“With your head on my shoulders we could wreck civilization!”

I haven’t followed the story surrounding The Pirate Bay closely, but I know enough to find no outrage at the recent conviction of the four founders. I don’t share what seems to be the typical libertarian revulsion at copyright laws. Although I agree they’re flawed as they’re written, there are legal ways for content producers to contract with customers that ignore the process. The system is broken but the free market created a work-around. So, I’m not ready to hoist a Live Free or Die banner on this issue.

That’s my short version. I like this longer, more detailed version from Eugenia’s Rants and Thoughts.

In my opinion, they are indeed guilty — they have been total assholes to lawyers who have sent them takedown notices over time. These dumbasses think that they are some kind of revolutionist heroes. Yes, a revolution is needed for copyright laws and the entertainment industry today, but these guys haven’t realized that in this day and age there is only one way to start a revolution: work through the existing system’s limitations and lobby extensively for new laws. Anything [sic] other approach will be shot down by the system and the corporations. This is not 1789 France. You can’t win with riffles, and picketing or rage anymore. You simply can’t ignore the laws. We live in a bureaucratic, corporation-led world, and so you will have to work through these constrains to change the world (e.g. via Creative Commons which is a clever approach that doesn’t cancel the current laws, so it can’t piss off the establishment to come after you). This Gandhi approach works: if you don’t buy the RIAA/MPAA-bound products, these empires will eventually fall, but it’s the only way to do it.

I’d change “corporation-led world” to a more general reference about special interests, but that’s mostly semantics based on politics. The basic idea is correct. If you don’t like the rules, refuse to participate or change them. Violating them instead is not a valid option.

Title reference here.

3 thoughts on ““With your head on my shoulders we could wreck civilization!””

  1. Sure, they’re guilty of “being assholes to lawyers” but the last time I checked, that wasn’t a crime!
    It’s not often that I find myself in disagreement w/you, but I’m surprised by (and disagree with) this statement:

    If you don’t like the rules, refuse to participate or change them. Violating them instead is not a valid option.

    (I would challenge you to apply this rule to other issues, and see if you come down on the same side o f the fence.) Eugenia says that “any other approach will be shot down by the system”, and describes succinctly everything that’s wrong with “the system”, yet maintains faith that this same, unquestionable and omnipotent system which exists primarily to serve special interests, is the way to achieve revolution?
    I’m sorry, did you forget a /sarcasm tag somewhere???

  2. I left the “being assholes to lawyers” comment in the excerpt and unremarked upon because it was the opening sentence. I agree that if that’s all the Pirate Bay founders did, I couldn’t care less. Any justice aimed at rectifying that is offensive.
    I think you’re likely right on the rest, at least to the extent that my statement was a blanket statement. It was, as I succumbed to an emphasis on the poetic rather than the content. My statement is not a universal truth. As you suggest, I can think of many issues in which violating the rules is the only moral obligation.
    Note: The rest of this may veer from your intentions or implications. It’s as much meditation as response.
    On copyright, I’m still inclined to think it’s reasonable. Intellectual property laws exist. (I don’t wish to imply you deny this point.) By “change” I mean something like Creative Commons. It does not change the system built by the RIAA with the help of politicians. But it opens the debate for content producers and consumers. It’s possible to step outside the system. There are people who are building careers on giving content away, unrestricted by DRM. This is a market solution, and what I had in mind with my post.
    To the extent that copyright laws promote efficiency in contract, I am in favor of them. The special interests are the primary driving force now, which is why I think the system we have is flawed and unlikely to be improved upon in any significant way. But intellectual property should be protected, if the creator wishes. The current system is an option for efficiency.
    I place a © on the main page of my blog as a shorthand way of saying “This is mine”. I want to maintain control over what I create. I want the efficiency of that system. But I’m also aware enough of our marketplace to understand that I’d be ignored completely – regardless of content – if I blocked off my RSS feed, for example. The people I want to reach use RSS. I agree with this, but if I disagreed, I’d still cater to the preferences of those individuals.
    The RIAA and MPAA don’t get this. They want it to be 1991 forever. I’m willing to let them be stupid. But I’m also willing to not partake of their product when it’s restricted to rules I don’t like. The Pirate Bay basically said they didn’t like the rules, so they would ignore them and take the content anyway. They essentially said that it’s acceptable for them to partake of the work of another without the owner’s consent. That’s objectionable to me.
    Here’s a hypothetical: I’m planning to clean out the junk in my house, including the vast majority of my physical music collection. I intend to keep the digital copies I’ve made or will make for fair use. Should I trash the CDs or may I offer them for sale? They’re still useful, but selling them is objectionable because I still intend to enjoy the content after the discs are gone.
    Ultimately, I agree that the system isn’t going to change much or quickly. I don’t pretend that working towards that is the fastest or smartest route to a more reasonable system. The special interests propping it up won’t consent and they’re better funded. They will always be behind, often far behind. But it’s an option for someone who wants to put forth the effort.
    This probably should’ve been my blog post on the subject.

  3. On the contrary, such a revolution is the only option.
    Meekly bowing down to special interests who wall us off from our own culture is not the answer.

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