Copyright Maximalists And Lobbyists Insist 'Criminal Elements' Are A Part Of The Copyright Reform Effort [Updated]
from the tinfoil-hat-time dept
A permanently paywalled article alerted me to some of the claims made on one panel, that I've since confirmed from an attendee at the conference -- with the specifically nutty claim coming from the Copyright Alliance's Sandra Aistars, insisting that efforts for copyright reform are really coming "from criminal elements" and that no one in "any sort of innovative sector" is actually on board with the copyright reform they espouse. Oh really, now? Apparently all the other panelists quickly agreed with this assertion, that it's coming from that "criminal element" which Aistars explained was really "cyberlockers and entities like that." (See update below for clarification and transcript).
Now, that's interesting. Beyond the broad "entities like that" phrase, which could mean just about anything, I've been fairly active with folks in various copyright reform circles for over a decade, and I can't recall a single situation in which anyone associated with a cyberlocker was even remotely involved in such efforts. To be fair, there was a brief period where Rapidshare hired a few lobbyists, but they weren't involved in any of the major copyright campaigns. But that's about it as far as I can recall, and last I heard, Rapidshare gave up on its DC lobbying efforts. Instead, out here in the real copyright reform world, there appear to be lots of actually innovative companies, along with venture capitalists, academics, digital activists and the public interested in the efforts. To brush off all of that as really coming "from criminal elements" is so delusional as to raise serious questions about the entire Copyright Alliance effort.
It also demonstrates just how ridiculous these debates have become. When copyright maximalists are flat out smearing copyright reformers by insisting that they're all just part of a "criminal" effort, it makes real discussion nearly impossible. Of course, perhaps that's the goal.
Update: After this blog post came out, George Mason University finally uploaded video of the panel (wonder what took so long?) and Terry Hart, who works for Sandra Aistars, provided us with a transcript of what she said, which substantially confirms everything in the post (despite some in the comments suggesting we made this all up), with one exception, which we'll explain in a moment. Here's the transcript:
Mark’s question:From this it's clear that she did not say that the "criminal element" was leading the copyright reform effort, but that it was a significant element that was "different" than in the past and somehow overwhelming the debate between "legitimate" industries. Given the clear implication of the statement, it's completely reasonable that two separate sources -- one a reporter and another a well-respected lawyer -- who were our sources for the original story, received the clear implication that Aistars was suggesting "the criminal element" is driving the copyright reform effort, rather than just a major "element" in that effort. Whether you think this direct distinction matters may depend on where you sit in this debate, but we apologize for repeating the allegation that Aistars that "the criminal element" was "leading" the process rather than such a significant "element" of the process that it deserved mention (something she's totally wrong on, but that's a different issue).
It seems like the ground is shifting in recent years regarding the perception of the value of intellectual property protection. From rhetoric vilifying “big copyright” to claims about so-called “patent trolls,” the climate for those who own and assert intellectual property has become less friendly in Washington. Why has this happened, and what can be done to fix it?
“. . .
The one thing that I think has truly changed and is something that we should all be worried about is that, different from 40 years ago, where I think the debates were occurring really between legitimate businesses on both sides (disruptive forces seeking to move aside, maybe move forward, in different ways than the existing industries had been moving forward), I think now there is an additional element to some of these arguments that we’re hearing against intellectual property protection.
And an element that goes a little bit further than what we’ve heard before and almost seeks the entire elimination of intellectual property protection, and that element I think is coming in its most aggressive form not from any sort of innovative sector in any business, but is coming more from the, I’ll call them “criminal elements,” cyberlockers, entities like that who support and benefit from cyberlockers, and they are not interested intellectual property in any way, and I think those of us who rely on intellectual property in our business lives are just collateral damage.
What these entities are interested in is to use our works as a lure to get eyeballs to their sites, and they’re not interested in what they’re using as a lure, they’re interested in what data they’ll be able to gather on one end (and that’s the least nefarious issue). More troubling are the sort of privacy violations, the fraud, the malware, the other scams that are perpetrated by these sites, and so I think that’s the issue we need to worry about fixing, if we’re worrying about fixing anything.”
Either way, now that we have the full transcript, we can see exactly what Aistars really said, which I'm glad, because it still demonstrates how Aistars and the Copyright Alliance views this debate. I stand by the assertion that this claim is simply wrong, and as far as I can tell, there is no "criminal element" anywhere in this process at all and its simply smearing for Aistars to have suggested otherwise, even if her initial claim wasn't quite as broad as the initial report.