Paying Attention to the Echo Chamber at CES Copyright Panel Discussion

“The Pirate Bay is speech.” This is a quote from one of the gurus perched on the mountaintop of techno-utopianism, John Perry Barlow, who appeared yesterday as a member of a panel discussion held at CES2013 in Las Vegas.

The subject of the discussion was “A pro-artist/pro-innovation approach to copyright,” although the panel did not include anyone representing any counterpoint from contemporary artists, and the conversation was typically vague on what exactly these folks mean by “innovation.” According to moderator Declan McCullugh, a reporter for CNet, an invitation to join the panel was declined by the MPAA; and I suppose that could be considered an effort toward balance, although I think it’s a little like saying, “We’re here to talk auto manufacturing, and the president of Ford doesn’t want to be a straw man, so we didn’t bother to invite any of a zillion other people who make a living actually building cars.” To his credit, McCullugh was mildly deprecating about the one-sided, anti-copyright love fest he was hosting — there’s not much to moderate when everyone agrees with one another — but that doesn’t mean the discussion failed to reveal anything of interest.

The full panel included:

  • John Perry Barlow – Co-Founder , Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF
  • Wilson Holmes – Co-Director , Fight for the Future
  • Mike Masnick – CEO and Founder , TechDirt
  • Hank Shocklee – Founder and CEO, Shocklee Entertainment
  • Gigi Sohn – Co-Founder and President, Public Knowledge
  • (And surprise panelist) Derek Khanna

Of course, had the panel included an independent filmmaker, a small record label producer, a photographer, or an independent musician, the conversation might have been forced to settle down from its lofty heights and overused talking points poking “the content industry” into the nuts and bolts of everyday realities faced by middle and working-class creators. But the petty challenges of middle-class individuals seem to be of little concern to these folks, who believe they’re on a mission to bring about a brave new world. Gigi Sohn stated that any kind of new anti-piracy legislation, were it to dare raise its head in the post-SOPA landscape of net snipers like Public Knowledge, ought to be “grounded in reality.” It’s hard not to laugh at this in light of the fear-mongering exaggerations promoted by her organization and others about SOPA, but beyond that, reality is by definition something different from the the Internet. As such, I’m grateful to Barlow for making one of the few declarative statements that gets right to the reality underlying much of the noise on these issues.

We could set aside all the nit-picky squabbling over dollars lost and earned by big corporations, all the petty complaints about occasional, improper takedowns, all of Lawrence Lessig’s celebration of remix culture and Derek Khanna’s vague references to innovation, and make a decision as a society as to whether or not Barlow’s statement, “The Pirate Bay is speech,” is correct.

Taking a conservative point of view, law is what we as a society agree is immutable (e.g. murder will probably remain illegal), and anything beyond that is up for discussion and maybe shouldn’t be law. Before we could have a discussion about a new approach to copyright, then, we’d have to decide what, if anything, is immutable. Either Barlow is right that an enterprise like The Pirate Bay, which (let’s not mince words) makes its revenues by exploiting the works and investments of other people, is protected by free speech, or he’s wrong. This is a decision the next generation, one that is used to getting entertainment media for free, has to make; and I believe that if they make the expedient decision that Barlow is right, that they and their kids will pay dearly in the future. And the price could be more than the loss of creative culture.

I think it’s safe to say that, before we were on the Internet, before everything could become sharable data, that nobody would rationally have argued that selling bootleg CDs out of a car trunk would be an act protected by free speech. That being the case, the philosophical/legal question is, “What’s really changed?” The techno-utopian says we have to expand our definition of speech on the grounds that, in the digital age, it is all too easy to chill speech; but they fail to acknowledge that they’re standing on a theoretical peak with slippery slopes on all sides. If we define everything as speech, then it’s true that any restrictions of any kind in the digital world can be said to chill speech. The slippery slope in the other direction, though, is that if the business of The Pirate Bay really is speech, then so is a site or a link that promotes human trafficking. As a matter of pure reason, what’s the difference? In real life, both enterprises involve the exploitation of actual human beings (albeit one more grave than the other); but in cyberspace, both enterprises are just benign data, right? Either we will choose to define boundaries going forward, or we will not; and I am not alone in believing the consequences of that decision will become very real within a couple of decades.

Techno-utopians like the ones on yesterday’s panel like to refer to the horrors of a grandmother having her video taken down, either purposely or by accident, from YouTube and then imply that each of these anomalous incidents moves us one step closer toward authoritarian rule. In response to the comparatively benign deprivation of having a video removed from the Web, these folks would have us hyper-extend speech to the inclusion of real physical and economic harm. As I have argued before, this is like legalizing homicide in order to make sure no one is ever again wrongfully sent to death row. If we can negotiate the gravity of such flaws in our legal framework, surely we can get past a few wrongful yet survivable takedowns on the web.

Ostensibly, this panel discussion was about a copyright system that’s good for artists and innovators; but Barlow’s foundational statement puts the artists, who historically test the power of free speech to profound cultural effect, on par with common thieves who dilute both the cultural and economic value of the works they steal. And the implications could be far more serious than what happens to music and movies. To quote Chris Ruen from his new book Freeloading, in which he unknowingly echoes the name of this blog: “But behind free content’s superficial illusion of more lies a long-term reality of less. Sooner or later, it is something we all have to pay for.” Looking beyond the Web’s ability to expand sharing of entertainment media, I believe that price could be something far more dear than money.

© 2013, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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77 comments

  • Not much to say, other than I enjoyed the article very much. Thank you!

  • I’m sorry, but “The Pirate Bay is speech”?!? Even if I could accept this drivel as a valid concept, I’d still have to point out that most societies that accept free speech as a human right STILL feel the need to qualify that with some reasonable limitations. Libel, slander, and not yelling FIRE in a crowded movie theater have all proven to be useful restrictions on “free speech”. Do these standards chill speech? Of course they do, because they put a certain level of personal responsibility on the speaker. Your rights end where mine begin. If I didn’t give it to you, you don’t get to just come and take it.

    Sites like the Pirate Bay, Megaupload, etc. only exist because people (individual or corporate) have chosen to exercise their rights in controlling the usage of their artistic output. These sites choose to violate those rights. I hate to admit it, but on this topic Lars Ulrich was right (he’s sill an ass, but he’s right this time). If I’d wanted to be a t-shirt salesman, I would’ve just opened a Hot Topic franchise and skipped all of the “honing my craft” stuff.

    • Agreed. How in the hell did The Pirate Bay become “free speech”? So outright theft is now free speech? If this is what the techno utopians think, then they have truly broken on through to the other side. And that’s not good for artists at all.

