Dobber preparing to waste police time to spite political opponents

Saw an interesting tweet from some old News Ltd hack yesterday, in which she seemed to make some kind of threats to people on the internet who would dare discuss issues of copyright and piracy:

@overingtonc so, vibrant, creative media companies are going after individual losers who steal their products. thinking of who to dob in (drums fingers)

@overingtonc How To Catch A Thief (Part Two). You wouldn’t want to have references to bit-torrents in your blog history these days, would you? #$1.5m

Ignoring the absurdity of the last part – bit-torrent is a perfectly legal file transfer technology, and discussing it is not a crime – it’s a nice little effort at intimidation for those who would dare argue against corporate misuse of copyright, isn’t it?

Have we really degenerated to the point as a country where someone writing on a blog and criticising something like the extreme and anti-public copyright regime our government has adopted at the behest of US-based media companies like Caroline’s employer, might find themselves “dobbed in” and made a target for some sort of police raid? Would it matter that they did not have any “pirated” material at all, once their house had been trampled through and their computers confiscated for the duration of the search? More importantly, would there be a consequence for the spiteful hack who wasted police time and resources for a personal vendetta, or would she be free to use the technique against someone else with whom she had a political argument?

Are the police there to fight crime, or are they a tool for the corporate copyright lobby (and its media arm) to harass those who argue against them?

Let’s hope, for the sake of whoever Caroline has in mind, that authorities have more common sense than she does.

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52 responses to “Dobber preparing to waste police time to spite political opponents

  1. Apart from the fact that she’s trying to do it: it’s only intimidation if people take you seriously… >.<

  2. “Are the police there to fight crime, or are they a tool for the corporate copyright lobby (and its media arm) to harass those who argue against them?”

    Yes.

  3. Yeah what Barp said.

  4. As much as I loathe the “if you don’t have anything to hide …” argument, I’m not sure what the point is here.

    Jeremy, what are your views on downloading content against the wishes of their creators?

  5. snitch life eh… one wonders how much dobbing you’d need to do to make senior writer of a major newspaper…

  6. Shabadoo – my views on the present copyright regime are well-known. Of course creators should be paid for their work. There should also be a healthy public domain from which creators can draw.

    The present copyright system – with ever-increasing terms that the original designers of the concept would never have imagined – works against that.

    I also maintain that the criminal justice system should weight crimes appropriately – and a crime is not more serious because the “victim” is a corporation. Punishments for copyright infringement are well in excess of where they fit in the criminal scale.

    As for “if you don’t have anything to hide”… Shabadoo, all that means is that the police destroy more of your home, and keep your computers for longer, trying desperately to find something.

  7. I think the point is that an allegedly professional writer using a public platform to make childish threats is… what was the word Caroline used?

    Oh that’s write. Lame.

    Also, talk about hyper-defensive!

  8. Sorry but my understanding was that they were going after people, like the warehouse worker, for civil penalties — not criminal. Am I wrong?

    While justice should be meted out without fear or favour, I see in a lot of people — not you necessarily — an attitude that says, a la Homer, “It’s not wrong to steal if it’s from a big corporation”.

  9. It’s not MORE wrong to steal from a big corporation, which is what you’d believe if you saw the penalties they try to impose for copyright infringement.

    Which is not “stealing”, by the way. Copyright infringement and theft are completely different things, no matter how much the industry tries to mix them up.

  10. OK but aren’t you muddying the waters between criminal and civil?

    It would seem a natural strategy to sue someone who infringed my IP and sue them in a big way, pour encourager les autres. There can’t be this sort of grey market where someone produces X, which reflects a helluva lot of time and money and effort to produce it, and then some people buy it through normal channels, but then many more wind up picking it up for free. I mean, why pay for anything? Absent a controlling moral compass, it would seem the threat of beeing driven bankrupt would do it.

  11. “OK but aren’t you muddying the waters between criminal and civil?”

    No, that’s what they’ve done. And what the present Copyright Act does. Deliberately.

