Victoria Espinel Wants To Send You To Prison

It's always alarming to see officials recommend legislation on subjects they know little or nothing about. Victoria Espinel is the IP Czar for the Obama administration and she recommends jailing people for copyright infringement.

It's clear from her rhetoric that she's going to continue to push the IP holders' agenda as far as she can despite the waves of opposition from the digital rights groups. She panders to the IP holders but doesn't appear to have taken the other stakeholders' concerns into account. This is why we're on high alert ready to fend off damaging legislation that threatens to criminalize ordinary use of the internet.

This is no exaggeration

The MPAA is pushing to have linking and embedding classed as infringement in order to pursue criminal charges against those people it accuses of "stealing" their content.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120411/20434818458/mpaa-just-wont-quit-jumps-into-legal-dispute-to-argue-links-embeds-are-infringing.shtml

This means that embedding or linking to YouTube or other videos the MPAA and other IP holders deem infringing could land you in a courtroom whether you are actually infringing or not. They plan to ramp up IP laws to maximum levels and punish anyone who will not accept the status quo or experience content in the manner prescribed by the IP holders. They also mean to use our own government to spy on us via our ISPs to keep us in line.

This is unacceptable

The powers that be appear to have forgotten that this is an election year. Contact your representatives and make it clear to them that if they do not pledge to work to reform IP laws and uphold the constitutional rights of American citizens, you're going to vote for someone else.

Take Action

Email intellectualproperty@omb.eop.gov to explain to them that we internet users are also stakeholders and ought to be consulted when laws are being proposed to criminalise us for no good reason.

#_We have signed petitions_
#_We have contacted our representatives_
#_We have changed ISPs and domain registrars_
#_We have blogged and commented_

But we are not being heeded. Let's try attacking this from another angle and ask Ms. Espinel

# why she has not engaged with the digital rights groups and why she considers copyright to be so important to US interests that she is willing to risk the wrath of the millions of people who use the internet every day.
# why is she so willing to take the IP holders at their word when they have been proven again and again to be unreliable witnesses in courts across the land?
# why is she unwilling to take internet users — voters' wishes — into account in an election year?

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Matthew Saltzman's profile photoWendy Cockcroft's profile photoEric Weber's profile photoJared Oliver's profile photo
8 comments
 
"It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair
And in this case a woman.
 
Here's the email I sent her.

Dear Ms. Espinel,

I read with alarm the article linked here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51344.html and would like to discuss it with you while linking to copyright material is still legal. I'm not sure if you understand this but the internet works by linking. That's what the internet is. A series of links. Now if this ridiculous CISPA law passes, what I have done here to draw your attention to the article could have me branded a criminal and liable to extradition in the same way as UK citizen Richard O'Dwyer and for the same reason.

Can you see how ridiculous this is yet?

And before you tell me not to worry my pretty little head about it I live in the UK. So I'm worried. Here's the text of the law that alarms me because it pertains to my business as a web designer and user:

(from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3523ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr3523ih.pdf)

‘‘(2) CYBER THREAT INTELLIGENCE.—The term ‘cyber threat intelligence’ means information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from—
‘‘(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or
‘‘(B) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.

Why is copyright being lumped together with hacking? It's a different thing. Copyright is supposed to be about remunerating the artists and other creatives. What it actually does is reward the copyright holder who is often an agency, a large company, or what is known as a non-practicing entity or IP troll. IP trolls like Intellectual Ventures and Righthaven buy up IP portfolios in order to use them to litigate against other people even when they have no reason to. The idea is to frighten them into settling out of court to avoid a costly lawsuit. http://www.fark.com/comments/blog235 shows that sometimes it is possible to fight back. It's a huge problem.