  • I think most people will agree that TPB takes a less than ethical stance in this whole debate, but groups like EFF wonder where and how to draw the line between what is legal and what is not. Viacom for instance would argue that YouTube is just as bad as TPB when it comes to these matters. How many people here would share that view, and if not: how do you draw the legal line that separates YouTube from TPB?

    Also, consider that the EFF didn’t state that copyright infringement taking place on TPB should be considered free speech. They separate the tool (TPB) from the (sometimes/often illegal) use of that tool. The question whether running a site like TPB should be considered free speech is completely different from the question whether copyright infringement should be considered free speech.

    TPB, especially these days, is also used by many artists to promote their own works, and such legal use would certainly qualify as free speech. Should we allow such speech to be stifled in order to prevent copyright infringement? What if we change TPB to YouTube? Does that sentiment still hold?

    This is also a problem many lawgivers struggle with these days: how can you define the law in such a way that it separates companies like TPB and MU from companies like YouTube? How can you run a company that provides storage/cloud services, and remain within a law that defines MU as illegal, and how do you prevent a man like Dotcom from changing his company accordingly to remain within the law?

    • Isn’t VIACOMs point that in 2007 youtube was exactly like TPB, that it had built its community up based on copyright infringement, that Google knew this when it bought it, and that whilst it had the technology to detect infringement on its newly bought sitem it was only willing to employ said technology if the copyright owner was willing to license the content to Google at a preferential rate. IOW it was running something like a protection racket.

      • Very much so. YouTube did not gain that kind of value from people watching dumb pet videos.

      • Actually, technology capable of detecting such infringement hasn’t been around for that long. Google was one of the first to bring a system like ContentID to the market, though I remember Philips experimenting with it somewhere around the year 2k.

        Still, you do make my point quite well: there aren’t really that many people who would jump up to defend TPB, but by putting YouTube in the same group as TPB, suddenly you face massive opposition from all those people who use YouTube to display their funny videos, and all those (independent) artists who use YouTube to gain visibility, or even monetize their own works. From a PR perspective, Viacom would have been wise to stay away from YouTube, and focus on sites like TPB in stead.

      • With regard to YouTube, this post by Ellen Seidler says all I need to know to demand Google take more responsibility and to suggest that charging certain individuals criminally is perfectly reasonable no matter how much the web industry wants to paint them as innocent victims. http://voxindie.org/youtube-pirate-partners-profit

      • How is this different from the offline world, where people can take credit for other people’s work, and make a profit from it? This program was set up to allow independent film makers to make money from their own works; they wouldn’t be too happy with you if you got this program cancelled.

        On the other hand: if infringers use this program, their financial information is available to YouTube, and could be used to prosecute the actual infringers. You wouldn’t find many people opposing that action.

      • I’m not sure to what scenario you’re referring when you describe people profiting by taking credit for others’ works. I’m unaware of rampant, for-profit, plagiarism, at least in the Western world. And YouTube was certainly not designed to help independent filmmakers, even though it is now used by many indies in this way. YouTube is a cash cow, and its owners don’t really care what content generates clicks. And shock of shocks, it’s often the mainstream, mass media content that’s the most popular, which is also true of the torrent sites.

        Regardless, nobody is talking about shutting down YouTube anymore than we’d talk about shutting down a manufacturer that might need to clean up its emissions practices. Holding Google responsible is perfectly reasonable because making money from a crime, even unintentially, bears a responsibility. It’s like being in possession of stolen goods, only in this case, Google is saying, “I don’t know, Man, we’ve got so much damn stuff here. I’m sure some it’s stolen, but we can’t figure it out. Feel free to look around, and we’ll do what we can I guess.” All to the tune of way more money than the majority of creators out there will make from the works being exploited.

      • Well, the case of Tanya Grotter comes to mind, but other than that there are of course plenty of examples of people selling counterfeit and/or infringing works on the streets or through ads.

        With regards to YouTube though: I read in your words that you don’t think YouTube is doing enough yet (ContentID, DMCA removal, account removal). What more do you think they should do? If what you want turns out to be either technologically and/or financially infeasible, should they be forced to shutdown then?

      • I basically answered this in my last response based on your previous comment. Nobody thinks YouTube should be shut down (although I personally don’t think it’s the great boon to global culture many people do), but Google isn’t really doing all it can at all, particularly with messaging.

      • As I asked in my post: exactly what do you think they could do more?

      • The truth is that I don’t think they are disposed to do what I would have them do in the same way I don’t expect the NRA to shut up about guns and civil liberties. There is an ideological aspect of this that makes a conversation about practicalities, like you’re asking, nearly impossible. At least right now. That’s why I wrote a post begging the question of society as to whether or not Barlow is right. If people feel he’s right, the details don’t matter. We’ve changed our cultural disposition such that a new paradigm is inevitable. I happen to think that will a bad thing. If, on the other hand, I’m wrong, and Google is not driven by an ideology as I see it, then they can start by changing their communications to the public, stop pretending that copyrights are just about big corporations, stop feeding teenagers pro-piracy messages, stop fear-mongering about government spying while they data mine more effectively than any organization you can name. I’m not holding my breath. (Will be out for a while, so apologies in advance for your replies hanging in limbo.)

      • Changes in behaviour by a company are rarely volunteered, and usually forced by either customers or by law. In this case, changes forced by customers are very unlikely, so that would leave law.

        When it comes to law however, the following questions must be answered in this case:
        – Will the problem be solved/reduced by the law?
        – Is it technologically feasible to implement the law?
        – Is it not financially prohibitive to implement the law?
        – Do the benefits outweigh the cost?

        Since I’m regularly involved in discussing copyright policy with politicians, finding out how people would like to see the law changed is certainly of interest to me. That’s where my questions come from.

      • Actually, Pieter, I don’t think you can reasonably hope to separate law from customers (i.e. public sentiment). As referenced in my post, law is what we agree as a people is immutable. There will likely not be an effective anti-piracy law without a cultural commitment to support it. That said, popular opinion isn’t always wise; and in this case at this time, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans don’t give these issues the slightest thought. I think it’s a cultural decision that will be discussed by my generation and decided upon by the next. If my kids’ generation grows up believing in some variation of Lessig, then that’s probably the ballgame. But I predict art, culture, and possibly some other things will suffer as a result.

