The “Pirates” take a stand…

An interesting movement seems to have spawned the desert of Utah. The US arm of a group calling themselves the “Pirate Party”, has proclaimed their intent to become a legitimate political party:

Yesterday, the Pirate Party of the United States announced its intention to register as a political body in Utah, its first move into American state politics. The fledgling Utah operation is now accepting “statements of support,” needing 200 voter signatures for official registration.

“Our basic mission is to restore a lot of the civil liberties that have been eroded in the name of profit, including privacy, free speech, and due process,” Ray Jenson, the interim administrator for what may become the Pirate Party of Utah, told El Reg.

He has his sights set on the DMCA, the U.S. law that protects online intellectual property, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group that quite likes the DMCA. “Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, there have been numerous erosions of liberties since it went into effect almost a decade ago,” Jenson said. “Number one on the list is the RIAA’s litigation” against P2P services and the people who use them. – [The Register]

Given the amount of abuse the entertainment industry has been dishing out lately, it is almost no surprise that this group exists, though I will admit I had never heard of them until today. However, I honestly believe that the entertainment industry, in particular the MPAA and the RIAA have been abusing the law.

I do agree that the RIAA and MPAA have the right to take actions to protect their investments. However I also believe that they have been using this as an excuse to violate the rights of others. They have embarked on what is little more than an extortion campaign, or litigation terrorism, in the name of curtailing piracy.

While I agree that piracy is a problem, it seems like nobody has been looking out for the innocent victims that have been needlessly terrorized by the MPAA/RIAA. While groups like the ACLU have been vocal about the issues, it appears that their efforts have done little to helped those who have been the unjust focus of the entertainment industries legal might. It’s about time there was an organization dedicate to this cause. I will be watching these “Pirates” closely…

Pirate Party invades Utah – [The Register]

The RIAA is crazy… Like a fox…

I just read an article talking about how the RIAA is now going after the Universities for failing to forward pre-litigation settlement letters to suspected file sharers:

Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG’s RIAA has come up with another tactic in their attacks on American university students.

It’s now blaming the schools themselves.

The Big 4 enforcement unit is after 16 Philadelphia students, completely ignoring mounting universal outrage against the ongoing harassment.

Actually, this is not so surprising. It fits perfectly with their current modus operandi of suing anyone they possibly can, notwithstanding the legal dilemma of actually trying to prove anyone actually did anything. What is not so obvious is what thier strategy is, and what it does and does not accomplish:

An RIAA ‘press release’ says “unsettled cases” were, “either because the university failed to forward a pre-litigation letter to the student or because the record industry’s initial settlement offer of a discounted settlement was ignored”.

As p2pnet posted, until fairly recently, the Big 4’s practice, “was to have about 750 subpoenas aimed every month not only at adults they were accusing of being massive online distributors of copyrighted music, but also very young children,”… – [p2pnet]

Now here are the important numbers. 750 subpoenas/pre-litigation letters a month. At around $3000 – $5000 per settlement. If we assume the minimum of $3000 per suit and 100% successful settlements, then relying on my rusty math skills that gets them somewhere in the region of $2,250,000/month. $2.25million a month. Thats $27Million a year. How exactly did they come up with these settlement figures?

Now given that file sharing does not seem to have been affected in any significant way by any of this, it seems to me like these lawsuits have taken on another purpose. Like a secondary income. And not just from illegal file sharers, but from anyone they think they can get away with suing. P2P software providers, P2P sites, college students, universities, parents, kids, it doesn’t seem to matter any more whether the people being slapped with pre-litigation papers were actually engaged in the practice of illegal file sharing or not.

The unfortunate thing about this is that you do not even have to be guilty for the RIAA to slap you with a suit. The RIAA knows full well that for the average citizen, it will be cheaper to settle, than to try and retain legal counsel to defend themselves in court, no matter how innocent they are, and are taking full advantage of that fact. The RIAA has adopted the methodology of a crime syndicate that moves into a bad neighborhood, and starts charging all the store owners, both good and bad, for “protection” money.

I can understand the need to prosecute those who are engaged in illegal file sharing, but it doesn’t even seem like they are even really going after file shares any more. Given the nature of some of the targets of these litigation letters, some of who are clearly innocent, it almost sounds like they are pretty much just pulling names out of a hat. Don’t any of the governing authorities see this is getting out of control?

RIAA blames universities for lawsuits – [p2pnet]

Yet another excuse to V-parent…

Technology is great, but is not the answer to everything. Especially not parenting. So I am always skeptical when I see things like this:

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation Thursday asking the Federal Communications Commission to oversee the development of a super V-chip that could screen content on everything from cell phones to the Internet.

“It’s an uphill battle for parents trying to protect their kids from viewing inappropriate programming,” Pryor said. “I believe there is a whole new generation of technology that can provide an additional layer of help for these parents.”

A third bill that aims to regulate violent content much the same as indecent speech is expected to be introduced soon. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has plans to introduce the anti-violence bill, but it was unclear when. – [Reuters]

OK. For me, the biggest issue here is not what is or is not showing on the radio, TV, internet or other electronic media. It is the fact that we seem to keep coming up with new ways to “help” parents control what their kids watch, when the truth of the matter is that, unless you keep your kids locked in an RF shielded concrete bunker with no electricity, and no communication lines in or out, they will be exposed to things that you may not want them to be.