As for the artists and creatives meant to benefit from your overreaching IP laws, the sad fact is that they are often screwed by something called "work for hire" which means that they get no royalties at all and the studio or recording company owns the copyright. Country Music star Kenny Rogers recently took Capitol Records (EMI) to court over unpaid royalties: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120220/04491417812/kenny-rogers-lawsuit-shows-many-ways-that-major-label-screws-artists-even-big-ones.shtml

Which brings me to the next item:

Copyright and the economy

Please don't tell me you believe in Copyright Math: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/03/copyright-math-vies-with-string-theory-for-most-complex-profitable-potentially-ridiculous-theory-vid.ars

And don't try to scare me with FUD. I'm only fearful of overreaching legislation, uncertain that you'll pay the slightest bit of attention to anyone who's not a multi-millionaire and doubtful that this email has any more value than a valve for letting off steam because I'm not rich and have no influence. I'm not falling for this nonsense: http://www.scribd.com/TheGift73/d/82562253-Senator-Chris-Dodd-Chairman-and-CEO-of-MPAA-Remarks-to-the-Atlanta-Press-Club-Text-as-Prepared-for-Delivery-Wednesday-February-22-2012

We have a saying on the internet: links (or pics) or it didn't happen. The idea that there's a vast criminal enterprise making piles of money to fund their nefarious activities isn't very well supported in the press or in the tech blogs. Your use of the words "Might" and "May" say it all: you have no evidence but you want us to believe it anyway. That's not good enough.

Here's what really happens with IP and the economy:

1. Tech IP

I'm not sure if you saw this lately but Microsoft has just acquired AOL patents for $1.1 billion. Is this to license some new development project? Nope. It's to take other tech companies to court over patents and to protect themselves from patent suits. http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/09/aol-sells-800-patents-for-1-billion-to-microsoft-memo-to-staff/

# Benefit to the US: Negative because it'll drive up the cost of computers and software.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Yahoo have gone toe-to-toe over IP because Yahoo have forgotten how to innovate and are patent trolling instead. Facebook is hitting back with a smackdown counter-suit of its own. http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/facebook-counter-sues-yahoo-with-newly-bought-patents-1074953

It would be fun if it was kids with water pistols but these are grown ups and they should know better.

# Benefit to the US: Negative due to the chilling effect on innovation. Everyone is too afraid of being sued to innovate, and innovation is limited to those who can either afford the license fees or purchase the patents. It's also very hard to find out what is or isn't covered by a patent until someone sues you. Patents are a luxury and only the rich can afford them. If your intellectual property is infringed and you haven't got a rich backer you've had it.

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-09-20/strategy/30179206_1_patent-reform-patent-system-patent-troll

The idea that enforcing your current IP laws is a valid way of "protecting" the economy is ridiculous and I believe I've just demonstrated that.

2. Pharma IP

I'm aware that Big Pharma claims that allowing the production of generic drugs harms its bottom line, but here's the problem: they're run for profit and have to be pushed to supply those drugs that aren't as lucrative as, let's say, anaesthetics. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/hospitals-scramble-on-the-front-lines-of-drug-shortages/2012/04/10/gIQAUQLN9S_story_1.html

Okay, suppose you're happy to bat for them in the game. What happens when you need to have an operation and there's no anaesthetic because Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson won't make it because it's not as lucrative as pain relievers and generics aren't available because of IP restrictions? I suppose you could try acupuncture but I wouldn't recommend it. This is why you need to get NGOs to the table when you formulate these laws so you're not stuck with a profits-first option like the destructive one you're pushing. I don't want to live in a lockdown society to protect the profits of a bunch of sharks.

"But what about the harmful, poisonous counterfeits?" I hear you ask. That tracking idea is a good one. Do that, but please bear in mind that there's a world of difference between a safe generic and a baking powder and snake oil package masquerading as the real deal. Confusing the two is what's causing your problem. Work with Medecins Sans Frontiers and the other NGOs and they will cooperate with you. Try to make their vital work impossible and they will push back. And I'll publicise their comments to help them. Let's face it, the minute someone comes up with a working cure for cancer, Bayer or whoever will have them shot because they can't make a profit from healthy people. Acknowledge that and use it as the basis for any future legislation on pharmaceutical IP or you'll find yourself being opposed at every turn by people who are fed up of being held to ransom over their health.

