From The Boy Who Could Change The World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz, loc 283:
But if it turns out that doesn’t work, I’ve also been looking into a system called Compulsory Licensing. The idea is that you pay about $5 more a month on your cable modem bill in exchange for being able to download all the music and movies you want. Then you anonymously submit what you downloaded and the money gets sent to the people who made it. The submission is done all automatically by your computer, so you don’t have to do anything.
From The Boy Who Could Change The World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz, loc 253-268:
The law about what is stealing is very clear. Stealing is taking something away from someone so they cannot use it. There’s no way that making a copy of something is stealing under that definition. If you make a copy of something, you’ll be prosecuted for copyright infringement or something similar—not larceny (the legal term for stealing). Stealing, like piracy and intellectual property, is another one of those terms cooked up to make us think of intellectual works the same way we think of physical items. But the two are very different.
You can’t just punish people because they took away a “potential sale.” Earthquakes take away potential sales, as do libraries and rental stores and negative reviews. Competitors also take away potential sales. One reason people might be buying less CDs is because they’re spending their money on DVDs. Or, as Philip Greenspun has argued, they’re spending their time on cell phones. I mean, talking to your girlfriend can often be more enjoyable than listening to music, but I don’t think we need to start suing girlfriends. So the question then becomes what’s a reasonable form of taking away sales, and what’s an unreasonable one. And that’s a tough question, but I think we need to evaluate it by looking at what’s best for society. Some people say that getting people to stop copying, whether through threats of lawsuits or technological restraints, is the only way to get people to keep coming up with interesting things.
I’m particularly interested in the political consequences of enforcing this conflation of copying and stealing. The effective repression of copying would necessarily entail a growing and worrying authoritarianism, as Swartz goes on to write:
So if we choose this option of stricter and stricter enforcement, we’re heading down a very dark path where law enforcement gets more and more heavy-handed and authoritarian, and copying goes farther and farther underground.
This is a very interesting trend, though one I suspect could lead in some unfortunate directions:
Ever been the victim of plagiarism on Twitter—or, dare we say, the shameful purveyor of it? The social network seems to be putting an end to those pirated tweets by cracking down on users who steal jokes to inflate their Twitter cred.
The Twitter account @plagiarismbad reported Saturday that Twitter had taken down five tweets that poached a joke allegedly first posted by freelance writer Olga Lexell:
The tweets were removed at Lexell’s request, and in their place reads text that says they were “withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder.” In a tweet, Lexell explained the rationale behind her appeal, noting that the jokes were her “intellectual property” and copied without attribution
It seems obviously valuable that a mechanism for this is in place, but it’s nonetheless worrying when one considers the potential scale of the contestation that might emerge when this becomes widespread. Will Twitter commit to providing the resources to ensure robust governance? Or will they merely err on the side of caution and take material down unless the arguments given in the counter-notice are overwhelmingly strong? On its own, this would be problematic. But as the article correctly identifies, the potential for such a system to be deliberately misused is vast:
This sounds like good news for writers and comedians who have been victims of joke theft, but as Twitter revealed in a transparency report last year, many organizations cry copyright theft even when the material in question does not meet those requirements. The Verge reports that about one-third of Twitter’s requests are not actually copyright violations—and some, in fact, are just attempts to censor criticism