Being Concerned With Free Speech Implications Of PROTECT IP Does Not Mean You Think You're Above The Law

from the oh-come-on dept

Wow. In the legacy entertainment industry's latest "you're either with us or against us" mentality, it appears that expressing concern about the free speech implications of bills like PROTECT IP means you're a horrible, horrible person. Both the MPAA and RIAA are quite upset about Eric Schmidt coming out against PROTECT IP and saying that the impact on free speech would be disastrous. Both responses are so sickeningly disingenuous, it really makes you wonder how out of touch they are.

Let's start with the RIAA's statement:
"This is baffling. As a legitimate company, Google has a responsibility to not benefit from criminal activity. In substance and spirit, this contradicts the recent testimony of Google's General Counsel that the company takes copyright theft seriously and was willing to step up to the plate in a cooperative and serious way."
Um. Except that nothing in what Schmidt said actually contradicted Kent Walkers speech, nor did he say they don't take copyright infringement (not theft guys) seriously. He was expressing very legitimate concerns about the free speech implications.

On to the MPAA's statement, which echoes the RIAAs, but is a little more fleshed out:
In April, Google senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker testified before Congress that 'Google supports developing effective policy and technology tools to combat large-scale commercial infringement.' Thatís exactly what the PROTECT IP Act is designed to do -- it creates a narrowly-drawn, carefully constructed solution to the threat to American jobs and America's economy, a solution that protects and strengthens our right to free speech. As constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams wrote, '[c]opyright violations are not protected by the First Amendment.'
This is really shameful how the MPAA twists the debate. First of all, the PROTECT IP does not effectively combat large-scale commercial infringement at all. That's just wishful thinking. The actual infringement will continue. Second, there is no evidence that it will support American jobs or the economy. In fact, the reverse is almost certainly true, as these kinds of laws will harm large parts of the internet that enable new jobs.

But the really sickening part is the Floyd Abrams quote. While it is entirely true that copyright violation is not protected by the First Amendment that's not what Schmidt or anyone else raising these issues are concerned about. No one -- not Schmidt, not us -- is arguing that copyright infringement is protected by the First Amendment. We're saying that this tool will be used against non-infringing and perfectly legal speech. And that's not a theoretical concern. We've already seen it happen multiple times with the existing ICE domain seizures, in which blogs and sites that were not violating the law were seized.

That's the concern.

Furthermore, as Schmidt made clear in his statement, he was also noting that once you justify the censorship of some speech just because you're trying to stop infringement, you open the door to much more censorship of speech. Traditionally, the First Amendment caselaw has been clear: if you're going to strike against illegal speech, you have to very narrowly focus on just that speech. PROTECT IP does not do that. It casts a wide net. But, once you have that door open, saying that it's okay to shut down some legitimate speech in an effort to stop some others, that will only expand.
Is Eric Schmidt really suggesting that if Congress passes a law and President Obama signs it, Google wouldnít follow it? As an American company respected around the world, itís unfortunate that, at least according to its executive chairmanís comments, Google seems to think itís above Americaís laws.
Oh, come on! Of course that's not what Schmidt is saying and the MPAA is being obnoxiously disingenuous in suggesting otherwise. He's not saying they're "above America's laws." He says that the RIAA/MPAA-written laws should not be above the Constitution. That is, these laws should not violate the First (or in other cases the Fourth) Amendment. By saying that Google would fight, he doesn't mean ignore, he means challenging the Constitutionality of these laws in court.

Sad that the MPAA has so little actual substance behind its arguments that it's forced to blatantly mislead like that. Typical, but sad.

Filed Under: copyright, eric schmidt, free speech, protect ip
Companies: google, mpaa, riaa


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2011 @ 5:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "First of all, you people need to stop with the "95+ year" copyright law meme;"

    Why? Its evidence for the nefarious nature of these laws.

    "we know that's not why you're here to argue ;)"

    I'm here to argue that IP laws need to be abolished. What's your point?

    "I doubt you know any indie label employees that don't have jobs anymore because kids get their music from MediaFire for 19 bucks a month instead of paying the band/small label.

    But I personally know many."

    You people need to stop with the "but jobs" meme because we know that's not why you're here to argue.

    First of all, musicians hardly ever got much money through CD sales, they almost always got most of their money through concert ticket sales. The record labels are the only ones who made money through CD sales and if anyone loses money due to piracy it's the record labels, not the musicians. So piracy hasn't really ever cost them anything, if anything, it helps promote the music and many musicians don't mind their works being pirated and have expressed that opinion.

    You pretend that piracy is the reason why they don't have jobs. The fact is that the record labels produced fewer music related jobs than what the Internet helps to produce now, since now people don't have to go through the record labels anymore to gain recognition and market their works (not to mention that the record labels often didn't even pay many of their artists what little money they owed, only to the big artists). Being a musician is an exception no matter what and musicians are rare with or without piracy. To turn around and blame everything on piracy is disingenuous.

    "Stop talking about things you have no clue about."

    Techdirt readers know what they're talking about, you're the one who has no clue what you're talking about. Yet you're here talking about things you have no clue about. Hypocrite.

    Scratch that, you're just dishonest. Most IP maximists are.

    "And stop trying to defend the indefensible."

    Stop telling others not to do that which you are doing, especially when those others aren't the ones doing it. Hypocrite.

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