3. Content IP

We've already seen copyright math. The bottom line is, if you believe anything the MPAA, RIAA or any of the Big Content companies tell you, it's because you have elected to ignore

a. Their rampant hypocrisy

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120330/08581418302/nbc-universal-caught-using-infringing-graphic-apple-probably-wont-learn-anything.shtml
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/02/hypocrisy-and-bullying-by-the-movie-and-music-industry.html
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120324/01463618234/hollywood-up-comers-recognizing-that-big-gatekeepers-may-be-more-threat-than-silicon-valley.shtml

b. Their mendacity

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120124/04344817524/wil-wheaton-says-chris-dodd-is-lying-about-lost-jobs-says-mpaa-accounting-creates-more-losses-than-piracy.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120323/09552018224/hollywood-once-again-sets-record-box-office.shtml

c. Their conflation of facts and fantasy

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120306/04072817998/chris-dodd-internet-developed-because-strict-copyright-enforcement.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120123/04014617509/major-media-owning-sopapipa-supporters-whine-that-they-had-no-way-to-have-their-message-heard.shtml

d. Their refusal to adapt because they're trying to protect an outdated business model

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091119/1634117011/future-music-business-models-those-who-are-already-there.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120217/15023417795/riaa-insists-that-really-music-industry-is-collapsing-reality-shows-its-just-riaa-thats-collapsing.shtml
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120201/01075317618/another-answer-to-dealing-with-piracy-keep-creating-better-tools-business-models.shtml

Other tech blogs will tell you pretty much the same thing.

I don't recommend that you legalize piracy, but repealing all the pro-Big Content laws and telling them to

a. Fight their own battles in a civil court

b. Stop trying to use the US government as muscle and ISP providers as their own police force

c. Adopt new technology and provide legal streaming and torrent services

d. Get rid of geographical restrictions

would be a far more effective way of dealing with piracy than extraditing British students and smashing people's mansions up on their birthday. As more details of the Kim Dotcom case emerge the Department of Justice is beginning to look like a bunch of clueless idiots. It now transpires that they want the content on the Megaupload servers deleted. Erm, isn't that evidence? They want to delete the evidence? Right...

You're supposed to believe in a free market, and markets operate on supply and demand. Where there's a demand there will be a supply. Fill the gap and monetize it and the pirates will be a spent force. But this is more about control than money, isn't it?

As for your proposals to pay artists a royalty for radio broadcasts, that's a ridiculous proposal. Over here, we're being charged multiple times for the same content. For example, a radio station pays the PRS for a license to play the songs on their playlist. If I bring my radio into work and switch it on, I'm liable to pay a license fee for the music, for which the license has already been paid. This is replicated all over Britain. It's stupid and unfair. When you buy music, you don't own it and must experience it in the way prescribed by the PRS or you're toast. The content industry is the only one that operates like this. Why? It's illogical and completely unreasonable. We've established that it's not about the artists, who get screwed under work for hire agreements.

This is all I have to say on the subject for now but I believe it's enough to get you going. Remember you are accountable to the public and American citizens are outraged that you've been working so hard to erode their freedom just so you can shake them down for the Big Content companies. Have you forgotten that this is an election year?

Please reconsider your approach to IP legislation. It's in urgent need of reform so it can benefit Americans, not the privileged few who don't pay their share of tax.

I hope to hear back from you soon.

Regards,

Wendy
 
how many "czars" does obama have'?!?!
 
See, Obama is not a Communist. He is a Royalist. We have more Czars now than Russia ever did.
 
Has anyone tried setting up a petition to the white house to respond to the questions posed here? All we'd need is 30,000 signatures according to the information https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions... perhaps that might be an approach we can use. Wendy's email could be the template, since it's extremely well written.
 
Other parties are available. The fact that they're not major isn't a good enough reason not to vote for them. Pirates, Greens, decent independents are better options than the current crowd.

Even if they don't all get voted out they'll be taught a damn good lesson.
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