Megaupload takedown shows need for fresh debate

Megaupload takedown shows need for fresh debate

Summary: The copyright debate is in a downward spiral, and the only way out is for both sides to come clean about their views

TOPICS: Security

...that this very loose collective is completely against the notion of copyright and in favour of letting anyone make money off the work of others as they see fit, although if it is, then let it argue its case.

Modernising copyright

What I do believe is that the movement is broadly in favour of modernising the concept of copyright and encouraging new, legitimate business models that flow with the evolution of distribution technology.

But this will almost certainly have to go hand-in-hand with enforcement of some kind. To call for reform of the carrot but not of the stick is intellectually lazy, dishonest and guaranteed to result in failure.

The reform movement needs to be the one reaching out to the lawmakers — in public, as too much of this debate has gone on behind closed doors — and not the one acting defensively all the time.

Now is the time for co-ordination. The rights-holder lobby is an international movement, and a very well-coordinated one at that. The other side needs to form its own broad-spectrum global alliance with some kind of unified mouthpiece, and that group needs to come up with honest, proactive, helpful responses to the problem that exists.

Agree on penalties

If people want to come up with a system that is genuinely fair, they need to agree on and actively promote penalties for those who abuse that system in unfair ways. If that doesn't happen, there is no way any politician will take the side seriously. At worst, those calling for positive reform without real enforcement will get lumped in with those who only want to profit at the expense of others.

To call for reform of the carrot but not of the stick is intellectually lazy, dishonest and guaranteed to result in failure.

None of this is to say that those calling for positive reform have had a fair chance to express themselves. The system is grossly tilted in favour of the rights-holders, and 'negotiations' over ACTA, SOPA, the UK Digital Economy Act have been deliberately lopsided. This situation needs to change before a counterargument can be heard, but that counterargument has to be readied for its airing. It already exists in fragmented form, but it needs to be honed, immediate and overwhelming.

SOPA is wounded, possibly mortally so. Without wishing to presuppose the outcome of the Megaupload case, the actions taken around the company's proprietors at least show that current laws can be used to knock out large-scale, profit-making infringement operations.

Now is the time to build an international forum for reform, to solidify a coherent approach to copyright infringement and enforcement, and to make that argument heard.

There are other cyberlockers, and there will always be ways to get around copyright-enforcement measures. There will be a 'son of SOPA' law at some point, maybe soon. None of this is edifying. No one is winning here — not the artists and certainly not internet users who just want easy, fairly-priced access to what those artists produce. With zealots on both sides, the scenario risks becoming openly destructive.

Now is the time for everyone to come to the table on just terms, and for both sides to start making sense. Tricky as it is, that involves defining what is right and what is wrong.

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Topic: Security

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • That's sad...since it's all BS...SOPA/PIPA were junk + MU arrest was unfair + I don't think swizz he has any legal connections to MU...imo it was all fabbed up to get other celebrity endorsements.

    p.s. looks like someone is pissed - FBI vs ANONYMOUS video:
  • "an intellectually dishonest streak that pervades much of the anti-rights-holder side. It is a strain of thought — or perhaps lack thereof — that says file-sharers can only be victims"

    Since when? I have never heard this ever! Being a rights-holder and someone who opposes anti-piracy laws too, I have never once heard this statement from either side. And classing those who oppose anti-paricy laws as "anti-rights holders" is just stupid.

    Many of the people who the rights really belong to, "the artists" are in fact in favor of piracy and oppose SOPA, it's only the Record labels and movie studios that give a shit! The artists understand the important part that free sharing of the material actually generates more fans.
  • It's not often that one sees such a rational and balanced article on this subject. I heartily endorse your reasoning and conclusions.

    However, you have not mentioned the culture of something for nothing which is so pervasive now particularly, but not exclusively, amongst the younger generations. How is that to be turned around and how are those that espouse false concepts of 'freedoms' and 'rights' to be changed.

    I have long argued that those who facilitate and make available the wholesale sharing of copyright material should be the ones targeted, in the same way as those who make and sell counterfeit CDs and DVD's, by the proper duly constituted police authorities and judicial processes, and that this should have been done under existing legislation years ago when it would have been so much easier.

