life, the universe, and everything
x => Terrorism ∀ x ∈ { bad things }
Posted: 2003-03-17 08:13
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Last Thursday, John Malcolm (Deputy Asst. Attorney General For The Criminal Division of the US DOJ), Joan Borsten (President of Jove Films), Rich LaMagna (Senior Manager of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Investigations at Microsoft Corporation), and Jack Valenti (President & CEO, MPAA) gave testimony to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. The matter at hand was connections between piracy and organized crime/terrorism. In general, the focus was on large-scale, international piracy groups.

According to Mr. Malcolm, most of these groups are backed by organized crime. While not making a connection between these groups and terrorism, he did say that the DOJ would be working to prevent money from these operations to fund terrorism.

Ms. Borsten testified that intellectual property (IP) infringement is a growing problem in Russia. She makes the statement that she does not connect piracy to organized crime or terrorism, and presents her case on how IP infringement in Russia hurts the US.

Mr. LaMagna's case centered around software counterfeiting, and how it is primarily managed by organized crime syndicates.

Which brings us to the testimony of Mr. Valenti. He first lashes out at digital piracy, eventually settling on the subject of physical piracy and counterfeiting. He, too, tells of connections between piracy and organized crime, and also claims the government has made a link between piracy and terrorism. His purported 'claim' by the government is nothing more than a single article in an issue of US Customs Today, and is not backed by any other sources. He quotes the article's claim that international counterfeiting funds a majority of all terrorism, a claim which I have seen no other evidence to support. He also cites the conclusion of the article, which states: "September 11 changed the way Americans look at the world. It also changed the way American law enforcement looks at Intellectual Property crimes." This is simply wrong. In the wake of 9/11, I cannot think of a single law-enforcement agency in this country that suddenly focused on IP crimes. In fact, at the time, such crimes were likely at the farthest edge of consideration, with allaying people's fears and providing physical security paramount to all else. An aricle with a bold lie and a single unsubstantiated fact would seem to carry very little weight, though Mr. Valenti uses it like it's some divine word. His testimony ends with the statement that "Large, violent, highly organized criminal groups are getting rich from the theft of America's copyrighted products."

Can anyone please show me ANYTHING which provides evidence that such groups are violent (I have no doubt that they exist), or that they are 'getting rich' from their activities? Mr. Valenti's false claims, coupled with his invocation of the word 'terrorism', shows that he is doing little more than sensationalising the problem, calling for stricter measures that will undoubtedly provide no benefit, and very likely harm, to the consumer and their rights to use a copyrighted work.

It's no secret that the entertainment industry is striving only to increase it's own profits, no matter what the expense to the American public. The DMCA, the CTEA, and a whole host of other proposals all show that groups like the MPAA have no interest in what's legal; they want to break laws to get those who are breaking laws; but these groups lobby for legislation to legalize what they want to to. Case in point, a proposed bill headed by Rep. Howard Berman and backed by the RIAA, would have given copyright holders the right to hack the machines of suspected copyright infringers to seek out any copyrighted works on their machine.

It's my understanding that the government exists to serve the people, and to do what is in their best interest, not to cater to large corporations who throw money at them. Under the euphemism of 'campaign contributions', we all look the other way as our elected officials are bribed. And this corruption of our elected leadership leads to diminishing rights to the citizens of this country, while corporations benefit. There is absolutely no reason why any company should be legally granted the right to hack into a citizen's machine, especially without any sort of warrant or due process. It's fortunate that bill did not pass, for it would have allowed companies to become vigilanties; to take the law into their own hands, but not have to answer to anyone if they exceeded their authority. There would be little recourse for those unfairly or wrongly made a victim of such a law; the companies behind it having no accountability for their actions.

The Constitution of the US opens with this "We the People of the United States". We the People, not the corporations, not the slaves to the dollar. The entire basis of the government in this country was to have a government for the people, a government by the people. The Bill of Rights was passed to explicitly give certain freedoms to the people, with the understanding that the people were not to have only those mentioned there.

However, it seems that more and more the rights of the individual are being taken away so that the corporations and the government have more freedom and more power. Laws have been passed that completely disregard Constitutional freedoms; others have been upheld as complying with the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

This brings up an interesting question. Since the founders could not have forseen the future and what it would bring, and as such were somewhat vague with parts of the Constitution, is it better to follow the letter of the law (what's written), or the spirit of the law (the way it was intended to be)? In the case of the CTEA, it's clear that the spirit of the law was to provide a short period of limited monopoly for a work; the letter of the law, however, doesn't provide for a specific time, saying only that it need be a 'limited' time.

This truly is, as Greg Palast wrote, the best democracy money can buy.


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