Archive for September, 2014

Do not pay copyright holders, for a good future

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

The Unrepentant Bootlegger profiles Hana Beshara, a founder of NinjaVideo, who spent 16 months in prison for defying censorship. Cut to the logic of censorship (emphasis added):

People watch more paid, legal content than ever, but they also continue to download huge amounts of illegal content. “Piracy is putting pressure on antiquated business models, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Brett Danaher, an economics professor at Wellesley College who studies Internet piracy. “But the prevalence of piracy shows that people are growing up in a culture of free, and that is not good for the future of entertainment, either.”

That we should be concerned for the future of entertainment, at all, is itself bizarre. Freedom and equality should absolutely trump incentivizing a surfeit of entertainment. If we must choose between spectacle and communications, spectacle should be destroyed. We do not need to choose. We can destroy the censorship regime, but entertainment, including for better or worse some of the spectacle variety, will continue to exist and be produced in vastly greater quantities and quality than it is feasible for anyone to even begin to fully appreciate in a lifetime. If the spectacle portion does not include projects with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, that is OK — we will love what culture does get produced, as that love and cultural relevance is largely based on being immersed in the culture that exists — we love the culture we’re in. If that culture is less dominated by U.S.-based high investment productions, so much the better for the U.S. and the world.

Another policy significant quote from the article:

Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation […] said the law should shift its focus to making sure that copyright holders are paid for their work, rather than trying to stymie how people gain access to it. […] He suggested a legal framework to retire the “exclusive rights” aspect of copyright law that requires permission to publish — and that allows copyright holders to seek exorbitant damages from infringers — and move toward a system that requires sites and people who make money from another’s work to share any profits. Solutions like these, Mr. Eckersley says, would create different priorities that go beyond chasing small-time pirates like Ms. Beshara and her colleagues.

No, copyright holders should not be paid. Any payment by virtue of holding copyright only makes the censorship regime self-perpetuating. Funding of entertainment should be completely decoupled from the censorship regime of copyright. I understand the appeal of paid speech over permissioned speech (of course a tax is usually better than a prohibition, and that applies to privatized regimes as well), but neither is free speech. The paid speech approach would indeed create priorities that go beyond chasing small-time pirates (note Beshara earned $210k over 3 years; note also existing paid speech regimes which involve monitoring and shakedown of small-time restaurants) — it would invite further pervasive and destructive surveillance of communications in the interest of ensuring copyright holders get paid. It is appalling that EFF is still willing to invite sacrifice of everything they fight for at the alter of paying copyright holders. I don’t blame the EFF specifically; this just shows how deeply intellectual parasitism has burrowed in general. Intellectual parasites (which includes most reformers, including me often) need to fully shift to being commons policy advocates (and scholars).

Regarding people and projects like Hana Beshara and NinjaVideo, I’m ambivalent. Performing unpaid marketing and price discrimination services for the censorship industry is distasteful and harmful. But sharing culture (putting the regime aside) is tasteful and helpful. There is too little known about informal circulations and their effects, this lack of knowledge itself a collateral damage of the regime (compare being able to study cultural flows and surveillance required for paid speech; they are of different orders) and far, far, far too little direct competition for the regime.

The jobs case for a police state

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Partly to make up for not blogging on the issue in awhile (category), I recommend the Vox story/interview on the case for open borders. If a prediction can be sterile, sanguine, and desperate at one time, this is it:

My longer-run prediction is the world will have open borders once it doesn’t make much difference anymore. Once development has happened almost everywhere, and there are virtually no desperate backwaters left, that’s when countries will finally relent and say, “Fine. You can come here if you want,” and then they’ll open the borders, and then there will be very little migration. To me, a big point of open borders is just to fast forward to the world of the future where everyone can enjoy a First-World standard of living rather than making people wait 100 years.

I agree with the desperate part (waiting condemns billions to poverty and tyranny). But a big point of the international apartheid system to to ensure that there will always be desperate backwaters. Even if virtually everyone reaches a level of wealth at which migration declines, there will be disasters. Another big point of restrictions on movement, work, and living, particularly at borders but increasingly everywhere, is to impose on everyone (especially but not only migrants) police state controls/thug checkpoints.

My prediction (in US-centric terms, but applicable elsewhere) is that in 100 years ICE will be evaluated to have had far greater negative impact than the NSA, if they aren’t running things wholly that is. I predict this metastasizing apartheid enforcement apparatus will make justice impossible, even in the face of a massive shift in elite opinion (note mini-refutation) — like the drug war, not like marriage equality.

Regarding the title of this post: seriously, what could be politically better than creating jobs for citizens that protect jobs for citizens! It is surprising we don’t already have an ICE dictatorship. We don’t because the cost of regulation is too high. But it is coming down. Monitoring of all movement and required third party (ICE) approval of all economic arrangements are both getting cheaper every day.