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FT: Why it is right to fight web pirates

A FT piece Why it is right to fight web pirates, exhibit the typical schizophrenic confusion of those who criticize IP law’s “excesses” while refusing to take a principled stand against it.

The article concerns the so-called “e-G8” summit–“when Nicolas Sarkozy invited the leaders of the world’s biggest technology companies and high representatives of Silicon Valley to Paris to mull over the future of the internet”. But “a culture war”  broke out due to the competing views of the IP/media interests and the more anti-IP/Internet freedom camp:

At one extreme in the showdown in a hot tent in the Tuileries gardens this week was the French president, who has backed one of the strictest anti-piracy enforcement laws of any country. He insisted to the technologists that “the world you represent is not a parallel universe where legal and moral rules, and all the basic principles that govern societies do not apply”.

At the other end were activists and open source advocates such as John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor, warning governments to back off. The internet was not broken now, they said, but efforts to protect publishers, film and music companies could break it.

The author, John Gapper, tries to have it both ways, by explicitly straddling the middle: “The truth, inevitably, lies in the middle …  Governments need to tread lightly to avoid damaging innovation but the internet cannot become a safe harbour for illegality.”

The EFF’s John Perry Barlow is correct that IP law and anti-piracy measures will end up empowering the state to not only block IP piracy, but to censor “expression that you do not like.” And so is Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who said that society can make the internet “safe for the next Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber or make it safe for the next Skype or YouTube. You have to choose”.

Gapper thinks it’s ridiculous to imply “that enforcement of intellectual property rights is, by definition, antithetical to the nature of the internet,” but of course it is. At least he recognizes that “Publishers are partially to blame for their own crisis of legitimacy,” and that current remedies are too harsh: “Small fines for peer-to-peer downloading, akin to a gentle nudge in the right direction, might be a better remedy.”

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.