        All that said, if your questions can be consolidated to the following: “Do I think it’s possible to write policy that will effectively mitigate piracy?” My answer is yes. Why not? If we can starve a terrorist organization of money, why not TPB or a similar enterprise? Why not a law, for instance, that puts the burden on American advertisers — fines for advertising on sites dedicated to infringement? They’d put pressure on the media buying services instantly. Would it be perfect? No. Is it technologically possible? Yes. Would it make piracy less financially attractive? Probably. Is it fair? Absolutely. We have laws about where one can and can’t advertise cigarettes, and it took a long time to get them on the books; but the generation behind mine has a completely different relationship (i.e. they don’t smoke as much) to smoking than previous generations. Ditto environmentalism, and that also required a cultural shift ahead of policy changes.

        The point is that policy and cultural messages have to happen in concert; and culture leads policy, not the other way around. This is where I’m inclined to agree with those who say the heavy hands of trade organizations suing individuals in the 2000s is, if nothing else, very bad PR. We can’t exclusively legislate and sue our way to a solution, but we also can’t pretend there isn’t a problem because Masnick and Barlow and Co. say there isn’t. You seem to keep coming back to law and tech as though there is a binary answer here (there I go sounding all techie), and I don’t think there is. I wouldn’t write this blog if I thought that were the case. It’s not a “law on” or “law off” thing.

        I believe we’re at the leading edge of a period when we’ll start to see some real consequences of putting too much emphasis on the presumed value of this technology. The “arms race” you describe began over music, the RIAA, Lars Ulrich and Napster; and the warriors are still carrying those somewhat obsolete banners. But now we’re heading into new territory — cyberwarfare; piracy’s effect on motion pictures (which will be worse than music); crimes far worse than IP infringement that get people killed and hurt in real life; and an open question as to exactly what Google, Facebook, et al will try to do with all the data they’re collecting. Then, of course, the money that drives this whole engine — advertising — still hasn’t really figured out what the hell its doing in terms of ROI vis a vis social media. I predict there will come a point in the next decade when the Google-eyed will not be able to claim that the Internet is a lawless but benign and elevating place, and we’ll see what happens. At that point, we may be able to apply your questions to proposed law; but I don’t think we’re ready to have that conversation in an effective way yet. I hope that we do before running off a cultural cliff.

      • Considering the changes in copyright law of the last decennia, I’m not sure I agree with your statement that changes in the law have to go hand in hand with public opinion. The harsh truth is that neither the general public nor the general politicians care much about copyright law; it’s mostly driven by lobby groups. That is: unless people are convinced it really hits them hard in other ways, like it did with SOPA/PIPA/ACTA.

        The problem with financial laws like you propose is the question who gets to decide if a site is “dedicated to infringement”, and under the laws of which country. An “I know it when I see it” is not acceptable when you place that burden upon a third party like financial services or ad companies. That’s aside from it being practically impossible to check out every customer such companies get. Scale really is a huge issue on the internet.

      • As to your first paragraph, Pieter, you get to the heart of what I find dysfunctional about governance in the age of the Internet. We could argue the merits of SOPA/PIPA itself, but NOBODY will convince me that the majority of my fellow Americans who clicked protests against the bills knew what the hell they were talking about, and I include good friends in that accusation. It was a Pavlovian response, and there’s nothing healthy about attempting in this way to have referendum on every complex issue before a legislative body. The government takes action all day long that citizens don’t understand or have the time to understand, and for better or worse, this is the efficiency of having a republic. Copyright extensions may well have occurred in a time when truly nobody cared except the industries that pushed for them, and now we’re in a period of lobby group v lobby group to a certain extent; but the Web industry has the advantage of using a megaphone that has the appearance of informed, populist sentiment. This is more insidious, I believe, than any power yet wielded. It is why I started writing about these issues.

        As for your second paragraph, I disagree that identifying an enterprise as “dedicated to infringement” is quite so vague as you suggest. I don’t care, for instance, that MegaUpload could be used as a storage locker. The trash gets picked up better in neighborhoods with Mafia dons, and gangsters sometimes run legit businesses and donate to charities. This doesn’t get them a pass on criminal activity. The gray area some people seem to see is that the enterprise — basically a bunch of servers and some software — is all of a piece, and they get lost in technicalities like where the files really are, etc. These are nonsense loopholes to get past the fact that people like Dotcom make millions by exploiting and causing others to exploit the work of other human beings. In the case of motion pictures, this means a lot of middle-class, skilled labor. And I have my doubts that scale is so overwhelming. We have software that maintains the integrity and security of trillions of financial transactions worldwide. There is a finite number of torrent or pirate sites, and an even smaller number of American advertisers who purposely or inadvertently put their money in the pockets of those site owners. If just the advertisers my friends have identified — McDonalds, Levi’s, etc. — would take responsibility for their media buys, it would be a significant step in the right direction. If they won’t, they should be forced to by law; and nobody can claim free speech or breaking the Internet as a counter argument. I’ve heard the “we can’t track it” argument before, but isn’t it funny that you won’t find ads for anti-cholesterol drugs or other products aimed at Baby Boomers on torrent sites? Somebody’s doing the targeting.

      • Oh, there’s not a doubt in my mind that most of the people involved in the SOPA/PIPA protests, both in favour and against it, had any clue on what was exactly in the law, and what the consequences would be. Truth of the matter is that many people think in black and white, and so both sides of the fence play to the fears of the people. It’s also true that companies like Google have a huge power to reach people, but then again; so does the entertainment industry (tv, movies, radio, etc.). That last group however has done a great job ruining its own reputation over the past decades, so people tend to not trust them anymore.

        It’s also pretty clear that e.g. MegaUpload is run by a very questionable individual. The problem however is that from a technical and service perspective, there really weren’t that many differences between RapidShare (which was found not guilty in the US) and MegaUpload, and the law is supposed to be equal to all, and should not depend on how much you like the owner of a company.

        Even then, the judgement should be reserved to a judge in a court of law, and not be placed upon the shoulders of an ad company or a payment company.

      • Back in 2007 Google DID have the ability to detect content. This feature was offered to those copyright holders that were prepared to grant Google a license. VIACOM held out and sued.

        As for Barlow: Whilst there is a 1st amendment right in standing on the street corner and speaking your own words, there is none in reciting ‘verbatim’ the words of another, though there may be in some circumstances a fair-use defence. Notwithstanding that it is also some one’s right not to forced to speak, and having once spoken to be allowed to cease to speak, TPB removes that right.

      • Thanks for commenting, John. Actually, I’m pretty sure I could literally stand on the street and recite just about anything without much fear of consequence, but you make the fundamental point about sites like TPB and about the core right of copyright that so many forget (or never knew). The civil right granted to the author is the right of choice. That choice is removed by infringers — and in the name of “freedom!”

