of civil-against-criminal? department
Well, there we are. Remember how a few months ago we noted how strange it was that the Justice Department (which, of course, employs many former RIAA / MPAA / BSA lawyers) appointed a group of special work to combat copyright infringement? After all, copyright infringement is primarily a civil matter, between two private parties. For years, however, the entertainment industry has worked hard to convince the government to act as its own private police force, and following a totally one-sided “summit” with Joe Biden (who recently claimed that offense is no different than having a crush and seize at Tiffany’s), suddenly the authorities set up a special task force on intellectual property … at the same time as it lowered the priority of crimes that cause real harm, like identity theft.
Now, it seems law enforcement isn’t even trying to hide the fact that they’re getting orders from Hollywood. Dark Helmet brings us the news that Homeland Security proudly announced raids on nine different movie sites, which they accuse of violating copyright. But what’s most interesting is where the announcements regarding these raids took place: at disney. And who else was there on stage? Execs from other studios. Yes, Homeland Security doesn’t even try to make the slightest effort to hide the fact that it is now working for corporate interests. It will announce the legal activity of the companies that will benefit the most from such activity.
Imagine if the FTC announced plans to charge Google with antitrust from Microsoft’s offices? With executives from Yahoo and Apple on stage. Wouldn’t people cry foul?
Not only that, but the guy in charge of the raids openly admits that it’s now a internal security priority to protect the interests of film studios:
The head of the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], John Morton, says the number of illegal movie sites is increasing dramatically in the United States and abroad, and that organized crime is behind some of them. ICE puts film piracy at the center of this new initiative, by taking its first steps to protect the intellectual property of film studios.
what customs have to do with a domestic dispute over civil copyright infringement? And why are Homeland Security officials so closely associated with a few Hollywood studios that they not only protect their business models, but also advertise these efforts from the studios’ own offices?
I don’t know anything about those sites that have been closed. I’ve never heard of them, but there are nine out of the hundreds, if not thousands. It won’t do anything to actually help Disney or those other studios. Users will quickly move elsewhere. The content will always be published just as quickly.
Claims that these sites were run by “organized crime” might very well be true, but I would like to see real evidence on this. It’s a common refrain in the industry, but no real evidence has been presented. At best, they have shown that some DVD counterfeiting operations have mob connections, but they are not the same. Note that in the ad, no actual evidence of links to organized crime was provided.
In a separate article, US Prosecutor Preet Bharara reportedly said the government took these steps because “copyright infringement results in job losses.” Never mind that the GAO just pointed out that such claims are highly questionable (above all those in the MPAA – who will not provide their methodology), this raises a very serious question about government interference in private markets. The role of government is not to protect industries from job losses. It never has been. Otherwise, he would have “raided” automakers for making horse-drawn strollers obsolete. There is no legal basis for using this as a justification, and it really is a very troubling claim.
All of this appears to be a blatant abuse of government resources to protect a few movie studios, which are unwilling to adapt to a changing market. People should be outraged by such abuse of government power, but because these are “pirate” sites, everyone will look away.
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Filed Under: copyright, government, homeland security, movies