August 21, 2002
9:39 AM   Subscribe

The copyright cops are lacing up their boots and plan on making an example out of you.
posted by anathema (58 comments total)
John Malcolm, a deputy assistant attorney general, said Americans should realize that swapping illicit copies of music and movies is a criminal offense that can result in lengthy prison terms... In an interview, Malcolm would not say when prosecutions would begin. The response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks temporarily diverted the department's resources and prevented its attorneys from focusing on this earlier, he said.
We're sorry, but some pesky mass-murder cropped up and prevented us from putting your kids in jail. But we're back on the job now!
Malcolm said the Internet has become "the world's largest copy machine" and that criminal prosecutions of copyright offenders are now necessary to preserve the viability of America's content industries.
Can I be the first to say that "America's Content Industries," while undoubtedly being a great name for a band, can pretty much wither up and die as far as I'm concerned? This whole argument is based on the absurd premise that creativity is created by an industrial distribution framework, which is patent bullshit. Creativity, today, is in fact more hampered by "America's Content Industries" than supported by it.

I would love to see the burst of unlitigated creativity that would result from the big players finally toppling over and drowning in their own greed. If file-sharing really is helping that process along, I'll have to start doing more of it. Sadly, I doubt P2P is even doing any good on that front.
posted by rusty at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2002

patent bullshit
posted by goethean at 9:59 AM on August 21, 2002

It'd be fun to see them going after all the 40 yr old middle class, tax-paying suburbanites who participate in the p2p party. Unfortunately they'll most likely try to get all the dorm-dwelling 'big time pirate' college kids who are relatively powerless.
posted by sid at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2002

*grin* This'll last as long as it takes for some senator to figure out his kid is going to get arrested and thrown in clink for p2p piracy.
posted by SpecialK at 10:06 AM on August 21, 2002

Most parents would be horrified if they walked into a child's room and found 100 stolen CDs...However, these same parents think nothing of having their children spend time online downloading hundreds of songs without paying a dime.

Translation: there is a severe disjunction between the concept and value of intellectual property as represented in law and most people's conception and valuing of intellectual property as demonstrated in practice.

Solution: lock 'em all up!
posted by rory at 10:07 AM on August 21, 2002

dorm-dwelling 'big time pirate' college kids who are relatively powerless

But aren't their parents "40 yr old middle class, tax-paying suburbanites"? Let 'em give it a shot. 70 million pirates can't be wrong.

(Which wouldn't be a good Elvis album title)
posted by yerfatma at 10:07 AM on August 21, 2002

goethean: "patent" in the sense of adjectival definition 2. I did't mean to drag a whole other debate in here. :-)
posted by rusty at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2002

This story was filed from Aspen, Colorado. For the life of me, I can't see any indication that the story actually occurred there. Heh. I guess Declan is on vacation?

Notice the value of $1000 listed as a threshold? This means indie bands get no protection, but any little pissant piece of crap from the big content manufacturers can be considered above the threshold and thus justification for prosecution. Cute.
posted by beth at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2002

Technically you already pay for it - or someone does - for general Internet access, but when tolls get laid down for specific 'copyrighted' material, that's when the 'Net as we know it goes away. It won't stop with mp3s. When you downloaded this page, you made a copy of words written by me and copyrighted. So now you owe me money. Sound absurd? That's where this "the law is not on your side" crap is going. Eventually TPTB will make downloading anything online chargable, because the upload/download exchange is being treated now as a commodity.

Say goodbye to the 'Net as you once knew it. Think I'm being an extremist? Paranoid cautionary? Bookmark this page and come back to it in five or ten years, but just don't be surprised if you have to pay someone (possibly someone other than Matt) for specific access to this document.

So you'll be paying not only for access to the 'Net but also for every little thing you download, and those fees will theoretically go through middlemen and a percentage may find its way into the hands of those who originally provided the information. Again, in theory. Provided you have an agent. Maybe.