      • You have a point, but I can also understand Google’s point of view. They spent a lot of money developing a complicated piece of software, and had no obligation under the law to offer it to others for free. Viacom could have written their own software if they wanted to, but chose not to. As far as anyone knew, they also had no obligations under the DMCA to police their servers, though that’s currently under review by the courts. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.

      • I think that if your business plan is to have a dumb site where users can upload and store content on your servers then a safe harbour should apply. If however your business plan is to shove adverts around that content then you are not acting like a dumb repository and safe harbours should not apply especially when you know that 90% of the content on your site is infringing.

  • I agree with your perspective, but think you’re giving even giving too much credit to Barlow. If only laws were immutable. They’re actually changing things, subject to changes, interpretations and reinterpretations. Sometimes they’re not even especially clear just by the nature of what they’re trying to control or regulate.

    There’s the often quoted phrase from former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in a pornography case:

    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

    Same thing with Pirate Bay. Barlow’s being too cute by half. We all know that’s not free speech.

    • I think we need to distinguish between two matters: the tools and the uses of the tools.

      When it comes to the illegal uses of such tools, I think we can clearly say that free speech is generally not an excuse (there were some exceptions, e.g. some of the Scientology lawsuits). Copyright infringement is illegal, plain and simple. There are however also many people who use these tools for legal purposes, and that should certainly qualify as free speech. Kill the illegal uses, and not that many people will complain about it. Kill the tool in order to prevent the illegal uses, and all those people who use it for legal purposes will not be too happy with you.

      Practically all forms of communication are used for both legal and illegal purposes, in varying degrees depending on the changes made by those who use it for illegal purposes. FTP for instance was originally used for mainly legal purposes, but was during the 90s heavily used for illegal purposes. These days, hardly anyone uses it for illegal distribution anymore; the infringers have moved to new platforms, and not due to anything the creators of the FTP tools did.

      These days it’s mostly bittorrent, newsgroups YouTube, and file lockers. How much effort can we demand from their creators to prevent infringement, and how effective will it be? If it somehow does become effective, the infringers will move on to the next platform, and the whole cycle starts all over again. What damage will we do to the platforms in the mean time?

      Take YouTube. Without doubt, it is used for copyright infringement (sometimes by accident; sometimes on purpose). ContentID certainly helped to reduce that infringement, but it has also killed off quite a few perfectly legal videos due to faulty matching, and its inability to detect fair use. Still, to many creators, ContentID still isn’t strong enough. During the Napster trial, 99% detection rate was not considered good enough. It was 100% or shutdown, and we all know what happened to Napster. Should we hold YouTube to that same standard, and if we do: what platform will new artists have to distribute their own work?

      YouTube’s incentive program was intended to help new artists monetize their own work, but just like in the real world there’s no automatic way to prevent people from claiming ownership over other people’s work, and making money off that. Should we kill the incentive program over that, and take away the ability for new artists to make money with their own work?

      Such views also won’t help in raising public support for new copyright laws. Quite often these days we see independent artists taking sides with infringers, not because they support infringement, but because they need the same tools the infringers do in order to monetize their own work.

      During the BPDG discussions, the MPAA had requirements on video recording equipment that were so severe that they wanted a special exception for themselves to use equipment that didn’t adhere to these standards, and anyone who wanted similar equipment needed consent from at least 3 major studios in order to be allowed to have them. You can imagine how well received that was by independent film makers, and eventually the BPDG proposals found their way to the trashcan, just like SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA.

      That does leave us with a serious problem: it is technologically infeasible to prevent infringement by natural persons, and as time goes by, infringement will only get easier. Should we continue the arms race, and risk eroding the public support for copyright even more, or should we perhaps consider alternative options?

      • You ask valid questions, Peter, but I’ll again point out that this new post, which has inspired your responses here and on Twitter, is about culture more than it is about legal frameworks or technology. In fact, I expressly suggest that we take all of the complexity off the table for a moment and decide as a society what is and isn’t protected speech, and Barlow provided an opportunity to pose the question in black and white terms. My underlying belief — and I am not alone — is that many people in the Web industry are neither economically nor ideologically disposed to care about individual creators, despite what lip service some may pay to the contrary. No, we don’t need to kill YouTube, but we should not pretend that it’s the only (or necessarily the best) tool for legit creators to showcase, or even monetize their work. It just happens to be the biggest and most pervasive, which can be a problem in itself.

        You could be right that mass infringement is unstoppable, either by legal or technological means, although I think it is both reasonable and possible to starve certain infringers of sources of funding, particularly when many of them are advertisers and ad servers who are U.S. companies.
        This is one of the problems I/we have with some of your questions about the tools v uses argument. Google wants to argue that they’re the phone company — a valuable service — and that they can’t be responsible for the nature of every phone call. But, of course, this isn’t really analogous, is it? If two kidnappers have a conversation about abducting someone into sex slavery on the phone, Verizon certainly can’t be held responsible. But if an ad served by DoubleClick on a torrent site leads you to an “escort service” that happens to traffic in human slaves, and that same site might also have ads for Levi’s, I think people would have no problem holding the owners of these tools responsible for profiting even inadvertently from such heinous crimes against young women.

        I reference trafficking because it’s a growing problem, one being fueled by the Internet; and the tool owners (to reference your comments) could make exactly the same arguments about contributing to that activity as they presently make about mass infringement. Hence, my larger concern about the implications about that industry’s messaging beyond copyright. Part of Silicon Valley’s approach to IP infringement is to fund organizations, groups, and scholars who put out the message that copying or “sharing” by users is not only permissible, but a good thing. This trickles down to 15 year-old, privileged Americans who I promise you do not give a thought to their role in the billions of illegal downloads of entertainment media. Their attitudes are supported by smart-sounding adults, who send out messages like “TBP is free speech” and “copying isn’t stealing.” This phenomenon is not just about copyright protections and what to do about them, but is about literally eroding a moral code in young people as well as a sound cultural relationship with the media itself. Why does a 19 year-old college student watch 50 movies he expects he won’t like and torrent them on the grounds that he expects not to like them? That’s a wholly corrupt logic as well as a corrupt relationship with films; and I think it matters even though the activity is theoretically revenue neutral.

        Culture leads policy. I think the culture that fuels mass infringement and puts cash in the pockets of literal thieves is a problem, and the voices of Silicon Valley are not helping. As to the technological acceleration of more serious problems like trafficking, narcotics, or weapons, we’re only in the early stages of seeing where this all leads. As it stands, I’m more than concerned about the implications of letting the the owners of the tools entirely off the hook.

