by Mike Masnick

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

This week, Skeptical Cynic took the top spot (easily) on the "most insightful" voting with his comment on how governments are moving further from respecting basic human rights:
I have always thought that Internet was the best tool for defeating oppression everywhere. For decentralizing power and allowing each person to truly have an impact.

Governments everywhere are starting to show more and more that what they want more than anything is control and they are willing to go about it with whatever method they need to.

The problem I see is that people including those that run the government forget history and fail to see their actions in the context that they should. They fail to link what they are doing with the processes that everybody once fought against. Just look at the below information and see how many match up to what we are seeing today. I have bolded the ones I see the most.

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism ("Fascism Anyone?," Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The excerpt is in accordance with the magazine's policy.

The 14 characteristics are:

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. Not working the same way now but the idea is there

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Rampant Sexism

Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

Religion and Government are Intertwined

Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

Labor Power is Suppressed

Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

Fraudulent Elections
Am I wrong?
Coming in second was Rikuo's comment concerning whose fault it is if consumers don't want to buy what producers are offering:
No, its the producer's fault for not offering the product in the way the consumer wanted. It's not enough these days to just make an awesome movie or an awesome book. You also have to offer it in a way the consumer wants - in this case, we want it DRM free, able to be read/played on any device and without the threat of a lawsuit hanging over our heads.

Piracy doesn't cost them money.

In your ideal world, the one you envision, the consumers would look at the legal options, find them lacking and not get the content, legally or illegally. That means no income for the producers/copyright holders.

In the real world, the one we all live in, the consumers look at the legal options, find them lacking, and then get the content anyway. The copyright holders spend their own capital fighting this, burning what little good reputation they have. In the end, they still lose income, but through their own actions.

I, the consumer, don't care that you have the copyright nor will I ever care. I don't care how you intend your content to be distributed. If I want it, I will get it. If I find some sort of value in giving you money, I will, but if you dare threaten us with lawsuits or attempt to ram through harmful bills through the political system, I will stop supporting you completely.

The days of selling copies of art is almost over. Now you have to find something else to sell, as the old market is quickly vanishing.
For editor's choice, I had trouble narrowing it down, so you get an extra editor's choice on the insightful side this week. We'll kick it off with Duke's excellent explanation of why the UK's decision to block The Pirate Bay is so troubling:
Just to expand on what I wrote before (to a rather considerable degree - apologies in advance), the simple reason is that if TPB was put on trial, the record labels might have lost, or at least not won as much - that is what happened in the earlier case.

The first case on site-blocking, (using the vaguely-worded s97A, CDPA) was when the Hollywood bunch sued Newzbin directly (Newzbin was being run by a UK-registered company) - the trial (in March 2010) went spectacularly badly for Newzbin (the judge seemed rather unconvinced by their witnesses, and their initial lawyer had to drop out mid-trial and has since been disbarred for his conduct), but while the judge ruled the site was involved in copyright infringement, and ordered a blocking injunction, he limited it only to material covered by the claimant's copyrights (see the final paragraph of the judgment) for the reasons often brought up against broad site-blocking. This meant that Hollywood would have had to notify Newzbin of every file the wanted blocked. Of course, Newzbin then collapsed under the legal costs and was reborn as Newzbin2.

Following this failure, the Studios came back 12 months later (July 2011) and brought a second claim, under the same law, for the same order, but this time against BT (the UK's largest ISP), not the site. Here, a different judge decided to allow the broad blocking order, the main difference being that in this case the claim was supported by a range of other copyright lobbying groups (see paras 179-186 of the judgment). However, despite there being more groups on the claimant side, BT was the only defendant, and obviously has a different set of interests and priorities than Newzbin2.

Interestingly, there was a follow-up judgment (October 2011) to determine the nature of the ruling, and for that (following the publicity of the first ruling) other ISPs, and even a BT subscriber, made submissions to the court on the main point, but they were dismissed as being too late and irrelevant/untrustworthy (see paras 2-4 of the judgment). The blocking order was granted against BT, along with a massive costs order, which has scared off the ISPs from fighting these cases. In December and February the blocking order was expanded to cover Sky and TalkTalk respectively - neither opposed the orders.