The suits won.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2002

mighty crimes. i should certainly spend time in jail for downloading some throwaway pop song that will live on my harddrive for a month or two, then after i have forgotten it, i will either delete it for the sake of space or burn it for "posterity" (assuming i remember where i put the rather anonymous cd-r). yes, i should definitely do some penance for that sin. i should serve three years in jail for a small chunk of data i used maybe three times in a span of two months.

it all comes down to worthiness of product. if the music is good, i will download it to make sure the album is consistent, then i will buy the disc. end of story. if the music is just kind of catchy, i will probably download it if i have the time, then forget it. my tastes determine my spending habits, so things that do not match my tastes will not be among my purchases. to repeat, if i like it, i buy it, but if i don't like it, i never would buy it, so my money remains mine and not "stolen" from some mystical RIAA coffer.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:13 AM on August 21, 2002

the 40 yr old middle class, tax-paying suburbanites who participate in the p2p party

* checks driver's license *
* checks CD collection *

Um - hey!
posted by yhbc at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2002

" Under the NET Act, signed by President Clinton in 1997, it is a federal crime to share copies of copyrighted products such as software, movies or music with anyone, even friends or family members, if the value of the work exceeds $1,000."

If this is the extent of the law, then I don't see how they can go after anyone for swapping CDs, movies, or single tracks, all of which have dollar values WAAAy under $1000. Or is this going to be a matter of how the law is interpreted -- X movie made 40 mil, so copying it is a federal crime? Another slippery slope?
posted by gordian knot at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2002

"It'd be fun to see them going after all the 40 yr old middle class, tax-paying suburbanites who participate in the p2p party. Unfortunately they'll most likely try to get all the dorm-dwelling 'big time pirate' college kids who are relatively powerless." -Sid

I agree, Sid. The current legal trend that I see in America is scary: more and more laws are so universal that prosecution is where the decision as to who is going to jail is really made.

I'm starting to wonder, why do we even write down these laws at all? There are millions of marijuana users in our country, but who gets arrested? Poor people? Racial minorities? Young men? The point is, it has nothing to do with the law that says "marijuana's bad, mmmkay?" It has everything to do with who the police feel like harassing, who has enough money to pay the police, to pay for a lawyer that will make the DA cry and run home, etc.

I think we should just declare that everyone in our country is a criminal, subject to arrest if someone more powerful than you feels like putting you in jail. The rhetoric of our current legislation is just a waste of pape
posted by zekinskia at 10:15 AM on August 21, 2002

I keep coming back to K W Jeter's SF novel Noir, in which copyright violators are either summarily killed, or subject to grotesque and never-ending tortures.
posted by Rebis at 10:17 AM on August 21, 2002

gordian knot: Using the same logic Sun used against Kevin Mitnick, a piece of data has the value of the total amount of investment that went into producing it. So, if a record label spends $5 million recording an album, each song on that album has a value of ($5M / number of songs).

And the best part is, you can sue any number of "thieves" for the same piece of data, at the same value! It's the greatest valuation scam since the dotcom boom. But in the end, we're just trying to save America's Content Industries from these pimply-faced collegiate evildoers
posted by rusty at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2002

On the $1000 question: say they set the value of a song at $1, or whatever the per-track rate is on legit download services. Say your hard drive has four gigs of mp3s on it. And say you run a p2p client that shares every mp3 on your hard drive with the world. Say hello to the DoJ.

Given that the vast majority of tracks on Napster used to come from a small minority of users, it would be quite possible to cripple a Napster-like service with a few key prosecutions designed to discourage anyone from actually sharing files, as opposed to leeching them off others. Most users don't get prosecuted, so the outcry is kept to a minimum, but suddenly the supply dries up.
posted by rory at 10:23 AM on August 21, 2002

" is a federal crime to share copies of copyrighted products such as software, movies or music..."

What if you just take copies of said products, and don't even worry yourself with the sharing?
posted by tpl1212 at 10:30 AM on August 21, 2002

You know, I would be on the side of the recording industry if they did not produce such CRAP. Not only is it total CRAP but it cost is outrageous. America..the only place you can sell shit in a plastic container and sue when people stop buying it! :)
posted by Hilfy at 10:38 AM on August 21, 2002

I'm fine with enforcement as long as my privacy and fair use rights aren't infringed upon in order to protect a business model that hasn't kept pace with technology.
posted by machaus at 10:40 AM on August 21, 2002

Ok, so I was just reading the text of The No Electronic Theft ("NET") Act (linked from the original Cnet article), and a couple of thing seemed odd...maybe someone could clear them up?

- what is a "phonorecord?"
- what is the significance of the "180-day period" (mentioned in section 506 - Criminal offenses) as the period within which reproduction or exchange of copywrited materials can be considered criminal infringement...?
- why did the "criminal proceedings" statute of limitation increase from three to five years?