    I’ve never suggested there should be no copyrights – just that they should be much shorter in duration, there should be “fair use” exceptions (eg for archiving, criticism, derivative works), they should not enable the owner to arbitrarily discriminate between people based on the region in which they live (availability, price etc), and that the criminal punishments for violating them should be properly located in the criminal scale.

    Civil penalties are another thing – you have to prove actual loss and damage. The problem with the current system is that it helps the copyright industry jump over those hurdles unreasonably easily, and wrongly.

    Nintendo did not lose $5m from that bloke who uploaded Mario. It’s just bullshit – bullshit they’d never be able to prove in court, if the system wasn’t unjustly weighted towards them. Every pirated copy is not a lost sale.

  12. OK but in the Nintendo case, the product was not even on the market yet — so (a) no copyright clock could be said to have been ticking down and (b) the uniqueness of a hotly-anticipated product being available before official release would have driven more downloads from people clued in and who were likely customers. (Lots of products embargo their sales to certain dates to increase their cachet, cf. Beaujolais Nouveau).

  13. “…and then some people buy it through normal channels, but then many more wind up picking it up for free. I mean, why pay for anything? Absent a controlling moral compass, it would seem the threat of beeing driven bankrupt would do it.”

    Good point. Why pay for anything:

    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2010/02/journal-indications-of-open-source-economies.html#comments

    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2010/02/open-source-economies.html

  14. “Every pirated copy is not a lost sale.”

    True – many people pirate stuff they would never pay for normally. If they couldn’t pirate it they probably wouldn’t ever watch, listen to or use it.

    Some people tho, they pirate stuff and it inspires them to actually buy the pirated material.

    I remember taping a couple of songs from .. a lot of bands actually but the best one …

    Stiff little fingers, I had a few pirated songs of theirs in the early 80s, dunno if I taped them from the radio or a friend, but once I’d listened to them a few times I went shopping for their stuff.

    Even brought a CD of theirs a few years ago.

    Once upon a time everyone made mix tapes and taped their friends records and this was not an issue.

  15. Slightly different, because a game is a game, whereas a band can have a number of discrete songs: I might hear a track on the radio and then go buy a whole album, but I’m not sure the loss-leader principle works in the same way here.

    I think this whole open source thing is alright so far as it goes but it gets presented as a sort of perpetual motion machine — and your links’ use of the Spanish Civil War as an open-source conflict doesn’t really work. More a proxy war between the Soviets and Germany/Italy to my reading (Beevor’s excellenton the subject).

  16. Some people tho, they pirate stuff and it inspires them to actually buy the pirated material..

    This is similar to my experience, Napster rekindled my interest in music and I started buying CDs again.

    I already had a few SLF CDs though 😉 Did you catch them in Australia couple of years ago?

  17. I’m not saying Nintendo didn’t have a case against the guy uploading their game before it was released; but they should’ve had to prove in a reasonable way what their loss actually was.

  18. No.

    And now I’m spewing. I didn’t even know they had toured.

    I live in the bush and don’t really keep that up to date on … anything really. but especially gigs.

    (I missed so many in the last few years, the Pixies, Shane Macgowan, Mark Ramone, Radio birdman etc etc.)

  19. Jules the pixies are coming back next month – you can still get tickets (at a price) on ebay. Shane McGowan was your biggest loss there, even though he rarely made it through a gig. I suspect he’s only got worse. On the other hand, if you live anywhere near Canberra, this looks pretty good!

  20. An open source conflict is one where the fighting is outsourced.

    That was certainly the case in Spain which is why people like George Orwell went there to fight.

    A proxy war between other powers is often by definition an open source conflict because of the way the fighting is opened up to anyone who wants to take part.

    And in some ways open source economies are a perpetual motion machine. I think Robb gets his inspiration from particularly, PNG, where a gifting economy was sustained for thousands of years.

    Of course thats a simple way to look at it, cos resource allocation was also governed by a whole stack of cultural baggage, but the basic principle is the same.

    It has been applied to music and IP tho.

    Trent Reznor and Radiohead come to mind.

