from the three-day-weekend dept
This week, over at the Copia Institute, we released our new report comparing the impact of anti-piracy enforcement to that of innovative new entertainment services. That One Guy posted a lengthy rejoinder that was voted most insightful comment of the week:
As the article notes, there have been countless 'anti-piracy' laws passed, over decades, and yet none of them have had more than a minor, temporary effect on piracy at best. And yet those buying the laws continue to do the same thing, year after year, pushing the same laws, the same ideas, despite their utter failures to date. Given that, the way I see it there's two possibilities:
1. Almost every last person in the entertainment industry, with very few exceptions, is a complete and utter idiot, lacking even the most basic pattern recognition skills, and incapable of learning even the most obvious lesson from their past actions.
2. Stopping piracy isn't actually the goal, and is instead merely the excuse, the justifications for their actions.
#1 is possible, but unlikely in the extreme. You don't reach the point of running multi-billion dollar companies if you are lacking in smarts and business skill, and only an idiot would throw millions away if they weren't getting anything out of it.
Now, if stopping piracy isn't the actual goal, what might it be? If I had to guess, I'd say the real goal is two-fold:
Killing off competition before it can grow, and maintaining control.
Methods of distribution like file-sharing can be used for piracy, yes, but they can also be used for artists not affiliated with the major labels to get their music out there, all without having to go through a middle-man. Books not affiliated with major publishers can be shared and read, and movies put out by indie studios can be shown without ever having to go through the theaters.
By insisting on onerous burdens on third-parties, in order to 'fight piracy', the various 'anti-piracy' laws make it a hassle to host content created by the public, forcing sites and services to spend time and money that they may not have policing their sites, 'just in case', and making it all the more tempting for them to forgo allowing public content entirely.
Even when sites/services can spare the time and money, the incredibly one-sided nature of the laws means that they are given all the incentive in the world to take something down on the flimsiest claim, and penalized if they do not, making it a hassle for content creators who might have their stuff removed on a bogus claim, forced to fight if they want it back up, if they can even do so.
Of course, if a creator doesn't want to deal with the possibility of their stuff being pulled thanks to a bogus claim, or removed as collateral damage thanks to a bot flagging something they created, they could always sign up with the major labels/studios/publishers, who never seem to have to deal with that sort of thing...
When the only way to be able to create quality music required studio resources, the only way to be heard was to sign with a record label, the only way to be promoted was to sign away all the rights to your music, the labels had all the control.
However, when anyone can put their music up for people to listen to and/or buy, when what previously required the resources of a studio to create can now be done with a modest investment in some decent hardware and software, when you can promote yourself through social media, all without signing away anything, suddenly the control of the labels starts crumbling, and their contracts a lot less appealing.
When the only way to take your idea and turn it into a movie was through a major studio, requiring you to sign everything away and maybe get something for it, the only way to show your film was through the theaters, which required a studio to achieve, then they had all the control.
However, when you can crowdfund your film without signing away the rights to anything, when special effects that previously required massive resources can now be done for relatively cheap, and when there are numerous services willing to host and/or sell the resulting film, the studios suddenly don't have nearly the chokehold that they had enjoyed before.
When the only way to be published was to submit your would-be-book to one of the major publishers and hope, when you had to sign away the rights just for them to consider publishing your work, and and had to go through them if you ever wanted to see your book in solid form, the publishers had all the control.
However, when anyone can write up a work and share it with anyone they wish to, when various services make it easy to post and sell your works, whether in physical or digital format, when you can do your own promotion at the cost of little more than your own time, and all without signing over the rights to your books, then suddenly the publishers' previous position of deciding what would and would not be published is a lot less solid.
Short version: If the goals of all the anti-piracy laws are actually to combat piracy, then they have failed utterly each and every time. Therefore it stands to reason that either the ones buying the laws are incompetent fools, or they aren't actually trying to get rid of piracy with the laws they are buying.
In second place, we've got another win for That One Guy, this time responding to the government's continued push for encryption backdoors and especially James Comey's mention of continuing the "conversation":
One more time with feeling:
The 'conversation' is over, and has been for decades.
They're asking for the impossible with 'secure' broken encryption. Not 'difficult', not even 'extremely difficult' but flat out impossible. Encryption with a baked in vulnerability is by definition not secure. They know it, the tech companies know it, anyone with even the slightest bit of knowledge regarding any form of security knows it.
