The copyright-neutering movement, which is fueled by free culture activists and Big Internet interests, regularly employs four deceptions in their lobbying efforts to weaken copyright law and change the public conversation about copyright.
The movement obviously seeks to distract political attention from the proven real-world problem of online piracy and the urgent need for more anti-piracy enforcement of online copyright-infringement and counterfeiting, to their artificially-manufactured problem that copyright itself is the problem because it limits free online “sharing” and “innovation without permission.”
The four deceptions are:
- Advocate with deceptive “free” and “open” messaging.
- Claim copyright’s power comes from industry lobbying.
- Represent infringers as victims.
- Rewrite the history of SOPA/PIPA.
1. Advocate with deceptive “free” and “open” messaging.
Free culture and Big Internet interests view copyright-property-rights and enforcement of those rights as a threat and obstacle to the realization of their techtopian vision for the Internet where “free” means no cost (or online ad-funded), and “open” means taking without permission (no property online) and government regulation (net neutrality).
They purposefully seek to broaden support from many who mistakenly assume that the “free and open Internet” that they are talking about, means a free market commercial economic system and an open market not burdened with international bans, tariffs or duties, but they are silent on where their Internet commons vision completely departs with the Internet vision of others.
They keep mum about their real definition of “free” and “open” because they know it is a deep philosophical turn-off to free market and open market people to be anti property, because property and the right to control how property is controlled and monetized is the central pillar of a free/open market.
2. Claim copyright’s power comes from industry lobbying.
This deception could not be further from the truth.
Copyright’s power comes from being property, and ownership of property being a natural inalienable right most strongly protected by the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, and common law. Every single major religion in the world considers taking property without the user’s permission, to be morally wrong. Every nation in the world considers stealing legally wrong. Every recognized code of ethics considers stealing wrong. Every member of civilized society, citizen, leader or judge, owns some type of property and appreciates the sanctity of property, and how important it is to one’s liberty, safety, and prosperity.
Copyright interests are so powerful because of the common sense notion, that if others’ property is not secure from theft, their property may not be secure from theft.
Simply, copyright interests’ power emanates from a near-universal belief in civilized society that protection of property from theft is important and stealing is wrong.
3. Represent infringers as victims.
The copyright neutering movement is desperately trying to reframe the public copyright debate to get people to see the world as they see it — i.e. that those who knowingly take the property of others without permission are the real victims, not those who have had their property taken from them.
Since the techtopians desire a property-less Internet where most everything is shared with everyone, they see property as the evil and sharing as the ultimate good in the Internet world.
Essentially, they have flipped the traditional notion of liberty, i.e. the freedom from harm or oppression, to the “Internet freedom” notion of the techtopians, i.e. the right basically to do whatever you want to others, their property or their private information without their permission.
In this copyright “bizarro world,” those who take others property are not wrong or lawbreakers, but the true heroes of the Internet commons who liberate property from their owners who are basically evil monopolists because they control what others covet.
The saddest example of this “bizarro world” thinking where copyright infringers are the victims of copyright owners’ and law enforcement’s protection of their property rights, is the organized effort to make Internet activist Aaron Schwartz, who sadly and unfortunately took his life last month, a martyr for the copyright neutering movement. (I offer my condolences and prayers to Mr. Schwartz’ family and friends for their great loss.)
Others echoing this copyright “bizarro world” view, also put forth music-downloading-infringers prosecuted for online copyright infringement as the real victims here, and not responsible for doing anything wrong.
The problem with this “bizarro world” point of view is that ignores both the moral/ethical determination of who is truly on the side of right and wrong and the constitutional, legal and societal judgment of who actually is the offender and who is the victim.
4. Rewrite the history of SOPA/PIPA.
One of the biggest deceptions of the copyright-neutering movement is that SOPA was about Internet censorship and breaking the Internet.
The reality was that there was broad bipartisan support for anti-piracy legislation in the Senate and House, strong support within the Administration, and deep support in the business community for anti-piracy legislation. There was and still is broad bipartisan consensus that Internet-aided piracy and counterfeiting is a huge and destructive problem for American jobs, business, exports, economy and innovation.
Indeed, there was a very big attempted overreach on one provision in the House, DNS blocking, (that I did not support and expected to be dropped in House Committee, which said they would drop it), that opponents then blew out of proportion and deceptively represented the entire legislation as “Internet censorship” and “breaking the Internet.”
The copyright neutering movement knew the offending DNS-blocking provision would not survive, but saw it as the perfect pretext to kill the entire legislation and effort to address the problem of online piracy.
Without the DNS blocking provision, which was not in the Senate bill, the copyright-neutering movement knew that the legislation was not “Internet censorship” and knew that it would not “break the Internet.” Nevertheless their entire online campaign to defeat SOPA/PIPA represented that the legislation was “censorship” and would “break the Internet.”
The movement’s problem now is that they created a false perception that everyone that helped them oppose anti-piracy legislation is against copyright enforcement, when all they really did was create a false consensus around a trumped up problem that no longer exists.
That is why the movement is having such a difficult time making progress on the merits, because there is little support for the merits of their anti-property agenda.