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Whilst You’re in the U.S. Mr. Cameron—Take a Stand Against Corrupt Lobbyists
I was shocked this morning to see that the UK, in the person of Home Secretary, Theresa May, has ordered Richard O’Dwyer’s extradition. For those of you who thought that the SOPA battle was won, think again. This is madness. This is wrong. This is why the 99% movement, as it finds its feet and its voice, will not go quietly into any dark night—apologies to Dylan Thomas.

For those of you who are unaware of the background here please read, in full, my post of last June, reproduced below. This was when there were few of us concerned to the max about S.978 that became SOPA. Read, think, then read the linked Guardian article. It’s too late in the U.S., but the Brits tagged on this post should lobby—loudly.

Follow the Money—The Bill is in the Tail
$85,748,057 plays $29,100. Given the money involved and the vested interest, maybe it’s not so surprising that there has been little connection made between two stories that will impact every consumer of online media.

It is rare that I find myself needing to use the word ‘conspiracy’ in a post. Sadly, I can think of no other word that can explain the mainstream media’s silence. Specifically, the media’s failure to make the connection between the efforts of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department to extradite British student Richard O’Dwyer, and the bi-partisan support for the passage of S.978.

For those of you, whether in the UK, US, or, indeed, around the globe, who are just about to skip the rest of this post on the basis that neither O’Dwyer, nor the US Congress and S.978 have anything to do with you, I encourage you to have a little patience. For those of you who are reading this online (that would be 100%), and who have ever shared copyrighted material online (that’s certainly greater than 70%), you should be concerned. Very.

First of all, a little background. Richard O’Dwyer is a 23-year-old undergrad at Sheffield University. His ‘crime’ was (past tense since Mr. O’Dwyer took the site down last year as soon as he was contacted by the authorities), the publication of a website (‘TVShack’) that, although it did not host illegally-copied material, did provide links to sites that did. As such, there was little difference between O’Dwyer’s site, and most, if not all search engines. Any difference that does exist could be argued to be that users of the site should be expected to know that the downloads accessed through the links were illegally-copied. However, I don’t see Twitter’s management subject to extradition to the UK in the Super-Injunction case . Nor should they be. Links are simply links. It is the users who bear responsibility for their actions.

Further, in the UK precedent would prevail and, under existing case law, Mr. O’Dwyer did not commit a crime. In a sensible world the removal of the site would have been the end of the matter. However, late last month, Richard O’Dwyer was arrested at the request of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department. He spent a night in prison, subsequently appearing in court this past week at the start of his fight against extradition. This is where S.978 comes in.

S.978 is a bill the stated purpose of which is to, “amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes.” In plain English, the bill will criminalize streaming of content through changing such activities’ legal status from a misdemeanor to a felony. Potentially this brackets those who share copyrighted material on YouTube, whether intentionally or not, with the criminal element that operates full-scale DVD reproduction and distribution operations. With massive fines and/or up to five years imprisonment, in the event that he is extradited and found guilty, the potential penalty will make Mr. O’Dwyer’s night in Wandsworth prison seem like a pleasant break from college.

Now I’ve been watching the progress of S.978 for a while. However, it was not until last Friday when I followed up on a Tweet from and looked at the numbers on Maplight.org that the scale of the inequity hit home. As pointed out very succinctly in OpenCongress.org , S.978 is a very rare thing. It is a bill with bi-partisan support (should that be tri-partisan support since it has backing of the White House too?), in an age when even essential and obvious Acts languish through political point scoring. It was a couple of hours later that I read a summary of the O’Dwyer case in the Guardian . This was late on Friday evening.

The connection between the two stories, the currency, and the importance of the issues involved led me to expect several thousand words of analysis and commentary over the week-end. Instead of which, forty-eight hours later, nothing. There have been a few pieces in technology blogs and the second-tier media. However, in the mainstream there’s been barely a word. We know that it’s all about the money. However this seems more. It’s hardly surprising that the word ‘conspiracy’ comes to mind.

As any other author and publisher, I support copyright protection and the laws required to ensure that creativity is encouraged and rewarded in a tangible form. As a pragmatist, I acknowledge that personal sharing will continue and that it is the models that need to change to accommodate the fact.

