Cease and Desist Censorship

A US court has found that copyright law can cover "cease-and-desist letters", that is, letters sent by copyright holders telling someone to stop distributing copyrighted content.

Cease-and-desist letters are frequently used as tools of censorship (as Chilling Effects has ably documented). A common scenario is that someone gets upset at having something of theirs quoted, and is able to shut down the quotation by claiming copyright over its text and then sending C&D letters to anyone who displays it. The quoted text is not royalty-generating for the copyright holder (not that it would excuse censorship even if it were); rather, the sender of the C&D is simply using copyright law as a tool to prevent the publication of potentially embarrassing information — that is, to censor.

Musicians Censoring Themselves

Ben Collins-Sussman playing the banjo by the water.

Reader Ben Collins-Sussman sent us this letter after watching a group of hobbyist banjo players in an Internet forum shy away from sharing music because they were worried about copyright issues. It's hard to add to Ben's eloquent outrage, but we should step back and ask: how did we get here? When did the inconceivable become everyday? When did musicians start censoring themselves as a matter of course? (Notice how copyright issues actually come up twice, independently, in the forum Ben points to. That's two times in a discussion that's only nineteen posts long. It would be nice if this were somehow exceptional... but sadly, it's not.)

Here's Ben's letter:

I frequent exciting websites like www.banjohangout.org, where banjoists from all over the world (all 12 of us!) talk about banjos, songs we like, how to play things, and so on.

Swedish Pirate Party's Influence Beginning to Show...

Swedish Pirate Party Flag

Seven members of the Swedish Parliament have published an opinion piece calling for the decriminalization of filesharing. Written in reaction to a government analyst's recommendation that file-sharers be punished by losing their Internet connections, the letter is practically a verbatim recitation of what the Swedish Pirate Party has been saying for a long time now:

"...Decriminalizing all non-commercial file sharing and forcing the market to adapt is not just the best solution. It's the only solution, unless we want an ever more extensive control of what citizens do on the Internet. Politicians who play for the antipiracy team should be aware that they have allied themselves with a special interest that is never satisfied and that will always demand that we take additional steps toward the ultimate control state..."

When he visited the United States last summer, Rick Falkvinge, the Pirate Party's founder, pointed out that one of the Party's most important functions was educating other politicians. By competing for seats in Parliament, the Party forces other candidates to give more attention to copyright and patent issues, out of fear of losing votes to the Pirates. It looks like that's exactly what's happened here. If so, kudos to Rick and the Pirate Party: they've made a powerful argument for valuing civil liberties over obsolete business models, and it's clearly catching on when members of Parliament from the Moderate Party adopt a major plank from the Pirate Party platform.

[Update: Over at the P2P Consortium, there's a good new interview with Rick Falkvinge up. Shameless confession: we're very pleased to see the references there to Falkvinge's speaking tour here last summer, which QuestionCopyright.org arranged.]

Pages

Subscribe to QuestionCopyright.org RSS