Are Entertainment Industry Profits More Important Than Civil Rights?

from the questions-worth-asking dept

Fzzr points us to Rick Falkvinge’s recent writeup explaining why the argument that newer, more draconian copyright laws need to be passed to protect the profits of the legacy industry players is no excuse for trampling on civil rights. He compares the situation to Blackwater in Iraq:

When Blackwater Security was playing Grand Theft Auto among civilians in Iraq in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, with which Iraq had nothing to do, how would you react if they had issued the following statement?

? ?Our profits are being hampered by the civilians? rights. It is not fair. In all fairness, we demand that torture should be allowed preemptively to find suspects or people that we find interesting, or because it can boost our profit. Also, we demand the right to detain civilians at will and indefinitely, because we could charge Uncle Sam for that too, boosting our profits even further.?

How would you react to that?

Let?s take another scenario from Blackwater in Iraq:

? ?Our profits are being hampered by the rights of the people. It is not fair. Our profits are falling. In all fairness, we demand the introduction of wanton censorship, allowing us to discover and prevent people from talking about subjects we don?t like. Also, we demand to hold messengers responsible to some amount of punishment we determine if they carry sealed letters containing something we don?t like. That way, our profits could perhaps be restored to their former glory. After all, it?s only fair.?

And then he notes that this is, effectively, what the copyright industry is doing.

Of course, I already know the responses. The first will be that infringement is not a civil right. And, the second is that comparing the copyright players to Blackwater is unfair and a low blow. And both of those points may be true, but are not addressing the key point. The problem with these new laws being passed are not that they’re designed to stop infringement, but that they’re stopping all sorts of legitimate forms of speech as well. And that is something to be seriously concerned about. And, yes, it is all in the name of trying to keep profits up for some legacy players, even as those players resist every attempt to adapt to a changing market.

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Comments on “Are Entertainment Industry Profits More Important Than Civil Rights?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I am having a problem trying to figure out this statement:

“The problem with these new laws being passed are not that they’re designed to stop infringement, but that they’re stopping all sorts of legitimate forms of speech as well.”

What legitimate free speech has been stopped (aside from chats or blog entries on infringing sites?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Jay, we can chat about the ICE takedowns all day. In fact, I would say that it has been talked to death here already. I have yet to see any of the ICE takedowns hurting legitimate free speech, except for some speech surrounding and supporting fiarly significant infringement.

So would you care to try again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What rhetoric? Sites about infringing copyright, linking to infringing material, embedding infringing material, and encouraging discussions on how to obtain infringing material isn’t exactly something that is (or should be) protected by the first amendment.

Can you explain what protected speech was blocked again? I missed your answer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

What rhetoric? Sites about infringing copyright, linking to infringing material, embedding infringing material, and encouraging discussions on how to obtain
infringing material isn’t exactly something that is (or should be) protected by the first amendment.

Care to provide a citation for this broad statement?
Encouraging and discussing how or where to obtain illegal content would seem to be protected under Brandenburg v. Ohio and subsequent cases holding that advocating
lawless action is protected by the First Amendment.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You are assuming that ALL the content of these websites are in relation to infringing, which is laughable. Check out this snapshot of the discussion forums dated July 6th, 2010. You start at the top and there certainly are forums about getting TV on internet. If you scroll down, there are forums about futbol in different countries which would be protected speech as far as I know since other soccer forums haven’t been seized by ICE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Nope, I don’t make that assumption. The courts have already ruled that some protected speech may be hurt while stopping unprotected speech, and that this is acceptable.

More importantly, if there isn’t such an allowance, some incredibly bad speech could be protected just by posting a cake recipe on the same site or by putting up a couple of pictures of someone’s pet. It would be like a drug dealer who sells his drugs wrapped in a poem, and claiming that the drugs are not an issue because stopping him from selling drugs would limit his first amendment rights on the poetry. It’s a laughable piece of logic, one that could only come up on Techdirt.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Okay, so you now grant that some speech is blocked–you just don’t believe that anyone should be concerned about the speech that gets blocked.

False DCMA notices never block valuable speech, injunctions never affect valuable speech, etc.

I think the others in the thread believe that ANY speech, that is not obviously infringing is worthy of protection. I do as well–any other position allows for too much variation and the likely inclusion of even extremely worthy speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

How about the speech of the 80,000-plus legitimate businesses that were knocked off the web and had their homepages replaced with government notices that they were distributing child porn because ICE agents couldn’t figure out the difference between a domain and a subdomain? Does that qualify as “hurting legitimate free speech” in your world? If not, I’m glad I live here in a world where the government shutting down means of communication without notice, hearing, rhyme or reason still pisses people off. You should try that concept out sometime. The benefits of free speech far outweigh its dangers.

Anonymous Coward says:


One of the greatest inventions is the printing press. The reason it was so important is that one of the things you could print with it are “how to” books. Back in those days munch of the knowledge of how to do something was tied up in the guild system. And those guilds were not keen on their knowledge being spread about.

Funny how the entertainment industry seems rife with “guilds” as well.

The internet should be a huge boon to people. I can store my entire DVD collection in a little box and easily stream it to my TV. But only in spite of the entertainment industry and not because of it. They try everything they can to prevent this.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But none of the “regular” people ever think beyond themselves.
They are told that “piracy” funds terrorism, fake drugs, fake toys, and make their lives horrible. So they willingly give up more and more in the name of safety.

I wonder how people would react to find out that Darth Vader is still to this day is being told the movie has yet to make a dime. Only when you can get the media controlled news to actually put things into perspective for them do people seem to notice, and rarely even then do they want to do anything.

