Web piracy bills target ‘rogue’ sites … so states the lead-in heading in the Tuesday, April 19, 2011 L.A. Times Business section, filed under ‘Government’.
As you read on, it becomes clear that Congress, in general, has been lobbied to “crack down on online venues” that cater to the re-distribution of movies, tv shows, music and counterfeit goods, to an only too willing public. According to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
What these rogue websites do is theft, pure and simple… They are no more than digital stores selling stolen property. The Internet needs to be free and open – not lawless.
[Please see original article here in the Los Angeles Times.]
Whoa! What…..?! Since WHEN has the entertainment industry, or the marketing industry (which the entertainment industry regularly uses to their incredible advantage, as well as internet media marketing to this same public, I might add,) cared a hoot about free and open and lawless, much less in conjunction with the internet?! As far as I’m concerned, the entertainment industry and the marketing industry have both gone above and beyond their normal inexhaustible and insatiable desire to bombard the publics’ senses, minds, and pocketbooks… in particular, while on the internet. I cannot remember the last time that I accessed the internet without being assaulted by ads, whether they be on page in the margin, pop-up, or opt-in. And I use the word ‘assaulted’ deliberately here… not only are most of them obnoxious and annoying, they are downright rude! Even with the latest computer, software, and technology, those ads regularly slow down the loading of most web pages that I view… all of them without my permission or without even a by-your-leave! I KNOW that I didn’t ask for this kind of invasion of MY privacy. What happened to MY rights and THEIR lawless contention that they have the right to continue to invade my private reverie while surfing the net? And we haven’t even started on the trawling and culling of keystrokes, mouse clicks, injection of trojan horses, code bits (or bytes) of program, and registry changes! Well…. I’ve heard of glass houses before but this is entirely transparent to me!!!!
I’m not a crybaby, usually, but really, I am becoming so very tired and downright angry about everyone else’s rights to “intellectual property” but mine… so much so that I’m almost ready to Incorporate my name, declare everything associated with it, including my DNA, RNA, personal images, anything from my mind (whether I make money on it or not) to be intellectual property, and the rest of you be damned! I cannot wait to make all that money from all those lawsuits that I will be able to bring against anyone or thing that dares to trespass against or on me!
Seriously, though, we really need to look more thoroughly at this issue and examine it from quite a few perspectives, especially those not previously mentioned, on a social, socio-economic, political, and personal privacy/intellectual property legal issue. Perhaps even to the point of deciding that our intellectual property laws be rewritten or amended to incorporate some new rules and protections.
While I am willing to admit that there is a good degree of piracy that abounds on the internet, it might not be in the form or performed by the individuals that everyone thinks it is. At first glance, it would appear that the ONLY source of pirating is with “errant” website owners whom are making available “pirated” copies of books, songs, films, artwork, and basically, any “artistic” (read commercial, saleable, bankable, etc., in short, anything that an individual or group of individuals whom have been authorized to make profits from it ) intellectual properties. These errant website owners may have paid for these properties (as in, own the items), or, they may not have. This, however, is not really the issue that is being debated. What is really being debated here, and is at the heart of the fury, is that the “owners” of these intellectual properties are claiming that it is almost impossible to police the internet! There are potentially millions and billions of American dollars at stake for these individuals that view their “property rights” as being trampled upon. And all because it is so easy to post these items online and make them available to the masses. Who could possibly be put in charge of this and police the internet? The task is daunting, to say the least. (Just like my issues stated above with regards to surfing the internet.) My heart goes out to them. Really. I understand EXACTLY how the feel:
I personally maintain several email accounts from publicly accessible email accounts (Hotmail, Google, Yahoo, etc.) primarily so I can control for the return email that I get and make it “easier” on myself to control for “spam”, “junk” and just plain “opted-in” mailings that I didn’t really “opt-in” to. Read: I do not really trust when a “reputable” website tells me that they will not be tracking or selling my personal information. If that were not enough, I, as well as millions of other people who use computers, have to buy anti-virus software, anti-spamming software, anti-anything software and maintain annual subscriptions to those services to “update” their software so that I am always current with the latest “threats” that may contaminate my computer and data, not to mention the “pirating” of my personal privacy rights to my own mind, keystrokes, mouse clicks and general maneuvering my way around the internet, while surfing the net. Why is it that it is okay for this to happen… that my privacy and my intellectual property rights (that of the exclusive right to my own mental output) are subject to the whims of “piracy” by others? Please do NOT use the excuse