Acting against anti-File-Swapping Lawsuits in Israel

Posted 23 May 2005 at 11:25 UTC by shlomif Share This

A recent Ynet feature claimed Israel is going to be the third country in the world after the U.S. and England to feature its own law-suits against file-sharer. Two issues are at stake here:

  • The privacy of the file sharers. Is the ISP allowed to disclose their identities based on their IPs and time?
  • The legitimacy of the file-sharing process. Can Internet surfers download files using Peer-to-Peer technologies and other means?

Let's tackle them one by one. First the first issue. The short answer is that the ISPs must not disclose such information, at least not without a court permit. By all means, the so-called "Intellectual Property" is not property. The act of infringing on such "goods" is not "stealing". Their positional status among law traditions in many countries (including the U.S.) is that they are simply things that are nice to have, and infringing on them is not stealing. Makes sense too: if I duplicate a song or a computer program or a video, or a picture, the original is left intact. But if I take a tangible value without permission, then the owner has one less instance of it. While I respect the rights of copyrights owner to make money out of their creations, it is not as important as the rights of owners of actual property to preserve their own property.

The second issue (of the file swapping itself) is also perfectly legitimate. While not too many people have heard about it, there's a well known "First Sale Principle" in copyrights tradition. Generally, the copyright owner gets the ownership on the first sale, where all subsequent copies of the original can be done legally. For example, libraries may rent books that they buy.

Downloading a song does not involve a single ounce of guilt. About 20% of Americans share songs, and in Israel it's probably an even higher percentage. It would be a joke to consider all these people as criminals. Can anyone imagine a 21st century Dostoevsky writing "Crime and Punishment" about a file-swapper?

I admit it: I have been downloading songs from the Internet which I have not bought on CDs yet. So did my sisters. However: here's an interesting observation. I never bought a lot of CDs, and since we got a fast Internet connection, have bought about the same amount of CDs. However, my sisters have always bought a lot of CDs and since we had an ADSL connection, they became introduced to many new bands, and as a result have still been buying a lot of their CDs. Perhaps even much more than before. So the Music Industry and the artists did not lose a lot from me, but OTOH gained a lot from my sisters.

My father has bought many recordings of pieces of Classical Music online, and still buys many Classical CDs, despite downloading many others. So the media industry should be happy with the Fish Family.

Neither I, nor my sisters or fathers feel an ounce of guilt about having downloading these songs without buying them afterward. While I highly approve of Online Music Buying services like iTunes[1], P2P networks should co-exist with them free and undisturbed. The next generation of musicians won't think twice before putting all their songs online for free download. As an artist, I can testify that making a living out of one's creations plays a very marginal in one's artistic activities. The main motivation is creating something new and getting everybody possible to experience it, and comment on it. I would continue to write stories, essays, articles and open-source software, regardless if I ever make any significant amount of money out of it. So would almost any artist on the planet, a few of which has so far earned enough to last them and their inheritors for several life-times. (and the arm is still erect).

I hereby testify that I will free time out of my schedule to help in any way I can to help represent some selective lawsuits against file sharers. I wish to take them through the three circuits of Israeli courts, if necessary. I will perform any research task that I will be assigned to do. My knowledge of copyright law is limited to what I've learned as an open-source software developer. (which is quite a lot) However, I'm also interested and knowledgeable in history, especially ancient history of the Near East and Europe. [2] I will even be willing to testify in front of an Israeli court, if that's necessary.

I wish to set the record straight for file sharers right here and right now. Israel is different from the U.S. in the sense that it would be able to easily put a record label owner behind bars if he continues to harass innocent people by filing lawsuits against them.

Bring it on!

Yours truly, -- Shlomi Fish.

[1] - As long as they do not have the so-called "Digital Rights Management", which is so easy to break, and have fully open-source and cross-platform clients.

[2] - I should note that, as far as I know, copyright law is purely a recent phenomenon that emerged during post-Renaissance Europe. In ancient times, when "paper" was precious, and its duplication very time consuming, the ancient authors who published their works in the public, encouraged people to distribute, quote, and make use of their work as much as possible. While people often charged money for preparing a copy, this copy was freely distributable, and also copyable.

A different concept altogether was that of secrecy and privacy, which was considered by many to be sacred. But this is a very distinct issue from copyright laws, and I fully support it.


They tried to ban cars, too, posted 24 May 2005 at 22:59 UTC by Ankh » (Master)

Around 100 to 120 years ago, the big business in the transport industry was the horse and cart. And when they were threatened by the new Internal Combustion Engine Industry (ICEI) they lobbied governments all of the industrialised world. You can still see some of the resulting laws: some had to walk in front of a car carrying a red flag; in some parts of the US, if a car met a horse, the car had to leave the road and be camouflaged with netting or even dismantled (I think such a law still stands in Virginia, on the books at least).

Only one of the big US cart makers suvived the transition: Studebaker sold automobiles will into the 1960s.

Even the word car (less common in the US) is a hold-over from carriage.

We see this behaviour whenever there's a breaking change, a new paradigm, call it what you will, when a new way of doing things obsoletes an old way. Canals gave way to railways, the scriptorium gave way to the printing press, and now the World Wide Web is obsoleting shoes. Companies selling tickets to concerts vigorously opposed the broadcast of music on the radio, fearing people would no longer go and listen to live music if they could hear it in their own homes. Sort of like serial killers not wanting crime shows on television. Well, OK, not like that exactly, but there's about as much connection.

The music distribution industry will fight as hard is it can, and fight it must, because its death can only be prolonged, not prevented. The wax cylinder industry died slmost overnight with the introduction of Bakelight and later Vinyl. How many 78 RPM gramaphone recordings do yu have in your home? Perhaps you keep them in a cupboard with the mangle and the clockwork apple peeler and the carpet-beater. Although the carpet-beater at least has other more interesting applications.

I used to use AOL CD-ROMs as a support for coffee-cups, as coasters. How long before The Best of the Wombles meets the same fate?

So the question today is really how to survive the attacks of a viscious, utterly self-centred, homicidal, amoral industry armed with the full canvas and rigging of the law (as Stoppard might have said) until it is so weakened as to become ineffectual, or at least until even the oldest and most hide-bound right-wing judge understands that it makes more sense to buy music online.

As with any war there will be casualties, and knowing that the war will be won is no consolation for the victims.

Maybe what we need is an online music store that donates 5% of its gross revenue to bribes to politicians. In the USA such bribes are called donations and, unbelievably to outsiders, are legal!!! They call the process lobbying. Of course, if you legalise corruption you lower the crime rate. These politicians are not doing anything illegal, no Sir! So give them more money than the music distribution industry can afford and they'll soon switch allegiance.

Interesting, posted 26 May 2005 at 07:09 UTC by nymia » (Master)

"Downloading a song does not involve a single ounce of guilt"
Content producers may have a hard time understanding it, though. The issue seems to be coming from the right to own a material which was produced with the intention of making a profit. Otherwise, download away for entertainment's sake. No guilt feelings attached.

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