      • With regards to speech: We can argue about whether the tool (TPB, MU, RS, YT, WWW, FTP, Skype, etc.) that can or is used for infringement is free speech. I think it should be. That doesn’t mean that certain businessmen can’t be held accountable for setting up services targeted at making money from infringement. That is a separate discussion.

        When it comes to tools though, the technical feasibilities are a huge part of the discussion, and also a rather important reason as to why the tech industry got involved in the first place. The major problem is that we, with all our technological know-how and experience, don’t see a technological solution to the problem you describe. Certainly, we can take steps in the right direction, but every measure we take is quickly circumvented by infringers or simply bypassed as they move to a different platform, while at the same time carrying collateral damage to legal free speech (e.g. artists promoting their own work, companies abusing measures to target competitors, etc.) and isn’t exactly free to implement either. On top of that: no matter what we do: according to the big entertainment lobbies (RIAA, MPAA, etc.) it’s never enough.

        That’s even leaving aside those technological companies that sell you an expensive lie, like e.g. DRM. All that’s done is help those tech companies get a monopoly position, like e.g. Apple. It hasn’t helped fight copyright infringement.

        YouTube/Google already spent quite a lot of resources on anti-infringement measures, like filters, contentID, etc., often going far beyond what the law requires. For all their troubles, they still get called out for “profiting from infringement”.

        Can you imagine how tech companies in the end simply decide to stand with the “pirates” in stead? They may not agree with them either, but at least they’re not trying to destroy their businesses by loading extra costs upon them, and calling for laws that make otherwise perfectly legal products illegal.

        And so we all just try to survive, blocking bad laws when they appear, and bringing tools into the market that are used to great advantage by both artists and infringers. We build writing software, like LibreOffice, used to write both new and plagiarizing books, The Gimp, used to create both new and infringing images, and bittorrent, used to legally distribute Linux distributions, and game patches by some of the largest gaming companies in the world, and also used to illegally distribute music, games and movies without the copyright holder’s permission.

        Our frustrations?
        That we’re called liars when we tell you that there’s no technological solution.
        That we’re told to come up with solutions of our own (that we may believe do not exist) when we tell you why your own solutions will not work.

        Does that mean we don’t care about infringement? Of course we do, but even some of the most successful tech companies, like e.g. Microsoft, still are not capable of coming up with a solution to protect even their own works. Why do you believe they could find one to protect yours?

        You want a solution?
        Accept that the problem cannot be solved by technological means, and commit to a discussion on alternative ways to make sure artists get paid, like e.g. levies. Are they perfect? Probably not, but at least they’re a better alternative than this arms race. If it makes you feel any better: Mike Masnick would hate those solutions as well. 🙂

      • About to get on the road, but will respond ASAP. Thanks for the discussion.

      • I’m sorry, but after having worked in this field for over 15 years, I don’t buy the “there’s no technological solution” argument. There were also “no technological solutions” to thousands of other things that we now take for granted. There *may be* solutions out there if the same level of R&D existed.

        The central problem of rights technologies is that there is no meaningful R&D because no one wants to pay for it. Content industries went around demanding that downstream entities implement things like DRM which cost money and limit functionality for users. It’s little wonder that companies like Apple and Amazon figured out ways to turn these technologies to their advantage.

        As for levies: yeah, they’re better than nothing, but if they’re the best we can come up with then God help us…

      • What field would that be if I may ask?

        The problem of how to prevent natural persons from infringing copyrights does indeed not have a technological solution. It’s like trying to make water less wet. The closest we can come is DRM, spyware and malware, and we know how that turned out.

        We can of course stop certain platforms from being used for the purpose of infringement, but that only destroys the platforms (which in the case of TPB I wouldn’t mind, but in the case of YouTube I would), and the infringers will simply move to another platform, like they did with Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus, etc. so it doesn’t really solve the infringement problem.

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  • On another note: what _can_ the tech industry do for you?

    Well, we can of course create tools that help you produce new works, and reduce your cost of doing so, but we can also create tools that help you detect copyright infringement (like Google ImageSearch and ContentID). Of course that still leaves the problem of having to prosecute such infringers, but that’s not something we can help you with.

    • Your response to my previous comment didn’t have a reply button, so I’ll reply here.

      I have been involved in all forms of rights technologies – DRM, fingerprinting, watermarking, rights registries, identifier standards, you name it, since 1994. I wrote a book on DRM in 2001. I have consulted to the majority of the vendors in the field. I have a blog called Copyright and Technology, copyrightandtechnology.com. I run a biannual conference on this stuff. I have consulted to government bodies in the US and Europe on it. There, is that enough?

      Yes, “DRM, spyware and malware” exist and have problems and limitations; that doesn’t mean that they are the only solutions possible. Your argument, which I have heard thousands of times, is both logically unsound and typical of copyleft strawmen. We don’t know what we haven’t tried yet, nor is anyone (that I know of) looking for a perfect solution.

      Bruce Schneier actually said “trying to make digital files uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.” Technical methods to mitigate infringement are not all about limiting copies.

      I happen to be optimistic about graduated response, such as in France, based on the results so far (which I would not call conclusive). That has nothing to do with “DRM, spyware and malware”, or with copying bits.

      I have found that solutions can be found to many technical problems if the pot at the end of the rainbow has enough gold. Targeted advertising was supposed to be an “unsolvable problem” during the first Internet bubble around 2000. For one thing, privacy concerns were supposed to make that one impossible. Look how that turned out.

      • Just chiming in to say that I’m grateful to see dialogue here, and I believe I have changed the settings so that comments will appear automatically if they come from an author who has been previously approved. That way, conversation doesn’t have to wait for me to be available. Thank you for participating!

        DN

      • My apologies: I did not question your credentials; I just didn’t know which field you were talking about, since I did not recognise your name. 🙂 Personally I’ve been an ASIC designer in the telecom industry for over 15 years now, designing and implementing many forms of encryption and authentication methods. Next to that I’m also a software engineer, and musician.

        Of course mitigation of infringement is not just about limiting copies, but it is a large (and failed; DRM on audio/video couldn’t work by design) part of it. There are other parts, like identification of infringement (which won’t do much unless you also litigate; otherwise it’s just notice-and-takedown or just takedown, and even the entertainment industry agrees that that’s not working out too well), blocking of platforms (which is usually routed around quite easily), etc. Any time we do manage to find something that significantly lowers infringement on a platform (usually by placing legal limitations on the platform, e.g. Napster), the infringers have already moved on to different one, so that doesn’t mitigate much either.

