Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
copyright, courts, power, punishment



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.

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  1. icon
    Jay (profile), 12 Oct 2011 @ 10:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Cake

    This actually reminds me of the philosophical debates any of the great Greek/Roman philosophers. You had a common area where men of different stations could come to discuss the various governances of the day. From Socrates, we understand the issues of ethics and sophistry in how he came quested for one truth. But one thing understood in the the times of these philosophers was the fact that they had areas of dialogue for all involved. Now think about how sectioned off we have most of the United States and the massive disconnects of people.

    I really think there should be a place for people to go and physically BE in the same area to discuss these topics. Topics of how the law works, how there are quasi government officials such as the FBI or CIA, places for the common man to actually meet these mysterious judges instead of holding them to some type of special status.

    Don't get me wrong, the internet is great. But we section off parts of it based on our needs. The thought of an amphitheater where everyone is allowed to discuss their concerns in civilized discourse, their background taking a backseat to the debate at hand.

    Would it work? Dunno, but it's similar to the public space that you bring forth.

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