Whew! Thank Goodness That Can't Happen HERE!

Wow, it sucks to live in, or visit, some places in the world! Over in Nigeria, they're looking to jail you for ten years if you "support" any "gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions or meetings". That's obviously anathema to American values and hateful to most Americans and to any GOP candidates who are showing well in the polls. Over in Thailand, as before, they are prosecuting and jailing people who write even mildly critical things about the king – even when the person in question wrote and posted the criticism on a blog in the United States. Sounds like an excellent reason never to visit Thailand. Also, the Thai authorities helpfully point out that it can be a crime even to "like" certain pages or posts on Facebook, which seems pretty extreme to me on days when I have not reviewed what my friends on Facebook like.

Wow. Foreign countries and their censorship. It's like all that nuttery in Canada, but without the relentless geniality and good donuts. Am I right?

Thank goodness that can never happen here in America where courts protect people's freedom of expression.

Well, I mean, sure. We've decided to let the government do pretty much whatever it wants in the name of Homeland Security. And sure, it appears that the government has decided to cash that blank check by devoting the entire weight of the federal criminal justice system to fellating the recording industry and other industrial interests by doing stuff like shutting down blogs for a year without disclosing their reasons, without allowing the blog owners to review or challenge the basis for the seizure, and without anything remotely resembling due process. And sure, the RIAA's catamites in Congress are pushing for legislation that would give the government even more power to take unilateral action against web sites that irritate their whip-holders.

But that's all so very decorous. America: we're not crass about how we censor.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    I used to think that it was crazy that DHS went after copyright offenders, until someone told me why.

    Historically much copyright infringement was done overseas and shipped in, so by historical accident enforcement ended up part of the Customs Department. When the DHS was created, it merged Customs with INS into ICE and then swallowed the whole thing. (And the Secret Service, too. That used to be part of the Treasury.)

    And that's why DHS goes after copyright offenders.

    Now, this doesn't mean that some particular law to protect IP holders is right or wrong. And maybe we should pull that part of the government back out of DHS and put it somewhere else. But it does mean we shouldn't use "lulz DHS going after piratez they aren't teroristz" as an argument.

  2. C. S. P. Schofield says

    I think that any debate concerning censorship in this country is vastly complicated by the way certain groups have been allowed to argue that declining to pay for their assorted messages constitutes censorship. When you are constantly being told that wishing that you tax money would not get spent on messages calculated to offend you (see Piss Christ) is CENSORSHIP!!!!, you necessarily begin to think more kindly of censorship.

    The First Amendment (as modified by later Amendments and Rulings) say that you have a right to say anything you like or print anything you've a mind to. It doesn't promise you an audience or free printing.

  3. IGotBupkis, Sailing the Economic Seas Betwixt Scylla And Charybdis says

    Copyright-as-control is doomed.

    Bear with me:

    It is generally a given that "the internet treats censorship as noise, and routes around it." This is an inadvertent design feature of a system which was designed to function in the event of a catastrophe and be able to maintain linkages even with radical breaks and unpredictable damage in the system. Any kind of break is routed around, and this includes "intentional" efforts to create breaks, which is what censorship is.

    Now, what is "censorship"?

    Censorship is the government telling you "This we deem dangerous, therefore, you may not access it."

    Copyright is someone telling you "This you have not paid for, therefore, you may not access it.


    They're both the same action, "controlling access".

    (NOTE: This does not deal with the fact that there are different moral implications between the two, only with their innate underlying mechanism — I might shoot you because I don't like you, or I might shoot you because it's war and you're shooting at me. Both are the same actions, but one is generally considered morally acceptable and one is not)

    Now, if both are about "controlling access", then what does the truism state about Copyright-as-control?

    Yep, it says that the internet treats copyright-as-control as noise, and routes around it.

    So Playboy goes after "Scanmaster" for scanning and publishing their pictures, and a hundred other scanners step in to take his place. The RIAA sues Napster, and a dozen alternative P2P sharing mechanisms pop up to fill in the demand.

    As Princess Leia put it, "The more you tighten your grasp, the more it will slip through your fingers".

    Now, this most emphatically NOT the juvenile "Information should be free" argument. "Information" is the hard work and time of someone taking raw data — be it facts, musical notes, or pictures — and assembling it to construct a unique world view of that data for the benefit of society. Perhaps "Data" should be free (no Brent Spiner jokes, pls!), but for "Information", society must reward its creator for their time or few will bother.

    Copyright exists for one, expressly stated Constitutional purpose: "To promote the Sciences and the Arts".

    No other reason. If The Law does not do that, then The Law is wrong, and violating it is morally acceptable, albeit no less dangerous.

    Historically, Copyright has been advanced by means of controlling the containers — books, CDs, and so forth — but in a digital society, where such containers no longer exist, and/or are not used to transfer access to such information, what then?

    The system has to be redesigned to provide reward inherently while relinquishing control over it.

    How to do this? Not sure, but it needs to be addressed. One obvious means would be to create a slush fund of some sort, then allocate it to creators by some metric. Napster hits would have been a perfect mechanism at one point for music, now long since gone.

    The basic trick is to create a metric which is difficult to game. And to make sure that the current abusers of Copyright — Disney, THIS MEANS YOU!! — is a prime example of it, does not get the chance to manipulate it so some non-productive middleman gets the majority of the reward, as the RIAA did for fat-cat middlemen when it comes to RIAA collections from various sources like radio and public playings.

    The following piece is now 18 years old, but every bit as valid as it was when written, and I highly recommend that anyone who wants to understand these issues read it:

    The Economy of Ideas
    By John Perry Barlow

  4. C. S. P. Schofield says


    Your post makes some excellent points, but I have to hope that the general thrust – that Copyright is dead – is wrong. If the people who create do not get some return on their work, they will do something else. This is just as true of Corporate giants like Disney (what is it about Disney BTW? It isn't as if Warner Brothers or New Line were that much better behaved, overall) as it is of individuals. I would be just as sad to se a world without cotton-candy films like CAPTAIN AMERICA or (from the looks of things) JOHN CARTER as I would if, say, Lois McMaster Bujold gave up writing for something that paid.

  5. says

    I think Disney would survive just fine with their trademarks on Disney and Mickey Mouse, even if other people could sell Steamboat Willie without paying royalties.

  6. Joe says

    Makes me wonder how long before the newly signed NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act of 2012) is used to cow free speech into submission under the guise of "domestic terrorism" as defined under the Patriot Act (Patriot Act my tootie – there is nothign patriotic about it)? This along with the proposed internet kill switch to shut down sites and blogs the government doesn't like. The founders of our country must be rolling in their graves. FOR SALE: One Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our government is clearly not interested in upholding them and needs the money to pay down our whopping debt (ahem I mean to line their pockets). Ah Politics – what can I say. Noun: Frum Greek. Poly = Many Tics = Bloodsucking Parisites.


  1. Use of such investigative techniques does skate…

    on a thin line, but ultimately, these methods are used for the good of people who are being unfairly treated and deserve better. On the occasion that this turns out not to be true, and the subject of a tracking investigation…