Further, I understand that in today’s cloud-based digital environment, truly creative thinking and real investment, rather than draconian acts and legal remedy, need to be applied to discourage wholesale copying and distribution. I say ‘discourage’ because stopping it altogether is no more possible today than it was in the days of VHS and cassettes.

However, as a voter, a commentator, a concerned citizen, and a media consumer I’m saddened that even the thinking media are able to turn a blind eye to the obvious and allow vested interest prevail. I expect it of the politicians. I expect it of the majority of the media. But the entirety? Sad.
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37 comments
 
Has been fairly wide coverage in the UK media, but almost no depth, so thanks for the extra detail. The whole thing is a travesty and reinforces the discrepancy within the extradition treaty, being far harder to bring someone to the UK than to the US.
Of course with so much of copyright and trade moving to agreements rather than legislation these travesties will become more and more common.
As to copyright infringement, it's a service problem - give reasonable cost, restriction free access and piracy will die back aside from the small minority who do it because they can. Stick with delayed releases across world, region coding, DRM and folks like me will pirate every single thing they also buy legally - merely to get same without the restriction.
 
As an author, publisher, and technologist who is all to well aware of human nature I agree with you 100% +Matt Holmes. With the right system it is not a difficult problem to solve. The core here, though, is the total imbalance in the U.S. extraterritoriality reach. Egregious plus when one looks at the lobbying money behind the issue.
 
One of several of the more astonishing moments of the Blair presidency government signing on for something so plainly unbalanced. It really does need renegotiating to at least have the same evidential requirements - in theory we should protect our citizens equally.

Of course I'm not expecting change any time soon, though I briefly thought it might have been something the LibDems would have picked up on.
 
And let's not forget the Patriot Act and its implications. I'm not sure how many people in the US realise how negatively the rest of the world sees them nowadays? (Probably don't care I guess)

Of course the actions of the Government and its lobbyists are not those of the people (actually the exact opposite more likely)...
 
+Matt Holmes - Agreed totally on the failure. Personally, I think that maybe it's time for Blair to drop the Middle East and correct some errors of his period of governance. It would be neat to see him brought back and initiate a stand-off similar to that between Hugh Grant and Billy Bob Thornton in Love Actually. Now that, rather than the Olympics, would be a moment to be treasured by the British population—irrespective of political stance.
 
Indeed +John Butler. That a 'Democratic' President signed off on the NDAA with so little backlash and popular understanding of the Constitutional ramifications is simply mind numbing. OK, maybe not. The 'Fox' audience/generation have no concept of the potential impact on them and on theirs.
 
+John Butler I think one of the issues for the US on realising that world view is how few, comparatively speaking, US folks travel abroad to ever experience it.

+Colin Lucas-Mudd Yes, I think quite a lot would like to see that. Perhaps he's still looking for those WMDs out in the Middle East.
 
Grounds for extradition UK->US is "reasonable suspicion" ie a somewhat advanced hunch. This is entirely outside of SOPA and ACTA.

In other words they don't really need SOPA/ACTA for Megaupload reaction or this.
 
+Colin Lucas-Mudd The issue is horribly illustrative of the international power of big money, but not unexpected.

I have been waiting for something like this since the Pirate Bay prosecutions. In other words, it was inevitable that the American media corporations would be seeking test cases in high profile jurisdictions that had reciprocal agreements with the US.

As a distant observer I suspect that the only lesson to be learnt from this is that citizens of Western nations need to start impressing on their politicians that they oppose being subjected to imperial American edicts. In other words, US politics must be rejected in elections outside the US.

The reality, though, appears to be that the UK will cave because the law allows it to, and Australia will follow suit if and when Hollywood wants one our first born as tribute.

The downside for the US is probably invisible to Americans: a renewed and perhaps ferocious wave of anti-American sentiment even among the populations of its staunchest allies. From an Australian perspective it might become harder to see the upside of backing an imperial plutocracy indifferent to our concerns when a more restrained capitalist autocracy in China offers a less imbalanced economic partnership as the basis for regional ties.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The test case has not yet been won. Perhaps someone in Britain ought to be organising Geoffrey Robertson to defend O'Dwyer, and for the likes of John Pilger to come out in defence of British sovereignty, the way they did for Assange. There is yet a PR fight that could be won.
 
Thank you +Peter Strempel. A perfect summary and commentary. I particularly liked the, "There is yet a PR fight that could be won." closing sentence. Your 'anti-American' sentiment backlash is the key here. Onward!
 
