The Obama Administration has done a remarkably effective job at finding clever ways to attack online piracy as evidenced by raids earlier this year that sent torrent freaks running from a federal manhunt and found their domain names seized–but more importantly froze their transactional accounts and advertising revenue accounts.
Meaning, the government can use an off the shelf seizure order (about which there is nothing new) to shut down a streaming site operating in the jurisdiction of ICE. Senators Leahy and Hatch have introduced new legislation, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, that would bring all this authority to bear in one clearly articulated statute designed to take the fight directly to the pirates and those who succor them.
But more importantly in my view, no more Mastercard and Visa to sell “subscriptions”.
And most importantly–no more Google Adsense dollars for pirates.
If you’re not aware of how much of a role Google plays in the piracy game, read the CNET coverage “Indie filmmakers: Piracy and Google Threaten Us“, the NPR coverage (“Feeding Pirates: When Legit Companies Advertise on Shady Sites“), the Los Angeles Times coverage “Independent Filmmakers Feel Squeeze of Piracy“, trade coverage “Google Netflix and Other Pirates“, or the blog of independent film maker Ellen Seidler, Pop Up Pirates, or just watch Seidler’s instructional video. Google is extraordinarily uncooperative with film makers trying to stop illegal traffic to their websites
As Peter Sunde of the Pirate Bay put it so succinctly, there is no difference between the Pirate Bay and Google. That is exactly the point–although not the point he was trying to make, but an exact statement of the problem, nevertheless. (Google is not alone in this, but because of their dominant position in search that they try to maintain at all costs, they may as well be.)
Therefore, Google is likely in a bit of a spot in trying to stop this legislation, the first bill in a long time that actually takes money away from Google and puts Google in a very awkward defensive position of finally acknowledging its unsavory and possibly criminal role in driving traffic to websites that host illegal content. And some of these websites are also Google Adsense “partners”. (A little tip? Dump that “partner” reference, kids.)
So what does Google do? They will have great difficulty opposing the legislation, particularly since it will involve telling Vice President Biden what the DMCA says (formerly Senator Joseph Biden, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which drafted the DMCA–you remember him, right?). That would be the same Vice President Biden who said “Piracy is theft. Clean and simple. It’s smash and grab. It ain’t no different than smashing a window at Tiffany’s and grabbing stuff.”
Maybe go to the amen corner? Ah, yes, there are some Googlers there now, vocalizing and warming up with their fingers in their ears singing “la, la, la, la, la, la, la”.
And so comes Michael Geist riding his white horse named Jingo. I am increasingly convinced that Geist is Google’s Man in Canada, for reasons that are circumstantial, I admit, but are very much so.
(For those who do not recognize the name, Michael Geist is aka “he who shall not be named,” according to a prominent Canadian artist), or alternatively “the wonderful Michael Geist” according to Lester Lawrence “Ace” Lessig III, author of “The Starving Artist Canard” among other works. Mr. Wonderful is advisor to the U.S.-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the paid consultant to Industry Canada. SG–CIPPIC‘s external advisory board includes Lessig the American, the American EFF legal director, the American director of the American EPIC, and the American Pamela Samuelson, who is also a board member of the American EPIC and the American EFF—in short, 100% Yanks. So this Canadian affiliate of the Samuelson-Glushko system is to IP in Canada kind of what Alcoa of Canada is to Canadian industry.)
Echoing the cant of the Electronic Frontier Foundation issued just last week, Geist launches an attack in the poor old Toronto Star, the worse for associating itself with Canada’s Million Dollar Man.
Geist’s attack on the Obama Administration gives the spur to old Jingo to such a degree that he may get a call from PETA. Yet the themes are classic in the literature of the pirate apologencia–“Only we can protect you from a [government/industry/artist] gone mad who is trying to break the Internet and [invade your privacy/chill your speech/criminalize our kids]”
In Geist’s case, being Canadian and all, old Jingo gives his own little snort to the cant: There are YANKS UNDER THE BED!! And so we are treated to this phrase from Geist, which has some very interesting implications:
“Effective regulatory measures have often proven elusive, however, since, unlike the Internet, national laws typically end at the border.”
National laws typically end at the border. End at the border. Sort of like the proposed Canadian Copyright Modernization Act, maybe? But more about this another time.
The piece is entitled “Geist: U.S. uses domain names as new way to regulate the Net” and what is funny about it is that it does not say one word about the reason the legislation exists–to give law enforcement the tools to carry out the Obama Administration’s commitment to stop piracy and those who support it financially. In fact, you could read the entire Geist piece and never know that the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was about combating online infringement and counterfeits, aside from the mention of the bill’s title.
Geist says that the “domain name block list – already being dubbed the Great Firewall of America – would be created through a censorship court order obtained by the U.S. Attorney General.”
A “censorship court order”? That’s kind of a heaping pile, even for old Jingo. First of all, if there’s a court order, then the thief that the DOJ is acting against would have all the process rights accorded to thieves, which are many. Plus, the probable cause for the order has to be enough to satisfy a judge, and judges will take into account any first amendment issues.
But what is screamingly absent from Geist’s piece is the obvious–the legislation is designed to bleed these thieves financially and the companies like Google that support them (such as his buddies at IsoHunt).
Will he say anything about the evilness of providing financial sustenance to thieves?
See also: A handy chart of government contracts with Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist
See also: The Professor Has No Clothes
See also internal document re Industry Canada and CCER letter : A Dedicated Group of Likeminded People
See also: Artist rights are human rights