that all 3 of the major web browsers need a way to make money in order to continue to provide “services” to those of us “users” of their browser and its services. There are far too many free alternatives today for that to pass muster, and a few now that are even gaining ground by offering a browser that doesn’t track my keystrokes or allow access to MY access to the internet! No, the reason is that it is far too lucrative an enterprise for the likes of Google, Yahoo, and MSN (to name a few) to NOT perform these little “piracies” on our private intellectual property rights. Billions of dollars are made by all commercial enterprises involved, and that includes those companies who BUY THIS INFORMATION FROM THESE INTERNET PROVIDER SITES IN ORDER TO SELL THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES TO US. And, these companies are usually the exact same individuals whom are claiming that we are pirating their intellectual property rights! Some people really do have all the nerve! And… they can do this legally without the public ever claiming any “real” property rights to our mental and/or physical output. This is because our Intellectual Property Laws are poorly drafted… or, more accurately, drafted in such a way as to disallow the average member of the public to have any say-so in his or her personal output. This is very similar to our present day labor or employment laws, and, a primary reason that individuals can be unwittingly used in the commission of common crimes of fraud without the employee ever knowing that they had been doing so. But, I digress.
Allow me to elucidate the issue in a more physical, and therefore understandable manner, as compared to that of the abstraction of the internet and digital world. Imagine that I am a shopper and driving around town to find a suitable and desirable item, say, for my first day on a new job. After 3 or 4 stops at various vendors, I begin to notice that it seems that I am being followed around by a certain, definitive group of individuals. After another 2 or 3 shops, I can no longer ignore the fact that it appears that I am being “stalked”. Under these conditions, it is quite obvious that I have a legal case to interfere with these individuals continued exercise of following me around, and all I need do is call the police to report them and hopefully have them arrested if they continue to do so, especially if they follow me home. Even if these individuals say they are only trying to find out what I am doing and why, they do not have the right to do so and interfere with my quiet enjoyment of shopping without being followed. Stalking is considered to be a crime.
However, on the internet, this “stalking” behavior is legal! As far as I and many others are concerned, there is little difference beyond the fact that the perpetrators of this crime are not physically present, and therefore, presumably incapable of inflicting any serious, physical damage on my body. However, their ability to inflict severe emotional suffering goes unabated. And, I might add, un-remunerated! While this scenario might sound a bit drastic and phantasmagorical (is that even a word?), one could further illustrate just how bad this situation could become if everyone that went shopping had their own retinue of “shopper stalkers” present and following them wherever they went! Logistically not a very cost-effective operation, but, obviously it has served to illustrate my point, and the advent of the digital world does make it cost-effective. Take this one step further… now, “target” a few individuals with the above scenario; you know, only those whom have been “profiled” to be members of a wealthier class of the public, say, upper middle class… and, say they are well-off enough to own a home behind security gates. I can pretty well guarantee everyone that whomever THIS individual is would be the first to complain vehemently that they are being stalked. They above most of the “stalked” members of the internet know how invasive this is. Most of them are probably owners of or are employed by those same companies that perform the “internet stalking” that I have illustrated above. The difference is, there would be a lot fewer stalkers for this income strata. Because there are a lot fewer people who live at this level and income strata. And therein lies the real, the true, reason that this issue of “piracy” is so hotly contested by those seeking to protect their “intellectual property rights” on the internet:
The fact that there is a HUGE pool of people available globally that are potential customers (read purchasers) of these items of “intellectual property rights” that are NOT there if these items are provided free of charge on the internet is a bone of contention that will not go away easily. Lightening fast and extremely lucrative internet sales are viciously coveted, even by the most laid back of “artists”. Even if some people will buy these items to have their own personal copy of them, a larger majority of them will not. Because most people are not collectors of items that are non-essential, unless there is an emotional need to… many of them will not simply because they couldn’t afford to purchase the item in the first place. But this is not the relevant fact of the debate, the issue, or of the law, as it is currently written. The most salient fact here is that the owners of these intellectual property rights have been deprived of their sole and irrevocable right to the use of that property, particularly as a commercial property and therefore an income-producing property. They also possess the right to deny access to that property through the use of selling, renting, leasing or any other manner of allowing another individual access to it.