Blah blah blah...
posted by tpl1212 at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2002

I may be completely wrong here, but isn't a copyright holder obliged to protect her assets? Doesn't she lose the right to collect royalties on her intellectual properties if she does not actively pursue all those who pirate her work? If so, hasn't the recording industry waived their right to collect royalties on shared files by allowing this 'piracy' to continue unchecked for so long?

Or am I just incredibly confused when it comes to intellectual property law?
posted by sid at 10:45 AM on August 21, 2002

Napster used to come from a small minority of users

solution: more people sharing less...
posted by mhaw at 10:45 AM on August 21, 2002

The first prosecution has officially started.

The RIAA is again abusing the DMCA to finger "mystery Verizon pirate #1." I'm surprised Verizon is keeping their user confidential, I've heard nothing but bad stuff about that company's service.
posted by mathowie at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2002

"It's not that they don't want to turn over the name," said Mitch Glazier, an RIAA senior vice president. "It's that they don't want to be liable for turning over a subscriber's name."

Well, at least we know where their intentions lie...
posted by mhaw at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2002

sid, you're thinking of trademark law. Copyright law doesn't have that particular charming quality to it.

What I want to know is why those guys who make those Goddamn Calvin-peeing-on-Chevy stickers still run free. Must have a lobby group of something.
posted by furiousthought at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2002

According to the 21st Century Department of Justice Authorization Act, under section 101 (6), the United States Attorneys Office received, "$1,346,289,000, which shall include not less than $10,000,000 for the investigation and prosecution of intellectual property crimes, including software counterfeiting crimes and crimes identified in the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act (Public Law 105-147): provided, that such amounts in the appropriations account 'General Legal Services' as may be expended for such investigations or prosecutions shall count towards this minimum as though expended from this appropriations account."
posted by quam at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2002

*grin* This'll last as long as it takes for some senator to figure out his kid is going to get arrested and thrown in clink for p2p piracy.

They aren't gonna bust everyone who's swapping. They're just gonna mitnick a few carefully selected college students, and perp-walk 'em to death in the media.

Just another one of the 41 reasons why bush/cheney are out the door in '04
posted by BentPenguin at 11:04 AM on August 21, 2002

I've heard nothing but bad stuff about that company's service.

Matt, from recent experience, I think Verizon has cleaned up their act from the gloomy days of past. I was forced into what I thought was a broadband corner by AT&T ineptitude, but my DSL service with them has been pretty stable. The only clue they still don't have is providing authenticated SMTP. If they NARC out this dude, I may change my tune however.
posted by machaus at 11:10 AM on August 21, 2002

i'll stop trading phonorecords when they pry my victrola™ from my cold dead hands.
posted by quonsar at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2002

rory: Followed by the inevitable (further) explosion of IRC and instant messaging traffic, mostly in the form of encrypted exchanges of MP3s.
posted by Cerebus at 11:32 AM on August 21, 2002

"What I want to know is why those guys who make those Goddamn Calvin-peeing-on-Chevy stickers still run free. "

Every single one of those is contraband. Neither Watterson, nor the syndicate for which he worked while making Calvin & Hobbes, have ever okayed the use of Calvin for those stickers. The ones that exist are legacy, purchased prior to the litigation and crackdown. To the best of my knowledge it's not against the law for someone to purchase said decal and display it on their car, but it is illegal to sell said decal for profit.

That's the way it should be for music. It shouldn't be illegal to copy it, but it should be very illegal to sell those copies. The breaking of the law is in the form of actual profit, not perceived profit. If anyone's still selling the Calvin decals, they're quite literally breaking the law. For that matter if you ever see a Calvin & Hobbes T-Shirt, lunchbox, tieclasp, posters, or pretty much anything with Calvin & Hobbes other than the books, you're looking at contraband. Watterson was very adamant about the use of Calvin & Hobbes for a quick buck. He didn't even like his own syndicate okaying any of that.

Most recently I've begun seeing very decals similar to the old Calvin peeing decals on pickup trucks, but the face of the kid has dark hair and looks more demonic than Calvin. Just very slight changes to the graphic to avoid prosecution. Technically, it never had to be Calvin in the first place pissing on the chevy logo.

"...Notice the value of $1000 listed as a threshold? This means indie bands get no protection..."

You hit the nail on the head there. This is designed to protect the contractual stipulations laid forth by the RIAA corporation's agreements. This is to help RIAA members continue on with business as usual, but it's also designed to make things harder for independent artists.

