The International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI) is threatening to sue Yahoo! (NasdaqGS: YHOO) for its Chinese web service. Welcome to the global copyright wars. We are now about to see what truly strange bedfollows Lawrence Lessig has engaged. Most of the copyright infringement in places like China is not done by the college kids that Lessig and his fellow travelers are so comfortable with–it’s done by real bad guys who do lots of other really bad stuff. They don’t call their cults “Free Culture” they call theirs “triads”.
Going up against copyright infringement in places like Russia and Asia requires considerable chutzpah, and the IFPI has been doing it for decades. I would love to see the pasty faced geeks and academics from Stanford having a sit down with the home boys from Hong Kong. That would add a whole new meaning to “copyleft”. The biggest counterfeit CD operation in Russia, for example, was found operating inside a maximum security prison in Novosibirsk at the direction of prison authorities (their defense was that they didn’t know they were infringing copyright–must have been fans of “Free Culture”).
The Yahoo!ligans of this world also need some comeuppance after their acquisition of the Webjay pirate site, and operating a search engine that clearly perpetuates illegal file trafficking. It’s a pity that it has to be in China, but better there than nowhere.
John Kennedy, the head of IFPI is quoted in the International Herald Tribute as saying, “It’s quite strange to see entities quoted on public stock exchanges trading with such blatant infringement that they could get a huge damages award,” Kennedy said. “If I was a chief executive, I’d be nervous. If I was a shareholder, I’d be nervous.”
But let’s not get too indignant–it wasn’t so long ago we had dancing cows chanting rip, mix, burn in this country.
The exact phrasing of John Kennedy’s statement is interesting given the ongoing lawsuit by Universal Music Group and EMI Recorded Music against former Napster interim CEO Hank Barry, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, John Hummer and Bertelsmann.