        I would hardly consider graduated response a technological solution (I did say I do not think there is a _technological_ solution to infringement by natural persons in my posts) to be honest, and its results so far don’t give me much hope as to mitigate infringement either.

      • Pieter,

        Graduated response absolutely is a technological solution. Just ask the handful of vendors of content recognition and network monitoring technology who compete fiercely for the business 🙂

        And depending on how you define DRM, it’s an exaggeration to say that it has failed. If you define it as a system that encrypts content and requires the user to decrypt it using some hardware and/or software, then conditional access for pay TV, just to name one example, is hardly a failure…

      • The software we produce used to be extensively pirated. A few years ago we tightened up the DRM. It took a few iterations but we no longer see cracked versions of the software.

      • (replying to John Warr’s comment below, which doesn’t have a reply button)

        Yep, another good example. And here’s why: Both of these (software antipiracy and conditional access technologies) have the proper alignment of economic incentives: those who pay for it are those who benefit.

        In the case of conditional access, cable and satellite TV operators want to prevent theft of service, which happens to coincide with preventing copyright infringement. I’ve seen statistics from a major software company on the success of its antipiracy technology program, showing piracy reduction amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

        As in so many other parts of life and business, you get what you pay for.

      • I would separate the detection of the infringement (as part of the report process) from the actual graduated response part (which may or may not have some automation built in, but isn’t much of a technological solution in itself). I guess that’s a matter of semantics though. 🙂

        I do agree that I should have limited myself though: TPMs cannot protect a message from its intended recipient.

      • John, since I don’t know which software this would be (nor the platform it was written for) I cannot really comment on the validity of your statement either.

        It’s well known that for e.g. software that isn’t really open to a platform shift (like console games), TPMs do assist in reducing infringement, since the cracked software still requires a cracked console in order to run. This is different for audio and video of course, since they can be shifted to different platforms.

      • We write software for industry it comes with a 25K price tag. I’m aware that a large number of those with pirate copies are young guys training to use the software in their spare time, and would never buy a copy, I don’t really care about their use. I’m also aware of large companies that have a handful of licenses to gain access to the support network and far more copies then licensed, those I do care about.

        Our legit customers also buy our software for the economic advantage that it gives them, they expect us to protect their investment so that the guy around the corner isn’t freeriding on a pirate copy of the same software.

      • I’m familiar with the type; we use similarly (and higher) priced licensed software in our own company. 🙂

  • If i own and run a deli, there are things that maybe i don’t want to do, but are a cost of doing business. Health Inspections may be a PITA, but are for the good of the public.
    Now, if drug dealers set up shop in my store, i WILL be held liable for it, especially if i’m taking a cut of the money…
    I don’t see how there is any question of legality or ethics or criminality in cases like TPB and the like. Especially since the owners have been convicted in several courts… yet still the site operates.
    Such things are a serious black eye for “CIVILization”.

    • Well, that is part of the problem, isn’t it? The original owners have been convicted, but not the current owners nor the site itself. A judge can order them to pull down the site all (s)he wants, but they couldn’t even if they wanted to.

      • Not sure I follow, Peter. Original owners of YouTube? Not convicted of anything to my knowledge. Regardless, this is a discussion about responsibility and culture. You could argue that Google doesn’t have the capability to stop how its site used, and even if I accept that outright, there’s no argument to be made to defend the entire industry’s promotion of treading over the rights of creators of any size. There’s also no ambiguity here. They promote infringement out of one side of their face while telling everyone to “think different” out of the other. Remove legal and tech remedies for a moment and just look at cultural impact (the point of this post). It’s tech-guru nonsense preaching to youth that they’re essentially right to steal. And then the insult to injury is that Google just happens to make millions from the infringements.

      • Audio was talking about the conviction of TPB, not YouTube. 🙂

      • Sorry. This interface actually makes it a little hard to track what’s responding to what.

      • The thing is, you can’t ignore the legal & tech realities. They are fundamentally where the modern opposition to copyright comes from.

      • Doesn’t matter if the ‘owners’ change or not. Directors change on scam business, and dodgy tradesmen businesses all the time. The business remains the same. In the case of websites if the person or webhost is unwilling to fix the problem then that it becomes their problem and that of their other customers. I have no problem with that at all. If a mailing service is sending out spam each day from a number of its customers and refuses to deal with the issue then we have no problem with blocking all email from the service, no one complains about that, even if there are 100s of legit customers of the service.

        When wikipedia gets a whole bunch of vandalism from an IP range they block the IP range, and no one is running about crying censorship the horror, the horror. Yet if one talks about blocking an IP because of copyright issues the sky is falling.

      • Exactly. What is technologically impossible one minute is technologically possible when it suits. Free expression is squelched all the time when social media networks comply with local laws in countries that don’t have our First Amendment. I consider this unfortunate, but it seems pretty clear that selective blocking, etc. is not that hard when there isn’t any choice. Child pornography is a really easy example. You can bet the rent money Google, Facebook, etc. are on constant alert for this crime because nobody’s going to give a free pass on child porn as free expression. Except maybe Rick Falkvinge. 🙂

      • Changing owners does matter if you sue the owners rather than the company. TPB wasn’t found guilty; the previous owners were, and so there’s no judgement to enforce against TPB or its current owners.

        Blocking websites doesn’t work, unless you can do it on a global scale. Otherwise you can simply use a proxy server to get around the block. They blocked both the DNS and the IP addresses of TPB in the Netherlands, but it didn’t help at all. In the mean time you’ve got the first people complaining about problems with DNSSEC due to these DNS blocks. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dutch politicians will adopt a law forbidding DNS blocks because of this.

        Blocking an IP range to access your server is a completely different technological problem from trying to block your customers from accessing a certain IP range. The block may work, but customers can simply proxy their way around your block.

        As for child pornography: few people will have problems with these blocks indeed, but they’re not any more successful in preventing people who want to access it from accessing it, and the big problem with infringers is that they WANT to access sites like TPB.

      • DNSSEC blocking was never part of SOPA that was FUD put out by opponents. The point was that of course people could proxy around DNS blocking. No one was under any illusions about that, if someone wanted to get to TPB they could figure a technical way to get there, the point was to make it harder for people to just stumble across it. More importantly were the provisions to make it harder for people to pay for stuff, without going to some dodgy payment system in the depths of who knows where, and to remove the adverts from the sites.

