Different Treatment For Tech Related Law-Breaking Depending On Whether Or Not You Have Power

from the funny-how-that-works dept

Rick Falkvinge is noticing one of the bigger hypocrisies when it comes to the law and technology: these days, we hear all the time about the strongest defenders of copyright law being caught infringing. And yet, they never seem to get in much, if any, trouble for it. In fact, they often seem to think that as long as they apologize or ignore the controversy they'll be fine -- and that's how it often works out. But, heaven forbid you're a single parent facing accusations of sharing two dozen songs! The copyright holders get to go after you for many millions.

To Falkvinge, this is reminiscent of the "high court" and "low court" concepts from the Middle Ages, in which the nobility had the high court: where breaking the law had limited consequences, and you could get away with paying a fine and issuing an apology. Then there was the low court, where everyone else was dealt with, and might receive punishments such as "branding, have their hands cut off, or sometimes just thrown in jail if it was a petty offense; like killing another commoner, which was a lesser offense than stealing from merchants." The two classes and the double standard on punishment reminded him of today's digital world:
In reality, the high courts and low courts have been reintroduced in silence. When Sony BMG broke into millions of computers worldwide in 2005, rootkitting them to disable their ability to run instructions that would violate Sony’s own interpretation of its copyright monopoly, Sony was sentenced to send out marketing material for its own products and no individual executives were charged. When LulzSec members were arrested for breaking into systems in the singular, they get the low court treatment.

When a commoner is accused of violating the copyright monopoly, in some draconian countries like France, they can be sent into social exile without even getting a trial in the low court. In contrast, the noble Voddler (a video-on-demand service) violated the GPL egregiously by using free software to build its service — but without resharing the code, thus violating the copyright monopoly that GPL builds on, and for thoroughly commercial purposes. They were never prosecuted. In contrast, they are now speaking at hearings in parliaments on how successful they are.
What bugs me the most is that those who get away with doing these kinds of things never seem to realize how they're in a position of power and protected. They just brush off their own failure to abide by the law as if it's nothing -- and never realize what they're doing to the people they go after.

Filed Under: copyright, courts, power, punishment


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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Oct 2011 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re:

    Yet we still have people voting for those caught in scandals.
    If we start throwing out the incumbents, who are do nothing corporate lap dogs, and keep doing so we avoid some of the problems we have today. We also put the fear of the people back into them.

    Political dynasties are what we currently have.
    The person appoint to be in charge of laws about the internet believed it was a "series of tubes". He was also about as corrupt as they come. And people kept voting for him because he brought home the money for his state. While the people of his state thought they would actually benefit, umm yeah not so much.

    We need to make Congress be bound by the laws that bind us.
    We need to end their health care and benefits for life.

    If the people voted out the old, and made a point of this is not a party decision this is getting rid of the corrupt it might take a while but soon we might find them listening to the people as we keep their damage limited by not letting them stay in office for far to long.

    I'm not saying it will be easy, simple, or fast.
    But to throw ones hands up and pretend we can not make any progress by demanding change means we have lost already.
    It is far better to try and fail a hundred times, than to sit on the couch and bitch about how they are ruining the country.

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