Sometimes 'Piracy' And Freedom Look Remarkably Similar

from the and,-no,-that's-not-a-defense-of-piracy dept

I’ve complained in the past about The Pirate Party’s name, which I think does the party a serious disservice. It may work in the short-term, but I have my doubts about its long-term efficacy. While the Pirate Party’s leaders continue to defend the name, I still think it gets people focused on the issue of copyright much more than basic freedoms — which really does seem to be the core of the Party’s agenda. Still, there are times when I can see the reasoning, because all too often “piracy” looks quite a lot like “freedom.” Take, for example, this nifty contrast highlighted by Casey Rae-Hunter, from the Future of Music Coalition (hardly a “piracy defender”), where he notes that two separate projects, the PirateBox and the FreedomBox appear remarkably similar.

The “PirateBox” is an open source project to build self-contained file-sharing devices that people can set down, turn on and have a remote file sharing system, totally separate from those who might seek to control it.

The “FreedomBox” is a project that <a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/nyregion/16about.html?_r=2&src=tptw” target=_blank”>Eben Moglen has been pushing, which is designed to create very similar self-contained, portable servers that can be used to provide unregulated, uncontrolled internet access quickly and easily.

The similarities between the two projects are pretty obvious as you dig into both. Take, for example, the descriptions:

PirateBox utilizes Free, Libre and Open Source software (FLOSS) to create mobile wireless communications and file sharing networks where users can anonymously chat and share images, video, audio, documents, and other digital content.

And…

Freedom Box exists to provide people with privacy-respecting technology alternatives in normal times, and to offer ways to collaborate safely and securely with others in building social networks of protest, demonstration, and mobilization for political change in the not-so-normal times.

Freedom Box software is built to run on hardware that already exists, and will soon become much more widely available and much more inexpensive. “Plug servers” and other compact devices are going to become ubiquitous in the next few years, serving as “media centers,” “communications centers,” “wireless routers,” and many other familiar and not-so-familiar roles in office and home.

It seems that there are times when “piracy” looks an awful lot like “freedom.”

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Comments on “Sometimes 'Piracy' And Freedom Look Remarkably Similar”

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100 Comments
Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If and when the infringement occurs then you’ll have a legal case against said infringer.

Bring your evidence to court and follow due process and no one gets hurt.

Keep running your mouth/industry like a dictator in Africa and there WILL be a revolution that you and your ilk will be none to happy about.

There is no need to invent boogey men when there are plenty of them out there already including yourself.

/Troll feeding

Jo Lee Rogers says:

Re: Re:

But what about when valuable communications resources are curtailed simply because they also have the capacity to infringe copyright? What about when COICA will block the resolution of full domain names rather than individual sub-domains or specific content? What about when internet censorship lobbied for by industry is also used by government to block legitimate political speech?

cc (profile) says:

Re:

Funnily enough, the “Pirate” box seems to have been created in response to the industry’s anti-piracy efforts, while the “Freedom” box was created as a response to oppressive regimes’ persecution of innocent people.

Your immature “BUT COPYRIGHT!!!11” arguments aside, you MUST be able to see that there’s a parallel between the two devices, even though they were created with different motivations.

keith (profile) says:

I agree with Mike, in the short term the pirate party has a fun ring to it – however I’d also be concerned about the long term name recognition … have you seen the news recently about the real pirates off Somalia? While obviously completely unaffiliated … the connotation remains. Real Pirates are not people fighting for freedom or standing up for their rights – they are thieves and cold blooded murderers. It sounds more like a movie gimmick than a serious political party.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re:

“BUT COPYRIGHT!!!11″ arguments aside, you MUST be able to see that there’s a parallel between the two devices, even though they were created with different motivations.”

I think the point of the article, if you read between the lines, is that the motivations are exactly the same. It’s just most people call one kind of oppression “dictatorship” and another kind of oppression “copyright enforcement”.

Either way, they’re fighting oppression….

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re:

Your right to free speech ends when you start to infringe on the rights of others. It’s basic.

Your right to free speech doesn’t including infringing on the rights of others.

How hard is that to understand?

You’ve got that backwards.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My right to free speech is protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Current copyright law is a law passed by Congress.

The Constitution trumps a law passed by Congress. IANAL, but I don’t think we’ve had any recent Supreme Court cases where free speech over copyright have been the overriding factors, have we?

Your copyright ends when it is in opposition to my rights of free speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Mike, you may wish it to be that way, but it is only true if copyright specifically violates the 1st amendment. For all the huffing and puffing, nobody has been able to successfully make that argument in front of a court in the 200+ years of copyright.

