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Pirate this, go to jail

The absurdity doesn't seem to stop these days. A new bill, introduced by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., "would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program." Note that convicted felons cannot vote.

More from the ZDNet story:

Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years. And that's not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense.

"Say I've got an MP3 collection and I buy a new nifty player from Microsoft that only plays watermarked content, and I forge the watermark to allow my legal MP3 collection to play," says Jessica Litman, who teaches intellectual property law at Wayne State University. "It is certainly the case that if I pass that around, I could be trafficking (in violation of the law)."

Biden's proposed additions to copyright law come as Congress is under increasing pressure. In the last few weeks, Hollywood and the music industry have stepped up their demands for more authority to curtail digital piracy, backing a new bill to allow hacking of peer-to-peer networks, trying to limit Americans' rights to record TV and radio broadcasts, and predicting even more legislation in the next few months.

This is fast becoming a war fought over information, bits and bytes, 1's and 0's. Certain big players are scared to death as the information society continues to evolve and are struggling to hold on to the reins as best they can rather than coming to grips with how fundamental the changes taking place in the world really are.

Let's reconsider a few things...

Recent efforts to control copyrights have revolved around the fact that creators of content (artists and such) must control the right to reproduce their work in order to make a living from it and to encourage them to continue to create. In reality, artists often forfeit copyrights to the big players just to see their work get any exposure. The same big players also purchase copyrights for other bodies of work, just to have more intellectual property to call their own.

The system is failing us, however. For the sake of copyrights, the big players are getting pet legislators to introduce bills that will make us criminals to share. Remember kindergarten? I went twice, which is perhaps why I picked up that lesson no one else seems to recall, the one about sharing.

Is this the future you want?

  • One in which you can't record a boxing match to watch with your buddies later (because a) maybe you won't be allowed to record the copyrighted broadcast, or b) maybe the new set-top box your cable company installed monitors how many people are watching the television in an extension of per-seat licensing...)?
  • One in which you have no way to create and distribute your own work because you cannot legally work around digital rights management technology and/or cannot afford to pay a tribute to the Almight Patent Holders to allow you to legitimately use the technology?
  • One in which your ISP has someone (or just a something) sifting through your Internet traffic looking for any sign that you may be violating these laws?
  • One in which you have little real choice in what you do with your computer, but must rely on what a chip inside says you can do?
Don't forget that on top of all of this, we're promised a corps of citizen spies a la 1984, all of whom could also be keeping their eyes peeled for violations of intellectual property laws.

I'll say it again -- you have no intellectual property. No one quite groks what thought is to begin with; to claim that the products of your noggin are so unique, so valuable that they deserve protection by law to the point of serving trespassers with jail time and huge fines is extreme arrogance and the height of greed. We all want to think of that One Good Idea that'll enable us to sit on our butts and wait for royalty checks (or licensing fees).

But we're all made of the same stuff, we're all in this together. Why are we so eager to say 'Nyah, nyah, I thought of that first! Pay up!' rather than to cooperate and take our thoughts to higher plateaus? Do we lack confidence in our own abilities so much that every idea must be protected, in case it might be our last?

The problems that these disputes bring to light are much more fundamental than copyright law. They are symptoms of our society's sickness. We want to recline and consume, maybe do some other stuff we like here and there. The big players love the status quo because they are the producers of what we consume. And that is why they are so fearful now.

But technology is allowing some of us greater productivity and creativity than ever before. We are not willing to give up the goodness that comes from collaboration and openness in what we do. We see the value of sharing and building upon each other's work. We believe in ourselves and in the source we can't quite fathom; we would rather freely dedicate the fruits of our labor to the common good than argue over who thought of what first.

When sharing is outlawed (and I think it has been already), only outlaws will share.

Tell that to your kids. Make sure they become dependent on the corporate state (they really are one and the same now) and that they lack confidence in their own ability to think and manage their own behavior. If you can't manage this, don't worry, the state will be glad to take your children from you and raise them correctly.

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Being drunk on their plan they lifted up the Sun. Yelling as hard as they can the doubters all were stunned, heard louder than a gun, the sound they made was love.
The Flaming Lips

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