thinking is dangerous — it leads to ideas
President of the Board of the Polish Free and Open Source Software Foundation. Human rights in digital era hacktivist, Free Software advocate, privacy and anonimity evangelist; expert volunteer to the Panoptykon Foundation; co-organizer of SocHack social hackathons; charter member of the Warsaw Hackerspace; and Telecomix co-operator; biker, sailor.
I have already written about the War on Fun, the uneven fight that big business — conceived in time when copying and distribution of cultural works was hard, hence completely unprepared to function in today's world — continues (with the help of lawyers, polititians and media) against their own clients.
This war is uneven for both sides. Old institutions and their allies have at their disposal seemingly unlimited resources — at least from the perspective of a mere mortal. They are able to use tools that are absolutely out of reach for us, citizens, including secret international trade treaties, subverting democratic processes. But then, it appears as if "all the king's horses and all the king's men", however powerfull they may be, and whatever resources they are able to throw at the problem, arent able to solve "piracy".
That doesn't, of course, prevent enlightened polititians (helped, no question about it, by the best and brightest the "copyright-defending" entities could find) from proposing, say, to tax the Internet. Indeed, soon every Internet user in France will pay a special tax to "offset the losses" of the entertainment business (not the artists, mind you) stemming from illegal copying happening on-line.
One doesn't need to ponder it too long to get to a simple conclusion that it's a form of collective responsibility, punishing (financially, in a form of a tax) all the users of the Intertubes for the actions of just some of them. And let's not forget that it's also an infraction against the presumption of innocence principle. The law assumes that all Internauts are guilty. And that's that.
Obviously, one could think that when everybody on-line in France already pays such a fee for copying, the act should become legal, as it's already paid for. Well, no. Why should the entertainment business settle for being paid once, when they can be paid many times over for the same service rendered? So, no dice.
Well, one could say, at least the money will help fund artists so they create some more of this sweet, sweet cultural stuff, right? Ah, but yet again reason fails where the copyrights are involved! Money from the tax will go to a huge bureaucratic machine. And as is the rule with such bureaucracy, not much will get spat out.
And now we're getting at the true fun part of it all. See, apparently the laws, while often written by the entertainment business, are not meant to be binding for the entertainment business. Or at least the business seems to think so — as exemplified by trying to extort a "license fee" from a Creative Commons event; or by using an audio track — without getting an appropriate license! — in their own anti-piracy media campaign (just stop here for a second to appreciate the irony!); or, finally, by abusing the DMCA to illegaly block content they do not have a claim on.
It has become apparent that the copyright law is misused and abused massively; that it's completely unfit for duty in the digital era; that serves not the artists, but corporations that should adapt to the new circumstances or die, but instead try to adapt the circumstances to themselves. Extortion in accordance with the law seems to nicely describe the situation here.
The mainstream starts to "get the hint", apparently, even regardless of huge cash pumped by the business into media campaigns and (let's call it by it's name) crude propaganda. And from the mainstream it's slowly getting to the political elite — as exemplified by the recent talk given by EU Commisioner Neelie Kroes, calling for a much-needed all-out copyright reform.
Let's keep in mind, though, that one swallow doesn't make a summer. Both in the United States and in the European Union there is legislation proposed to "crack down" on illegal filesharing, the exact opposite what Commisioner Kroes talked about.
What we have is a strong signal that there are already polititians ready to question the "filesharing bad; copyright good" false dichotomy and the current copyright model, speaking openly that instead of stronger enforcement — what the world actually needs is simply getting the law up to speed with the new technology and circumstance.