      • DNS blocking WAS a part of SOPA, and DNS blocking and DNSSEC do not go together, as DNS experts like Paul Vixie have clearly explained, e.g. http://www.circleid.com/posts/20120111_refusing_refused_for_sopa_pipa/

        I’m sorry, but that has nothing to do with FUD, and everything to do with politicians not understanding the details of DNSSEC.

      • Apparently the DNS experts were over reaching:
        http://www.hightechforum.org/my-dns-filtering-research-before-house-sopa-panel/

        If DNS filtering affected DNSSEC at all it was that those sites that were filtered couldn’t use DNSSEC. It didn’t affect anyone else.

      • I’ve seen this debate like 20 times before, mostly pre-SOPA:

        1. Pro-SOPA person: DNSSEC won’t get derailed.
        2. Anti-SOPA: Yes it will, see this study from Vixie.
        3. Pro-SOPA: No it won’t, see this other study from some other guy.
        4. Anti-SOPA: He’s lying!
        5. Pro-SOPA: No the other he is lying!
        6. RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE
        7. Everyone leaves butthurt and disappointed.

        I think we are at step 3 over here.

        Regardless, Pro-SOPA guys, you lost and lost hard. So debating this issue is even more pointless then it was in 2011. I’d just drop it and try something new. But suit yourself.

      • John,

        I’m familiar with the statements, and the man who made them, and as much as I may admire him; he is no DNS expert.

        The DNS tree is built on trust, which implies that if a DNS server does not follow protocol on any one request, that server is considered compromised for all future requests. This implies that if anyone sends out a request for e.g. TPB, and that server does not give a proper DNSSEC response (which is basically what SOPA called for), that server is considered under attack, and will not be used for any further requests for any name translation.

  • The results of getting Declan McCullagh to moderate a panel on copyright policy should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his long track record of reporting on tech policy for CNet. It’s like getting a reporter from Guns & Ammo to moderate a panel on gun control reform. Of course the MPAA refused to participate. Duh.

  • I’d be interested to see your comments about this:

    • I’m very sorry to hear about Aaron’s tragic death, but I still reject the premise that SOPA would have censored the Internet or threatened free speech. And I’m a pretty big proponent of free speech on just about every imaginable level. His premise about corporations stating, “there’s not that much money in civil liberties” is naive at best. There’s lots of money in civil liberties; civil liberty is one of the reasons the U.S. is a wealthy nation.

      In general, the Internet in the hands of young Americans can be an incredible tool for speaking truth to power against real threats to human rights, human dignity, and human survival. Instead, it is too often being used by privileged kids to foster paranoid fears about non-existent threats to speech itself. Redditors et al should spend more time focusing on something like the increase in violence against women and less time whinging over basic rights they already enjoy.

      • Unfortunately he apparently pissed off a lot of powerful people and had trumped up charges (35+ years in jail) leveled against him for “hacking” a website that didn’t even want charges pressed against him. That can drive a lot of people to suicide. This isn’t the first time a prominent computer scientist was knocked off in this manner. Happened to Alan Turing as well.

        I don’t see corporations lobbying for civil liberties, there seems to always be related to protecting their business model. And that’s fine, it’s not up to corporations and monied interests to lobby for civil liberties, it’s up to the average individual citizen.

        Yeah I think when you start labeling websites as illegal and block them from the ‘net, yeah that’s kind of a free speech issue there. His point is when you have a violation of the law, you deal with that violation. You don’t melt down the printing press where the violation occurred.

        And you know what, if you can’t find a good way to enforce copyright the problem is copyright.

      • M, I’m really not going to get into a protracted thing about Swartz himself, if for no other reason than I’m not comfortable doing so this close to his death. I think his family, although they’re not likely to visit this site, deserves more space than that.

        Turing, however, committed suicide over the fact that it was illegal in England at the time to be a homosexual. He took hormone therapy, which messed up his body chemistry quite horribly.

        Beyond that, I find your comments about corporations and civil liberties don’t square with history, with a broad view of business, or with real fights for civil liberties. Reddit is a corporation. Twitter is a corporation. Pandora is a corporation. Facebook is a corporation. And Google is one of the most powerful corporations on Earth. Yet, all of these at one point or another claim to stand for civil liberties. I’d point out that Wall Street firms and polluting manufacturers use civil liberties language to fight regulations of their industries. Hence your generalization makes no sense.

        Sure, if you’re going to identify a site like TPB as protected by speech (as Barlow does), then you’ll see any attempt to label it illegal as a threat to speech. The argument is circular. As already stated, if that’s your premise, there’s nothing further to discuss. I and others find this premise both absurd and potentially dangerous. Copyright is just the beginning, but I’m not going to summarize the entire contents of this blog in this reply.

      • All corporations claim to stand for civil liberties when it suits them. SOPA was definitely against the business interests of tech companies, but not as much as you’d think (ie. it wasn’t an extensional threat or anything like that), but enough that it worth spending a little effort lobbying against it.

        He mentions that you can’t rely on tech companies to defend the Internet every time, some times there are laws that are clearly bad for privacy or censorship but they are indifferent to or even like (ie. laws that reduce their liability, like one that came shortly after SOPA). If we wait on Google or Facebook to defend our rights, we won’t have any. And this fabrication that “the people” have little control over their government is dangerous.

        And hell yeah, TBP or any website is protected by free speech. Even if 99.99% of the website is illegal stuff, the government has no business interfering with the 0.01%. Websites are quite by definition speech. Your website, every website is full of speech. So no, the government has no business shutting a website down for any reason. You don’t shut down a website because they are doing something illegal, you prosecute the natural people involved in the illegal behavior, get rid of the illegal stuff only, leave the legal stuff alone.

      • Well, there you go. You consider all websites inherently speech no matter their purpose or practices. This a problem, one that will manifest in events worse than illegal music downloads. And, yes, we do shut down whole enterprises engaged in illegal activity all the time. Remarkably, freedom hasn’t suffered. The people are more likely to cede control of their governance by buying into the illusions of social media, hacktivism, and industry-sponsored protest than by any other means.

      • Well obviously you have different values than me. I think it’s a problem that you don’t view websites and Internet communications as inherently speech.

        Well, it is more of a problem that Congress doesn’t seem to share that view, but that’s seemingly starting to change especially in the post-SOPA era. But we’ll see.

      • It is an insult to those who have used free speech to change the world to suggest that the same right protects even criminal activity. I wouldn’t make assumptions about people’s values. When push comes to shove, I’ll bet I’m more passionate about free speech than most people, which is part of why I don’t like to see it abused to cover those who do tangible harm.

