, it provides content owners with a simple way of enforcing copyright: if a website receives a non-anonymous, documented complaint or complaints from a reliable source, and the presence of probable copyright materials is validated, it gets shut down.

Right now, that’s done by the ISP. The government wants to do it in the future, probably because enough people bought into ISPs to circumvent the existing DMCA. Furthermore, this bill is going to give our government the ability to filter foreign sites with US copyrighted materials on them. Aha! That’s actually valuable.

I think this new law will detract from censorship on the net, because it returns the focus of enforcement to theft prevention, and gets it away from blocking of “offensive” content.

Not to be a nag, but when someone spends $100m producing a movie — even a really bad movie — and I download it, thus depriving them of a potential viewer/buyer, I’m stealing. Even if I didn’t physically steal something.

If you own a house key, and I make a copy of it, I’ve stolen information that belongs to you — even if you still have the original key. If I then give or sell that key imprint to others, I’m still stealing, especially if each person with the key comes to your house and takes something.

Without law enforcement to prevent theft, we will have trouble having an industry that dumps out $100m blockbusters. While you and I both know that would be a good thing, trying to get to it through piracy is not going to work.

As a good amoralist, I’m not “against” piracy or judging piracy. In some cases, it’s positive. If a famous movie reviewer downloads your latest film and writes up a review that millions see, for example, as a filmmaker your fear isn’t that he didn’t pay — it’s that he didn’t see the best possible copy.

All of the media cases are trying to whip you into a frenzy with this “censorship” bill. They want you to think that big studios are bad, and you are good, even if you’re stealing from them. They want you to think that big corporations and government are censoring you.

The truth is far more prosaic. People are protecting their investments. Having a clear way for them to take down unauthorized content is positive and separates “I want this site down because it steals” from “I want this site down because it’s offensive.” Those of us who fall under the latter benefit from not having thieves use free speech as a defense.

One Comment

  1. SolGuru says:

    Point taken on the censorship issue. Regulating illegal content such as kiddie porn or pirated materials is not a “slippery slope” in the same way as regulating “hate speech” or other rubber terms that can be modified to fit whatever the government wants it to fit.

    However I don’t get this:
    “we will have trouble having an industry that dumps out $100m blockbusters. While you and I both know that would be a good thing, trying to get to it through piracy is not going to work.”

    Why not? If it didn’t work, I doubt Hollywood and the dominating pop culture magnates would spend so much money and lose so much good will among “young people” trying to prevent piracy. In that sense, perhaps it would be very good if the half-assed, left-wing ramblings from people who really don’t understand the concept of intellectual copyright may be a good thing. Qualitative thought and culture already makes virtually no money, so I doubt much would be lost with the collapse of the “entertainment media.” We did fine without it a couple of hundred years ago, and can probably do even better without it now (what with the internet and all the consumer gadgetry making it perfectly possible to live almost exactly as retarded a life as we did with the Hollywood Blockbusters – or maybe even a sound, reflected life).

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