    Nevertheless, the entertainment industry has failed to move with the times and is, in part, the author of it's own problems by failing to embrace new technologies. Copyright similarly needs to be updated.

    Of course,copyright infringement has proved difficult to manage since national and judicial boundaries are crossed, and the waters have been muddied by this, false arguments about freedom ...... and and the powerful vested interests of the entertainment industry, unwilling to change and move with the times.

    Finally, though, I'm glad that the focus has finally begun to change from the consumer to the purveyor, where the principle focus should have always been from the early days. Nonetheless, there is real concern about the US is extending it's jurisdiction, as of right, rather than forming balanced international two way agreement, properly enshrined in their law.
    The Former Moley
  • @ Luke Jon Gibson - I frequently see the same people who are (rightly) insistent that ACTA et al only target big piracy operations, not regular file-sharers, then turn around and complain when existing laws are used to go after the very same big piracy operations. Perhaps it all comes down to motivation, but I think there are broadly two types of file-sharer, and those who are of the more innocent type should consider whether they really should be standing up for the other.

    On the topic of what to call the anti-anti-piracy-laws side, I did struggle there, I must admit. Anti-SOPA? Too narrow. Anti-copyright? Too broad. I referred to 'anti-rights-holder' because, at the moment, this is how it's playing out in courts and legislatures. I know there are many rights-holders who would not ordinarily choose to align themselves with their industry's lobby, and maybe those people need to speak up a bit more.

    @Moley - I agree about something-for-nothing as an all-pervasive attitude, but I do think there are many things you can rightly get for nothing, such as FOSS and, for that matter, music that artists have chosen to distribute for free. That's great, but yes, everything-for-nothing is not a healthy attitude to have.
    David Meyer
  • @ David Meyer

    I stand corrected. I commented from within Firefox running on GNU/Linux, specifically Ubuntu but it could have been SuSe. However, this comment is from within Firefox running on Windows 8 Preview.

    @Luke Jon Gibson

    I'm wondering, if you really are the rights holder, why you do not use one of the many permissive licences which are available to suit your needs?
    The Former Moley
  • @ David Meyer

    Thanks for a great insight and a balanced view of both sides of the fence.

    I think the biggest point to be addressed is the concept of 'good' sharing and 'bad' sharing, social media and services like Facebook Movies and Spotify are great examples of 'good' sharing.

    Rights holders are trying to embrace the concept of sharing but looking at alternative models of revenue - meaning more licences and future developement of music, film and games within a sustainable model.

    I think many would agree with you in terms of the moral blackhole file sharing and piracy highlights (is it stealing, is it not) but many like @Jon Gibson would not but the simple fact of the matter is that studios (music, movies and game development) plough millions upon millions into development and some titles are blockbusters some are flops.

    Their business depends on maximising the revenue from the blockbuster to cover the flops (in all 3 categories and more) and it's the blockbusters that get pirates and shared the most.

    If we don't want to see Mission Impossible 53 with a geriatric Tom Cruise or Terminator 12: Terminator Reloaded alongside Star War: 3D Digitally remastered, 12 seconds bonus feature with nothing in between then we need a solution that ensures we have a sustainable model for sharing, an open debate about how movie studios et al move into the digital age and better international standards then this is going to continue for decades to the detriment of us all.
  • A good balanced view from both sides,but I personally think it will harm the artists and makers alike.
    I like to listen to the tracks/album first before buying.
    If I cant listen to the track 1st then why bother to buy it?
    I have bought albums I like after I have listened to them online.
    So it is a poor state of affairs when the ordinary internet user should be penalised and a site taken down because of the many who want to listen and then buy the product.
    Is there not a site which a net user can just listen to recordings and then decide whether to buy or not to buy?
    After all it is in the interests of all concerned to sell goods ,so by taking away the freedom to listen can only harm all interested parties,both internet and companies as well.
  • @ Charlie7290 - Spotify and Deezer spring to mind. Of course, when it comes to more obscure music, sometimes unlawful downloading is the only way to get to hear it at all...
    David Meyer
  • Thanks Dave, a useful comment and a fair one.
    Still a lot of debating to be done for the pro's and cons of it all.
    I just hope its not against the vast majority who just want to listen.