There are two or three appeal steps still to go - Court of Appeal, Supreme Court (House of Lords as final UK arbiter would have been rather more likely to be independent and "robust" - Thanks again Tony), and finally European Court of Human Rights(I believe), presuming they have funds for all these steps.
 
Excellent +Meg Tufano. Note to everyone following this thread: Click on Meg's link above and absorb.
 
Indeed +Jera Wolfe. It has morphed. The principles and underlying venality are still festering in the wings.
 
+Meg Tufano Pirate mp3s or avis have made me buy a ton of content I'd never have come across otherwise. If you're not aware of him, Rickard Flakvinge has some superbly written pieces on piracy: http://falkvinge.net/
But we all know it's a bogus argument Meg.
 
Hmmm +Dieter Mueller. The 'Network Effect' may be missing, but maybe IBM's 'Bow Tie Effect' may percolate to the surface. Perhaps +Euro Maestro has a comment here given the sartorial connection.
 
No I know +Dieter Mueller, but see my first comment about it being a service problem. There's a blog post that expressed it delightfully that I don't have a URL to hand for. Essentially most folks want to be legal if there's a reasonable, easy, cheap way to do so. Force me to buy silly plastic disks at a shop that closed years ago rather than download or stream, and people reach the "F*** it point", then go pirate it. Catch them before then and they'll buy. Most won't both buying after they've downloaded.

When I was in school we all had dual tape decks and CDs - we all had copies of everything but mostly still bought all the CDs and vinyl we had cash for. No sales were lost in my opinion as the money was all used up buying content anyway - no tapes wouldn't have meant more money in the game.

There is a proportion - 10% more, less (I dont know), that will pirate anyway - mostly teens, simply because they can. Or because it's "clever". That will happen regardless of method, penalty or DRM system.
 
+Matt Holmes Sounds funny, but there's a little too MUCH content on that page for me to look through! ;') But I think the principle of copyrights and ownership of one's ideas is sound, but we are entering a new age and just going back to the top-down military/business model is not going to fix this. Probably, better communities of trust are going to end up being the solution: I have no interest in taking someone else's anything . However, note that I posted earlier a page from a book I'm reading with a link to Amazon. That is, literally, probably breaking the law (it's not MY content). Maybe it will sell the author a few books, I don't know. We do this in academia endlessly. (There are some rules about length.) But turns out it's not actually in Intellectual Property law per se (+Anne-Marie Clark ?) or at least it wasn't in the law the last time I studied it (seminar about ten years ago). It's just accepted practice in universities. (As, for example, if you are a professor and write a book while in the university, legally, the university owns the book: but it's accepted practice not to enforce that law.) Do I still have this right Anne-Marie?
 
I missed your share of that +Euro Maestro.

+Meg Tufano A reasonable starting point would, perhaps, be to go back to the 17th C interpretation of copyright.
I do find it deeply ironic though that Hollywood got started by breaking copyright of the pre-existing studios. The early history is fascinating in the context of what we have today.
 
Hello +Euro Maestro, sorry, I missed that post. I'm delighted that you got it out there. As you know from our direct conversations this is a hot button of mine. Thanks for posting the link here.
 
+Meg Tufano lol - Uh, no. I don't practice IP law, so I'm not going to wade into this one, but some legal concepts you could look into for more info would be fair use, proper attribution, permission, and plagiarism. Even if you think you know the lay terms, see the legal thinking....at least on what is and isn't "fair use."
 
+Matt Holmes Speaking of the history of copyright and the abuse by Holly. I posted a short video here that shows that history, how Disney profited by making films from characters that were in the public domain and now prevents anyone else from any type of creative work with those public domain characters.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/107040353898400532534/posts/YTmf7gCEZgx

Check the video out, it's been shared like almost 200 times now.
 
+Colin Lucas-Mudd Yes, it's a hot button of mine too. I'm so glad you posted it and the response that you got from +Alex Grossman and others. For me it's a confirmation that I might have posted something of interest to people.
 
Targeting O'Dwyer was no accident, and he didn't cover himself well. The argument will be about profiting from piracy. he wasn't some teenager downloading just for his private entertainment. He aggregated links to attract visitors whose numbers he sold to advertisers.

His defence is that he did not profit from piracy directly, but rather from pointing to content that was not (yet) banned or illegal where it was being hosted.

