Recording Industry Exec Says It's Not Censorship To Block Sites He Doesn't Like

from the oh-really? dept

We see this kind of claim every so often, but usually not from a high-ranking legacy entertainment industry executive. However, TorrentFreak has the story of how the CEO of IFPI in Austria (IFPI is basically the international RIAA), Franz Medwenitsch, claiming that blocking websites like the Pirate Bay isn't censorship, because how can it be censorship to block stuff that he doesn't like?
“Censorship is the suppression of free speech and everyone who lives in a democratic society categorically rejects censorship,” the IFPI chief says.

“But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating advertising revenues by illegally offering tens of thousands of movies and music recordings on the Internet with disregard for creators and artists? And yet the freedom of the author to determine the use of their works themselves is trampled!”
Except, of course, that's not all that the Pirate Bay and other sites do. They offer plenty of legitimate content as well -- public domain material, works that creators want to be distributed in that way, etc. Furthermore, it's not these sites that are doing the distribution. They're effectively acting as a meeting place or a search engine to match different users who are offering up the content, authorized or not.

But there's this fundamental disconnect here which is scary to people who actually believe in free speech. Medwenitsch appears to have the dangerous belief that free speech only covers the kind of speech he likes. That's not free speech. It's really not that hard to see how someone could take Medwenitsch's half-baked argument and flip it around:
"But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating recorded music revenues by illegally promoting misogynistic music on the internet with disregard to the feelings of women? And yet the freedom of those women to be free from insults and offensiveness is trampled!"
I'm sure you can come up with your own variation as well. The second that you start to insist that certain kinds of speech are somehow "not worthy" of free speech, because you, personally, don't like them, you're opening up the door to widespread censorship and you don't believe in free speech at all. Medwenitsch highlights this problem perfectly. By his words he is pro-censorship and yet he believes he's anti-censorship.

As we've said in the past, it is perfectly legitimate to have the opinion that sites like the Pirate Bay should be illegal and blocked. We may think you're wrong, but you can have that opinion. But it's simply being dishonest to argue that taking down the site is not censorship. It is. It's just censorship you approve of.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 7:24am

    Check house for glass, before throwing rocks

    "But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating recorded music revenues by screwing over signed artists with incredibly lopsided contracts, and every legal(and 'legal') trick you can think of, with disregard to the rights and profits of the ones creating music? And yet the freedom of those artists to own their own creations, and fairly make money off of them is trampled!"

     

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  2.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:11am

    Imagine if they put his salary and benefits package to better use making content available in the market at the price the market wants.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:22am

    We've got a level 10 doublethinker right here!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    "“Censorship is the suppression of free speech and everyone who lives in a democratic society categorically rejects censorship,” the IFPI chief says."

    Everyone but the governments of democratic societies reject censorship.

     

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  5.  
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    Lord Binky, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:24am

    Duh! It's not censorship if you only suppress the speech of someone making money while being rude to others.

     

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  6.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:24am

    I don't think Medwenitsch should be allowed to speak on this subject. It obviously serves no legitimate purpose.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:29am

    I feel obligated to point out the flaw in your analogy: misogynistic music is not illegal. Copyright infringement is not free speech. (Although it does have to be actually determined by a court first that a particular thing IS infringing.)

    Medwenitsch appears to have the dangerous belief that free speech only covers the kind of speech he likes.


    If by "kind of speech" you mean "not infringing on copyright", then yes?