That they continue to push for breaking encryption like this is just another piece of evidence showing that they don't give a damn about the public's safety, all they care about is that they be able to do whatever they want with the least amount of interference. Put the public at risk by intentionally sabotaging the security that protects their private information, from emails to banking? Why should they care, it's not their data at risk, and so long as they can grab as much data as they want, so what if others do the same?
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out on our post underlining the fact that the TPP is not about fair trade, in which one commenter objected to our assertion that anyone who says it is must be lying or misinformed. Derek Kerton explained why that's not an insult, it's a fact:
Because, this is one of those "Facts are facts" type of discussions. My facts are the same as your facts. "Free Trade" has a specific meaning, and the TPP is a force away from that, not towards it.
The TPP is not about Free Trade. It restricts trade. It restricts business. It supports entrenched major businesses. New entrants trying to compete, from anywhere in the world, have FEWER options and MORE restrictions because of the TPP. That is not freer, that is less free.
Since intellectual property expansion is such a big part of the TPP, and IP laws are specifically about limiting the ability of businesses to do things, than is, by definition, against free trade. Back to the same point, the TPP is anti-free trade. There just can't be any intelligent debate on this fact.
Now, we can have different opinions on whether the deal is good or not. We can argue if helping a few powerful American industries internationally truly benefits the average American. There can be all sorts of opinions on the actual effects of the TPP.
But there cannot be any intelligent debate on whether it is a "Free Trade" deal, or a deal that is against freedom of trade.
Next, after Purdue University freaked out about a keynote speaker's slides that showed leaked (but still technically classified) documents from Edward Snowden that had already been seen by millions, Rich Kulawiec shared a story about the school's record on such things:
This isn't the first time that Purdue caved in like this
In November of 1988, when the Morris worm hit, we at Purdue's Computing Center (and everyone else) were all scrambling to understand what happened, how it happened, what its consequences were, and what we could do about it.
On Friday, 11/4/1998 at 2:32 PM I sent a message out to the temporary "phage" mailing list (established by Spaf) detailing some of our findings and explaining the "condom" fix that my colleague Kevin Braunsdorf and I had figured out the day before. I also mentioned that I'd run a copy of the worm's object code through "unas" and made it available via anonymous FTP on one of our servers -- so that it'd be available to everyone else working on the problem.
On Wednesday, 11/9/1988 at 5:44 PM, I was notified that the above-mentioned file had been removed...at the request of the NSA, who had contacted the university's president, who had contacted the director of the computing center, and so on. To be fair: I was told that the request was "polite" and the person who removed the file clearly stated in his message that he had mixed feelings about doing so. He was obviously put in a difficult position by those above him and arguably exercised the only reasonable option available.
The irony of this is that the worm had propagated itself all over the 'net; and anybody equipped with a copy of Matt Bishop's "unas" could have easily replicated that file in a few minutes by running unas against whatever instance of the worm was present on their own systems. (And in fact other researchers had, by this point, performed much more competent and thorough dissections.) So the deletion of this particular file accomplished absolutely nothing.
The pushback should have come from Purdue's president (Beering, at the time) -- but it didn't. I've never forgiven him for that. He did a great disservice to the entire university community that day when he failed to stand up for research and academic freedom.
So I'm very disappointed -- but not surprised -- that Purdue is willing to play along with the charade wherein openly-published documents are still magically secret.
How can this be evidence? None for the legacy players sponsored it.
Speaking of the legacy players, second place for funny comes in response to an astonishing error by Paramount Pictures, which targeted a discussion about GhostVPN for takedown believing it to be a pirate link to the movie Ghost. Violynne saw a problem with the particular words we strung together in the headline:
"Paramount Pictures Thinks"
That wasn't the stupidest thing we saw this week, though — our first place comment for funny comes in response to a patent troll that is standing by the claim that integers start at 2. One anonymous commenter pleaded for sympathy:
Don't be so hard on Core Wireless
They're open to hearing any opinion on this case, so long as it isn't a negative one.
Finally, after the latest example of cops manipulating the justice system to get around those pesky warrant requirements, nasch rewrote a famous monologue that has misled millions of people about the nature of law enforcement and justice:
In the Criminal Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The police who illegally detain citizens, abuse asset forfeiture laws, and use excessive force, and the District Attorneys who think that everyone is guilty until proven innocent, and will take prosecutorial discretion to new lows and throw every possible law at people to force them to make a plea deal. These are their stories.
Doesn't quite have the same ring.
That's all for this week, folks! We're off tomorrow for Columbus Day (or Thanksgiving up here in Canada), and will be back to business as usual on Tuesday.