The media corporations will pursue cases like this whenever the opportunity arises in the hope of closing down aggregators. Whether they are aware that this will only serve to drive P2P traffic further underground is a moot point. Where there's unfilled demand, someone will set up shop, legal or otherwise, as already mentioned by Matt above.

I agree with Dieter that downloading mp3s and video rips is plainly copyright infringement, but I think the obscene profitability of oligopoly media conglomerates makes it difficult to sympathise with their point of view on this, particularly since they are so indolent about making pay per available on the internet.

In some senses the media corporations actually created the black market demand for their material, as mentioned by Matt, by limiting availability to maintain high prices. That kind of cartel behaviour isn't punishable in the US, but may be seen as less than ethical in other jurisdictions, but only if the legal; argument is made.

And that's really a job for the pro bono crowd, the new pirate parties, and others who have the money to fund 'fuck you America' lawsuits. The rest of us will watch, and many others will continue to ignore copyright lectures from obscenely wealthy people crying poor.
 
Thanks for 'half' wading in here +Anne-Marie Clark. It remains an interesting point that the data shared by young master O'Dwyer were nothing that did not (double negative for emphasis) show up on a correctly formatted Google search at the time. This is all about show trials and instilling fear. It is simply corrupt and the slaughtering of another sacrificial lamb.
 
+Anne-Marie Clark [Sorry, Colin, sort of going off on a tangent here.] That's what the seminar I went to was about (fair use). The law about copyrights of publications by university profs was fascinating to learn about (analogous to Holland, it is actually against the law to smoke pot, they just do not enforce the law). As to plagiarism, now THAT is my bailiwick. I had to become an expert in PREVENTING plagiarism because I was teaching full-time online. (Just go to cheathouse.com for an eye-opener on what is going on in academia (land-based and online).) In MY classes, there were so many tiny hoops to get through and I controlled both the subject and the RESOURCES for the students that they ONLY way left to cheat was to hire someone else to take the course for you. But once you realized that fact (about 10 weeks into a 16 week course), you couldn't explain to someone else even how to complete the paper! And so? I went from 20-30% plagiarisers in 1999 to less than one percent today. (Provable through "Turnitin.") My less than one percent: she posted using her real name on "About.Com" for someone to write a paper for her that she had two pages already written. As I was reading her paper, I noticed a sudden change from 10th grade level writing to better than professional. Just Googled her name to start. She paid the person $65.00 and of course failed the course. [Back to our regularly scheduled show.]
 
+Colin Lucas-Mudd You are sadly right in your assessment of this action. There is a lot of sabre-rattling going on as governments react to the social media push with a shove of their own. At the world economic forum in Davos, just a couple of months back they called it "the age of damage" and were forced to question whether capitalism was "fit for purpose" in the 21st century. The takedown of Megaupload was done on suspicion of copyright infringement, they have yet to prove that the site broke any laws. Last week five Hollywood studios got together to request similar action be taken against Hotfile, another file upload website which practices 'safe harbour' rules laid down by US law. A member of Anonymous was indicted on suspicion of illegal activities (yet to be proved) in Spain and now this.

It is an expected reaction but the net result is that it creates a vacuum between governments and governed which is easily filled by organisations like Anonymous. I have a lot of sympathy for their cause and I am really annoyed that as a tax-payer, in a democratic country I find my concerns represented better by masked strangers, accountable to no one than elected officials whose salaries my taxes pay.
 
+David Amerland Thanks. I would only disagree with one element of your comment. I would remove the word 'democratic' from your phrase, "I am really annoyed that as a tax-payer, in a democratic country." A republic, yes. However, one where democratic principles are trampled upon by current and wannabe lawmakers explains the stark reality of the sentiment in your final sentence.
 
+Linda Plue I don't believe that's the reason Linda, it is simply weak government giving in to bullying. If you look at the extradition stats each way you will see that the 'Land of the Free' has an interesting approach to the demonstration of its beliefs globally. For such a great country, with a better, more honourable (for the most part) and more caring population to let vested interests bend the political will and demonize, then indict, the weak is sad in the extreme. It's certainly no democracy.

A review of the prison population demographics and the sentence vs. offense stats is enlightening to say the least. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, the scene in Love Actually makes this point rather well.
 
All three extradition cases currently in the news are deeply flawed but for different reasons.
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