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Space for Rent: SOPA & The Problem with “Special Crimes”


Tweet of the Day: Here Kitty, Kitty

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First off what is PIPA/SOPA all about:

And it looked like the opponents succeeded. Or did they?

Critics insisted that these bills were dangerous because they empowered the U.S. Government, based on mere accusations of piracy and copyright infringement, to shut down websites without any real due process. But just as the celebrations began over the saving of Internet Freedom, something else happened: the U.S. Justice Department not only indicted the owners of one of the world’s largest websites, the file-sharing site Megaupload, but also seized and shut down that site, and also seized or froze millions of dollars of its assets — all based on the unproved accusations, set forth in an indictment, that the site deliberately aided copyright infringement.

In other words, many SOPA opponents were confused and even shocked when they learned that the very power they feared the most in that bill — the power of the U.S. Government to seize and shut down websites based solely on accusations, with no trial — is a power the U.S. Government already possesses and, obviously, is willing and able to exercise even against the world’s largest sites (they have this power thanks to the the 2008  PRO-IP Act pushed by the same industry servants in Congress behind SOPA as well as by forfeiture laws used to seize the property of accused-but-not-convicted drug dealers).

So while stopping the bill was a victory (of sorts) it is too little too late. For you see, online piracy has now been elevated to the hollowed ranks of Special Crimes for which all measures must be taken to stop it, even if the punishments far outstrip the acts and the measures do far more damage than the results of the crime itself. And no, this not start on September 12, 2001. No, it as old as civilization itself. In fact the old “Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth” is an aversion to extreme punishments for even the smallest crimes, that is to say only take something of equal value to what you have lost, no more, no less. Another fact is how the only crime mentioned in the Constitution of the United States is treason. Why? Because it was a one of those special crimes for which little evidence was needed to prosecute that it was abused by the Crown with ease.

But what are these so called “Special Crimes”? They are the type of crimes that the State considers so heinous, so destructive, that the only way to deal with them is to chuck the Rule of Law and create “special” laws to deal with them. We seen it in the so called War on Drugs. Think that the government needs to convict you to cease your property? Nope. A mere accusation is all that it’s required. And good luck getting it back.

It gets worse of course if the subject is terrorism: indefinite detection, torture and of course capital punishment (assassination) and you don’t get the chance of even appearing before a court (no Habeas Corpus for you Bob!).

Also yesterday in American justice, a three-judge panel of a federal appellate court in Virginia upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush officials by Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen who was imprisoned for almost three years without charges or even a lawyer and was systematically tortured to the point of permanent mental incapacitation. Padilla sued the former Defense Secretary on the ground that he had authorized Padilla’s illegal imprisonment and torture. The Obama DOJ vigorously defended Rumsfeld, arguing (a) that Rumsfeld is entitled to immunity on the ground that he had reason to believe his acts were legal and (b) an American citizen has no right to sue a government official for the treatment he receives as a designated “enemy combatant” — even if the treatment in question is torture and prolonged imprisonment without charges.

And now online piracy has joined this illustrious group of “Special Crimes”.

There is old Spanish proverb that goes something like this:

“Justos por Pecadores”

Go ahead and have Google translate that for you, before someone in Hollywood slaps a copyright on it.

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7 comments on “Space for Rent: SOPA & The Problem with “Special Crimes”

  1. Loving that first picture.

    I don’t understand how non-violent crimes could possibly be thought of as more serious or more deserving of punishment than violent crimes. Sometimes, bringing up piracy on certain forums will get people so upset – more upset than I’ve seen some of them after mentioning a murder!

    It’s not like I’m pro-piracy or anything, but I just don’t feel it’s as bad as even shoplifting a DVD (since that removes a product from circulation, so actually affects company income) rather than downloading a DVD that if it wasn’t available through pirating networks, the person would have never bought in the first place. In that scenario, there’s no money withdrew from the industry.

    There’s a lot of stuff out there about how bunk the piracy estimates are because they assume that every pirated copy is a lost sale, but people only have limited budgets as well – they can only spend so much a month, so not every illegal download is a loss sale.

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    • But this goes beyond piracy. Think of how it will hurt YouTube for example, even though smart companies like 343 Industries (formerly Bungie), Bioware even Warner Bros have profited from thousands of fan made videos tied to their franchises. The fact that fan art in its many forms exists keeps the interest on the product/franchise, but many of these companies would simply shut it all down just to force us back into old consumer habits/transactions.

      Thank you for your comment and welcome to my blog! 😀

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    • Yea, just trying to point out that even their stated justification of passing this bill is deeply flawed, let alone the overarching implications.

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    • It’s not a lost sale. I watch TV online, because I don’t have the oppurtunity to see it on a television. But I always buy the box set when it is released on DVD. Plus, I never buy TV shows if I don’t like it, and I don’t want to spend any money on a show I may or may not like.

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    • I understand. But as a writer I want to protect myself from thieves and plagiarist. But neither SOPA/PIPA/ACTA are the way to go.

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  2. Have you read up on ACTA?

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