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April 22, 2004

FBI Raids Public Schools in AZ

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Posted by Jason Schultz

While the FBI has had trouble tracking down Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, they appear to have had no problem locating and raiding another group of alleged lawbreakers: public school childrencopyright infringers.

Federal agents in Phoenix and elsewhere in the country raided schools and other targets in a national crackdown on pirated music CDs and movies.

Agents poured through data and records at a computer command center for the Deer Valley School District in the northwest Valley and blocked the office from the public. It was among other places in Arizona and "quite a few other states" where sealed search warrants were served, the FBI said.

DOJ Press Release on the raids, which not surprisingly, doesn't mention that public schools children were amongst the targets.

Update: Alright, alright. I suppose my post was implying a bit too much. We don't know whether the target of the FBI raid was children or employees. But we do know that the FBI is expending significant tax dollars and public resources in these raids. While this isn't unusual in the context of commercial bootlegging, pre-release distribution and/or organized crime-related copyright infringement, it is unusual if the infringement is standard non-commercial community copying. It signifies quite a step up in scope of the FBIs efforts.

The real question is, what are the tradeoffs? Are there terrorist or other threats they could be investigating instead of busting warez pirates? What are the real costs of such a campaign?

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse


1. kevin on April 22, 2004 6:39 PM writes...

So here's a scenario:

What if an employee of the school district was using the Deer Valley computer command center to house 3 GB worth of movies and music?

Perhaps school children weren't the targets. Let wait to see what happens.

Permalink to Comment

2. AdamThomas on April 22, 2004 6:41 PM writes...

Are you a good cybercitizen?

Take this easy online test FOR KIDS!

remember, don't be a 'Joey'...

Test Yourself

"How can you convince your friends that copying software without permission is the same as stealing it?"

Permalink to Comment

3. Joseph Pietro Riolo on April 23, 2004 5:32 AM writes...

First, to correct your misunderstanding,
it is not FBI's responsibility to track
down Osama Bin Laden. That is CIA's or
military's responsibility.

Second, your analogy between terrorists
and illegal copies of copyrighted works
is not valid, although it is commonly
misused by authors and artists.

Finally, this deals with the illegal
copies of copyrighted works. What
is wrong with that?

Joseph Pietro Riolo

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
in this comment in the public domain.

Permalink to Comment

4. m on April 23, 2004 11:30 AM writes...

It's a question of fact whether the resources they expended on this were justified in the totality of the impact resulting from the operation. The FBI does have a role to play to ensure that levels of piracy and counterfeiting don't spiral out of control - they need to be seen (and to be actually doing!) their work.

The problem with the "standard non-commercial community" copying is that in aggregate, it is proving destructive. Levels of piracy less than 10% are "realistic", but when file sharing, wares groups and other online and enabled activities cause this figure to blow out to 40% (as it has been established) then it needs to be addressed. It's not just a matter of these small actions, it's a matter of the message that is being sent out: participate in any meaningful way in the distribution of wares, and you could be next.

Permalink to Comment

5. Paolo on April 23, 2004 12:44 PM writes...

> The problem with the "standard non-commercial
> community" copying is that in aggregate, it is
> proving destructive.

No, it's not. There is no conclusive evidence that it is even relevant, especially if you compare it with the wide market of non-internet-related piracy and duplication (look at the Asian market).

On the other hand, what I see as self-destructive is actually approving of repressive institutionalized fascism exemplified by the action above. When we were kids, we swapped on cassettes records we could not otherwise afford. We did not expect the FBI to barge in on that.

Permalink to Comment

6. Ernest Miller on April 23, 2004 1:11 PM writes...

There is no evidence of institutionalized fascism in this case. From reports it appears that the FBI is going after organized warez groups, not run-of-the-mill filesharers.

Permalink to Comment

7. AdamThomas on April 23, 2004 1:21 PM writes...

re Mr. Riolo's post

First, 'responsibility' is a nebulous term, but Bin Laden is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted site. This implies that he is of some interest. They also purport to "protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the criminal laws of the United States" (link)

Second, please specify why comparison is not valid. If you are arguing a distinction between civil and criminal law enforcement, please elaborate. I believe Jason's argument was that scarce funds should be directed to our most immediate threats.

Nothing is wrong with enforcement of copyright law - though the wisdom of various laws regarding IP is contentious. This was also a action taken on by the FBI most likely due to commerial influence (BSA, ESA, MPAA, RIAA), and could thus be criticized as taxpayer expenditure to subsidize a special interest (i.e. there was no public outcry of which I am aware demanding that the FBI - who has complained of thin budgets - use more of the resources at its disposal to enforce IP law)

Permalink to Comment

8. Joseph Pietro Riolo on April 23, 2004 8:40 PM writes...

In response to AdamThomas' comment:

As long as Osama Bin Laden is outside of the U.S.,
FBI will not spend all of its efforts in locating
him. Jason's complaint that FBI was wasting
its resources on illegal copy activities is
misplaced. FBI can't do anything with Bin
Laden but once he is in the U.S., FBI will
definitely mobilize all of its resources to
track down and capture him.

FBI has its own divisions that are responsible
for different things such as drug, robbery,
kidnap, murder, cybercrime, and terrorism.
It is obvious that each division receives
a certain amount of money. Some divisions
have more money than other divisions. That is
how FBI is able to use some of its resources
on different criminal activities.

I don't think that it costs too much for FBI to
raid these schools. It is much easier than
breaking child pornography ring.

It is natural to blame RIAA, MPAA, and others
for encouraging FBI to do such raids. But, the
authors and artists ultimately are responsible
because they encourage RIAA, MPAA, and others
to protect their interests.

Joseph Pietro Riolo

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
in this comment in the public domain.

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