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Why is Department of Homeland Security worrying about file-swapping?
Previous Politech messages:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Hollywood foots bill for LAPD spy cams: How
Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 09:31:08 -0400
From: Paul Rapp <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Declan McCullagh <email@example.com>
Surprised Homeland Security isn't in on this, too. Or maybe they are.
See the attached article I wrote for an Albany alternative weekly on the
Elite Torrents bust.
Also available online (until, I think, tomorrow) at
Paul C. Rapp, Esq.
348 Long Pond Road
Housatonic, MA 01236
MA Phone 413.553.3189
NY Phone 518.935.4568
Metroland Magazine; Albany NY June 2, 2005
Since Sept. 11, 2001, most folks agree in principle that we ought to be
on a heightened state of alert. There are bad people who want to get us:
They’ve shown they can do it, and stopping them before they do it again
is a good thing.
And when we tell the government to circle the wagons, it’s to be
expected that mistakes will be made. There will be overreaching, and
rights will get stepped on. It’s inevitable. But it is the citizens’ job
to tell the government when it has gone too far, because the government
isn’t equipped to stop itself. Like a nasty fungus or a bad roommate,
the government will expand to fill any available space. Along the way,
the government will gobble up everything in sight—including fundamental
rights—until somebody stands up to the inertia and says “stop that.”
This column is supposed to be about intellectual-property issues, so why
am I harping about the “war on terror”? Because the two things have
Last week, a multilevel governmental strike force, apparently led by the
Department of Homeland Security, shut down the Elite Torrents Web site,
where bit- torrent-based peer-to-peer file trading was taking place.
(Bit torrent is a new and superfast peer-to-peer networking technology.)
If you go to www.elitetorrents.org, you will see, between the official
seals of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the following
message: THIS SITE HAS BEEN PERMANENTLY SHUT DOWN BY THE FEDERAL BUREAU
OF INVESTIGATION AND U.S. CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT. Those
running the Elite Torrents site are being criminally prosecuted by the
Federal Department of Justice.
Maybe I’m missing something here, and I hope that I am, but the
Department of Homeland Security (according to its Web site, www.dms.gov)
“has three primary missions: Prevent terrorist attacks within the United
States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the
damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.” And Elite Torrents
was allowing the free distribution of copyrighted materials over the
’Net. According to news reports, Elite Torrents made the new Star Wars
movie Revenge of the Sith available six hours before the movie’s
premiere, and was responsible for more than 10,000 downloads of the
movie before the site was shut down.
One of these days I’ll discuss the legal ins and outs of file sharing
over the Web, but suffice it to say that right now in this country,
downloading free music, movies, and software without the copyright
owners’ permission is a lot more illegal than legal, and it’s likely to
stay that way. So the folks running Elite Torrents should have had an
inkling that posting new movies—especially Revenge of the Sith—for free
download on the Web would bring the wrath of the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA) raining down upon them. The MPAA has
always been super-aggressive against piracy and counterfeit goods, and
of course it’s going to be absolutely tenacious as technology begins to
allow for the quick and easy transfer of movie-sized files on the Web.
But the Department of Homeland Security? What are they doing here?
Shouldn’t they be doing things like making sure some fanatic doesn’t
bazooka a chemical plant or fly another plane into a building? Are we
supposed to feel safer because geeky college kids can’t download pirated
Star Wars movies any more?
What’s particularly distressing here is that we’re talking about the
movement of information. OK, pirated information, but information all
the same, and fairly benign information at that. Yeah, piracy’s a bad
thing, and infringement can often be a bad thing, but frankly, not
always. There are civil penalties for piracy and infringement, and if
the activities are bad and systematic enough, there are criminal
penalties as well. There have always been policies and processes to
punish bad guys.
But it appears that the resources that are supposed to be used to keep
the country safe are being used instead to keep the information industry
happy and profitable. And beefed-up laws and mandates that were supposed
to be used against enemies of the state—you know, the freakin’
evildoers—are being used against, at best, high-tech common criminals.
Dwight D. Eisenhower wasn’t a flaming liberal, and nobody ever accused
him of being unpatriotic. Eisenhower warned in 1961, in his last speech
as president, that the titans of national defense and of business, if
allowed to run together, could nibble away at normal citizens’ basic
liberties until the liberties were all gone:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of
unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the
military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of
misplaced power exists and will persist.
“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties
or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an
alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the
huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful
methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Posted by Declan McCullagh on Jun 08, 2005
in category intellectual-property
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