    “Slightly different, because a game is a game, whereas a band can have a number of discrete songs”

    Thats true I spose, but then I guess it comes back to this:

    “Nintendo did not lose $5m from that bloke who uploaded Mario. It’s just bullshit – bullshit they’d never be able to prove in court, if the system wasn’t unjustly weighted towards them. Every pirated copy is not a lost sale.”

    If I could find a copy of the original System Shock (’94) game on sale somewhere I’d buy it in a second. And I’d probably still steal it if I found it online tomorrow and my paid for copy wasn’t due to arrive for 3 days.

    This really is a distribution issue, and the major gaming, movie and music companies are all trying to maintain that distribution monopoly. Thats really what its all about.

    Their distribution models are obsolete, in an evolutionary sense, they are being weeded out by natural selection. This is more about a fight over who controls culture than whether people get paid fairly for what they create.

  21. Seen on a CD recently:

    Thank you for buying this music and for supporting the artists, songwriters, musicians and others who’ve created it and made it possible.
    Please remember that this recording and artwork are protected by copyright law. Since you don’t own the copyright, it’s not yours to distribute. Please don’t use Internet services that promote the illegal distribution of copyrighted music, give away illegal copies of discs or lend discs to others for copying. It’s hurting the artists who created the music…

    But this album (by a trio) was recorded in 1958. The musicians playing on it died in 1966, 1969 and 1995. Please tell me how I can hurt someone who’s been dead for more than forty years?

  22. thevoiceofreason

    Will Kevin Rudd ask Obama on his visit to hold a Royal commission into Goldman Sachs and Greeks debt? http://www.businessinsider.com/goldman-sachs-shorted-greek-debt-after-it-arranged-those-shady-swaps-2010-2

  23. Not a fucking chance tvor.

  24. Have we really degenerated to the point as a country where someone writing on a blog and criticising something like the extreme and anti-public copyright regime our government has adopted at the behest of US-based media companies like Caroline’s employer, might find themselves “dobbed in” and made a target for some sort of police raid?

    Just about.

    Would it matter that they did not have any “pirated” material at all, once their house had been trampled through and their computers confiscated for the duration of the search?

    Probably not.

    More importantly, would there be a consequence for the spiteful hack who wasted police time and resources for a personal vendetta, or would she be free to use the technique against someone else with whom she had a political argument?

    Pfft, of course not, and most likely yes, respectively.

  25. “… a crime is not more serious because the “victim” is a corporation.”

    Aren’t you arguing that it is less serious though?

    Stealing “My Sharona” from one hit wonders is more serious that stealing “Ruby Tuesday”?

    Because in the end, the corporation only exists to make money and the vehicle for making that money is the artist and without the corporation the artist can’t get his/her work to the market. And without getting a royalty from the corporation they can’t get paid at all for the work.

    If I Kazzar a $30 Kenny G CD then Kenny gets blot. If I buy it from JB then Kenny gets something.

  26. “Aren’t you arguing that it is less serious though?”

    No.

    “Stealing “My Sharona” from one hit wonders is more serious that stealing “Ruby Tuesday”?”

    Copyright infringement isn’t theft.

    “without the corporation the artist can’t get his/her work to the market.”

    Something that the internet is changing, and that the corporations are fighting hard.

  27. ““without the corporation the artist can’t get his/her work to the market.””

    That’s what the corporations want you to think, they’re business model is out of date, they know it, i know it, you apparently don’t.

    Recording, publishing and distribution used to be expensive, it isn’t anymore.

  28. I said it in the Down Under/Kookaburra thread at PP, Music Corporations (EMI etc) don’t care for the art they care solely about sales.

  29. I said it in the Down Under/Kookaburra thread at PP

    Hmm, maybe that thread was here???

  30. “… and without the corporation the artist can’t get his/her work to the market.”

    Thats garbage.

    A – the internet is changing that. (as Jeremy said) By providing a decentralised distribution network.

    B – I have plenty of CD’s in my collection, and used to have plenty of old tapes and vinyl, all produced and marketed independently by the artists themselves.

    I paid them cash for their art, no middlemen.