You have the right to your own speech, you do not have any inalienable right to the speech of others. If you an American and are confused, that is understandable. The 1st Amendment stuff is usually taught without the asterix that explain these things.

chris (profile) says:

Re:

$10 says the 1st person to carry this through an airport gets a free body cavity exam…

i flew home from defcon 16 with my badge: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&biw=1280&bih=831&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=defcon+16+badge&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

plus my neighborcon badge (which looks like a box cutter):
http://www.radiantmachines.com/2009/07/neighborcon-2-badge/

and defcon 17:
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&biw=1280&bih=831&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=defcon+17+badge&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

and defcon 18:
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&biw=1280&bih=831&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=defcon+18+badge&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

and so far nothing.

i also routinely fly with a power squid and a 20′ extension cord and haven’t had an issue yet.

funny story, my last trip to defcon my wife forgot a small multi-tool in her carry on which was confiscated, while i, dressed all in black with my phreaknic “i watch you” t-shirt (http://www.cafepress.com.au/toddlyles/663254) and 20 feet of wire made it through the TSA just fine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Can you explain the fact that the belief of Geocentrism + Scientific proof of Heliocentrism have coexisted for hundreds of years?

Perhaps it made sense in the past.
Perhaps we did not have enough data to make correct decisions back then, and Geocentrism seemed plausible enough to become the standard.
But, Perhaps, at some point, overwhelming proof on the contrary, forced changes to happen. And, perhaps, just like copyright, some well entrenched “believers” denied Heliocentrism and prosecuted those that believed in it, blocking scientific progress for centuries.

Perhaps it is time to look back and learn from past mistakes?

Anonymous Coward says:

the war on freedom

“It seems that there are times when ‘piracy’ looks an awful lot like ‘freedom.'”

Which is precisely why our government can shape draconian copyright laws to fight freedom. Deep packet inspection, huge penalties for “infringement” that is likely fair use, and an MPAA run by a former legislator. Do the math: free speech is dying here, and fast.

chris (profile) says:

Re:

Either way, they’re fighting oppression….

it’s more like this:

piracy is a foregone conclusion. eventually hollywood will realize this and give up, but in the mean time, people have to be vigilant so that bad laws that threaten privacy and free speech don’t get passed in the mean time.

cory doctorow says it a lot better here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/apr/16/digital-economy-act-cory-doctorow

and if hollywood somehow manages to succeed and turn the internet into a dictatorship, boxes like these are the exit strategy.

Nelson Cruz (profile) says:

I hadn’t heard of the pirate box, but when I read about the freedom box yesterday, I wondered precisely how long it would take for it to be used for piracy (and porn, child porn, and for terrorists to communicate, etc). And therefore how long it would take for politicians to call for it to be forbidden or at least regulated. How long until some Sarkozy comes along saying “freedom box can’t be a wild west anymore”.

Freedom and “bad uses” go hand in hand. If we want to be free from censorship we must accept some people will use that freedom for purposes we might not approve of. That’s the point of freedom of speech (and communication). I think the US’s founding fathers saw that perfectly clear. Once the tools of censorship are in place, once it is accepted for some speech to be censored, those tools can be subverted for all kinds of different purposes – from protecting a corrupt government from dissension, to protecting economic interests (from things like copying and sharing content).

We must decide what’s more important: protecting freedom or protecting certain jobs and business models.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re:

I’ll give you 50 to 1 odds against. There will be no western revolution, the powers that be are fare too good at staying in control.

The ‘Tea Party’ was almost a real movement–and then it was quietly and efficiently co-opted, and now it’s just another bullshit political party. In other words, it was neutered long before it had the chance to breed.

There will be no revolution in America until total spontaneous violent civil uprising breaks out–and I’d lay odds on that being 30 to 150 years away.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re:

And like most dictators, will eventually find that a fair approach will yield much better results than a heavy-handed one. I have a huge library of music from independent artists who actually enjoy performing and for whom making a livable wage is perfectly fine. We don’t need corporate music and the music cartels are terrified of that thought.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re:

“Both of the boxes look remarkably like “contributory copyright violations” in the making.”

By that logic, shouldn’t the RIAA be attacking The Fraunhofer Institut in Germany, since that is who holds the patent on the MP3. Or maybe CERN should be sued for creating the www. Or maybe the IP Nazis should wake up and realize the digital age happened while they were counting their pennies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

The standard answer is yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

You have the right under the 1st amendment to do so. However, there are laws that apply that will get you locked up, especially if someone gets injured.

Free speech isn’t an absolute, it isn’t a trump card over everything, no matter how much you would like it to be.

Plus, honestly, can you explain how all these laws exist in the face of the 1st amendment? It would appear that any law that restricts your actions, speech, or activities in any way would be a first amendment violation.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re:

There will be no western revolution, the powers that be are far too good at staying in control.

Part of that is that fact that our government grows by inches here and there (boiling a frog, etc), unlike smash-and-grab dictators in other countries.

The US government is like mold; it’s disgusting, it’s all-consuming, and it inexorably spreads outwards . . . just very, very slowly.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re:

The standard answer is yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

That example is endangering someone’s life.

Life is one of those inalienable rights. In that case, life trumps speech.

Just because speech is not an absolute does not mean that copyright is one of the exceptions to it.

As other commenters have noted, copyright was originally much shorter. 14 years if the work was registered (with a possible 2nd 14 year term if the author was still alive). Comparing that to automatic life+70 years is absurd.

