Tuesday, November 18, 2003

File sharers beware

The marketing branch of the RIAA/MPAA U.S. Senate are proposing a new copyright bill that would make sharing pre-release movies a federal felony with a fine of up to $250,000 and a 3-year prison term. In an interesting twist, the bill is worded such that actual copyright infringement isn't a precondition of guilt - if you have the file available on a shared folder, Web site or FTP site, you are guilty, regardless of whether or not it was shared with anyone. The bill will conveniently assume that the mere presence of the file implies that at least 10 people have downloaded it. The copyright owner is not required to prove that any violation of their rights actually occured.

Look at that again: The copyright owner is not required to prove that any violation of their rights actually occured. A person can therefore be sent to prison without actually commiting a crime. Sheesh, during the Reagan years I thought Orwell's 1984 was prophetic... I had no fucking idea how bad it was going to get.

I've never understood the need to see a(n often poorly camcorded) film before it is released... most films suck so bad lately that I don't even want to see them after they are released. But imagine this scenario: Little Skippy gets a computer. Little Skippy learns to write virii that take advantage of the dozens of unpatched security vulnerabilities in Micrsoft's Outlook and Internet Explorer. (Melissa, SoBig, ILoveYou, Nimda, you know the drill.) The virus has one primary goal: find unsecured shared directories on the hard drives of unsuspecting idiots who still haven't clued in that thay are part of the problem. Once these shared directories are found, the virus acts like a peer-to-peer filesharing app, transferring copyrighted material all over the place. Little Skippy could even include a feature where, once a file is complete, the virus removes itself after notifying the MPAA that the (still unsuspecting) owner of the computer has copyrighted material on their publicly-accessible drive. Even if the case is eventually thrown out, the targeted person would still have been subjected to the ever-more-draconian machinations of the American legal system.

And what of public FTP sites? This sort of legislation can only make the net more closed, the same way the rest of this government's legislations are making our society more closed. The funny thing is that this specific legislation doesn't even seek to address the specific loss of money due to copyright violations. It seeks to limit the damages that occur when the public finds out, in advance, how bad an upcoming film will be. This past summer the film industry blamed the poor (relatively, I assume) income from their films on teens using their cellphones to almost instantly tell each other how bad the films were. Did you notice that 'Matrix Revolutions' was released at the same hour in every part of the world? That was so people would spend their money before they had a chance to find out from their friends that the movie sucked ass.