If one can get thrown in jail for downloading an mp3, this means less people will be interested in downloading ANY KIND of mp3, even if the independent artists opts to make his music available freely on the 'Net, since it's the only way he can compete for attention with the big label names.

An independent artist would probably have to sign some sort of contract with each person downloading his property, so that the person downloading has protection against future prosecution. It would be plausible that an independent artist who gets signed on with a big label would leave all his fans at risk from that moment on of being sued by the RIAA member company now representing him.

This would be like if all those people who used to circulate the tapes for MST3K episodes back when Big Brains actually put in the credits a request for people to do that, suddenly started suing people when MST3K went from Comedy Central to SciFi Channel. (SciFi asked Big Brains to remove the 'circulate the tapes' request from their end credits, "for legal purposes.")

The more I see the enforcement of "intellectual property" the more I despise it. Yes I'm a writer, and I wouldn't want someone else benefitting from my words while I continue to starve, but I have NEVER seen any laws designed to protect copyrights or intellectual property benefit me personally, or other independent artists of any caliber. The laws seem to benefit only people who already have money and influence while making it harder for talented people with no financial backing even break even.

RIAA claims to be protecting the rights of the artists they representing, but really all their doing is keeping the competition down.

That is the American way though, isn't it?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:33 AM on August 21, 2002

Just another one of the 41 reasons why bush/cheney are out the door in '04

AGG! Clinton signed the law that's allowing them bust these college students.

Wake up. The Democratic Party isn't here to protect us from the big bad corporations. In fact with their ties to Hollywood, they're just as guilty as Republicans in pandering to corporate interests, especially in this case.

Don't let the politicians convince you that partisan politics are going to solve any problems. We need to realize that the best candidate is not the one with the best commercials or the nicest hair cut. We need to vote for individuals who represent us. People who have worked for a living, smoked pot, used P2P networks, understand personal responsibility, and aren't going to try to make us behave in the way that makes them (or their supporters) the most money.
posted by betaray at 11:52 AM on August 21, 2002

Every single one of those is contraband.

Yeah yeah yeah, I know all that. It's one of my pet issues too. But when did you hear about an effective crackdown on the manufacturers? See, that would've been a cherished memory of mine.

Back to your regularly scheduled RIAA beatings! (hands out nails for everyone's baseball bats)
posted by furiousthought at 11:59 AM on August 21, 2002

The Democratic Party isn't here to protect us from the big bad corporations.

lately i'm starting to think the democrats are possibly even worse in this area; which is upsetting because i don't think the republicans are good at all. this sort of thing is just frustrating, like the people making our laws are cavemen, and there is no good way we can fight it. i mentioned this to my dad to see what someone who is older and doesn't actively trade mp3's would think, his response was, "sounds like they want a revolution." this from a pretty conservative guy... seriously what are they thinking?

i'd like to think that people will be outraged and the laws will have to change, but for that to happen the news would have to show it a lot, but the news companies are the record companies. what else can people do? give money to eff which as far as i can tell has a minimal influence? write your senators which only write back with odd vague responses? vote green in texas? ha. nope, guess we'll just take it like a bitch. i hate this feeling.
posted by rhyax at 12:14 PM on August 21, 2002

To use business terminology, if this is the deal that the government wants to give to file traders, then it's time to renegotiate that deal. A contract involves two parties and if one of those parties breaks the terms of the contract, then a case can be made that the contract is null valid. Personally, if a government stops me living out "the pursuit of happiness" stated in the Declaration of Independence, the document that paved the way for the founding of this nation, by downloading an out-of-print album or film that I cannot buy on DVD, if a government prevents me from taking my CD collection and dumping it onto my hard drive, then they have violated the agreement.

If every single user committed themselves to breaking this "federal crime," then it's time for those vexed by it to start trading more files and refuse to buy any CDs. If people are imprisoned over this, then make a concerted effort to dwell on this. Raise hell and demand the repeal of this law. Don't sit idly and kvetch.

Ashcroft, Rosen and Co. aren't nearly as all-encompassing and unstoppable as they appear to be. If a government exists to serve the people, then it should serve the people first and big business last. If you're honestly frightened by these big bad wolves at this stage in the game, if you're prepared to do nothing about this, then frankly, to paraphrase Jefferson, you deserve the government that you get.
posted by ed at 12:16 PM on August 21, 2002

solution: more people sharing less...

