Kerry and the Pirates

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The Department of Justice wants more power to crack down on peer-to-peer networks. Declan McCullagh reports:

The U.S. Justice Department recommended a sweeping transformation of the nation's intellectual-property laws, saying peer-to-peer piracy is a "widespread" problem that can be addressed only through more spending, more FBI agents and more power for prosecutors.

In an extensive report released Tuesday, senior department officials endorsed a pair of controversial copyright bills strongly favored by the entertainment industry that would criminalize "passive sharing" on file-swapping networks and permit lawsuits against companies that sell products that "induce" copyright infringement.

"The department is prepared to build the strongest, most aggressive legal assault against intellectual-property crime in our nation's history," Attorney General John Ashcroft, who created the task force in March, said at a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon.

Since there's an election on, I feel obliged to ask: Does anyone know where John Kerry stands on this? His website doesn't say much about IP, his public statements on the subject have been rare, and as far as I can tell he hasn't offered any specific proposals, except when it comes to cracking down on piracy in China. If you believe the rumor mill, his administration's IP policy might be as Draconian as Ashcroft's new plan. Or not.

NEXT: Debateoke

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  1. I wish anyone well at this point if the hope of getting straight answers from Kerry the candidate is entertained. He may have a “plan,” though…

  2. Also, he served in Vietnam.

  3. I wouldn’t try to extrapolate a position on P2P swapping from his statements about organized crime rings in China

    I like beer, but I still think putting Al Capone in jail was a good thing to do.

  4. Weren’t the Draconians the bad guys on the Buck Rogers TV show televised when I was in grade school?

  5. From Kerry’s campaign book:

    It’s obvious that we need a way to can spam without abridging the First Amendment or inhibiting legitimate e-commerce, beginning with requiring an easily understandable and unequivocal subject-line that would at least alert e-mail users to the nature of unsolicited mail. We can’t let the best thing that came out of the Nineties get strangled by bad content. Saving the Internet from hype and filth and making it a much more effective medium for learning, communicating, and legitimately and voluntarily buying and selling will be a major focus of the Kerry administration.

  6. Joe: Neither would I. But as far as I can tell, it’s the only IP issue he’s been outspoken about.

    He does make some comments about filesharing here, but they’re pretty vague.

  7. Judging by his involvement in encryption battles, he would have some policy. The campaign may be failing in not highlighting it.

  8. Considering the fact that the Democratic Party is an owned subsidiary of Hollywood and Hollywood’s own shadow Senater is Fritz Hollings, a Democrat, I doubt Kerry would be any better than Bush on the copyright issue and he might be even worse.

  9. “He does make some comments about filesharing here, but they’re pretty vague.”

    Vague, and nonspecifically somehow different from Bush, who is taking us down the Wrong Path.

    Me? I just want to know how he feels about Working Families.

  10. Matt, you’ve just published a vacuous excerpt from Kerry that says and means nothing. What was your point in producing this statement? Was it to show Kerry had a position or that he is as empty on this isuue as all others? The “requiring an easily understandable and unequivocal subject-line” sounds rather anti first amendment to me. And impossible to enforce.

  11. From Jesse’s link:

    You know, we used to borrow tapes, and you would tape over the tape, and nobody got too excited about it.

    That’s not the way I remember things. I remember the lobbying to enact a tax on blank tapes, the “music CD-R” fisaco, etc. Further back in time I remember the musicians’ unions fighting the use of recorded music. Lots of people got upset about it and still do.

    I want to think Kerry implied that the lobbying to extend copyright length was a bad thing, but he’s so vague that I’m more inclined to think that he has no stance whatsoever and that he’ll do whatever people pay him to do.

  12. All I know is he’s got three purple hearts.

  13. “In an example of the Justice Department’s hunger for new copyright-related police powers, the report asks Congress to introduce legislation that would permit wiretaps to be used in investigating serious intellectual-property offenses and that would create a new crime of the “importation” of pirated products.”

    Unless downloading P2P software is sufficient cause to warrant a tap, doesn’t the government have to monitor what everyone is sharing in order to justify a tap? Are ISPs supposed to supply the identities of people using P2P software in the same way that ISPs were supposed to comply with FBI requests under the Patriot Act?

  14. Saving the Internet from hype and filth and making it a much more effective medium for learning, communicating, and legitimately and voluntarily buying and selling will be a major focus of the Kerry administration.

    So… anyone read this the way I do? “Saving the internet” from bad speech? This doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy… at all.

  15. “Me? I just want to know how he feels about Working Families.”

    You’re off by one election. The Dems have gone from The Poor, to Working Families, and Kerry is now on to Fighting for The Middle Class, at least if the last debate is any indication.

    If they were just helping the poor, we could save a lot of money. Take the bottom 20% and hand them each $30,000 a year, so people stop whining about the cruelty of the marketplace. The government would spend less money, and we’d have a much stronger economy without all of the assanine interference. 2 trillion dollars is a lot of money…

  16. Russ D,

    As they used to say in the 80’s:

    Hometaping is killing the music industry…

    And it’s about time!

