Disturbing online copyright enforcement tactics from SOCA

The Serious Organised Crime Agency, having (apparently) solved and abolished all human trafficking, major gun crime, and industrial-scale money laundering, had some time on their hands. So, of course, they have started set about policing copyright infringement and taking down websites they suspected of distributing copyrighted music.

The use of one of the most powerful law enforcement agencies in the country to enforce a civil matter is worrying: probably unlawful function creep that suggests, with the most benign interpretation, that their boss (one Theresa May MP) isn’t exercising proper oversight.

The tactics they used were even worse. The SOCA notification page suggests that they are monitoring anyone who visited a particular website and recording their personal details, and that anyone who had used the site to download songs would be liable to ten years imprisonment. Ten years in the slammer for downloading some R&B music.

Note also that SOCA, a Government agency, repeats verbatim a line from the music recording industry’s PR people: that “as a result of music downloads, emerging artists have had their careers damaged. If you have illegally downloaded music you have damaged the future of the music industry.”

And the damage that an illegal music download can do is worth ten years in chokey.

Well really.

Let’s look at sentencing guidelines to see what you can get caught doing and get less than ten years in prison.

You can commit grievous bodily harm. You can commit an unlawful wounding. You can assault someone occasioning actual harm. In fact, if you assault someone you’ll probably get a community order, 6 months in a cell at most. Attempted murder can net you less than 10 years if you fail to actually hurt the victim. You can actually kill someone while driving that involved a deliberate decision to ignore (or a flagrant disregard for) the rules of the road and an apparent disregard for the great danger being caused to others AND GET LESS THAN TEN YEARS.

So according to SOCA, downloading an MP3 is worse than wounding someone with a knife or running them over and killing them.

Downloading a song is apparently worse than committing cruelty to a child of the most serious sort. Beating up a kid will get you two years at most.

You can even rape someone and it be judicially better than downloading a song, if you avoid actual penile penetration of your victim. Bonanza.

Maybe you feel like robbing someone by threatening them with a weapon or by using force so as to actually injure them during the course of the robbery? Less than ten years.

You can successfully carry out an aggravated burglary. You can raid a house wielding a knife, traumatise and steal from its inhabitants, and get significantly less than ten years imprisonment.

Which is to say that you can actually break into the house of an “emerging artist”, threaten them with a knife and rough them up a bit, then steal all their CDs, instruments, and recording equipment, and be treated, in sentencing terms, less harshly than if you downloaded one of their songs from a website.

I’d say that the British criminal justice system had its priorities wrong if SOCA’s claim was true… which, of course, it’s not.

Which makes me wonder… what are the sentencing guidelines for an officer of the law making outlandish threats and lying to the public during the course of his duties?

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm  Comments (2)  

Cory Doctorow: copyright wars are just the first salvo in a fundamental fight

An important lesson from Cory Doctorow on what the coming war on general purpose computation. The attempts by industry to censor the internet and control our computing devices are just the first salvo in a century-long conflict.

The stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.

I particularly like his upbeat ending:

“We’ve spent the last ten years sending our best players out to fight what we thought was the final boss at the end of the game, but it turns out it’s just been the mini-boss at the end of the level… but like all good level designers, fate has sent us a soft target to train ourselves on.”

Published in: on January 4, 2012 at 12:49 am  Comments (1)  

Lib Dem villains of the month: Bob Russell and Mike Hancock

I’m pretty sure that no Liberal Democrat members volunteered time and money to put people into Parliament so that they could join notorious crook/idiot Keith Vaz MP in trying to ban computer games

But this month Bob Russell and Mike Hancock co-sponsored an EDM essentially calling for a ban on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, which is to say a ban on letting adults choose how they entertain themselves.

It’s hard to tell why they would do this. Maybe there was a splash about it in the Daily Mail or something. Maybe Hancock is concerned that the game portrays Russian spies in a bad light, just when he’s trying to rehabilitate their reputation as sexy secretaries rather than gun-toting fiends.

Of course this is nothing more than an EDM, the most pointless of Parliamentary documents, written by a dumbass and essentially signifying nothing, but as Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee Croshaw put it, if someone who wants to legislate the censorship of arts and culture gets elected, then the next thing you know you’re picking jackboots out of your teeth.

It’s worth remembering that politicians all over the world, even those who call themselves Liberals, are gagging to regulate culture, and may one day require an organised response – such as the Video Game Voters Network in the USA.

In the meantime, though, it would be nice if some liberal Liberal Democrats could sign up to Tom Watson’s anti-censorship amendment to the motion, just to counterbalance the embarrassing actions of Bob and Mike. Julian Huppert to the rescue?

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm  Comments (3)