King of de Jungle
- Mar 17, 2005
Interesting coming on the back of our local drama!
isoHunt: 'Copyright Infringers Aren't Wrong, the Law Is'
Gary Fung, founder of the BitTorrent tracker site, shares his thoughts on copyright law and its need for reform in an age where the Internet allows society to freely share ideas and thoughts with one another
It was about two months ago that Gary Fong, founder of the popular isoHunt BitTorrent tracker site, decided to go on the offensive by suing the Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA) so that courts could clarify the site's legality once and for all.
"We intend to take this all the way up to the Canadian Supreme Court unless CRIA settles with us out of court in any reasonable way," Fung noted.
In his petition Fung pointed out that Google works just as isoHunt does, yet it indexes ACTUAL CONTENT! With isoHunt users can only search through .torrent (tracker) files whereas with Google you can search through music, movies, images, and more. In many cases you can even download many of them with a simple right-click of the mouse. In fact, Google Video is oftentimes home to full-length copyrighted movies.
Fung has now posted an article on isoHunt titled "Join the Copyfight!" that asks readers to just that. With the MPAA, RIAA, CRIA, and other entertainment industry cartels working overtime to make sure people are only allowed to share content when, where, and how they decide, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the voice of society is conspicuously absent from the discussion and this must change.
Since I've been sued by both the MPAA (Hollywood) and threatened by the CRIA (Canadian recording industry), I've talked about what's been happening with our cases. Our CRIA case has also recently received mainstream press attention by the Canadian Press and Globe & Mail. But the question is why? Why do they insist on suing their own customers? Why do they sue search engines like us, who make the internet more useful for everyone?
The problem lies in something fundamentally broken with the copyright system. A choice quote from Cory Doctorow's article on the "copyfight":
So the natural inclination of anyone who is struck by a piece of creative work is to share it. And since "sharing" on the Internet is the same as "copying," this puts you square in copyright's crosshairs. Everyone copies. Dan Glickman, the ex-Congressman who now heads up the Motion Picture Association of America (as pure a copyright maximalist as you could hope to meet) admitted to copying Kirby Dick's documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated (a scorching critique of the MPAA's rating system) but excused it because the copy was "in [his] vault." To pretend that you do not copy is to adopt the twisted hypocrisy of the Victorians who swore that they never, ever masturbated. Everyone knows that they themselves are lying, and a large number of us know that everyone else is lying too.
When the head of the MPAA has to admit to copying the film that criticizes the very industry he represents, an industry group of lobbyists and litigators against such copying, it highlights an important fact beyond the obvious hypocrisy. The internet has completely changed the economics of sharing. When sharing equals copying on the internet and the direct cost of that sharing is effectively $0 (it doesn't cost you anything to share videos on Youtube or BitTorrent), it makes copyright infringement so easy that even Dan Glickman can do it. So easy that a mom like Stephanie Lenz can do it when she posted a video of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's music. And I mean no disrespect to them.
This is an age of rampant sharing and remixing, and if you can make the connection between sharing and culture as Doctorow has, you will see this war between rightsholders and consumers will never end and the rightsholders will never win. The band Girl Talk and Lessig and James Boyle and Terry McBride of Nettwerk and isoHunt all echo a common point: Remixing and sharing is good for culture, suing consumers and technologists who enable sharing is destructive for everyone. The internet is a more efficient information machine than the printing press or VCR ever was, and also a whole different animal. It's time the content industries learn to put it to better use as well, by discarding past notions of how business is done based on an economy of scarcity. In Star Trek, currency becomes irrelevant with virtually unlimited "copying" of physical objects with the Replicator. The internet is the Replicator of information. When a 13-month-old dances to Prince's music, copyright infringement is nowhere near his consciousness. It's an endorsement that he likes it, pure and simple.
I've said a number of times that I'm not against copyright, but copyright does need significant reform in the internet age. If all this rampant copying on BitTorrent and the internet has not made a dent in Hollywood's record earnings, why can't we all just get along without rabid lawsuits? Why can't they see that sharing and remixing is a human urge for culture, and when we share and remixes art, it's not a liability but an endorsement for the artist or author or producer?
When the majority of society has no ethical conviction of wrongdoing when they violate copyright law, it's not society that's wrong, it's the law. Because no one can really own ideas. Newton once said, "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of Giants." It's how the arts and sciences progresses. We share, we inspire and we remix.
If you want to join the copyfight, simply share your thoughts by replying, share this post with your friends, and join isoHunt's Facebook group. With our pending lawsuit against the CRIA in our home country, we may need your voice real soon, especially if you are Canadian. For more on Copyfight and where the word came from, go here.
Copyright laws are in urgent need of reform. The Internet has enabled the instantaneous transfer of ideas and thoughts among individuals. Entertainment companies are trying to be society's communication gatekeepers and putting a full court press on ISPs and govt legislators to facilitate their efforts.
As Fung pointed out, "no one can really own ideas" and yet, the MPAA, RIAA, the CRIA and others are attempting to do just that.
Interesting coming on the back of our local drama!