Monday, June 25, 2012

Free culture looters

The stupid Internet is buzzing about the case of Richard O'Dwyer, a 24 year old British student at Sheffield University in the UK, who is facing extradition to the USA and up to ten years in prison, for creating a website – TVShack.net – which linked to places to watch TV and movies online. The pro-piracy chief of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, writes in the Guardian. Phrases like "encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood" are chock-full of power words like 'moguls', 'civil liberties', 'interests' and so on. But as I commented here, the piracy dispute is essentially between the hugely powerful advertising industry and the hugely powerful entertainment industry. Obviously content creators have their civil liberties too. This writer put it well*.
What the corporate backed Free Culture movement is asking us to do is analogous to changing our morality and principles to allow the equivalent of looting. Say there is a neighborhood in your local big city. Let’s call it The ‘Net. In this neighborhood there are record stores. Because of some antiquated laws, The ‘Net was never assigned a police force. So in this neighborhood people simply loot all the products from the shelves of the record store. People know it’s wrong, but they do it because they know they will rarely be punished for doing so. What the commercial Free Culture movement (see the “hybrid economy”) is saying is that instead of putting a police force in this neighborhood we should simply change our values and morality to accept this behavior. We should change our morality and ethics to accept looting because it is simply possible to get away with it. And nothing says freedom like getting away with it, right?
By analogy, what O'Dywer was doing (as someone has already pointed out in a comment on Jimmy's post), was running a site where people could post up the location of the shops where the owners were absent, and had poor security locks, or open windows, so that the looters could go there as well. So I am not impressed with the claim that "I wasn't a looter myself".

Jimmy also discusses it on Wikipedia, where he objects to a mischievous claim that the Wikipedia's pro-piracy and looting-support vote back in January was by IPs or newly-registered accounts. ("Spirits from the vasty deeps"). As I commented in January, there certainly was a significant amount of voting of this kind.

*Link fixed.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Sonali said...

Thanks for your posts, I would be waiting for similar interesting posts in future.

Thanks
Marcus White Lisdoonvarna

5:24 pm  
Blogger Jason Hills said...

Comments on this take?

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/extraditing-students-for-copyright-claims-jimmy-wales-says-its-wrong/

7:55 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

"He tried to follow the law, and I would argue that he very likely succeeded in doing so." - Wales

I know nothing about this case. If Wales description is accurate, then it is an outrage.

I guess I'll have to read the indictment.

10:55 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Heh. While looking for more information on this I stumbled across this gem. The Richard O'Dwye "biography" on Wikipedia was largely written by User:SasiSasi, who was indefinitely blocked for copyright violations.

11:34 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Well, I can't seem to find the indictment. Actually, it seems to be a "complaint", part of which is referenced in Judge Purdy's ruling, but the whole of which I can't find.

Paragraph 9 of the "Summary of the Facts of the Case" is pretty damning. The FAQ is alleged to have said "you’re saving quite a lot of money (especially when putting several visits to the theatre or seasons together) by having to wait a little bit of time".

Also damning is alleged opening of TVShack.cc after TVShack.net was shut down by the FBI.

12:13 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

Do you have a link to the ruling, Anthony?

7:53 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

This looks like it (it isn't the link I found yesterday but it looks identical to the previous one): http://www.europeanrights.eu/public/sentenze/WMC13gen2012.pdf

12:38 pm  
Blogger Tony Lloyd said...

I don't think the analogy works without adding a few more details.

In The ‘Net there are a lot of stalls that give out stuff for free. Some of these stalls are giving out stuff for free against the wishes of the producers of the stuff, some are giving it out for free with at the request of the producers of the stuff. Some are giving it out for free at the request of producers of the stuff, but only to certain people.

Most of the stuff being given out (whether permitted or not) is being given out for free, at the request of the producers, in another neighbourhood: "The Airwaves".

You don't know which is which. You are not made aware of who wants what. All you can see is stuff that is available for free.

Is it wrong to say what you see?


What you do is tell people where people are giving away stuff for free.

3:59 pm  
Blogger Jason Hills said...

When I posted the link, my intent to as offer another avenue of thought. If what the person did was legal in the UK but illegal in the US, then is the UK obligated to extradite the person? Does the obligation change if the sentencing laws in the US are extremely draconian and violate proportionate justice? I don't think there is a clear answer, and most of the comments so far side-step this issue. Whether the person was right or wrong is a trivially easy judgment.

4:23 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>What you do is tell people where people are giving away stuff for free.

You are telling them where stolen goods are being dished out free. Actually not free, because you have to endure the advertising on these sites, which is a cost of sorts. The purveyors of the stolen goods are getting handsomely rewarded, of course.

4:33 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>When I posted the link, my intent to as offer another avenue of thought. If what the person did was legal in the UK but illegal in the US, then is the UK obligated to extradite the person? Does the obligation change if the sentencing laws in the US are extremely draconian and violate proportionate justice? I don't think there is a clear answer, and most of the comments so far side-step this issue. Whether the person was right or wrong is a trivially easy judgment.
<<

Well there are many issues tied up with this. Yes, extradition is morally wrong if the jurisdiction lacks 'justice' or 'fairness'. The question is whether it is fair or not.

Another angle frequently purveyed on the net is that the US is an evil dictatorship, and that's a very persuasive argument to some.

4:35 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> You don't know which is which. You are not made aware of who wants what. All you can see is stuff that is available for free.

If this is the case, then hopefully his lawyers will raise reasonable doubt, and he will be found not guilty.

We're not at that point yet, though. You don't need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to extradite, only to convict.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> If what the person did was legal in the UK but illegal in the US, then is the UK obligated to extradite the person?

No. This is covered in the ruling.

>> Does the obligation change if the sentencing laws in the US are extremely draconian and violate proportionate justice?

There is no obligation to extradite if extradition would fail to respect the European Convention on Human Rights. This is covered in the ruling.

>> I don't think there is a clear answer

Did you read the ruling? I linked to it.

5:15 pm  
Blogger Jason Hills said...

Anthony,

I am not covering the ruling. I am reporting the issues. We are coming from very different perspectives and almost two different conversations. But we needn't go further, as I was merely pointing them out and not intending to comment.

7:38 pm  

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