Matthew Ingram at GigaOm has written a piece worth exploring, called “Looks like Congress has declared war on the internet.”
In a by now cliched story, Congress has taken that which they do not understand (the internet), hitched it up to something that they do (overregulation), and squeezed several tight coils of bad legislation right on our collective front yard. In pertinent part, Ingram spells out the problem:
What it really is, however, is a disaster for the internet. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes in a post on the proposed legislation, the law would not only require ISPs to remove websites from the global network at the request of the government or the courts (by blocking any requests to the central domain-name system that directs internet traffic), but would also be forced to monitor their users’ behavior in order to police acts of copyright infringement. Providers who do not comply with these requests and requirements would be subject to sanctions. And in many cases, legal hearings would not be required.
The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content. With little or no requirement for a court hearing, they could remove websites from the internet and shut down their ability to be found by search engines or to process payments from users. DMCA takedown notices would effectively be replaced by this nuclear option, and innocent websites would have to fight to prove that they deserved to be restored to the internet — a reversal of the traditional American judicial approach of being assumed innocent until proven guilty — at which point any business they had would be destroyed.
So the internet, which is as vibrant, useful, and frankly awesome as it is because it has not heretofore been strangled by the stupidity of a government that is always at least two decades behind the times, will now be strangled as such. Wonderful. Way to look out for our best interests, Congress.
A federal judge laid a smackdown on a particularly egregious copyright troll yesterday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which I am partially copying, knowing full well the ironic implications thereof.
After all, the troll was suing on behalf of the Review-Journal itself, and the paper is reporting its own loss. Welcome to the digital age, you dinosaurs.
A Las Vegas-based company does not have the right to file copyright infringement lawsuits over Review-Journal content, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
In a 16-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt dismissed a case filed in August by Righthaven against Democratic Underground.
Sadly, they buried the most important part, which was the reasoning behind why intellectual property trolls are a destructive force, but they did manage to slip a quote from the other side past the keeper. Skim to the last paragraph:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers are defending Democratic Underground. The following statement from senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl appeared Tuesday on the foundation’s website:
“Today’s decision shows that Righthaven’s copyright litigation business model is fatally flawed, and we expect the decision to have wide effect on the over 270 other cases Righthaven has brought.”
Seriously though, a culture of sharing, collaborating, reusing, and reposting information is one of the most positive developments to come out of the internet age since massive amounts of free pr0n. If you have an interest in how copyright is evolving to suit reality, check out Creative Commons and Copyleft. (Yep, the links go to Wikipedia, another site that is not a slave to copyright.)
It is ultimately in the best interest of the author to have his work spread as widely as possible; study after study after study has shown that the more people make their work available, the wider their market will be. These same studies have also shown that people who “pirate” your works would not be willing or able to buy them anyway. But if you believe in your message and the importance of what you are doing, why would you not want a large audience?
But beyond that, no defender of intellectual property has made a cogent philosophical defense of their system. Even if you were to concede that economic benefits flow from IP protections (and I would argue that, empirically, they do not), it is indefensible as imposed by government onto a society that has not freely chosen it.
Economically, it assumes that intellectual “property” can be property per se, but it cannot. Ideas are infinite, and property requires protection if, and only if, it is scarce.
So on that note, feel free to steal this blog post in its entirety. I don’t even care if you cite me.