Obama Administration Announces Massive Piracy Crackdown

Jason Mick
Jun. 23, 2010

The entire idea of intellectual property is a fraud. Beyond that, this is merely an excuse to crackdown on the free internet. If you view the stories just today you'll be shocked how much good news is all the sudden coming out, this is the best I've ever seen things news wise, it's as if this year we're experiencing some complete and total societal renaissance. - Chris"It's smash and grab, no different than a guy walking down Fifth Avenue and smashing the window at Tiffany's and reaching in and grabbing what's in the window." -- U.S. VP Joe Biden

While they may never be able to truly defeat piracy and drive it from the lurking depths of the internet, copyright protection attack-dog organizations like the RIAA and MPAA have long dreamed of the day when they would no longer have to pay for their own copyright enforcement. Now that dream is on the verge of coming true, thanks to the Obama administration.

After countless lobbyist dollars from the music and film industry and a brief "public review", the administration rolled out its vision to fight piracy yesterday afternoon. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden -- whose blunt speech has sometime left him in trouble -- did not mince words.

He states, "This is theft, clear and simple. It's smash and grab, no different than a guy walking down Fifth Avenue and smashing the window at Tiffany's and reaching in and grabbing what's in the window."

The sound-byte comparing downloads to stealing jewels from New York City's finest jeweler quickly lit up the web. Bob Pisano, interim chief executive officer at the Motion Picture Association of America praised the VP, "It is especially critical that the United States has an effective framework for protecting creative content online and enforcing intellectual property rights in the digital environment."

According to the Obama administration, the RIAA, and MPAA, the world economy is pretty much doomed if we don't start prosecuting pirates at home and abroad. Without such a crackdown, businesses will go bankrupt the coalition argues. Biden states, "Piracy hurts, it hurts our economy."

Interestingly, the statements seem to fly in the face of a recent Government Accountability Office study released to U.S. Congress earlier this year, which concluded that there is virtually no evidence for the claimed million dollar losses by the entertainment industry. That study suggested that piracy could even benefit the economy.

Another noteworthy study from three years back notes that virtually every citizen violates intellectual property laws in some way on a daily basis.

The White House press release was full of buzz phrases, but short on details. It did however indicate that the U.S. government may increasingly monitor filesharing networks and BitTorrent sites and assist media groups in their prosecution/threat letter efforts. It speaks of improved "law enforcement efforts at the Federal, state and local level."

The biggest effort, though, will be devoted to cracking down on piracy websites in the U.S. and overseas. The administration was short on details of how exactly it would convince piracy-loving nations like China to change their ways, but it did say it would try to do so by "being as public as we possibly can" about infringement.

The press release states, "As we shine the spotlight on foreign governments that have rogue actors doing illicit business within their borders, it's the government's responsibility to respond."

Such efforts have shown mild success. After lots of threats against the Swedish government by the U.S., the European Union nation finally tried admins with the nation's largest torrent site The Pirate Bay last year and found them guilty. The trial was later exposed to be a perversion of the justice system, with the judge who gave the verdict have multiple ties to copyright protection organizations. The verdict -- $3M USD in damages and a year of hard prison time for the admins -- is currently being appealed.

The White House's vision is perhaps a prelude to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which will go before Congress later this year. The bill would make P2P or BitTorrent client development a criminal offense if the distributed software was used for infringement. It also implements an interesting provision called "imminent infringement", which allows the government to charge people who they think might be about to infringe with a civil offense (for example if you searched "torrent daft punk"). This is among the first official "thought crime" provisions to be proposed by the U.S. government. The bill also makes it a criminal offense to bypass DRM.

Ultimately, it should be interesting to see how American taxpayers react to President Obama's decision to spend their money on efforts to prosecute them and try to choke out piracy at home and abroad, particularly when the current evidence is inconclusive of its effects. One thing's for sure, though. Top politicians on both sides of the aisle are firmly behind the music and movie industry anti-piracy and money-collection efforts. - DailyTech

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