If they were to see Blackwater make those statements, they would have been horrified and demanded something happen. But then they saw the evils Blackwater did and something was done, they changed their name, sacrificed some chaff, and they continued doing what they were doing and everyone assumed it was all fixed now.

G Thompson (profile) says:

This quote by RAH in 1939 pops up every so often, even I have posted it once before, but it needs to be placed into 30mile high glowing letters that can be seen on the moon as far as I am concerned

“There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped or turned back, for their private benefit.”
— Robert A. Heinlein, Life Line, 1939

blaktron (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Of course, a lot of his works should be in the public domain now and aren’t, and thats a shame because his body of work is easily on par with Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, but we aren’t taught his masterpieces in schools or given copies for free because of copyright. And the sad thing is, as evidenced by this quote and many many more, he would make a different choice for his work were he alive and in control.

Galashiels (profile) says:

Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve never seen that quote from Heinlein.

“…Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress non-conformist thought.” [Source: Wikipedia]

Movie industry profits where at an all time high last year. They gotta do something to protect their legacy businesses, I suppose.

Scooters (profile) says:

A challenging side to the coin.

“And, the second is that comparing the copyright players to Blackwater is unfair and a low blow.”
How is it a low blow when the industry started it first by comparing infringement to the Boston Strangler and, more recently, child pornography (which is “great”)?

Those who would object to such comparisons should first be reminded those against (the failures of) copyright laws weren’t the first to tie human rights and civil actions together.

Consider this before posting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A challenging side to the coin.

It is beyond a low blow, because it creates an incredibly biased view, a strawman of sorts, and paints the situation with a horrible, nasty broadbrush.

It’s typical Techdirt bullshit, but you guys all seem to buy it.

If someone did the same thing in discussing Pirate Bay, all you freetards would be wetting your pants in anger. Get over your bad selves already.

deane (profile) says:

to all the detractors,

let us say for the moment that one of the admins of a supposed “INFRINGING” site decides he will put a video denouncing all the profits and tax abuse that the RIAA/MPAA does. he posts this video on his site, and tells the sites users to spread this far and wide. his site is pulled by ICE and his video taken down. has a 1st amendment violation happened? this is just 1 possible way for his civil rights to be taken away. another is a user of the site does the same thing. its all the same under the law. censorship in ANY capacity is wrong. no matter whether a site WHICH HAS never stood a day in court to even be tried for ANYTHING has been censored.

Sneeje (profile) says:

“What legitimate free speech has been stopped (aside from chats or blog entries on infringing sites?)”

Let’s break this down a bit. If we accept that no legitimate speech has been blocked, then we must also accept that every single DCMA takedown, every single domain seizure, and every single injunction that prevented the release of an allegedly infringing item was absolutely and without question, correct.

That to me seems to fail on its face–it cannot possibly be true given that the definitions of infringing are not discrete and that the processes to achieve the above ends allow for discretion.

So, if we then conclude that SOME speech was blocked–the argument cannot be that no speech was blocked, but how concerned are we about the speech that is blocked and just how much it is blocked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

sneeje, as I said “aside from chats or blog entries on infringing sites”, what was blocked? The answer from what I can see is nothing.

free speech is not unlimited, nor can it be used as a shield to protect from responsibility for other bad acts. You cannot, as an example, recite a poem and shoot someone at the same time, and claim the shooting is protected as part of the free speech. You cannot claim a right to keep shooting people as part of your free speech to recite poetry.

The courts have long since ruled that some free speech may be impeded when illegal acts are stopped. That doesn’t suggest widespread violations of the first amendment, it doesn’t stop discussion, and in the cases of sites like Rojo, doesn’t even appear to have stopped anyone from any speech at all.

Complaining about a very small amount of speech uttered by those participating in or benefiting from illegal acts blocked isn’t something that is going to get much favour in the courts.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think you missed an important part of my point. You keep asserting that the only speech that is blocked is that “participating in or benefiting from” illegal acts and the rest of your response flows from this premise. However, I think I’ve definitively shown that isn’t the only speech getting blocked and not by a large margin.

I grant that free speech is not unlimited, however, those limits are extremely narrow. And I’m quite frankly fine with speech that participates in or benefits from illegal acts. But I have a HUGE problem with speech getting blocked as collateral damage or speech getting blocked in situations where the question of illegality is even somewhat in question (i.e., ICE seizures).

Matters of copyright are very complex, the law is not settled, and it differs from state to state and country to country. Regardless of individual opinions about the behavior of those involved in the ICE seizures, I don’t see how they can be classified as not “somewhat in question”.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Question – If Hollywood accounting shows every movie loosing millions and never being profitable, why are we spending so much of the public’s resources on keeping them in business?

On paper every film looks like a loss, and yet the money these studios earn are supposed to entitle them to extra super laws to make them safe, ie to big to not help.

I wonder if a Congresscritter would explode if you pointed out that Return of the Jedi has yet to turn a profit on paper, yet it is one of the biggest winners of all time for making money. I wonder if they trying to backpedal and try to explain why a failing industry like this needs more laws would cause them to just wink out of existence.

JR (profile) says:

And now for something completely different

True the assertion that congress has accepted bribes from the MPAA/RIAA/Chamber of congress has all the appearances of being true.

But why is DHS/ICE involved? How about a conspiracy by the government to gain broad censorship powers and effective control over the internet before someone else does? Seems improbable but how else to explain things like Obama’s jobs bill requiring the FCC to strong arm TV stations into giving up bandwidth? Their rights are well established, as opposed to those who are going to use that bandwidth. After all the government feels that the First and Fourth amendments don’t apply to modern technology!

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