Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bad reasons for copyright protection

It's apparently obligatory for press reports about copyright to carry a final paragraph about how all piracy is conducted by organized criminals, probably at the behest of some terrorist matstermind. It's conventional, though not required, for them to quote an industry official saying that "Peopole think it's just some Del-boy types, but it's actually a serious business." Now this may or may not be so, but what really gets me is that the people using this argument seem to think it's a reason to increase copyright protection, when any sensible person can see it's exactly the opposite.

Like drugs, prostitution and every other sort of consensual crime, IP piracy is a good business for criminals to get into because it's illegal: if you legislate for prohibition, you create a market for Al Capone types. The more you enforce the law, the more serious the criminals who engage in it have to be - the Del-boy types can't keep up. If we're really worried that bin Laden's paying for his operations by flogging pirated copies of Legally Blonde II, then the quickest way to deal with that would be to legalise DVD copying. But I presume that wasn't what they meant.


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