Another article on intellectual property enforcement? Yes, since I consider this to be the most important struggle technology has to face over the coming decade. We already know that content providers don’t care one bit about hard-fought concepts like freedom and privacy, but the joint proposals by the RIAA and MPAA to the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator really blew my brains out: monitoring software installed on people’s computers, border inspections – it’s all there, and then some.
As you may recall, the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator made a request late February for comments on how the United States should handle intellectual property enforcement within the current administration. Apart from advice from the public and organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, big content itself is of course also allowed to shine their light on the matter. Which is good.
What isn’t good, sadly, are the idiotic measures they’ve come up with. If it were up to the RIAA, MPAA, and similar organisations, the American public’s privacy isn’t worth a darn dime. For instance, they state that people should install software on their computers that continuously scans the hard drive for files that may infringe copyright, similar to how antivirus software works. While they add the “voluntary” modifier, the Sony rootkit fiasco has shown us that these people are not to be trusted.
Not only should such software be installed and used by ordinary people, network administrators should install them network-wide as well. Big content already managed to
buy talk US Congress into forcing institutions of higher education into employing such technologies on their campuses back in 2008.
If that wasn’t enough, big content also wants to use border controls and customs as means to combat intellectual property infringement. They want customs to inquire people about infringing content, and taking into account the contents of the latest leaked ACTA proposals, this would also include unlimited access to digital music players and laptops at the border.
But wait, there’s more! The RIAA and MPAA also want to bully countries with more modern and balanced copyright laws, such as The Netherlands. They suggest using the infamous Special 301 report, a list which identifies countries that, according to the RIAA, MPAA, and BSA have too loose IP protection laws. What’s too loose? Canada is listed because it requires customs to have court orders before searching digital devices at the border. Chile is listed because it instated fair use exceptions to copyright. Israel is listed because DMCA-like legislation was rejected there because it was deemed ineffective.
Countries listed in the Special 301 report would then be “put […] on notice that dealing with such hotbeds of copyright theft will be an important topic of bilateral engagement with the U.S. in the year to come”. In other words, the US should sour relationships with allied countries just because their democratic processes work better (and thus more accurately reflect the will of the people, namely that individual downloading and fair use are not wrong).
Lastly, the RIAA and MPAA want to enact a joint task force with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that should pro-actively prevent the leaking of summer blockbusters (among other things). “An interagency task force should work with industry to coordinate and make advance plans to try to interdict these most damaging forms of copyright theft, and to react swiftly with enforcement actions where necessary,” they say.
I wish I was making this stuff up. We can laugh all we want (and as a Dutchman living with relatively modern copyright laws, I most certainly do point and laugh), but the fact of the matter is that these proposals are not as unlikely to be accepted as it seems. The Obama administration has already sided squarely with the ACTA proposals, which are more or less exactly the same. Don’t be surprised to see these proposals come into effect sooner rather than later.
Since I don’t want to be writing the same thing over and over again, let me just copy what I said in a comment on our previous article about this subject.
Should the government have protected companies that made carriages when cars became popular? Should they have supported typewriter makers when word processing software became capable enough? Should they spend tax dollars supporting oil companies once an alternative becomes available? If the Microsoft Windows ecosystem were to ever suffer some sort of devastating blow leading to a mass exodus of users, should the government enact laws to force people to use Windows and buy Windows software anyway, because else so many jobs would be lost?
Or… Should companies and business models just adapt or die?
What’s more important to you, Mr President? Those juicy RIAA/MPAA campaign dollars, or the rights of the American people?