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Internet freedoms restrained - SOPA/PIPA/OPEN/ACTA/CETA/PrECISE-related updates

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Working on the basis that you can see what's driving things if you "follow the money" - as the colloquialism has it - I have been doing some research into the Swiss-based WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation), whose motto is (amusingly, I thought):
"Encouraging Creativity and Innovation"

--- End quote ---

Some interesting points:

* The WIPO biennial (2-yearly) budget per WIPO Program and Budget for 2012/2013 is CHF648 million (Swiss Francs) = US$698 million.

* The report The Economic Contribution of Copyright-Based Industries in Hungary (2005) is a good example illustrating just how far-reaching WIPO is in terms of its influence in the economic affairs of European countries.

* The TechDirt post Sad: 75 Year Old Explanation For Why Copyrights Are Bad... Locked Up Behind Paywall provides an interesting historical perspective of the Copyright market sector.


Elsewhere there's the complicated topic of amateur Subtitles, which are apparently copyright violations. Now Netflix has "acquired" the Finnish amateur ones wholesale. Paraphrasing Renegade, I can't even explain the complicated mess because doing so will send me into fits and I have chores to do. Plus I don't speak Finnish.  :-\ 

Very good points made in this post: 30 Years Of The CD, Of Digital Piracy, And Of Music Industry Cluelessness
Here's an extract - read the rest at the link.
The CD therefore stands as a wonderful symbol of the music industry's inability to see the deeper, underlying trends in technology, and where they would take us. Back then, it meant that nobody was worried about the idea that people would copy digital files from CDs and share them, because they forgot that technology would make possible tomorrow the things that seemed impossible today. Now it means the copyright industries are still trying to preserve unsustainable 20th century business models instead of planning for the incredible technologies we will have in 10, 20 or even 30 years time. They only have to look at the history of the CD and digital piracy to see just how far things can go -- and how wrong our current assumptions can be.

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-IainB (October 21, 2012, 05:58 AM)
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In a way it's not "forgetting", it's like hiring an incompetent prophet who misread the future. We've known from day 1 it's possible to copy CD's. I'd peg it to more of a "Revenge of the Nerds" effect where the jocks in the industries figured computers were those things only nerds used, and so they could be kept marginalized and out of sight where they weren't really a problem. It's like having Asimov's Hari Seldon do a beautiful future history of music for the next 100 years. Then Hari Seldon missed a certain Mule-like character named Shawn Fanning and that beautiful history went to pieces. Oops.

My favorite example is that the most successful SF series of all time, Star Trek, spent *35 years* (I'm ending with Star Trek Voyager) copying everything in sight with something called a "Replicator". I think there were less than one hand's worth of fingers of stories that specifically dealt with cultures getting upset at unauthorized copying. Nah, we were too busy laughing at the Ferengi for being materialistic, remember?

I followed a link to this very cogent talk by Rowan Atkinson:
He's spot-on when he talks about different examples of speech crime, for example, "The storms that surround twitter and facebook comment".
Well worth the 9 minutes it will take to listen to this, IMHO.

If you want it, I copied the auto-generated YouTube transcript, and cleaned it up. Here it is:
SpoilerMy starting point when it comes to the consideration of any issue relating to free speech is my passionate belief that the second most precious thing in life is the right to express yourself freely.
The most precious thing in life, I think, is food in your mouth, and the third most precious is the roof over your head.
But a fixture for me in the number two slot is free expression, just below the need to sustain life itself.
That is because I have enjoyed free expression in this country all my professional life and fully expect to continue to do so.

Personally I suspect it highly unlikely to be arrested for whatever laws exist to contain free expression because of the undoubtedly privileged position that is afforded to those of a high public profile.
So my concerns are less for myself and more for those more vulnerable because of their lower profile, like the man arrested in Oxford for calling a police horse "gay", or the teenager arrested for calling the church of scientology a cult, or the cafe owner arrested for displaying passages from the bible on a TV screen.
When I heard of some of these more ludicrous offenses and charges, I remembered that I had been here before in a fictional context.

I once did a show called "Not The Nine O'clock News", some years ago, and we did a sketch where Griff Rhys Jones played constable Savage, a manifestly racist police officer, to whom I as his station commander is giving a dressing-down for arresting a black man on a whole string of ridiculous trumped-up and ludicrous charges.
The charges for which constable Savage arrested Mr.  Winston Kodogo of fifty-five Mercer Road were these:
"walking on the cracks in the pavement; walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness;" and one of my favourites "walking around all over the place."
He was also arrested for "urinating in a public convenience and looking at me in a funny way".

