Cherchez Le Money
It seems that Viacom sued Google and YouTube in 2007 for over 100,000 instances of violation in the form of posted video clips. The Court found that only about 70 were in violation and ordered YouTube to take them down.
But the battle went on. In 2008, according to Miguel Helft in The New York Times, Viacom asked the Court to have YouTube hand over its user data; Google was permitted to remove users’ identifying information before complying. In 2010, the Court found Google was not in violation, protected by the DMCA. But Viacom has appealed the ruling, and in October 2011, Viacom’s attorney—getting back to Sandoval’s story—accused that Google and YouTube had full knowledge of pirated clips being posted, but kept mum in order to reap the profits. Google’s representative maintained that the onus falls on the owner of copyrighted material to bring its status to a site owner’s attention.
If Viacom wins, and for any case where the DHS suspects copyright abuse on the part of a website, shutting such sites down is tantamount to judging them guilty until proven innocent. According to Larry Downes on CNet News, this puts major power in the hands of the media conglomerates and severely curtails digital communication expansion.
It’s not that I want to leave plagiarist websites open—foreign or domestic—but the law requires any site associated with them to be shut down also. What will happen to the free flow of information that has changed our world? Can an entire website be closed because it inadvertently listed the URL of an NDN?
The law does permit owners in violation to be notified. Why can’t website owners just delete offending URLs? After all, the NDNs that seek to profit from copyright infringement are the very ones that will find ways around the legislation; only compliant sites will suffer. As we penalize our foreign partners’ websites by shutting them down, so will they prevent our websites from being viewed in their countries.
Well, I learned years ago to follow the money. Who originated this bill, and who is just as happy as clams that it’s about to be passed? That would be the entertainment industry—owners of recording companies, movie studios and their ilk.
There is even a report that extolls the virtues of the copyright business, claiming it employs 11 million Americans and boasts a significant standing among profitable industries, surpassed only by the sales of chemicals (excluding pharmaceuticals). This report was paid for by the entertainment industry, however. And, by the way, our already strapped government wants to spend another $47 million on this witch hunt.
I can remember as a kid going to the neighborhood Bijou. In those days we saw two movies for the price of one. During intermission, the theater played a vigorous short about fighting Pay TV! How could we let the TV cable industry take over our television sets and force us to pay? Never mind that we only had four channels to watch; we couldn’t imagine any alternative. There was a donation box, we were informed, where we could drop in our hard-earned change on the way out of the theater in order to fight these monsters. And of course, when VCRs came on the market, the entertainment industry pronounced them the very wickedest thievery in all of electronics.
And now it’s this!