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), 12 Oct 2011 @ 4:55pm

    Sony got hacked.
    Sony decided to not attend the Congressional Hearing into the matter.
    Sony used a text file to try and shift the blame to a 3rd party not involved the the data theft.
    Sony was not using anything remotely close to established security procedures.
    Sony was aware for a very long time their systems were insecure, and these were posts made publicly.
    Do we have new data protection laws on the books?
    Do we have an overreaching law telling you you at minimum need to do x?
    We we instead offered extensions of data retention by ISPs, filters, and laws to get "the bad people" as defined by corporations.

    We have ISPs entering into agreements with media corporations to create a 6 strikes system to take people off the internet on the accusations of the corps, which have been shown to be false in the past. They took away any defensible positions in their system for the user and treat the allegation as pure truth.
    Do any members of our representative Government have a problem with this? Nope.
    The ISPs all complain about how much infrastructure and suchs costs, and have been given access to every yard free of charge.
    If they want to become a private police force, why do we allow them to still have monopolies and why do we not make them negotiate for every freaking pole and easement?

    Our "Government" exists solely to benefit corporations at this point. Lets stop pretending democrat or republican or tea party matters, they all jump when the pile of cash is dropped at their feet.

    The White House officially called the protesters mobs that worried him. When exactly did we forget that the people in that mob have a right to do that? That dissension is not unpatriotic? That they are supposed to be working for us, the people stupid enough to have elected them hoping for change.

    There are more of us in the low court, maybe it is time to remind those who get the high court that the law in this country is supposed to be even. We will have our pound of flesh, we will vote the incumbents out, we will stop getting distracted by "issues" meant to keep us divided against one another, and we will turn our gaze on our leaders and in a single voice demand change and get it.

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