All of these things, rating systems, censorship, content screening are, at best, crutches for what I feel the real problem is. Americans don’t know how to parent any more. When I was growing up, I saw all kinds of violence (of both the real-life and gratuitous movie variety), bad language, sexually explicit movies, etc. And yet I do not swear like a sailor, drink, smoke, do drugs, have 25 kids by 7 different women, and (to my knowledge) have not stabbed, shot, run over or otherwise maimed or killed anyone lately.

And I believe I know why. Because my parents taught me not to. It is that simple. When I was growing up, I learned, by example, observation and numerous conversations, what constituted good and bad behavior, what was right, what was wrong and why. Now I’m not saying that either I or my parents were/are perfect. Far from it. We were all flawed, as humans beings often are. In fact as I grew older and learned to think for myself, I found I disagreed with many of the things they taught me. But at least they taught me the basics.

Nowadays parenting seems to be a constant struggle between working long hours to make enough money to feed the kids, and either parking them in front of a computer, video game, or TV, so you can get at a measly few hours of sleep before going back to work, or handing them off to someone else to take care of them while you are gone. We are no longer parenting our kids, we are simply housing them until they are of age. The average American doesn’t spend enough time with their kids. Not enough transfer of knowledge occurs, and as a result they don’t properly learn the lessons of right and wrong.

But an even more disturbing trend is that, even when there is sufficient time to engage the children, they often learn the wrong lessons. I come across a video on YouTube the other day showing a father video taping himself insulting someone, with some rather salty language, in front of his kids. Now I recognize that everyones parenting style is different, but I can assure you that if we all adopt the “anything goes” approach in the parenting of our kids, and pay no regard to how we behave around them, then what they see on the TV will be the least of our problems as a nation. We cannot teach our kids tolerance, patience, kindness, generosity, love or any of the values we claim to hold dear, if we do not practice these values ourselves.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. School massacres, snipers, gang violence, kids killing kids, these things do not occur in a vacuum. It is the culture that we have created that is breeding these kids. And as much as I hate to say it, it is not the fault of the media. It is our society that is at fault. And the sooner we recognize that and stop wasting energy on trying to control the inconsequential byproducts of our warped society, like violence in the media, and focus on ourselves and our issues, the sooner we will properly be able to figure out, as a nation, how to handle this growing crises.

IMHO, these silly “V-chips” are yet another useless weapon in an endless battle that we will never win, because we have failed to properly identify our enemy: Ourselves.

It’s super V-chip to the rescue of kids – [Reuters]

Lawsuits: Gang violence deterrents? Or Prejudice?

I just read a troubling article regarding cities using lawsuits to pro-actively disrupt gang activity:

Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file lawsuits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together on street corners, in cars or anywhere else in certain areas.

The injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They also give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons, authorities said. In some cases, they don’t allow gang members to even talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint.

“It is another tool,” said Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor in Fort Worth, which recently filed its first civil injunction against a gang. “This is more of a proactive approach.”

But critics say such lawsuits go too far, limiting otherwise lawful activities and unfairly targeting minority youth.

“If you’re barring people from talking in the streets, it’s difficult to tell if they’re gang members or if they’re people discussing issues,” said Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “And it’s all the more troubling because it doesn’t seem to be effective.” – [Yahoo/AP]

I find this turn of events troubling for a number of reasons. First it is a very dangerous thing for anyone to implement any kind of enforcement that violates an individuals rights, especially when they have yet to actually commit a crime. And re-purposing laws so that actions that are legal for the average citizen become illegal for a specific demographic is simply unethical.

These cities have, in effect, sued a demographic, without regard for either the innocence or guilt of any of the individual members of that demographic. They have surreptitiously made gangs illegal. And in doing so, they done little more than legitimize prejudice.

The ability to stop, search and detain a person without probable cause, and for no other reason than their age, race, or the color of their clothes, is unconstitutional. Plain and simple. The increasing willingness of American police forces and lawmakers to violate an individuals rights in the name of keeping the peace is becoming a common and disturbing trend nowadays, especially in The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia. The end does not justify the means.

It is wrong to apply laws differently depending on such things as race, stereotypes, clothes, age, etc. Creating second class citizens does not solve problems, only exacerbate them. History has taught us that any demographic unfairly treated, will bear no concern for the fair treatment of others. It simply creates a vicious cycle. It may appear to be a a good solution in the short term. But unfairly treated people have long memories, and as a long term strategy, it is a no-win.

Be very careful America. I see a very ugly pattern developing. At the rate we are going, we will soon all be prisoners, held captive by the illusion of freedom…

Cities sue gangs in bid to stop violence – [Yahoo/AP]

Copyright infringement. Guilty until proven innocent?

Yet another Mom gets targeted for, get this, posting a home video of her toddler dancing to Princes “let’s Go Crazy”:

She wanted to share it with other folks around the world so she uploaded it to YouTube, just like thousands of other proud parents have done.

What happened? Big 4 organised music cartel member Vivendi Universal claimed the recording infringed a copyright. – [p2pnet.net]

Apparently the video got removed from YouTube because Universal claimed copyright infringement. I guess you don’t even need to have actually engaged in verifiable copyright infringement to have your videos taken down. Someone merely has to accuse you of it. Now is it just me, or does it seem like the RIAA has YouTube wrapped around it’s little finger?

I’m sure there are many legitimate complaints of copyright infringement from the RIAA on YouTube videos, but shouldn’t they at least verify that some sort of infringement has actually taken place before removing videos? What happened to the rights of the posters? After all, without it’s posters, YouTube would be little more than, say, WebTube. Or InterTube. Or just ‘Tube. Now those don’t sound to popular do they?

Mum sues Universal over YouTube video – [p2pnet.net]