    After thinking about this for a minute, I'm guessing that your argument is that he doesn't have a problem with blocking the entirety of the Pirate Bay (instead of just the infringing parts) because he doesn't like the message the Pirate Bay sends. I would argue that this is likely not the case; he'd do the same to any website he thought was infringing regardless of the content of their message. He'd block YouTube to get at one infringing video, if he could. (Not that this is a good thing.) It's less of a "speech he likes vs speech he doesn't like" situation, it's more of a "any speech vs copyright" situation.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonynous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:31am

    How can it be murder, when I'm only killing people I don't like.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:32am

    'the freedom of the author to determine the use of their works themselves is trampled!'

    he needs to look at the number of times the artist gets absolutely nothing from the works produced because the labels keep everything! how many times have we read about 'Hollywood Accounting' and the way the studios and labels create 'shell companies' so as to make it appear to the artists that there has been no profit made from a work. look at how the most successful film of all, one of the Star Wars epics, has still not made a profit so that one of the stars of the movie hasn't received anything since it was made! this argument is the pits and you have stated exactly why this isn't free speech. his 'free speech' is a total prepared statement showering the industries with glowing praise. if the industries were so good and so unafraid of 'free speech' why is it that there has been no effort from them to put up sites that give people the same quality that appears on 'alternative' sites? why is it that not once has anyone from the industries tried to come to an amicable agreement with those who run the alternative sites, so that instead of closing them down, a partnership happens. that way the quality of release will remain, the public get the best available and pay sensible money, with no DRM. as there has been none of this, it can be concluded that the industries are only interested in getting as many people as possible bankrupted, loosing family and friends as well as all property and getting them imprisoned! if there was any other purpose, it can only be to ensure they keep control of the various media, while taking over the Internet. they have been doing the same thing now for decades, spending an inordinate amount of time, money and effort. if achieving something like the above, anyone with half a brain would have given up so whatever it is, it has to be a hell of a thing. with governments doing as much as possible to help them too, there has to be serious gains for them and i doubt very much that it is to get a few private showings of the movies not released to the public!!

     

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  10.  
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    James Jensen (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:32am

    Getting straight to the point...

    "But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating advertising revenues by illegally promoting political dissent with disregard for the state? And yet the freedom of the state to be free from dissent is trampled!"

     

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  11.  
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    Quinn Wilde, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:34am

    Freedumb

    "But what has freedom of expression got to do with limiting expression at all, such as by use of contrived so-called 'intellectual property' laws, which have been bastardized to the extent that they have a near total disregard for the welfare of the public domain, on which they should be utterly dependant.

    And yet the freedom of the general public to use the foundational materials of their own culture is trampled!"

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:34am

    Owned and operated by money provided to him by the corporations , what else is there to say , he's a lobbyist a paid shill, put in his position by people who could care less about the rights of the whole and more for his owners.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:36am

    Re:

    It's less of a "speech he likes vs speech he doesn't like" situation, it's more of a "any speech vs copyright" situation.


    You can call it whatever you like, but "if it looks like a duck, it's a duck."

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:42am

    Re:

    He is not a government and certainly not a representative of a democratic society.

    He holds that censorship is categorically rejected, except for what he defines as being "wrong".

    The only reasonable sense in the comment would be that he is suggesting he doesn't live in a democratic society. That is a rather interesting comment...

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    Re:

    Correction - we have a level 1 Dissonance Special class with the feat 'Infinite Paradox'.

     

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  16.  
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    James Jensen (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    Re:

    I feel obligated to point out the flaw in your analogy: misogynistic music is not illegal.

    Not in our society, no, but it's not an unthinkable that some society would outlaw it and still claim to support free speech.

    Copyright infringement is not free speech. (Although it does have to be actually determined by a court first that a particular thing IS infringing.)

    In my hypothetical society, misogynistic music is not considered free speech, either.

    In any case, what the Pirate Bay is doing is not copyright infringement, it's providing a forum where people can arrange for transfer of materials that may or may not be infringing.

    Finally, there are a number of us who do consider copyright to be an abridgement of free speech.

    Imagine if the government formed a licensing board whose job it was to approve and license -- at their discretion and at any rate they chose -- the distribution of any and all works you didn't personally create, whether it's the latest best seller or Shakespeare. Obviously this would be a violation of my freedom of expression. So how does it become not a violation when the gatekeeper changes to the authors themselves, or their estates, or their publishers? They're still performing the same function of inhibiting speech.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    Other people will do that anyways. Put his salary and benefits package towards helping the artists he purports to represent.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    Turnabout is fair play

    Just blacklist ifpi.org in every mail server, DNS server, web proxy and other device that you operate. This has the highly desirable side effect of making idiots like this one (mostly) disappear from your view of the Internet.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re:

    Not in our society, no, but it's not an unthinkable that some society would outlaw it and still claim to support free speech.