    Once upon a time this was how most musicians in Australia produced their music, they would press and produce their own vinyl or use one of the many independent melbourne record labels.

    Today you can record onto a computer mix the tracks and burn the result straight onto a disk.

    Then you can create your own artwork and print it out then you can take 50cds with you to your next gig and sell them for 10 or 15 bucks each.

    You don’t need a corporation to back you up.

    We don’t need corporations for anything. Tho they need us, cos every parasite needs a host.

  31. If I Kazzar a $30 Kenny G CD then Kenny gets blot. If I buy it from JB then Kenny gets something.

    Not necessarily.

  32. Copyright infringement isn’t theft?

    Last time I looked, taking something that you should pay for – without going to the trouble of – er – paying for it – is theft.

    In criminal law, isn’t theft the illegal taking of another person’s property without that person’s freely-given consent?

    If copyright is on something and you don’t observe it, haven’t you taken another person’s property without that person’s freely-given consent?

  33. No, Leo, it’s not theft. You haven’t “taken it” – they still have it. Theft requires an intention to deprive them of that property.

    I think the problem is using the word “property” in “intellectual property”. “Temporary Monopoly” would be more accurate.

  34. … taking something that you should pay for – without going to the trouble of – er – paying for it…

    Big record companies have been doing this for ever, screwing over the artists who actually produce the “property”. Creative accounting is the way these companies maximise their profits.
    Musicians actually getting a return from their first album is a fairly recent development and it’s only because they now front up with lawyers and accountants when they deal with the real pirates.

  35. “I think the problem is using the word “property” in “intellectual property”. “Temporary Monopoly” would be more accurate.”

    Yeah, its more about the right to access a created work. Intellectual Property is in some ways a poor use of language with some serious consequences.

    If you buy a CD, a DVD or a piece of software on disk you have brought an information storage device with appropriate packaging, and you have a right to use the the information thats already stored on that device – thats kind of assumed by the fact that you brought the thing based on its packaging.

    If you nick that disk you are taking the information and the physical property, the structure, the mass based object, and you are tried (and convicted if it comes to that) on the basis that you took the physical device, not that you listened to, or played or watched or used what was on it.

    Most legal definitions of theft, stealing or larceny refer to “taking or carrying away” property, with an intention to permanantly deprive access to that property to its rightful owner.

    If you flog a CD you take the actual property away, but you don’t actually deprive the owner of the information of that information. They still have access to it. They don’t have access to the copy of the information stored on the disk, but they licensed that right anyway, to the physical owner of the disk, who lost it when it was stolen.

    The thing about theft is that it seems to require two things, the unauthorised removal of something and the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it.

    Not that I’m repeating myself, or whats been said somewhere on this blog in the last few days. More than once.

    I’m not a lawyer or anything, although my old man was back in his day. So if I have got it wrong I’ll be happy to accept any correction.

    But thats my understanding of why copyright infringement isn’t theft.

    It certainly seems at odds with the impression major corporate IP monopolists are trying to impress upon the mediaverse.

  36. NO Jeremy if you are supposed to pay for the use of it, it is the money you didn’t pay that is stolen.
    If you were to abscond with your rent, the landlord still has possession of the house, yet you owe him a debt and not paying that debt deprives him of possession of the money you should pay him by law ergo it is theft, or the same as theft in any case.
    Do a runner on a taxi – theft.
    Do a runner on a hooker – theft.
    Sneak onto a train or a ferris wheel – theft.
    Yet all still have possession of their goods – or at least a “temporary monopoly” on its use.
    An artist, or the distributor of an artist’s works, has the right to expect to be paid for those works as long as those works belong to them. For anyone to seek to gain the use of those works without fulfilling a legal obligation to pay for their use, is no different to stealing the money that they should have paid. Especially where there are other, law abiding folk, willing to pay.

  37. “NO Jeremy if you are supposed to pay for the use of it, it is the money you didn’t pay that is stolen.”

    No, it isn’t.

    “If you were to abscond with your rent, the landlord still has possession of the house, yet you owe him a debt and not paying that debt deprives him of possession of the money you should pay him by law ergo it is theft, or the same as theft in any case.”

