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Mathematician, law student and Pirate

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 August 2012 @ 12:00pm

Duke's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the so-many-to-choose-from dept

So, another week and another batch of interesting, if familiar-sounding stories. We have an Australian media executive demanding greater enforcement and new laws to protect artists (or more likely, his paycheck) from "digital bandits". While there is nothing much new here, his examples of authors who would not have survived without rigorous copyright - Shakespeare and Dickens - highlight the copyright enforcement industry's willingness to completely ignore facts, and to show how connecting with fans can be a far better plan than simply complaining about pirates. Then we have an article from the CEO of something called the "First Amendment Center" seeing a fan introducing his friends to an artist purely as a lost revenue stream, perpetuating the myth that the music industry is seeing "major economic consequences" due to the digital revolution, and using the timing of laws being passed and a healthy dose of revisionism to support his position. On the other side of the debate, we have a blog post thoroughly dismissing the popular "just go without" argument to complaints that major publishers fail to provide their content through a service at a price consumers are willing to pay (if they make it available at all).

Moving away from debates and arguments, we also have the stories of those who are boldly battling "evil" pirates all over the world. In the US, the authorities have seized a few more domain names allegedly involved in copyright infringement; apparently this is a "top priority" for the FBI (it worked so well the last time). On to Germany where one copyright-trolling porn company has skipped the pesky letter-writing stage and is trying to shame people into settling by publishing their names. Onto the UK where more details of the SurfTheChannel prosecution have emerged showing the extreme (and possibly illegal) steps private copyright enforcement groups are willing to take to secure convictions. It is cases such as this that remind me why I am slowly turning into a lawyer.

Then we have the usual stories of government hypocrisy. We have the Russian authorities arresting one of their senior political opponents for answering press statements (AFP reported that he has been acquitted of "holding an unsanctioned protest", but still faces up to five years in prison for allegedly biting a police officer), while criticizing the UK government for failing to respect diplomatic principles over Ecuador granting Julian Assange asylum. The UK and other governments had already attacked Russia for the original trial of the Pussy Riot group, conveniently forgetting that such actions would probably be just as illegal in their own countries. Meanwhile Ecuador is boldly showing how much respect it has for freedom of expression and political asylum by trying to extradite a blogger who was involved in exposing corruption in Belarus. One of the many great things about an open and unrestricted Internet is that it enables us to get news sources from different countries, making it easier to dig beneath government statements and see what is actually going on.

And finally, the week would not be complete without a healthy dose of ineffective anti-terrorism operations. There is the NSA quietly gathering up vast quantities of data, apparently under the impression that having the data is the important part, not whether they can make any sense from it. Over in New York, we have details of the NYPD's own "elite intelligence agency" whose "Demographics Unit" has been infiltrating and monitoring Muslims for over a decade, turning up an impressive zero leads. Finally, we have a story showing how the FBI (when it is not too busy seizing domain names) is protecting us all from all the evil terrorist plots it has been creating. Except in this case, the FBI was not even able to get the plot started, leading to the "suspects" warning the FBI about its own "inside man". I am unsure whether we should be comforted by the lack of support for terrorist acts, or worried by the FBI's apparent incompetence. It is almost as if religious profiling and mass surveillance do not work - or perhaps there are not quite as many terrorists out there as we have been led to believe.

Ending on a happier note, this week Techdirt celebrated its fifteenth birthday, making me feel rather young and something of a newcomer here. Given the vast changes in the technology world over those fifteen years one has to wonder what developments Techdirt will be covering over the next fifteen.

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