Then we come on to January 2012, when the BPI went after TPB; they had asked the ISPs to block it, but they had refused without a court order as such blocking could count as illegal interception of communications data. So they sued the 6 major ISPs (under the cover of 9 record labels). However, the initial judge refused to grant the order noting that, unlike with Newzbin, TPB had never been ruled illegal in England and Wales, so the case was referred to trial on this issue. In quite a concise, well-worded and well-reasoned judgment, Arnold J came to the conclusion that the users and operators of TPB were infringing copyright. That finding was then used to grant this week's blocking order. ... So in theory, TPB was put on trial.

In practice, of course, that ruling was pretty meaningless. The ISPs didn't oppose it (due to lack of interest, and not wishing to be done for the BPI's legal costs). While others might have been able to make submissions (although I'm not sure if anyone in the UK had the means and will to do so), they would have had to have intervened at some point between the 20 January referral order and the hearing on 9th February. Which means they would have had to have found out about the case, found lawyers, prepared their arguments and gathered evidence in less than three weeks. The biggest problem there being the first part; I try to keep an eye on these sorts of legal developments, but didn't hear anything about this case until the BPI was issuing press releases about it after the ruling - the case name is random enough to make it hard to search for, and court hearings are only published a day in advance in the UK. So much for open justice.

The result of this is that all the arguments and evidence submitted were by the BPI. So (as in the Newzbin2 case) no cross-examination, no challenging of the basic premises, no defences discussed (such as freedom of expression - which is respected over here, thank-you-very-much - or proportionality). This is particularly important as in the Newzbin2 case, some of the evidence which is quoted in the judgment is demonstrably false, so who knows what lies were presented in their "considerable volume of evidence".

The judge did discuss the lack of involvement from operators or users of TPB in paras 9-15). While noting that the users would be "adversely affected" by any order, he dismissed the problem on the grounds that there was no legal requirement that they be present (as the case was against the ISPs), the operators would be hard to find and unlikely to intervene (based on similar attempts in Swedish cases), and the users would be hard and costly to identify.

The main lesson to learn from this is what various groups have been arguing for some time; judicial oversight alone is not enough in an adversarial legal system. We saw this problem with issuing of NPOs to identify file-sharers (the ACS:Law business etc.), we saw this in the US with the seizure of domain names, and we will see it with payment blocking orders when they appear in the UK later this year. An adversarial legal system does not work without an adversary. If the court can't find an interested party, it should find some sort of public defender.

That said, there is some good news in this area; when GoldenEye sort an order requiring an ISP to hand over details of alleged file-sharers, while the ISP was happy to comply, the initial judge (technically a master, not a judge) realised that this was a controversial issue (due to all the complaints about him rubber-stamping these orders in the past) referred it to a full judge (the same as in the above cases) and he then personally invited Consumer Focus to intervene, and they did so. Arnold J was no doubt aware of their interests in these issues, having talked with some of their people (iirc). It's a pity he didn't think of doing something similar in The Pirate Bay case...
It may be a long comment, but that's the kind of comment the "insightful" button was made for.

Next up, we've got Michael Becker responding the MPAA's continued failure to actually adapt:
Dude, they've been voicing their concerns about Piracy for 100 years, and they've been proven wrong EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Hard to look at a track record like that and join their side. Especially when they make the simplest of things difficult.

For example, I wanted to watch X-Men First Class this weekend. Did you know I couldn't legally purchase or rent it from ANY online service? You know who had it? Torrents.

There is a fundamental failure in the MPAA to understand that you can't live in the past, things change, and you Adapt or Die. People aren't gonna turn off their internet connection just cause Warner or Paramount might not make quite as many millions this year.

These studios are perfectly capable of providing awesome services we'd gladly pay for, but first they have to actually offer them. We've shown them how many many times, but they keep sticking their heads in the sand. You can only try and help someone so many times before you have to acknowledge that they must be willfully choosing to destroy themselves.
Finally, we've got an excellent comment from Chosen Reject responding to a ridiculous and insulting claim from an anonymous commenter on our site that Professor Eric Goldman -- one of the most respected voices on these issues -- was nothing but "a piracy apologist" for questioning the legal specifics in the Megaupload case. CR pointed out how standing up for justice is not being an "apologist."
You can call him an apologist if you wish. However, you can't call him a pirate apologist unless he's apologizing for piracy. If instead, as it appears, he's standing for justice, then he's a justice apologist. Allow me to quote someone better than me, who stood up for justice for people in a much more serious situation than copyright infringement could ever be:
The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest Proofs of the Danger of Standing Armies.