...would mean a p2p network that's a shadow of its former self. Sure, in an ideal world everyone would share equally and as much as they can, but that hasn't been how p2p has worked in practice. It's been a typical demonstration of the tragedy of the commons. Instead of more people sharing less, you'll just end up with less. With less to download, people will have less reason to hang around, so there'll be less people sharing stuff, less to download, and so on... the upwards trend that saw the explosion in p2p under Napster turns into a downward trend and its implosion. Or so the RIAA and DoJ hope.

Advocates have trumpeted the robustness of p2p systems, their imperviousness to technical attack and attempts to route around them and so on, and have forgotten their Achilles heel: the all-too-human fears of people using them. All the DoJ has to do is play on people's fear of getting caught, and all that needs is a few high-profile busts. Kid X goes down for a few gigs worth of mp3s (or more likely Twentysomething X, so as not to arouse sympathy from parents), word gets around, and pretty soon no-one considers it safe to keep more than a few mp3s on their hard-drive at any one time. That stops p2p networks from building up to critical mass on the basis of a few at the top of the pyramid sharing a heap of stuff to everyone below them. Suddenly, there are no more attractive 'one-stop shop' p2p networks, and mp3-trading goes back to what it was pre-Napster: ad hoc sharing of dribs and drabs here and there on a one-to-one basis. Still technically illegal, but no real threat to the RIAA, who go back to business as (previously) usual.

Makes me think that all those dreams of a future where nanomachines can make anything we need and eliminate all poverty are just that: dreams. Not because we won't ever have the technology, but because when it arrives a few mega-corporations will hold onto it for as long as they can.
posted by rory at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2002

Why not a Million MP3 March? Surely, you can drag a million people to show up to Washington over this.
posted by ed at 12:29 PM on August 21, 2002

(two, three, many Mitnicks)

How do America's Content Industries expect to manage the publicity when kids start getting sent to prison and Mrs. and Mr. Mommy and Daddy start losing their houses and cars and lives to legal fees? Maybe one Kevin Mitnick can be written off as a "dangerous subversive", but 2 or 3 or a hundred or more, all for the "crime" of copying a pop song, what then? Wouldn't any lawyer beg to defend a middle-class college student (Dude! You're gettin' 20 years!) against a mercedes-owning, pellegrino-drinking, armani-wearing, Hollywood executive for stealing a song? Think of the Larry King interviews, etc. etc. Maybe the content industries can successfully play us off against each other, but when any dozen people can't even agree if a crime been's committed will juries (and the jury of public opinion) be eager to send kids to prison? I hope not.

Afterthought: this whole situation reminds me a little of Kilroy was here. And when life starts imitating Styx, well, that's scary.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:31 PM on August 21, 2002

if you're prepared to do nothing about this, then frankly, to paraphrase Jefferson, you deserve the government that you get.

i am just upset, i don't know if that was even directed at me, i do all the things i mentioned in my whine, it just seems like none of them work.

meanwhile, newscorp president, in an attempt to make people realize that p2p sharing is "morally wrong" says:

"The vast potential of broadband has so far benefited nobody as clearly as it's benefited downloaders of pornography and pirates of digital content," Chernin told an audience of about 200.
posted by rhyax at 12:31 PM on August 21, 2002

off topic: Why the fuck has cnet set up DNS redirects to Are they planning on selling
posted by machaus at 12:41 PM on August 21, 2002

That Chernin quote is priceless. What does he think has driven the uptake of broadband? Pay-to-view video-on-demand of Animal Planet?
posted by rory at 12:45 PM on August 21, 2002

Now, I'm no content executive, but I have both - checks winamp - 3690 mp3's AND a big collection of CD's. By prosecuting the one's with the most music, they're prosecuting their biggest fans. Is this contradiction really hard to understand?
posted by Kevs at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2002

"Unfortunately they'll most likely try to get all the dorm-dwelling 'big time pirate' college kids who are relatively powerless"

"will juries (and the jury of public opinion) be eager to send kids to prison? I hope not"

"Why not a Million MP3 March?"

i'm turning myself in. why march on washington dc? it's so darn far away. i say we march on the courthouses and jails, hands out and wrists together. i've got a couple of gigs of mp3's; i've sent more than a couple of gigs' worth of compiled music via USPS to other people for free. hopefully my government will see the outcome before the dorms are empty, and suburbia the new ghetto--when there's nothing left but empty aisles and automated cd presses and boardroom leather swivel chairs.
posted by carsonb at 1:10 PM on August 21, 2002

carsonb: "i'm turning myself in. why march on washington dc? it's so darn far away. i say we march on the courthouses and jails, hands out and wrists together."

