What’s it like to be in the crosshairs of a troll?
Surely it’s a familiar feeling for many in the Techdirt community. I know I spent my week (as I often do) fighting back disgruntled defenders of dying business models in the music industry. Wherever I voiced my support for the inspiring message of crowd funding champion Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, the wave of troll comments was tidal.
When the trolls mob, I remember what Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Troll battles are no big deal for those of us who fight daily to expose the truth about doctrines and dogmas that stifle progress in society. We will always be enemies of those whose salaries depend on exploitation. But this week, über-troll Prenda Law took the fight to a new and “rather incredible” level, issuing a subpoena for IP addresses of every visitor to troll-critic blogs for the past two years. The copyright-trolling legal maneuvers that Prenda Law is widely hated for are unmatched in their allegedly exploitative, ethically bankrupt extortion of innocent Internet users.
You and I may have thick skin for these bastards. We often wear the troll-hate as a badge of honor, an indication we are on the righteous path. But the poor average internet user is not similarly steeled to the abuse. The sad truth is that we are increasingly living in a world where everyone is being trolled.
For example, software consumers are being trolled by companies like Electronic Arts, whose insistence on the most draconian, always-connected DRM possible renders their much-anticipated $60 Sim City revamp worthless. Lest I suggest we are becoming a world full of victims, the outpouring of negative customer reviews shows an encouraging unwillingness to be silently victimized, and at least some developers get it. Treating your customers as criminals is the essence of corporate copyright trolling.
But even our troll-fighting heroes are not immune to becoming trolls themselves, given enough time and money. When Teller sued a fellow magician for copyright infringement, one had to wonder if the purveyors of the fine troll-busting TV show Bullshit! would now have to do an episode about themselves. No wonder the defendant thinks it’s a joke.
All of these examples are mere skirmishes compared to the all-out pre-emptive nuclear war being planned by global copyright troll elite. Anyone familiar with copyright knows that multinational treaties form the basis of the law. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the next big revision to international IP agreements, is now in its 16th round of secret negotiations. We are finally starting to see a serious push-back from a large, diverse group of organizations. But is it too late?
Meanwhile, copyright maximalists continue to dominate the US legislative branch, drowning out the few reasonable voices calling for Internet freedom to be protected.
I’m not talking about waging a War on Trolls here. We’re merely defending ourselves and our society from those in power who seek to undermine any challenge to that power. That doesn’t mean just taking down trolls, it also means building new bridges. We must endeavor to spread the word beyond our Techdirt inner circle and to the victims at large. Video games and magic tricks are mere slivers of a widely splintering culture. The thicker our skin grows against these troll attacks, the greater our responsibility to lead the fight for all.