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  • The Right Way to Fight Piracy and the Wrong Way to Defend Network Freedom

    For the past two weeks, Washington has been in the depths of a discussion about the best way to stop the online theft of intellectual property.  The content created by movie makers and others  is being stolen by overseas web sites who, sometimes quite blatantly, offer the pirated material to users.

    The debate has revolved around two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).  There are serious concerns about these two bills ranging from issues of cybersecurity, to freedom of expression, to a broader worry about unforeseen and unintended consequences.  But it is clear that the end goal of the bills – protecting legitimate expectations of ownership in intellectual property – is a valid and legitimate government objective.

    Yesterday, the Federal government gave us a good example of one of the right ways to fight piracy.  It issued a 72-page indictment of the owners of a operators of a popular web site, known as Megaupload.  Four of the defendants were arrested in New Zealand while three remain at-large.  Eighteen domain names were seized.   If the allegations of the indictment are true (and we should be cautious here, because the allegations have yet to be tested in court and the accused are entitled to a presumption of innocence), the operators of Megaupload caused more than $500 million of harm to companies and performers whose shows and songs they ripped off. According to the indictment, the entire business model of Megaupload was designed to promote the uploading of copyrighted material and they even paid users they knew were uploading illegal copyrighted content.  If that’s the case, then this isn’t freedom – it’s theft, plain and simple, and one right way to go about stopping theft is to carefully build a case for prosecution in the courts.  That’s what’s needed to uphold the rule of law – a rule that needs to apply even on the Internet.

    In response to the indictment, the hacker group Anonymous launched a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the US Department of Justice web site (along with attacks on the US Copyright Office; the French Copyright Office; the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry of America).  DDoS attacks are, in essence, massive message assaults on a web site with phony requests, preventing legitimate requests from getting through.  For a period of time yesterday and this morning, most of these sites were unavailable and off-line because of the attack.

    Those sorts of antics make it difficult to sustain support for Internet freedom and instead demonstrate how it might be misused. DDoS attacks by groups like Anonymous are nothing more or less than a degraded form of heckler’s veto, trying to silence the opposition.  Particularly odious was the publication of personal information about one proponent of the bills, including photos of and information about his wife and children.

    The Internet is an amazingly innovative engine for the dissemination of ideas and should not be stifled.   But the wrong way to demonstrate that vitality is to abuse it.   Whatever one’s views on the Internet piracy bills being debated in Congress, the Justice Department’s action against Megaupload was a legitimate, and if the allegations are true – necessary – step to stop theft of intellectual property on the web.    Similarly, the vandalism perpetrated by the subsequent hackers should be vigorously prosecuted.  That is something on which all should be able to agree.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to The Right Way to Fight Piracy and the Wrong Way to Defend Network Freedom

    1. tjmartin66x says:

      PIPA and SOPA are not good examples of a compelling state interest by the least restrictive means. Pigeonholing both bills will hopefully provide the US Congress an opportunity to find a better solution. I am a technical consultant at File Secure Pro (filesecurepro.com), a digital rights management vendor. IP protection of PDF ebooks is our business. The file sharing culture represents a real and lasting threat to digital products, but the culture has its roots in what Alkiviades David claims was a business tactic by large media corporations that ultimately damaged the creators of IP. His 2nd lawsuit filed last November is round 2 against CBS / CNET's Limewire software. The problems are multifaceted and anything but simple.

    2. tjmartin66x says:

      SOPA and PIPA had elements of a compelling state interest but definitely exceeded the least restrictive means requirement for acceptable state action. Pigeonholing the bills may provide refinement, balance and recognition that the file sharing culture has its roots in large business. Alkiviades David refilled a federal complaint against CBS/CNET alleged the media company promoted IP theft and DRM removal applications with Limewire: Megauploads may be extreme outcome of the Internet file sharing culture. I am a technical consultant at File Secure Pro, a digital rights management vendor. IP protection of PDF ebook authors is our business. I think DRM will have a place on the Internet as a form of self-regulation. Many technical writers have quit the business because of IP theft. It is unforeseen and unintended consequences in that extremely technical subject opportunities made accessible are lost. I think US Congress will find all stakeholders of the issue providing solutions.

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