They Fought The Law . . . And The Law Won . . .

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Another One Bites The Dust

First, a guest editorial:

Grokster

You notice certain things about this statement. Notice they use the term “illegal” a lot, as in “The United States Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that using this service to trade copyrighted material is illegal,” and “Copying copyrighted motion picture and music files using unauthorized peer-to-peer services is illegal?”

Yes, the U.S. hasn’t conquered the world yet (I’m being sarcastic, son), and this may well not be applicable where you live, but one way or another, odds are it will be, sooner or later.

Yes, Young Americans, that means your copying of commerical music and movies is illegal. The Force is not with you, and the Empire is not only striking back, your fleets are giving up.

Many of the other P2P companies are negotiating surrender terms, too.

This is not to say other P2P programs won’t emerge (and the old networks won’t, can’t be stopped, they’ll just fade away eventually), but P2Ping is going to become decidedly less aboveground than it has been.

What’s a Skywalker-wannabe to do when he finds out he’s really Jar-Jar?

There will be no more of this pretending that what you do is somehow “legal.” This will be considered electronic shoplifting.

Speaking of Shoplifting . . .

Sony has been getting grief for slipping in a DRM scheme into its CDs and not telling anybody.

It wasn’t nice, they shouldn’t have done it without notice, and it might be illegal in a few places, but in a broader sense, it’s hard to call it unjust. Sony didn’t give you fair warning? Well, how much warning did you give Sony or anybody else before you illegally copied their music and/or movies?

Or do laws apply to everyone but you? The law of the jungle works both ways.

Are you mad at Sony? Have you ever illegally copied music or movies? Well, you asked for it. This is the equivalent of anti-theft devices in a clothing store, nothing more, nothing less, and for a lot more reason. Most people don’t steal from clothing stores, but the tags are still there.

Boycott Sony? You can if you like, but how bothered would any department store be if their shoplifters all got together and decided to boycott their store?

More to the point, DRM will be everywhere in the next couple years. The Trusted Computing Platform will be Sony on steroids, a universal rootkit backed with hardware. Sony’s rootkit is just a preview of the future. If it works, what are you going to do then? Boycott everything? Listen to “oldies” the rest of your life?

France and File Sharing

By now, anyone reading this is at least vaguely aware that there’s a riot going on over in France. Quite a few of them, actually, for quite a while.

To put it mildly, at least by U.S. standards, the French have been, shall we say, rather nonchallant about it. After almost two weeks of nightly riots, the French government has just gotten around to allowing mayors to declare curfews.

If you look at what happened prior to the outbreaks of violence, you’ll see that the French have had a habit of being accomodating and overlooking little bad habits like a few dozen car burnings and the occasional synagogue every Saturday night, and if certain warlords didn’t want the police on their turf, well, OK.

This is called appeasement. The problem with appeasement is that you can’t really appease unreasonable people for very long, since every concession makes the unreasonable want more. The oversights become entitlements.

For instance, if you’re trying to teach math, and students refuse to use the plus sign in mathematics because it looks like a cross, you have gone a long, long way down the wrong street.

Eventually, confrontation becomes inevitable, and you end up with a lot more violence than you would have had if you had nipped the problem in the bud, in large part because you’re cracking down on behavior that used to be considered OK, or at least not too bad.

The point to all this is not to knock France, but to point out that the United States (and the EU) have been just as nonchallant and appeasing about P2Ping, and not just for ten days, but ten years.

And they don’t even show signs of waking up! Occasionally, they open their eyes for a moment, pass a toothless law or two, then roll over and resume snoring.

Even the ones being robbed have been mostly asleep most of the time, and whatever sporadic attempts they’ve made to protect their property have been pathetically easy to break, mostly because the tech industry until recently hasn’t been asleep on this issue, they’ve been in a coma.

In the meantime, a whole age-group, if not generation think it’s perfectly OK to steal. Not just the poor or criminally-inclined, practically everyone.

So when there’s any form of a crackdown, they feel that their “rights” are being taken away just as much as some gang leader in some French housing project feels (or will feel) when the gendarme shows up to say, “We’re in charge.”

Well, the mass crackdown will come with all the DRM stuff we’ll be seeing in the next two years. Right now, this isn’t getting a whole lot of attention because the P2Pers don’t think it will prove the least bit unbreakable (understandable given previous attempts).

Well, if they’re right, that will just make the P2Pers all the more contemptuous of law and authority.

But if they’re wrong, and it does work . . . .

What Happens If Hell Breaks Loose?

Almost all who write in this field have been enormously reluctant to point out the reality noted at the beginning of this article. They have either stayed quiet, tried to sound like they were on the P2Pers side (with a little disclaimer to keep on the legal side of the argument), or (more on the fringes), flat-out sided with the P2Pers without conditions.

I have always been bemused by those writing for corporate-backed websites denouncing the RIAA for protecting copyright who would sic their lawyers on you in a flash if you ever copied their articles onto yours.

Recently, I saw one editorial denouncing Sony for its rootkit, and there was a Sony ad on the same page!

Clearly, such people will fight this battle down to your last dollar. Really, if the record and music companies are so evil and wrong, why do such places take money from them for ads? Why do they accept ads? Why do they review their products?

Does the local church bulletin take ads from Satan?

Admittedly, this doesn’t happen all that often right now, but what happens when we get into Trusted Computing, backed by companies like Intel, AMD and Microsoft, and all the other hardware people? Will such places continue to be “on your side?” Will they refuse advertising from such companies? Will such companies refuse to advertise with those who attack them on this?

I think a lot of people are going to get really quiet when they have to put their money where their mouth currently is.

Ed

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