    Ah. If that was the point, it wasn't clear to me. I was framing that argument under current law, and not thinking that it was a portrayal of how the law actually might change if free speech is not protected.

    Finally, there are a number of us who do consider copyright to be an abridgement of free speech.


    Well, yes, speech is speech and therefore you are on some level abridging the right to free speech by having copyright - I meant more that it isn't *protected* speech, similar to how yelling at the judge in a courtroom isn't protected speech. Copyright is specifically provided for under the Constitution, so you can't just say copyright is banned due to the First Amendment. And so we get fair use, so copyright can coexist with free speech to at least some degree.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 10:11am

    I'm strongly against censorship and anyone who says otherwise should have their comments removed from the internet.

     

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  21.  
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    James Jensen (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Copyright is specifically provided for under the Constitution, so you can't just say copyright is banned due to the First Amendment.

    Actually, copyright is provided for in the body of the Constitution, which the amendments are by definition supposed to override. So I think there is a serious argument that copyright is unconstitutional.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Corporate tech propaganda articles like this are so funny.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Copyright is still a form of censorship. It's just legal censorship.

    Case in point: The Chinese government censors the internet according to democratic countries. However most of what they do is legal under their laws.

    Does that suddenly make it no longer censorship? Is it censorship because democratic countries determine it is? Is it no longer censorship when Franz Medwenitsch decides it is?

     

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  24.  
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    jilocasin, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 11:31am

    Perhaps I haven't received the latest copy of Copyright Laws as updated by Major Corporations Unabridged [it just has to be the unabridged version of course...] but I don't see;

    "...the freedom of the author to determine the use of their works themselves..."

    enumerated as one of the rights protected by copyright.

    If I want to purchase copies of the United States Tax Code to use as tinder in my fireplace, or the New York Times to line my bird cage, or convert all seven books of the Harry Potter series into wall paper for my bathroom, I am fairly certain that isn't against any of the reserved rights granted to authors under the current copyright regime.

    Then again I haven't seen any of the pending secret international trade agreement negotiations. So.........

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Technically true, but it would be hard to argue that the Bill of Rights was intended to remove whole sections of the newly formed Constitution.

     

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  26.  
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    Gumnos (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    Reminds me of this Saturday Night Live sketch

    The Subway Guitarist sounds a lot like a variant of your misogynistic music.

     

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  27.  
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    JP Jones (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Technically true, but it would be hard to argue that the Bill of Rights was intended to remove whole sections of the newly formed Constitution.

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. - U.S. Constitution

    So, explain to me, in logical terms, how our current system of copyright meets the intent of this statement?

    How does how does "prevent anyone from using 'my' idea, regardless of monetary gain" equal "promote the Progress," how does "everything created, regardless of how meaningful" equal "Science and useful Arts," and how does "a human lifetime plus 70 years or 120 years after creation/95 years after publication" equal "limited Times?"

    Current copyright and the constitution are so far apart at this point they may as well not even be related.

    Actually, copyright is provided for in the body of the Constitution, which the amendments are by definition supposed to override. So I think there is a serious argument that copyright is unconstitutional.

    I would argue current copyright is unconstitutional because it completely deviates from the intent of the constitution, not because of any ammendments.

    People get hung up over "well, technology has made copying easier, therefore we need stronger copyright laws! The founding fathers would never have envisioned the internet!" But this is irrelevant. Their intent was quite clear...the purpose of copyright was to encourage people to create. At the time, this was done by giving creators a small (14 year) boost to profit from their work, then it would go to the public. The intent, however, was for everyone to benefit from these creations and discoveries.