I want that same exact right over my mental, physical and emotional output. If I don’t want it sold to someone… it cannot and should not be sold, whether I intend to use it commercially or not. I do not believe in a system of legal protections that applies to one group of individuals over another; especially if it segregates my individual rights from me. Whether they are intellectual or not is not for others to decide for me… it is for me to decide that. And, if others do make money off of my output, I want royalties, commissions, whatever I believe I’m entitled to. Just like everyone else who owns the intellectual property rights to their output. Gosh, it sounds like I almost agree with Senator Leahy! Better stop while I’m still ahead!
So… back to the explicit issue at hand. I understand that newly minted and released copies of books, plays, movies, artwork, etc., is to be protected. I do not understand older releases being protected. Most people would not be willing to pay much for these films, and, in fact, would not be willing to watch them if there were a cost attached to them. As for books, many authors release their written word to libraries within a very short period of time after they are first published. And while I know that there is an issue of volume here, (as in how many copies of that book will actually be available to someone to read), know that many libraries are now making books available online via an e-book service. It may take some time to make into this e-libary, but eventually, those that have been best sellers, will most likely end up there. I see little difference to someone accessing these items through normally “acceptable” use distributing channels versus an online website that makes it available and doesn’t charge for the service. Note that most of these websites that do allow free use of these items, avail themselves of the same “tactics” that the owners of these intellectual property right items would have… namely, internet advertising. They are just as annoying to the rest of us through these venues as they are when we are merely surfing the internet. For that reason, most of us don’t use them often. These ads deliver and download more viruses, cookies, spam, and trojan horses than the average web browser interface could possible hope to handle. And, you KNOW how we feel about that!
My primary legal point with this issue is that I think that Intellectual Property Rights should be reciprocal. I have absolutely no problem with understanding why a NEW RELEASE of any kind of property should be protected. The owners of the rights therein are avidly seeking to procure as much profit as possible from their “creation” at this initial presentation. And, while some of those creations MAY achieve “icon” status, most will not. Most creations languish in the old, nobody-wants-to-see-it-or-be-bothered-with-it bin. At that point, there remains no commercial value, which is the crux of the issue. The main issue here is obviously the difference between “Privacy Rights” and “Intellectual Privacy Rights”, and when and where do they divide? The marketing value of a mind is every bit as valuable and prescient as an absolute physical representation of it and any creative endeavors it produces (read ‘behavior’ here)… it merely hasn’t yet been converted from “legacy” status to “in-use” status. This is a key component to the legal battle being waged between Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, and the Winklevoss twins… a matter of TIME and USE. The twins claim that Mark “stole” their “idea” of a social networking site that was supposed to be used at Harvard. Zuckerberg, however, realized the potential value of the use of that idea immediately, but on a much wider scale; since he “beat” them to actually posting the site on the internet, and extending the “usefulness” of the program (beyond Harvard), the court and our laws recognize the significant change to the original idea, but primarily that he was the first to use the idea commercially. However, it appears that the court recognizes that the twins “idea” was equally as important to the subsequent posting and global use of the idea in its digitally represented form, as they were awarded a fairly good-sized settlement for it. However, I digress somewhat as it is obvious that this example is quite direct and succinct in comparison to my original issue; that of the Intellectual Property Rights of everyone to their individual ideas.
“The truth is found when men are free to pursue it.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
We have now crossed into a very complicated, and even dangerous legal area of International Intellectual Property Rights and the future of Globalization – in particular that of the right to making a profit from one’s efforts, endeavors, and even one’s own bodily maneuverings. And THAT is an issue for a later date. I invite everyone to add their comments to this issue…. it is a future-important one and potentially fraught with huge inconsistencies and inequalities across multiple legal boundaries.