More on Bono's filesharing hypocrisy: Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge

Public Knowledge founder Gigi Sohn tackles Bono's recent NYT op-ed, in which the rock star suggested we follow China's lead on net-filtering technology to limit the scourge of file sharing. Ms. Sohn writes:
bonohed.jpg But the most absurd thing about Bono's endorsement of draconian copyright enforcement is that it undermines just about everything else he professes to stand for. Look at the activities and goals of One, the nonprofit organization Bono co-founded. One is "committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa." It "campaign[s] for better development policies, more effective aid and trade reform. We also support greater democracy, accountability and transparency to ensure policies to beat poverty are implemented effectively." Among the specific issues One works on are the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDs and malaria, increasing access to quality education and ensuring trade policies that "create economic growth and opportunities for the poorest people."

If Bono truly cares about poverty, education, health care and fair trade in developing regions like Africa, he should be against draconian intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement regimes and for more balance. Numerous studies (including from the World Bank) have concluded that the strong IPR regimes exported from the West to the South (many through trade agreements) mainly benefit industrialized countries. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the cost of re-aligning national laws to fit these regimes and the cost of enforcement itself. Resources that could be devoted to education, or health care or fighting poverty are instead spent on protecting transnational media companies.

Bono's "One" Ignorant Idea (Public Knowledge, via EFF)


  1. I guess this is as good a place as any:

    Q: What is the difference between Jesus and Bono?

    A: Jesus doesn’t think He’s God.

    1. “A: Jesus doesn’t think He’s God.”

      Huh? If you’re Catholic (or any mainstream Christian) he does.

  2. Slightly unrelated, but I am in the same building as the One campaign, and they annoy me! They act very pompous and arrogant, and are just so freaking whiny! Grrr!

  3. I gave away to charity and file-shredded everything that I “owned” that had anything to do with U2 some time ago. Statements like his recent outpourings only convince me that I did the right thing.

  4. That Bono even write about CO2 is just a joke, I would like to know how much CO2 his last tour spit out in total.

    Talking about “sexy cars”…? “70’s Jag’s” and then about revolution…. WTF?

    This guy has not spent many seconds in “reality” the last 30 years. Drink your “fine wines” in your palace in silence please.

  5. Didn’t he also organise Red – the charity that a few years ago was costing more than it was raising?

  6. China is his example? Seriously? China uses net-filtering to supress information and debate about the government; they could care less about intellectual property, considering they have a massive industry in knockoff movies (DO NOT WANT!), purses….

  7. What I want to see is his response to everything said to him so far. Kinda feel like random allegations mean nothing without a response.

  8. As much as I agree that Bono’s an annoying self-important twit, the logic of the OP reminds me of this kind of dialog…

    Conservative 1: Liberals are against the war in Iraq!
    Conservative 2: That must mean they support the terrorists.
    Conservative 1: Why do liberals hate America?

  9. China?
    I live there.
    Just came home from work.
    On my way I bought the new season of Mad Men, and six very recent films for a total of 15 bucks.

    Way to go Bono!

  10. Now I know how Metallica fans felt when those guys were douchebags over Napster. (Yes, OK, I’m a U2 fan. Um. The other three guys are pretty cool?)

  11. Bono’s eleventh item on the list was organ donation. “Liver, heart, lungs, marrow… If any one healthy person were killed, and their organs distributed, 7-8 lives could be saved. Not to mention the countless lives that could be made better through eye-transplants, and other systems. In China, they don’t have the same shortages other countries have. If there is a political dissident, the friction and pain their expression creates can be stopped, and anywhere up to 8 lives could be saved.”

    He didn’t add it to his list because it was “too icky.”

  12. are we supposed to take his op-ed piece seriously? he’s just doing his job, and that is selling content to an audience of his choice that will appreciate the lifestyle he is staging.


  13. This argument sounds like a bit of a red-herring.

    Never mind that the great firewall of China is used to filter dissidents first and foremost, least of all file-sharing.

    If anyone wants to attack his position on file-sharing I suggest they refrain from red-herrings and ad hominem accusations.

    Greg Hittelman (Director of the documentary “Willful Infringement”)

    The governments of many developing and transitional countries are currently being encouraged to enact new legislation involving intellectual property to align with the the latest international protocols, standards and conventions. However, before drafting new laws, it may be worthwhile for these governments to consider alternative formats for intellectual property management that may be more in line with their cultural history and practices.

    In general, these global standards as presented are IP systems designed to match the legal standards and protocols of the United States and the EU—protocols for copyright, patent and trademark law that allow for the licensing or permanent transfer of rights to a corporation from an individual artist, inventor, scientist or creator.

    Often, the need for globally-aligned standards is expressed in carrot-and-stick rhetoric: it’s a critical matter of cultural protection; it’s also an opportunity for generation of revenue. It is argued that regional artists, craftspeople, inventors, even traditional medicine practitioners, will gain new opportunities to sell their products and services on the global market with the security of knowing that their ownership and innovation will be protected and rewarded.

    A problem inherent, of course, is that in many cultures, much of the work of creators and practitioners draws from shared knowledge, technology, resources and traditions. To fully adopt a system in which an individual may take the creative idea or technique they use in their practice—an idea or technique that may draw from centuries of history and collaboration—and in that particular moment in time define that item as their individual property, might in fact be inappropriate, unprecendented and damaging to the future functioning of that culture. Moreover, for that individual then to have the ability to sell these exclusive rights to, for example, a local or foreign company, seems an open invitation to exploitation. A practitioner in traditional medicine or textiles might, for example, work with materials and techniques that have potentially significant benefit and value on the world market. If that practitioner’s methodology is successful, even innovative, that does not negate the fact that it may have been constructed out of elements of traditional practice that many other people in the region are concurrently using as well. In this case, transferring that technology to exclusive control by a corporate entity could be potentially devastating, limiting the use of those techniques by others and constraining future innovations within a previously collaborative system.

    On the other hand, many of these societies, individual creators and practitioners are seeking to “go global”, and might benefit greatly if they were able to transform traditional practices into more robust economic engines. Simultaneously, interested external players—free market advocacy lobbies, opportunity-seeking companies and world protocol bodies looking to unify and rationalize international trade law—are putting on the pressure to act, and act now.

    What might be an alternative to wholesale, immediate adoption of these international IP conventions?

    A productive approach to this challenge might initially involve establishing an internal review body within the given country in which a range of options could be examined and potentially integrated into the developing policy.

    “Open source” exchange systems, cultural co-ops, regional marketing alliances, and community ownership may each have a significant role to play. Certainly, IP traditions that are built into current global protocols, such as Fair Use and Public Domain, may need a larger field of action and protection within some societies.

    Bringing into the discussion professionals, academics and policymakers with both expertise in the scope of options within IP law, and sensitivity to historical and traditional forms of sharing and collaborative culture, this clearly would be a critical component to counterbalance potentially one-sided or incentivized IP advocacy. Most importantly, the region’s practitioners, inventors, artists, craftspeople, and other creators and tradition-keepers must have a central role in the dialogue and ultimate development of any new policy or legislation.

  15. Wasn’t the “Zoo TV” (or whatever stupid name it was) tour based on the idea of freely accessing broadcasted tv images and displaying them on large screens in front of audiences? Something tells me Bono didn’t compensate these tv networks for use of their footage in a for-profit setting.

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