Who would've thought that we would end up with a law that would allow life to imitate art so exactly?
I read somewhere a defender of the status quo claiming that the fact that the gay horse case was dropped after the arrested man refused to pay the fine, and that the scientology case was also dropped at some point during the court process was proof that the law was working well, ignoring the fact that the only reason these cases were dropped was because of the publicity that they had attracted.
The police sensed that ridicule was just around the corner, and withdrew their actions.
But what about the thousands of other cases that did not enjoy the oxygen of publicity, that weren't quite ludicrous enough to attract media attention?
Even for those actions that were withdrawn, people were arrested, Questioned, taken to court, and then released.

You know that isn't the law working properly.
That is censoriousness of the most intimidating kind, guaranteed to have, as Lord Deere says, the chilling effect on free expression and free protest.
Parliament's joint committee on human rights summarized, as you may know, this whole issue very well by saying:
"While arresting a protester for using threatening or abusive speech may, depending on the circumstances be a proportionate response, we do not think that language or behaviour that is mainly insulting should ever be criminalized in this way."

--- End quote ---

The clear problem with the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such.
Criticism is easily construed as insult by certain parties, ridicule easily construed as insult, sarcasm, unfavourable comparison, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy can be interpreted as insult, and because so many things can be interpreted as insult, it is hardly surprising that so many things have been, as the examples I talked about earlier show.

Although the law under discussion has been on the statute book for over twenty-five years, it is indicative of a culture that has taken hold of the programs of successive governments that with the reasonable and well-intentioned ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature That is what you might call the new intolerance, a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent.

"I am not intolerant" say many people - say many, softly-spoken highly-educated, liberal-minded people - "I am only intolerant of intolerance", and people tend to nod sagely and say "Oh yes, wise words, wise words", and yet if you think about this supposedly inarguable statement for longer than five seconds, you realize that all that is advocating is the replacement of one kind of intolerance with another, which to me doesn't represent any kind of progress at all.

Underlying prejudices, injustices or resentments are not addressed by arresting people.
They are addressed by the issues being aired, argued and dealt with, preferably outside the legal process.
For me, the best way to increase society's resistance to insulting or offensive speech is to allow a lot more of it.
As with childhood diseases, you can better resist those germs to which you have been exposed.
We need to build our immunity to taking offence, so that we can deal with the issues that perfectly justified criticism can raise.
Our priority should be to deal with the message, not the messenger.

As president Obama said in an address to the United Nations only a month or so ago,
"Laudable efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics or oppress minorities.
The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech."

--- End quote ---

And that's the essence of my thesis - more speech.
If we want a robust society, we need more robust dialogue and that must include the right to insult, or to offend.
and as - even if - as Lord Deere says, you know, the freedom to be inoffensive is no freedom at all.

The repeal of this word in this clause will be only a small step, but it will I hope be a critical one in what should be a longer term project to pause, and slowly rewind the creeping culture of censoriousness.
It is a small skirmish in the battle, in my opinion, to deal with what Sir Salmon Rushdie refers to as "the outrage industry".
Self-appointed arbiters of the public good, encouraging media-stoked outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react.
A newspaper rings up Scotland Yard.  Someone has said something slightly insulting on twitter about someone who we think a national treasure.
What are you going to do about it?
The police panic and they scrabble around and then grasp the most inappropriate lifeline of all, section five of the Public Order Act, that thing where you can arrest anybody for saying anything that might be construed by anyone else as insulting.
You know they don't seem to need a real victim, they need only to make the judgment that somebody could have been offended if they had heard or read what has been said.
The most ludicrous degrees of latitude.

The storms that surround twitter and facebook comment have raised some fascinating issues about free speech which we haven't really yet come to terms with.
Firstly, that we all have to take responsibility for what we say - which is quite a good lesson to learn - but secondly, we've learnt how appallingly prickly and intolerant society has become of even the mildest adverse comment.
The law should not be aiding and abetting this new intolerance.
Free speech can only suffer if the law prevents us from dealing with its consequences.
I offer my wholehearted support to the reform section five campaign.
Thank you very much.

--- End quote ---

^^ Wow. That was the first I'd heard of that legislation.

I suppose that if I were to have anything to say to the MPs that signed it, I'd probably say something like...

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries! ;D

I think it was Arizona that passed some similar legislation that makes it illegal to hurt people's feelings.


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