    No, that is not “theft”. Theft has a very clear legal meaning, and that’s not it.

    “Do a runner on a taxi – theft.
    Do a runner on a hooker – theft.
    Sneak onto a train or a ferris wheel – theft.”

    No. Different offences.

    “An artist, or the distributor of an artist’s works, has the right to expect to be paid for those works as long as those works belong to them. For anyone to seek to gain the use of those works without fulfilling a legal obligation to pay for their use, is no different to stealing the money that they should have paid.”

    Yes, it is. Distinctly different.

  38. From a comment on Larvatus Prodeo:

    Crimes Act 1958 – SECT 72

    Basic definition of theft

    72. Basic definition of theft

    (1) A person steals if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to
    another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

    He’s quoting the 1958 Crimes Act (Victoria)

  39. So the money that copyright infringers deprive the artist and distributors of is not permanently gone? They intend to some day give it back?

    Anyone who does an end run around paying a royalty to an artist for the use of his/her work dishonestly appropriates property?

  40. “So the money that copyright infringers deprive the artist and distributors of is not permanently gone?”

    It was never theirs.

    “Anyone who does an end run around paying a royalty to an artist for the use of his/her work dishonestly appropriates property?”

    What?

  41. Copyright and other forms of intellectual property are legal constructs which give people rights to exploit intangible things – particular arrangements of words, sounds, colours, shapes, lines, or particular ways of combining, making or organising things. If someone else exploits or reproduces such things they do not deprive the ‘owner’ of the use of such things.

    There may be a basis in natural law for saying that a person may not deprive another of possession of a physical object, but there is no such basis for saying that no other person may own a copy of that object or a like object.

    The only rational basis the state has for granting intellectual property rights is that such rights benefit the citizens as a whole. That would be as an aid to creativity and an incentive to share inventions and scientific discoveries.

    Unfortunately corporations grown fat on exploiting such legislative monopolies have disproportionate influence on legislators. The law seems to be constructed for their advantage, and needs reform.

  42. “So the money that copyright infringers deprive the artist and distributors of is not permanently gone?”

    It was never there to begin with sometimes.

    back in the Napster days I knew a guy who had 20 gig (that was heaps back then) of music om various drives, quite a lot from his own collection but alot from napster, heaps of it was music he would never buy, but cos it was there he downloaded it, wondering about it I spose.

    Thats one story, and I know anecdotes don’t mean alot, but that story is typical of many people from that time, especially all the young kids that used to do it.

    There’s a fair bit of “illegal downloading” thats done by people who would never spend the money on that product to begin with. They get it cos its information that is available at minimal cost, an invisible cost really (ISP fees are what I’m referring to). They think its free.

    They would never have actually spent the money on the products they have “stolen” in the first place.

    So ultimately they haven’t deprived anyone of any money cos it was never there to begin with.

    After Trent Reznor invited the world to steal his music at every opportunity and (supposedly) made his entire catalog available on torrent networks my wife got the lot. Yet she still goes out and buys his CDs every time a new one comes out…

    And if she’s quick enough and we have the cash she’ll probably jump in and buy one of special release things next time he does one as well.

    Musicians inspire loyalty in people if their music moves them.

    Despite the fact that it appears TR is prepared to give his music away I know of one person at least who’ll insist on buying it anyway. And judging by the speed his special edition stuff goes she isn’t the only one.

    OK he’s in a better position than someone who is just starting out as a muso so there is that…

    My whole point is the “artists miss out on money” meme is bullshit. Surprisingly often if people appreciate a piece of art enough they will make an effort to pay for it. I never thought that would happen, but it does.

    The whole file sharing movement happened in a way that no money changed hands, and many people got “content” they would never have bothered to pay for otherwise. Many people still payed for content after they had downloaded it.

    You might be able to make the argument about IP holders missing out on money if you talk about actual piracy – copying content for free and then selling it.

    Then its on stronger ground.

    I dunno if there is actually enough money in the world to pay for the real values of everything that was ever downloaded for free.