—John Adams, on the third anniversary of the massacre
You can dislike what MegaUpload does, you can hate Kim Dotcom all you want, but when you throw justice under the bus simply to get people out of the way that you don't like, then you become an apologist for tyranny, corruption, greed, and abuse of power to name a few.
Moving over to the funny list, the winner (by far) was from "Grey Ferret" on the post about Sony issuing a bogus takedown. This resulted in another commenter promising to "lengthen my Sony ban," which was "already a lifetime" to which Grey Ferret replied:
How about lifetime +70 years?
At this point, I'd like to just say how freaking awesome it is that enough people in this community not only get this reference, but find it the funniest comment of the week. The ridiculousness of copyright extension isn't a minor issue. It's becoming common knowledge and people realize it's so ridiculous that it's just funny.

Coming in second was an Anonymous Coward, responding to Apple's bizarre decision to reject apps that use Dropbox, because the use of Dropbox might kick them out to the Safari browser, where they're asked if they want to buy a paid Dropbox account. Apple, jealous that it doesn't get a cut of the transaction, claimed that this violated their rules for apps routing around Apple's payment system to do "in app" purchases. This AC noticed that perhaps Apple was mistargeting its legal bomb:
"Once the user is in Safari it is possible for the user to click "Desktop version" and navigate to a place on Dropbox site where it is possible to purchase additional space."

Not to spit hairs, but doesn't this seem to indicate that it's Safari that's in violation...
Indeed. Perhaps Apple will ban its own browser from the iTunes store.

Once again, on the editor's choice side of things, it was nearly impossible to narrow down the comments to just two, so I'm giving you a bunch of extras. Well, first, we've got "bob (spelled backwards)" (I believe it's a reference to one of our frequent critics "bob") with a new plan for the internet on how to wipe out piracy:
Let me put the MPAA's objections into another light.

If you make a gun, you have a moral obligation to take some reasonable steps that they aren't getting into the wrong hands.

What reasonable steps does Google take to make sure their bandwidth doesn't get into the wrong hands? None.

Now, I don't want to be one of the common taters [sic] that voices an analogy but doesn't come up with a proposal. So, here goes.

Every internet user has to register their internet usage. That way if they are convicted, or accused, of doing something the MPAA doesn't support (or TechDirt does support) they can be perma-banned from the net. Just like criminals can't legally get guns.

Also, you shouldn't have any "concealed" carry internet laws. No Tor's, anonymous posting or trolling.

Finally, after we ban guns and make America a more reasonable country, we can move on and tackle the next problem of banning the internet. This will lead to an increase of drive in movies which will lead to an increase of car sales which will recover the economy.

In closing, RIP Junior Seau. Guns don't kill people, uhh, something else does I forget where I was going with this.
Now I'm about to go a bit overboard on the editor's choice posts, with four more editor's choice comments -- but they're all quick one-liners.

It starts off with Chris O'Donnell responding to the story of Amanda Palmer's success in building up a massive audience that will support her. Chris pointed out this is unfair for some artists:
But this can only work for artists willing to put in years of work to build up their fan base.
For shame.

Then we've got an Anonymous Coward responding to the FBI breaking up its own plots:
Foiling plots they have started. Before you know it, we'll be paying bankers to solve the problems they created!
Next up, another Anonymous Coward explaining the different levels of scamming:
Nickel scammers may use Kickstarter, but Billion Dollar criminal scammers, just use the government.

Ask Wall Street.
And finally, a personal favorite, from hfbs responding to a critic who was trying to argue that Windows and Android aren't open enough with a rather amusing retort:
Sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of my DRM-free files being played on whatever the fuck player I want them to be.
So kick back, and do the same, as we head into another week...

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Don't be silly!
    It's powered by electricity!

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