Julian Sanchez is on fire in this Ars Technica article on the funny accountancy and outright lies that underlie the harms-from-piracy stats cited in policy debates about Internet censorship and surveillance proposals like SOPA and PIPA:
As a rough analogy, since antipiracy crusaders are fond of equating filesharing with shoplifting: suppose the CEO of Wal-Mart came to Congress demanding a $50 million program to deploy FBI agents to frisk suspicious-looking teens in towns near Wal-Marts. A lawmaker might, without for one instant doubting that shoplifting is a bad thing, question whether this is really the optimal use of federal law enforcement resources. The CEO indignantly points out that shoplifting kills one million adorable towheaded orphans each year. The proof is right here in this study by the Wal-Mart Institute for Anti-Shoplifting Studies. The study sources this dramatic claim to a newspaper article, which quotes the CEO of Wal-Mart asserting (on the basis of private data you can't see) that shoplifting kills hundreds of orphans annually. And as a footnote explains, it seemed prudent to round up to a million. I wish this were just a joke, but as readers of my previous post will recognize, that's literally about the level of evidence we're dealing with here.
In short, piracy is certainly one problem in a world filled with problems. But politicians and journalists seem to have been persuaded to take it largely on faith that it's a uniquely dire and pressing problem that demands dramatic remedies with little time for deliberation. On the data available so far, though, reports of the death of the industry seem much exaggerated.
SOPA, Internet regulation, and the economics of piracy
This week, the scholarly publishing giant Elsevier filed suit against Sci-Hub and Library Genesis, two sites where academics and researchers practiced civil disobedience by sharing the academic papers that Elsevier claims — despite having acquired the papers for free from researchers, and despite having had them refereed and overseen by editorial boards staffed by more […]
Sarah Jeong had me standing up and cheering with her comparison of kudurrus — the ancient Mesopotamian boundary stones used to mark out territorial land-grants — and the way that laws like the US DMCA protect digital rights management systems.
Mélanie Joly is the newly appointed Canadian Heritage Minister, and she’s been given a briefing book by her ministerial staffers laying out the ministry’s view of what’s going on in the Heritage brief. The book’s copyright section is a disaster.
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