  17. Kerry is a former prosecutor and has said he would always be on the side of law enforcement. That should remove any doubt as to where he stands.

    Now filesharing joins ontrolled substances, terrorism and kiddie porn as “widespread” problem[s] that can be addressed only through more spending, more FBI agents and more power for prosecutors.”

    What’s next?

    I’m so sick and tired of these alarmist, breathless, grandstanding soundbites coming from Govt.

  18. Y’know, this is technically off this particular ‘blog’ topic, but it still kind of fits. Here’s my thinking. The purpose of this particular thread is to figure out where Kerry stands on something so as to help people decide for whom to vote. From where I stand, little of this matters anymore. And this is why:

    The latest word is that if GWB wins this election, Cheny will not seek, nor will he accept the nomination from his party to run in 2008. This will likely put the Repubs adrift for a few years (which is normal in this here two party system). That puts the devil incarnate, the anti-christ, Medusa, the Dragon Lady (I could go on all day) A.K.A. Hillary Clinton as a shoe-in for the Democratic nominee in 2008. The Clintons have never, ever failed to surprise me with their successes in politics- so I think y’all can fill in the rest. If Kerry wins this election, then he’ll be the presumptive nominee for 2008, and then Little John will be the presumptive for 2012- (assuming he wins, of course) meaning that M.C. H-Dogg will have to wait until at least 2016. Hopefully by that time Hillary’s batteries will have run out, and her cyborg software will be hopelessly out of date. For that reason alone, I’m voting Kerry.

    Paul

  19. America is a common law country (in general). In the long run the law will conform to what people actually do.

    DeSoto’s “Capitalism” explains how it works.

  20. From pp. 76 of 96, “Memorandum on the Use of Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Technology”:

    “While there may be appropriate uses of this technology, research shows that the vast majority of files exchanged on P2P networks are copyrighted music, motion pictures and pornography.”

    It’s nice to see John Ashcroft taking such an active interest in securing the profits of pornographers everywhere. I hope they all appreciate Ashcroft’s efforts for what they really are.

  21. Q. When do conservatives disapprove of the government protecting property rights?

    A. When John Kerry is, supposedly, in favor of protecting those rights.

    So, should the government back you up when people profit from your property without permission, and take money that belongs to you? Or not?

  22. Q. When do conservatives disapprove of the government protecting property rights?

    A. When John Kerry is, supposedly, in favor of protecting those rights.

    All too true. And true for both parties. When do liberals suddenly discover property rights? When theirs get threatened.

    It’s amazing how many hollywood lefties come out of the woodwork when their precious beachfront homes are threatened by a new California law.

    Paul

  23. joe,

    If you like beer and thought putting Capone in jail was a good thing, who was your prefrence for a beer vendor?

    Dutch Schultz? Louis Lepke? O’Banion? Bugs Moran? Hymie Weiss? “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn?

    I’m just askin’.

  24. Kerry’s campaign book statement reminds me of how it’s obvious that good people tend to want good things happen, depending on how they happen, what they’re all about and, well, lots more stuff.

  25. M. Simon, false analogy. Music is available from legitimate sources.

  26. M. Simon,

    joe’s from Kennedy country, so he might be biased towards a local outfit – um, I mean distributor.

  27. “Hollywood’s own shadow Senater is Fritz Hollings, a Democrat”

    Unless Fritz Hollings is some sort of euphemism for Orrin Hatch, you’re nuts.

    Not that anyone is defensible here, mind you, but if you think Hollywood IP overreach is some kind of Democrat phenomenon, you’ve got the blinders on tight.

  28. Jack — Because few people have read that statement, and because I find it hilariously awful (and vaguely related to the topic at hand).

  29. It’s really a shame that the name of the finest processed food product in the world has become the term for junk e-mail.

    Mmm, grilled spam tacos, spam egg & cheese sandwich, pickled spam…

  30. So, should the government back you up when people profit from your property without permission, and take money that belongs to you? Or not?

    The answer is “the government should absolutely back you up when people take money that belongs to you”. That’s not in dispute. What is in dispute is when you’re entitled to money from non-physical use of property, or use of non-physical property.

    The basic problem is that there is a fairly universal consensus about what constitutes physical property and who’s allowed to use it in what ways. There is no real consensus about what intellectual property rights are, and who’s allowed to use it.

  31. “The answer is “the government should absolutely back you up when people take money that belongs to you”. That’s not in dispute. What is in dispute is when you’re entitled to money from non-physical use of property, or use of non-physical property.”

    Well, that question is in dispute, that’s true. But that’s not the question being disputed right here. Intellectual property has already been difined as property that people have ownership rights over. Individuals and businesses are taking the government at its word and basing their decisions around this principle.

    The question at hand is, now that the right to distribute original (I’m being generous to Hollywood with that term ;-)) copies of original movies is defined as a property right, does it reflect badly on John Kerry that he supports using the government to enforce that property right?

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