Twenty Thousand Leagues and still No Safe Harbor

Yesterday, the Copyright Alert System (CAS) was unveiled with little fanfare. Prominently supported by the RIAA, MPAA and major Internet Service Providers, the CAS works as follows: the CAS monitors file sharing sites and identifies material that violates copyright. When a user downloads said tainted file, the CAS records such violation and forwards the details of the incident to your ISP, who in turn, informs you. After an escalation of threats, you may be required to watch videos or acknowledge the warnings before the “mitigation” phase, where your bandwidth is throttled, to a limit that approaches, but does not reach, zero.

The Copyright Attack System’s website has a video explaining everything, except the details. Of course, the CAS is not evil, after all it allows you “the opportunity to ask for a review [of a copyright alert]” if you believe you received one in error. How considerate.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation published their reaction and criticism showing, among many valid counter-points, that even the CAS website defines copyright incorrectly by failing to acknowledge the doctrine of fair use.

If being forced to watch re-education videos or having to prove your innocence to keep your Internet connection is a bit too Clockwork Orange for you, I heartily recommend the book, No Safe Harbor. No Safe Harbor is a collection of essays about the Pirate Party, which declares to:

reform laws regarding copyright and patents. The agenda also includes support for a strengthening of the right to privacy, both on the Internet and in everyday life, and the transparency of state government.

Pirate Party Logo
Pirate Party Logo

In the true spirit of copyright reform, the book is available for free, under a Creative Commons license. It contains 20 thought-provoking and controversial essays on its core tenants. My particular favorites were:

  1. William Bainbridge’s Fluid Democracy: He describes a delegate or proxy-voting style of democracy. This is one of the more interesting ideas proposed in the book and I’m not sure I’m totally on board, but I am a fan of non-spatial representation. Why am I represented based on where I live when my representative probably doesn’t share my views on digital rights and other social issues?
  2. Lawrence Lessig’s Pirates: This essay recounts how the film, music, radio and cable TV industries all started off by pirating material. What was good for them is now no longer good for us.

These collection of essays offer an alternative to today’s system of intellectual property, privacy and government / corporate accountability. What is missing in these collection is an essay on how the Pirate Party deals with issues that don’t fit into those buckets. Where do they stand on education, poverty or whether not they agree to postpone dealing with the debt? According to the US Pirate Party website:

The Pirate Party only takes a stand on key issues. Our priority is to preserve the conditions for democracy and basic civil rights as we transition into an information-based society. The Pirate Party was formed to try and turn things around, and has chosen to focus all its political efforts on technological freedoms.

This does not mean that other policies are not important. Everyone agrees that health care, education and environmental issues must be addressed. But these are not issues that the Pirate Party has specific expertise to answer.

I believe this is where they fall back to the “Fluid Democracy;” deferring to those who are more educated and knowledge on a particular topic. I’m not sure if this is the case, which is why I think there should have been some essays speaking to this point.

If you are inclined to shrug off the Pirate Party as fanatical, go to the Copyright Attack Systems website again and consider the absurdity of the status quo. Even if a search for “pirate party” brings up images of kids birthday toys, I find their name extremely apt. Consider Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne. (Which, much to the chagrin of some publisher out there, is in the public domain and may be freely downloaded and distributed from here) Nemo lived in the submarine Nautilus, a technologically superior world that provided the freedom to travel the seas. Living the pirate life and roaming the oceans, Nemo’s Nautilus destroyed its attackers, in their antiquated wooden hulls, that split on contact.

I’ll concede that Nemo had a bit of a revenge motive going for him, which may not strengthen my argument 😉 But in the world of the CAS, the Pirate Party seems to be asking the right questions and their answers are in No Safe Harbor.

BTW, I stumbled into the US Pirate Party chat room and those pirates were actually quite friendly 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Twenty Thousand Leagues and still No Safe Harbor

    1. Well, P2P is the most democratic form of distribution… 😉

      I hear there is a sequel in the works. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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