Stationers Company Redux: The Privatization of the Information Police Force

Putting the Internet in jail.As reader libreuniverse pointed out in forwarding this, this is big, big news: large Internet service providers, on whom millions of people depend for their Internet service, are going to start acting as copyright police:

"RIAA chief: ISPs to start policing copyright by July 12"

 

The short version: each ISP will maintain a database of "repeat offenders", with gradually escalating punishments, starting with warning letters, then moving to slowing down the subscriber's connection, and finally to cutting them off altogether.

This is going to hurt artists.  It's going to drive unauthorized copying even further underground, onto the so-called "dark networks" where people use encryption and other forms of indirection to hide from the network provider (and therefore from everyone else except the intended recipient) what's being copied.  Use of such techniques is already widespread, and now it will become common and normal.  This means artists don't get credit for their popularity: it becomes more and more difficult for an artist to tell who likes them and where and why, because all of the sharing and the commenting and recommendation that goes along with it gets driven underground.  The ISPs are essentially forcing fans to hide their love of their favorite artists.

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Copying Is Not Theft, But Censorship Is

Crossposted from Techdirt.com

This morning a friend shared with me some amusing American Sign Language videos, and in return I wanted to share with him my favorite ASL video of all time: B. Storm's interpretation of the Gnarls Barkley song Crazy. Only I couldn't because it was gone. Why? Because "This video contains content from WMG (Warner Music Group), who has blocked it on copyright grounds." This is appalling for many reasons, not least of which being the video is almost certainly fair use.

WMG youtube block message

Copying is not theft, but censorship is. When a video is blocked, banned, erased, or otherwise censored, we don't have it any more. The commons is robbed. When B. Storm copied the song Crazy into his video, WMG's copies were still there. When WMG censored B. Storm's video, it was gone.

I couldn't accept that such a great video was simply gone, so I attempted to recreate and re-share the original video. I found a silent version and combined it with the song, which I captured from the official video using Audio Hijack Pro (having written that, I expect storm troopers to bust down my door any minute now). Unfortunately its sync was a little off; soundtracks end up slightly different lengths and speeds due to all the different kinds of compression out there, and the song I captured was slightly longer than what B. Storm had on his original video. Fortunately another web search, using different terms, led me to this website of videos curated for deaf kids, which miraculously contained the unmolested video embedded from weebly. This I was able to download, and then re-upload to Vimeo where it's easier to share and embed. Of course it could be taken down at any time, so get it while you can:

Great art like this matters too much to passively let monopolists erase it from our common culture. When you find good videos online, consider making local back-up copies. We never know what's going to be censored when, and without audience back-ups some great art could be lost forever.

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