The Late Show Phrase That Pays is "bite me." You can give up if you wanna, but I'm not going down without a fight.

Just the same I agree that DC is a bit far away. Where's Hillary Rosen's house? I say all several hundred thousand of us should visit her house at the same time. Have an impromptu rock jam on her front lawn. Crank up our car stereos with the homemade CDs or digital music portable drives and see if we can break a few of her windows with the decibel levels.

Well maybe that's a bit harsh. We could assemble peacefully on the sidewalk just outside her private property, or has the first ammendment been repealed recently too? I lost track.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:37 PM on August 21, 2002

Zach: Chevy Chase, Maryland is just as far away as Washington. Perhaps after millions march upon the Washington Monument, people can go for a little Sunday drive. Unfortunately, if you want to silence the lion, you have to step into his den. It's too bad that too many people are disheartened by its roar.
posted by ed at 2:06 PM on August 21, 2002

Zach: that solution would be a violation of her private property and probably grounds harassment (ironic especially considering the RIAA thinks their product is 'property')

Any demonstration (a legal one at least) ought to take place on public grounds, or with a private property owner's permission.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2002

insomnyuk: Absolutely. Because as we all know, the sit-in protesters at Greensboro asked permission to sit at the diner and Rosa Parks asked permission to sit in the front of the bus. Amazing how much of a legacy these people left because of a respect for private property.
posted by ed at 2:30 PM on August 21, 2002

(Let me put on my asbestos suit first....OK) I agree with the prosecution of people who are distributing numerous copies of copyrighted materiel that is not their own. I don't see a difference between leaving a pile of Xeroxed copies of the latest bestsellers on your front lawn for passersby to take and sharing an MP3 on a file server.

Some arguments in this thread have been against side effects of the prosecution, i.e., the RIAA's proposals of Draconian enforcement methods. I can understand those and agree with some of them. I agree with Fair Use and I condone onesy-twosy swapping of CDs with a friend. Does anyone really believe that they have a Constitutional or God-given right to a wholesale distribution of a copyrighted work
posted by joaquim at 3:37 PM on August 21, 2002

That true, joaquim, if laws oblige that are passed by legislators who are paid off by a corrupt, art-smothering and oligarchic industry, and if said laws, enacted only to maximize profits for a miniscule, stunningly greedy, and stupid minority, trump every other value that a society holds dear, like privacy, creativity, freedom from search and seizure, and the viability of the creation of music and all other forms of art.

For further arguments that display the ridiculousness of a strict "law and order" position (that's yours), see zachsmind's post here.
posted by goethean at 4:09 PM on August 21, 2002

EFF, ACLU, CPSR - join 'em, support 'em, volunteer for 'em.
posted by AlexSteffen at 4:12 PM on August 21, 2002

Joaquim, I hope you won't get flamed for having a different take on this, but a couple of things: Onesy-twosy swapping isn't 'fair use'; there is no 'fair use' of a CD, really, unless you want to record a 20-second snatch of a song to pass on to your friend. The RIAA would no doubt like to see the end of every 'use' that doesn't put coins in their pockets. And no-one is talking about God-given rights. The last I heard, Moses's tablets were carved in stone, not burned on CD-R.

But we are at an extraordinary moment in history when new technologies make possible what was never possible before: the making of multiple copies of creative work, at practically no cost (once you have access to a computer), by anyone. Yet the laws governing this new situation stem from a time when all copies were necessarily physical objects made at some expense by specialists; and they're being modified and enforced under pressure from industries that grew up under, and benefitted enormously from, the previous regime.

That doesn't mean there's no place for a concept of intellectual property - and it doesn't mean that there should be one, either. It means that everything should be renegotiated, because everything has changed. Not 'renegotiated' in the sense of 'laws protecting existing industries reinforced by governments with little public consultation after extensive lobbying from those same industries', which is what we've seen happening in most countries. Because the tools of 'copyright violation' are now within the grasp of most citizens (in Western countries, at least), those citizens must play an informed and consenting role in the shaping of the new intellectual property regime for it to work. It's not just between the publishing/recording industry and governments any more. We are all publishers now. And that's enormously important, much more important than a few stupid mp3s of a few stupid songs by a few stupid RIAA bands.