    Current copyright does not meet that intent. It actively stifles creativity (as does spreadsheet marketing, but that's another issue). It's a tool that's been stolen by obsolete distribution businesses and forged into a weapon to generate money by draining it from creators and consumers alike (who, incidentally, are often the same people).

    Seriously, though, explain how our current copyright law is meets the intent of the constitution. I'm curious.

     

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  28.  
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    Aaron Wolf, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    The profit motive makes it ok!

     

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  29.  
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    James Jensen (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Technically true, but it would be hard to argue that the Bill of Rights was intended to remove whole sections of the newly formed Constitution.

    True, but intent matters only insofar as it is actually expressed, and nothing in the first or later amendments affirms that copyright can be authorized despite the prima facie contradiction.

     

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  30.  
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    James Jensen (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I would argue current copyright is unconstitutional because it completely deviates from the intent of the constitution, not because of any ammendments.

    Oh, I completely agree. Even without the first amendment, copyright has obviously gone far beyond it constitutional mandate, especially when things like retroactive term extension get involved; how that adds to the original artist's incentive is beyond me.

     

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  31.  
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    Whatever (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:21pm

    Re:

    You hit it.

    It's not a question of stuff he doesn't like, it's sites that are part of the process of doing something illegal - piracy.

    Trying to paint it as a like / dislike thing is to intentionally and wildly miss the point.

     

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  32.  
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    mr. sim (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:40pm

    well, well Mr. Recording Industry Exec "It's Not Censorship To Block Sits You Don't Like, that's like saying, if someone steals every penny you have then it's not theft because your rich.

     

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  33.  
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    Anon, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:55pm

    However, note that free speech needs to be legal and within the boundaries of law to work. For example, hate speech is not covered as free speech.

    Same goes for illegal works of "free speech".

     

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  34.  
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    PaulT (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:39am

    Re:

    "If by "kind of speech" you mean "not infringing on copyright", then yes?"

    No, he means the legitimate speech blocked by this kind of censorship under the pretence of blocking copyright infringement. I'd re-read the article if you missed that, it's quite clear.

    "He'd block YouTube to get at one infringing video, if he could."

    Exactly. Now consider the huge amount of legitimate speech that would be blocked by that action.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 4:52am

    Re: Re:

    Google does the same as TPB, why hasn't he singled them out and tried to censor them?

    I think the thing you don't get about bit torrent (or are just wilfully ignorant) is there is no central servers hosting files. The likes of TPB are merely places that people can put up an advert as to where they are sharing a particular file or files.

    (The important part of that paragraph, just incase it went woosh, is that it is the users sharing the content not TPB)

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 4:53am

    Re:

    Very apt! +1

     

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  37.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 9:34am

    “But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating advertising revenues by censoring widely used points of access to tens of thousands of Public Domain and CC Licensed movies and music recordings on the Internet with disregard for the obvious wishes of creators and artists? And yet the freedom of the author to determine the use of their works themselves is trampled!”
    FTFY, Franz Medwenitsch.

     

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  38.  
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    JP Jones (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Re:

    What is your definition of "hate speech," and it what country are you referring to?

    It the U.S. the only form of "hate speech" that is illegal is speech that directly induces individuals to violence (e.g. a mob leader saying "Kill that guy!" and the mob proceeds to kill the guy would be a violation of the law, but someone saying in the middle of town "all of group X should die!" without inciting direct violence is protected speech and perfectly legal). Even in the first example it would have to be shown that the speech had a causual connection to the actions taken.

    Copyright infringement is not innate. A particular expression of anything is assumed legal until challenged by the copyright holder, NOT the other way around. If the opposite were true, YouTube's Content ID would simply prevent anyone but the individual with the original copyright from uploading content loaded into the system. It doesn't, because until the copyright holder sends legal notice that the particular work is infringing, it is assumed to be legal.

    Therefore blocking The Pirate Bay is blocking free speech, exactly as the article stated.

     

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