  43. What sb said.

    (What??? That can’t be right 🙂 )

  44. Skepticus Autartikus

    And then we had that dopey neurotic bint verballing Kevin Rudd in the Herald the other day about PhDs and babies. What is with our childless 30-something female journos?

  45. “It was never theirs.”
    That’s exactly the same as saying that the money you should have paid the cab driver after he drove you from Frankston to Sunbury was never his.

    The work is theirs. The money you should pay to use it is theirs too. If you don’t pay it then you are effectively taking something that isn’t yours and depriving the owner of his income. Effectively taking money from them.
    Only a lawyer or a thief {and few see a distinction in those two BTW} would argue that that is not a theft.

  46. Leo, do you think it’s the offence of “theft” when a corporation goes bankrupt owing creditors?

    It’s not, but on your definition it would be.

    Maybe we should change the dictionary and the statute books to whatever Leo wants them to say.

  47. im sure federal police will come busting down doors because of catherine’s amazing detective work.

    “FREEZE! Our twitter informant says you watched vampire diaries without HBO’s permission!”

  48. oops read her column again, apparently her name is caroline. apologies to any catherines out there, no offense intended

  49. “….do you think it’s the offence of “theft” when a corporation goes bankrupt owing creditors?”
    No. But it is an offence and if they know at the time of taking on the debt that their bankruptcy in iminent and that they have no capacity, or inded intention to repay that debt then the offence is the same as theft. Again I doubt that anyone except a Lawyer would seek to make the distinction.
    But Jeremy, if they are solvent and they don’t pay????? Then what?
    If you are downloading copyrighted material from the internet and you don’t have the capacity to pay, then your argument is still shakey, but I assume that most people who get free content from the internet, do indeed have the ability to pay for it. They simply deliberately choose not to. In most cases it is actually easier to get it and pay than go to the trouble to get it free.

    If Man A obtains something from Man B, for which Man B expects Man A to pay and Man A goes to conciderable lengths to avoid that payment, he has effectively committed a theft against Man B.
    Except for the carrying away of physical property and the intent to permanently deprive, this kind of copyright theft is very loke petty larcany.
    Lok at the elements of larcany Jeremy.

    a person must,

    1) without the consent of the owner,

    2) fraudulently and without claim of right made in good faith,

    3) take and carry away,

    4) anything capable of being stolen,

    5) with intent at the time of such taking permanently to deprive the owner of that property.

    I feel that I could make the argument for each of those points being totally or partly fulfilled by people downloading content from the internet.

    You keep the faith Jeremy and you keep on arguing that when you take an artists work without paying for it that you haven’t stolen it.

    The fact is that, as seen in the Down Under case, the courts suggest that the law says you can’t do that.

  50. “I feel that I could make the argument for each of those points being totally or partly fulfilled by people downloading content from the internet.”

    That’s because you’re an idiot. And “partly fulfilled” doesn’t equal an offence.

    “you keep on arguing that when you take an artists work without paying for it that you haven’t stolen it.”

    I never argued in favour of “taking artists’ work without paying for it”. It’s not “theft”, though.

    “The fact is that, as seen in the Down Under case, the courts suggest that the law says you can’t do that.”

    That was not analogous at all. It was also a stupid, wrong decision.

  51. So what you’re really suggesting is that we should change the statute books to whatever Jeremy wants them to say?

    Whatever Jeremy.
    The artist relies on you paying for it to derive a living. Morally there can be no question that you should be paying for it. The law says you should be paying for it. The artist expects that you should be paying for it. Yet you go to extensive measures to avoid paying for it.
    But its not stealing?

    And I do note that you’re argument has decended to abuse, so I’m going to simply remove myself from this before you blow a seal.

  52. “So what you’re really suggesting is that we should change the statute books to whatever Jeremy wants them to say?”

    I’m certainly saying the Copyright Act needs major reform, and the Down Under case highlighted one aspect of it – shorter terms, and fair use provisions.

    “Yet you go to extensive measures to avoid paying for it.”

    An utter lie. I said no such thing.

    “But its not stealing?”

    No, it wouldn’t be.

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