      • Even the worst criminals have free speech, it’s an immutable right. And illegal activity is no excuse to harm legal activity, especially if that activity is protected speech.

        Let’s go with the most hated entity for now. The Pirate Bay.

        TPB, the interesting thing about it is the site is basically just a platform for sharing information with other people. Any information you want, it can be shared.

        Obviously some of the content on a site like TPB is illegal according some the local laws of various jurisdictions copyright, blasphemy laws, whatever, you can find laws all over the place content on TBP violates. As a user of a site like TBP, it’s up to you to have consult with a lawyer and be careful to not violate your local information restriction laws. But TBP said they not interested in playing the role of information police.

        Copyright is naturally very hard to not violate as an Internet user, but generally speaking, organizations aren’t really interested in enforcing their copyright to the maximum extent. So you should be okay unless you download obvious stuff like Latest Hollywood Movie The Third_DVDRip_LOLOLOL or whatever. That sort of thing is probably illegal in the USA and could get you in trouble, like losing your life savings type of trouble, even if you accidentally clicked the link.

        On the other hand, if you as a filmmaker, wanted to put it some videos on the site, nobody will stop you because your content happens to NOT be copyright infringing. There are plenty of popular torrents that most certainly don’t infringe anyone’s copyrights on the site, for instance:

        http://thepiratebay.se/torrent/7568322/ubuntu_12.04.1_(32_bit)

        So just a introduction to one great non-free speech worthy “criminal organization”, who’s only crime seems to be, not acting like the international information police. Cheers.

      • M –

        I have no idea what I’ve said that would lead you to defend the 1st Amendment rights of criminals, which is a very different thing from using the 1st Amendment to protect criminal activity. As for the rest of your comment, you’re not telling me anything new; and I have already responded to this position in other comments. Even if part of an enterprise is legal, the entire enterprise is liable for illegal activity. This is true in any other business. But let’s not play games here; the primary business of TPB and sites like it is revenue generated by traffic from mostly privileged, young Americans watching mainstream content they feel they shouldn’t pay for. There are so many things wrong with that regardless of the law, that getting lost in all this other minutiae is really just spinning wheels in my opinion.

        But forget about copyright and creative works for just a moment. This page of links appears, including the paid featured spots, with the simplest of Google searches: https://www.google.com/search?q=ukraine+women+tours&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

        Ukraine is a human rights travesty — a place Russia treats like its national whorehouse, notorious for sex tourism, which basically means state-sanctioned rape, human slavery, etc. Of course Google is just providing information, right? It’s just speech. If that’s really your attitude, do not presume, at least in my presence, to have a superior set of values. Free speech means standing up for groups like Femen and real reporting on these real deprivations. Americans whinging about free speech because a video is taken off YouTube or because we’d shut down a site that provides access to entertainment you’re supposed to pay for is nothing short of pathetic by contrast.

      • This is the problem with the in-doctrow-nated, they end up believing that breaking into a server farm to liberate bits, is the moral and ethical equivalent to breaking into a fur farm to liberate mink.

      • David,

        It’s relatively easy for a human to look at a particular search result, and come to a conclusion about whether or not it should be illegal (just like we can reasonably do when it comes to copyright infringement, at least in the clear-cut cases), and we may even be able to define a subset of such material to which we all feel it should be illegal. Now assume we can somehow code that subset into law…

        The problem is that Google (and every other search engine for that matter) indexes billions of webpages automatically, and provides the search results. It’s humanly impossible to look at each of these results, and make such a judgement call, nor are we yet aware of a computer algorithm that could do it for us. As such, it’s not possible to prevent these search results from appearing at this time.

        Perhaps, at some point in the future, we’ll be able to create AIs intelligent enough to make such decisions, but for now that’s still science fiction I fear.

      • I know that, Pieter, and I’m not even proposing these search results be made illegal per se, and for the reasons you name. But there is no getting around the fact that the technology itself has a way of normalizing a lot of content that is directly linked to truly depraved activity in the real world. And, yes, Google can choose not to take money for featured spots on certain search results. We can pretend there’s no link between mail order brides and human rights abuses in places like Ukraine, but we’d be pretending. And my point to M and others is that I find privileged westerner’s complaints about their speech rights, which aren’t really under attack, more than a little whiny. The purpose of this blog is to question cultural realities in the digital age, not just copyright issues.

        If people like Alexis Ohanian went on a bus tour to protest human trafficking, I’d send him a donation — but stumping for freedom in a country that’s already free? This is a path toward intellectual and moral laziness.

        (On a side note, I have no idea why the changed Discussion settings aren’t allowing comments to appear without approval. It’s a pretty straightforward checkbox system, and I’ve unchecked the right box. Sorry for the continued delays.)

      • David,

        I suspect that “reply” buttons aren’t visible for comments nested to a certain depth, regardless of who the user is. Not sure that’s fixable.

        – bill.

      • Thanks. I’m not sure either but am trying to figure that out as well as why your comments aren’t appearing without approval despite my changing the settings. Thanks for your patience and for chiming in.

        DN

  • Once again, thanks for the discussion here. I’ve tried to change settings so that comments will appear without moderator approval. Wondering if these setting changes take time to take effect. Regardless, I think I’ve done it right. DN

  • @John Warr, January 14, 2013 at 9:47 am (new thread to keep reactions readable)

    I will not deny that the most popular works on YouTube are probably produced by the big entertainment companies, but I seriously doubt that 90% of the works on YouTube infringed even before Google got licenses from the big record companies. Not that that % would be a valid legal measurement anyway, as was shown in the BetaMax case.

    I also wonder if you have any idea how much it costs to run the servers for a site like YouTube. With all the ads running on YouTube, it’s still not making a profit atm. How would you propose running a site like that?

  • David,

    Very interesting stuff. Thanks for the reply.

    “But forget about copyright and creative works for just a moment.”

    Why? I thought this was a conversation about copyright and creative works.

    “Ukraine is a human rights travesty — a place Russia treats like its national whorehouse, notorious for sex tourism, which basically means state-sanctioned rape, human slavery, etc.”

    David, if human rights in former Soviet states are the bigger issue here, I must suggest you take your own advice and start blogging about that more. And you know, less about copyright and technology. Priorities and such.

    • Actually, if you read the posts on the site, you’ll see that I write about the digital age and culture in general, and copyright is just one issue. And in this specific post, I assert that Barlow’s statement is a slippery slope toward larger and potentially more serious things to come. So, I do feel my comments to you about free speech in this context are consistent with the editorial spirit of the blog. Thanks for the joining the conversation.

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