Monday, April 24, 2006

Land of the free? Sorry that's copyrighted.

America, The nation that's about freedom. Where people are innocent until proven guilty, politicians are held responsible to their constituents, and innovation is not just praised but sought. Oh, sorry, Brain-fart there, was reading one of Harry Turtledove's alternate history books (American Empire : blood and iron to be exact) and mistook the present regime for the one there.

No, its no glib remark. When it comes to copyright infringement, the united States is falling back to the middle of the last century. Indeed, the united states has taken a HUGE step backwards in general. I wondered in a piece I wrote a year ago, if time travel had been invented, if so, the Bush Administration has gone back and gotten Felix Dzerzhinsky to write the laws, and Joe McCarthy, snatched from Bethesda, to translate them, and 'congress-them-up'. Of course, it could be much simpler – Laura Bush might be a secret voodoo priestess.

Regardless, the ideals that the American founding fathers made their stand against the crown for (sidenote, George Washington, amongst others, fit the current US definition of a terrorist) are being eroded in the name of capitalist expedience. If people want to know why America is not looked upon with great favour in recent years, an example came out just last night.

Cnet, based in San Francisco (A city I love by the way, and where I have many fond memories) reported yesterday that it caught a look at a new proposed bill, created by the bush administration, and backed by Lamar Smith, a Texas congressman (and incidentally Chairman of the Subcommittee on
Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property). Rep. Smith was also honoured recently, by the lobby group “Defenders of Property Rights” - a group with a major interest in making IP rights as profitable as possible. I may well talk about the various lobby groups around the world at some point in the future, but for now, if you want more info on them, look em up.

"The bill as a whole does a lot of good things," said Keith Kupferschmid, mouthpiece for one of the groups representing the one percent or so of the US population for which this law benefits, and yet again, everyone else gets the shaft. The DMCA was bad enough, but seems tame in comparison to this new behemoths. Who can forget the lexmark case, where the DMCA was used against a company making cheaper cartridges. Imagine the uproar in the Us if consumables for their cars could ONLY be bought from the dealers, at whatever prices they decided, and no other manufacturers was allowed. Such a law, such a court case wouldn't last 5 minutes. No-one would stand paying $50 for an air filter for a ford focus, yet its ok for a printer because 'its computers'. The recent Sony rootkit fiasco would have been announced sooner as well, but it was delayed over fears the DMCA would be used against the researchers. Now this new law wants to make it a crime to even TRY, EVEN IF THEY FAIL to circumvent any copy protection. With many CDs and DVDs, its as simple as using a marker on a part of the disc, or even holding down shift to prevent autoplay in windows. Now, even if you press shift around the time you insert a CD, for any length of time, or use a marker anywhere on the CD, you'll apparently be in violation of this new law – 10 years in jail for you. The new laws say nobody may "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" such anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else. This piece is now in violation of that law, as is any store in America selling a sharpie.

There are many other draconian measures on the boards, such as civil asset forfeiture (ie they get to take your stuff, and sell it) and criminal charges can be filed in the US for copyright infringement on a work not even registered in the US.

Land of the free? No, they hate the word free. If its free, then someone's not making any money. So, Americans who read this, please, contact your ELECTED representatives. Remind them that its the people that elect them, not the corporations, not a plutocrat handing over a campaign contribution but everyday ordinary citizens, and when you're in jail, for having used a marker on a CD, you'll no longer be able to vote for them.

Ben Jones

External link
cnet's story on this law

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