Modplan (profile) says:

As a side note, FreedomBox has been funded via Kickstarter. It took 5 days to raise $60,000, with over half raised in only 2, and this is with a 30 day period to allow for funding.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/721744279/push-the-freedombox-foundation-from-0-to-60-in-30

I guess people care about freedom a lot, even if some may decry it as piracy…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Actually, the foregone conclusion is that there will be more action taken to enforce copyright and maintain the rights of legitimate content owners. Piracy is only “a foregone conclusion” at the current levels if you assume nothing will be done.

My thoughts are that 2009 was probably peak piracy, and it’s all downhill from there. There are fewer and fewer countries that will tolerate it, and they may end up finding themselves on the outside looking in, with no legal sources for material. Like it or not, countries like Spain could end up with most file sharing sites shut down because the content they will list won’t be legally available in the country, which will no longer make it a simple copyright violation case.

Change is coming. I don’t think many people on Techdirt are really ready for it.

cc (profile) says:

Re: Re:

More enforcement may lead to the demise of some file-sharing technologies, but it’ll do absolutely nothing about people being pissed off with the copyright system. Quite the contrary, in fact.

More copyright enforcement will inevitably break the camel’s back, and that’s where radical change will come from.

Pathetic IP lawyers like yourself will be out of a job. Bide your time.

Topperfalkon (profile) says:

Don’t be foolish. Sweden already learnt they were powerless to stop copyright infringement. In fact their pitiful attempts to curb it by monitoring IP addresses meant most of Swedish traffic switched to using VPNs to hide their details and reported piracy rates actually INCREASED.

Gov’t will always be technologically behind because it is constantly stuck in a backwaards mindset. MI5 opposed the DEAct in the UK, because they anticipated the increase in encrypted traffic would make it far harder to distinguish ‘petty criminals’ from terrorists and other MI5 targets and more work would have to be done to crack more encrypted lines of communication.

Modplan (profile) says:

Re:

Maybe when you learn that in reality we do not live in a perfect middle mans world where putting something out in public is not the same as giving the public any kind of right or ability to use something even when you’ve sold it to them.

Maybe that’ll be the same day you learn that we do not have choice or control over every aspect of what we do, particularly anything put out publicly, and that playing along with someones delusion that DRM and 95 year copyrights are necessary is something that’ll always be detrimental to society.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

(and all the critics will still argue that some sort of wireless peer to peer net is impossible for blah blah blah reasons. No, it’s absolutely possible. Much of what restricts it is the fact that the government wrongfully grants monopoly bandwidth use on all the good, long distance, wall penetrating spectra to big corporations).

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re:

You said:

Your right to free speech ends when you start to infringe on the rights of others. It’s basic.

Your right to free speech doesn’t including infringing on the rights of others.

How hard is that to understand?

Then:
Mike, you may wish it to be that way, but it is only true if copyright specifically violates the 1st amendment.

So you admit, in a convoluted way, that you were wrong, and that free speech outweighs copyright. Then you attempt to derail the entire argument by asserting that copyright doesn’t violate free speech.

I hope you see why you recieve such a poor reception on this site. Such poorly thought out arguments will not sway any but the most emotional ninnys.

chris (profile) says:

Re:

the foregone conclusion is that there will be more action taken to enforce copyright and maintain the rights of legitimate content owners. Piracy is only “a foregone conclusion” at the current levels if you assume nothing will be done.

it’s not based in the idea that nothing will be done. piracy is a foregone conclusion regardless of what is done.

hollywood can capitulate to piracy in order to cut its losses, or it can go full-orwell and bring everyone who is concerned about basic freedoms into the fight. either way, piracy wins.

except that the war on piracy is a war of attrition.

hollywood’s weapons are all based on money: lawyers, lobbying, lawsuits, digital right management technology, coin-operated legislation, even law enforcement. it all costs money, which is finite.

piracy’s weapons are all based on time and talent: reverse engineering, freely distributed tools, collaboration, encryption, etc. they’re all the products of talented people and invested time, which are both infinite.

hollywood has fallen victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: never expend finite resources to fight someone whose resources are infinite.

My thoughts are that 2009 was probably peak piracy, and it’s all downhill from there.

and my thoughts are that pirates are just getting started. groups like the Free Software Foundation didn’t care about piracy when piracy was just about getting free music.

the more this sort of thing starts to resemble a battle for basic freedom, the more time and talent becomes available for the fight.

There are fewer and fewer countries that will tolerate it, and they may end up finding themselves on the outside looking in, with no legal sources for material. Like it or not, countries like Spain could end up with most file sharing sites shut down because the content they will list won’t be legally available in the country, which will no longer make it a simple copyright violation case.

i hope that does happen. one of two things will result:

1) spain becomes the “haven for piracy” that hollywood would have us believe that china (and canada lol) is. how do you combat piracy then? invade spain?

2) spain becomes the new bollywood and a wealth of new, non-hollywood material hits the net, legal or otherwise. what do you do then? compete with spain?

either way, hollywood overplays its hand and only hurts itself.

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