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January 13, 2005


1. Rafael Venegas on January 22, 2005 11:55 AM writes...

Well, Edward Meese III outdid Gates. Here are my comments about what Meese said.

On January 3, 2005, Mr. Edward Meese III published an article on THE frontier Foundation web site ( ) titled Copyright is Copyright is Copyright.

Being that Mr. Meese is a former Attorney General of the U.S. this article is a misleading disappointment. Clealy a paid assignment to attack P2P file sharing. Let us analyze what was said.

Mr Meese:
If John Adams and James Madison were alive … they also would be alarmed, I believe, to see ordinary citizens using this extraordinary technology in growing numbers to shoplift copyrighted intellectual property. The Founders possessed, after all, a keen understanding of the threat this type of theft poses to a free society.

The truth:
At the time of John Adams and James Madison the notion of a “free society” did not exist, except in the mind of some. After all it was a “slavery society”, not a “free society”. As to how it was that Adams and James Madison knew back then about p2p “shoplifting”, I am still thinking about that. Anyway, so much for nonsense.

Mr. Meese:
After some deliberation, our constitutional Framers signaled how important it was to protect intellectual property …. with a provision authorizing Congress to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts."

The truth:
Surely the framers never heard of the words “intellectual property”. This term only exists as a replacement for “author rights”, a bad sounding term to the copyright industry.

But Congress got it all wrong, backwards. To understand this point it is necessary ti read the article by John X: The copyright Funnel. In short, progress in the arts is actually stifled by laws that protect the copyright industry at the expense of the creators. The article can be read at The Copyright Dog blog:

Mr. Meese:
John Adams warned, "The moment an idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."

The truth:
Ideas are not even copyrightable. They are only patentable. So John Adams was not talking about copyrights. Looks to me that the insertion of patriotism and religion is made to convince the naïve.

Mr. Meese:
If thousands of books were stolen from libraries in a single day school and library officials would immediately put heavy-duty security systems into place.

The truth:
Mr. Meese has invented a new specie. The literary and intellectual thief. At least education is making progress.

Mr. Meese:
Department store owners, by the same token, would hardly sit still if thieves were making off with armfuls of expensive clothing and jewelry.

The truth is, there is no difference between shoplifting a DVD from a store and illegally downloading a copyrighted movie from KaZaa. Stealing intellectual property is just as wrong as the theft of "real" property.

The truth:
The comparison is absurd. Anyone (other than young children or mentally handicapped persons) who takes goods out of the store when no one is looking knows he or she is doing something wrong. Anyone downloading or sharing or copying a digital file has no way of knowing that something wrong is being done. When downloading a file, it can not be determine if the file has public domain material or if the author (or owner) approved of the downloading. I do not use the word legal or illegal here because only lawyers could possibly interpret the confusing copyright laws and jurisprudence laws. In the court the lawyers can never agree n the right interpretation of the laws, since that interpretation frequently depends on who is paying for the lawyer.

Mr. Meese:
Despite all the warning advertisements and the movie trailers ….. wholesale thievery is still taking place….

The truth:
A DVD says that you can get a $250,000 US dollar penalty for copying a DVD (in the privacy of your home using a legally purchased DVD copier and a legally purchased blank DVD). No wonder no ones believes the messages. But what is the industry to do? How about a little thinking? What did the scribes do when the printing press was invented? What did the musicians do when recordings wee invented? What did workers do when automation was invented? What did painters do when photography came along? What did radio do when television was invented? What did horses do when automobile was invented? What did bank tellers do when the ATM was invented? The answer is one: They adapted and survived and are now better of than before. Just like Darwin suggested: Adapt or disappear.

Mr. Meese:
So what is the victimized industry to do?

The truth:
Not hire people like Mr. Meese as consultant or lobbyist or spokesperson. He will steer the industry in the wrong direction just as he wants to do wit public opinion. Just adapt.

Mr. Meese:
The movie industry recently took a bold new step to change the "so what" attitudes of so many. By initiating lawsuits against individuals…..

The truth:
Mr. Meese is a lawyer. That is the only thing many lawyers know how do to solve any problem: Sue.

Mr. Meese:
Stealing is stealing, and it must stop.

The truth:
How about stopping overpriced entertainment tickets and CDs and DVDs.? Isn’t there a little stealing there too, particularly when the customer is a child or is flooded with buy-buy-buy publicity promoting lousy movies or music?

Mr. Meese:
The film industry alone provides 580,000 well-paying jobs.

But this awesome engine of economic growth is threatened by the explosive growth of high-tech petty theft…. movie industry losses will exceed a whopping $5.4 billion by 2005.

The truth:
Surely the “losses” are unearned additional profits. Mr. Meeses must be one of those that think war is good for the economy because it creates employment in the military industries. His economic theory is childish and misleads. If the people spend less on music or films, then the money not spent is diverted towards other industries and employment is created in those industries. Surely the money diverted from industries that pay ridiculously high salaries such as the movie industry to normal paying industries creates more employment. Marlon Brando was paid 15 million US dollars for 15 minutes of acting on one of his later films. In another industry 500 persons could be employed for a year based on an annual salary of 30,000 US dollars..

Mr. Meese:
If James Madison was right -- that "government is instituted to protect property of every sort," if this objective is "the end of government," and "that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own" -- then these movie studios are just doing what any potential theft victim would do.

They are protecting property that is rightfully theirs.

The truth:
When slavery ended, the slave owners did not disappear. They simply stopped having a type of property they formerly owned, human beings. As it turned out, the change did not place the former slave owners at an economic disadvantage, since the competitors lost the benefit of having cheap labor too. In the process they became better human beings. Movie makers will not disappear either. Maybe they will not be able to make as many bad or as expensive movies and maybe they will not be able to pay 15 million dollars for a few minutes work to an overpriced actor (the bill is passed to the consumer), but the art of filmmaking will survive just fine.

Clearly there must be concerned as to what effect the digitalization of art and documents will have on the people, the artists and businesses. However the concern should be for the greater beneficial effect on society, the people, then the creators (artists) and lastly on businesses, in the same order as given. Being concerned in the opposite order, businesses first, will only result in diminished benefits for society from the digital revolution.

Rafael Venegas

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