Saturday, July 03, 2010

US Vice President promotes lie about US piracy law

Vice President Joe Biden introduced the Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property theft today. In his speech Biden declared war on ‘pirate’ websites, both foreign and domestic, arguing that piracy is theft and a potential threat to national security. Read the article at

Upon the nomination of US President Obama to office my friends told me that Joe Biden, his chosen VP, happened to maintain a penchant for gaffes—but this isn’t exactly what I thought they meant.

To top it off the Vice President reiterated the words commonly uttered by pro-copyright lobbyists such as the RIAA and MPAA. “Piracy is theft, clean and simple, it’s smash and grab,” Biden said, comparing unauthorized downloading to robbing a jewelry store. Although semantically incorrect, since ‘theft’ implies that something is taken away and not copied, the message is clear.

I am not sure what the Vice President is smoking, but it’s obvious that the MAFIAA have spiked his weed with the propaganda of stupid. There is nothing clean or simple about copyright being theft except for in a diseased left-brain sort of stretching-facts-to-fit fashion. It’s especially not comparable to burglary. Nothing gets smashed (no windows, no doors, no barrier that needs repair later) and in a sort of way nothing gets grabbed (no product taken needing to be replaced, no store owner waiting on insurance to make up the loss.) No. Something gets copied. The only working metaphor comparing copyright to a smash-and-grab at a jewelry store is that one morning a jeweler wakes up to discover all of their alarms, windows, and cases intact—no jewelry missing, nor disturbed—but the store across the street is now selling the exact same product.

“No, officer they didn’t take anything they copied it exactly and are high tailing it out of here to sell it across the border! Arrest them!”

In fact, the US Supreme Court does not agree with the MAFIAA or Vice President Biden in this account. In their 1980 decision in Dowling vs. United States the Supreme Court opined that “copyright infringement is not theft.” Both of these terms have distinct definitions in our legal system and they don’t overlap—playing dishonest games with language to pretend that they do makes for some stunningly disingenuous acts by our leaders.

Is copyright infringement illegal? Yes. Is theft illegal? Yes. Is copyright infringement: theft? …vandalism? …racketeering? …assault? Shall I continue to compare illegal acts that don’t legally overlap seeking a deceitful metaphor? This is the basis of this propaganda spread by the MAFIAA and their PR cronies and we, the public, shouldn’t be falling for it.

Tell us that copyright infringement is a problem; then show us why it’s a problem. Stop bleating at us with loaded language, propaganda, and non-sequiturs trying to connect these acts to laws that don’t relate to them. If you cannot argue copyright infringement poses a threat to us, without being dishonest about its place in our digital culture, then perhaps it’s because you don’t have the case you pretend you do.

Does Biden know better? Probably. The copyright and IP law lobbies of the RIAA and MPAA to create an IP mafia with public opinion continue apace, but it’s not fooling everyone.

Grow up, Mr. Vice President.

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