And: if this is the beginning of the end for the Internet as a whole, as Zach suggests above, then we may not have lost a right, but we've lost a new-found ability to make that right real. Because, yes, we Westerners all enjoy 'freedom of the press', but a lot of good that does us when there's no paper or ink.
posted by rory at 4:22 PM on August 21, 2002

ed: if you want to get arrested, go right ahead.
posted by insomnyuk at 5:12 PM on August 21, 2002

Nothing wrong with getting arrested for a good cause.

Gallileo did it, Thoreau did it, Ghandi did it, MLK did it, Mandela and Vaclav Havel did it - heck, you'd be in good company.
posted by AlexSteffen at 6:38 PM on August 21, 2002

AlexSteffen: He'd be in good company in theory. However, once put in jail the company he'd be keeping would be of a slightly different caliber, dontcha think?

I have a family to support and raise. I'll keep making my voice heard and will continue to support organizations that fight this kind of thing (ACLU for instance), but as of now, my P2P node is offline and will continue to be that way until this blows over.

I'd love to be able to be arrested "for a good cause" and have, in fact, done so in the past...but now I have to think of family first. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. It's a shame too. These companies like the RIAA aren't just threatening to put teenagers, etc in jail, they are threatening to destroy families for the price of a song.

Just do what I do...boycott ALL artists that are RIAA members. Hit them where it really hurts them...their pockets.
posted by lasthrsman at 6:48 PM on August 21, 2002

For further arguments that display the ridiculousness of a strict "law and order" position (that's yours), see zachsmind's post here.

That post did nothing to contradict what I was saying. Zachsmind's scenario only occurs if the authors of the words on the web page choose to protect their copyright. As I post this message, I am implicitly giving permission for everyone to read, share, copy, etc. my words. OTOH, some artists have chosen to copyright their work using a concept of law that predates the bogeyman oligarchies you are espousing. What part of my apparently odious law-and-order stand do you disagree with? Do you believe that the artists (and their producer/distribution partners) don't own the work and have no right to control it? Do you believe that property rights don't extend to intellectual property? Do you believe you have a right to distribute their property as you see fit?

Rory: By "Fair Use", I mean the right to transfer the work to different media for my personal use. The "onesy-twosy" swapping I referred to meant I can trade that Celine Dion CD I got for Christmas to my friend for her latest Springsteen. ("It's a great deal, Susan, I haven't even opened it.") I also believe that there was an extraordinary step taken forward in the extension of property rights to intellectual property. Without that, there's no real incentive for an artist to record, only perform. Granted, the IP concept is being abused by the likes of Disney, et al., but the concept is still right to my mind
posted by joaquim at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2002

If i were to be arrested for this, could I get a trial-by-jury? If I could... I would bring up commercial radio.

The way I see it, recording music off of the radio is pretty much guaranteed to produce nothing but Top 40 tracks. Recent, or not. Those same songs are, essentially, commercials themselves. Those songs are supposed to introduce bands, and push records. Essentially, commercial radio never has commercial "breaks." Get it?

Kids are swapping what they see on MTV and listen to on a ClearChannel station. They're swapping "commercials."

I know the industry is much more complicated than that... but nevertheless... thoughts?
posted by cinematique at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2002

It may not be possible to choose not to copyright something in our current system. It just is copyrighted. Whether you're going to enforce your copyrights is another matter, but I don't think you can give me implicit permission to share/copy your words. In fact as digital rights management fights to become standard, it may not even be possible to choose not to enforce your copyrights either.

My problem derives from the same problem I have with any monopoly (which is what copyright really provides). It stifles innovation and creativity. We've made the decision to grant temporary permanent monopolies to encourage creativity. We do this because we recognize that creative works add to the richness of society. But, where the creator can increasingly limit (or increasingly seeks to limit) what can be done with their works, then what society gains isn't worth what society trades. We have an imbalance that must be corrected. Particularly where that monopoly is concentrated in the form of corporations. Corporations should not be able to own copyrights. Copyrights should not last longer than 14 years. And, no. I don't feel that artists or creators should not be able to say what's done with their work; else what's the point of encouraging it in the first place?
posted by willnot at 3:44 PM on August 22, 2002

Make that: ...I don't feel that artists or creators should be able to say...
posted by willnot at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2002

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