Commentary Forum Right, 2/7/12

The Copyright Police State

by Mark Luedtke

For six months, many internet users were monitoring and informing everybody they could reach about SOPA and PIPA. The Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) was a draconian House bill that would have given the feds terrible powers to attack the owners of websites ostensibly to combat piracy of copyrighted material. PIPA was the Senate version.

Despite this overwhelmingly negative response from the people, both bills, pushed by giant movie and record corporations, were smoothly sailing to become law. These plutocrats paid big money to Congress-crooks to purchase this legislation. Then a funny thing happened: internet giants revolted. Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and dozens of other popular websites blacked themselves out, informed visitors of the dangers of SOPA and PIPA and provided contact information for Representatives. Concerned citizens crashed the email and phone services in the Capitol, and by the end of the day, both bills were dead. The upstart rebels feel flush with power after destroying the copyright Death Star.

But the empire will strike back. Government hates free speech for good reason. As Murray Rothbard explained in Anatomyof the State, “The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society … The State has never been created by a ‘social contract’; it has always been born in conquest and exploitation. There are only two ways to obtain wealth; through production or predation. The government doesn’t want the people to realize it’s a predatory institution – a super-mafia – and can never be anything else.”

You can find Rothbard’s essay, others like it and entire books on economics and liberty for free at mises.org. This is unprecedented in history. Because the internet provides unlimited access to this kind of free information, governments have been working overtime to seize control over it since it was created. Last year the US Congress entertained multiple bills to seize control of the internet including one giving the president a kill switch to arbitrarily shut down the internet under the guise of national security. As Mac Salvo wrote, “SOPA was an attempt to put the power of information back in the hands of an elite few who are rapidly losing the ability to control what the masses are reading, hearing and seeing. Alternative news and ‘extremist’ information was the target (and still is).”

But even as the rebels were destroying the Death Star in Washington, the empire reached around the world to Hong Kong and New Zealand and snuffed out Megaupload Limited, claiming it was dedicated to copyright infringement, and arrested its owner. The data of customers of megaupload.com remains in limbo. This would be like the government shutting down a bank and seizing all the bank accounts because it claimed that criminals sometimes saved money there. Your money may or may not be lost.

This police state attack in the name of copyright enforcement was clearly intended as a threat. Government is using copyright as an excuse to shut down speech it doesn’t like and to intimidate internet companies. Government is god over corporations. It creates them, destroys them and raises them from the dead with the stroke of a pen. You can bet Google and Facebook will think twice before organizing their customers against government’s agenda again.

Corrupt Chris Dodd, the senator from Countrywide turned chief lobbyist for the Hollywood plutocrats, hinted at the empires revenge, “It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on [these sites] for information and use their services,” Dodd wrote. “It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.” Congress will force the executives of these companies into Congressional show trials to demonize them soon. Then the empire will pass something much like SOPA either quietly or in a fervor related to some phony national security concern.

But Americans shouldn’t be surprised that the government uses copyright to quash speech it doesn’t like. The purpose of copyright from its inception was to give governments control over information. Copyright is not a grant of rights as supporters pretend. It’s a grant of monopoly privilege that makes the producer’s profits beholden to the government. Copyright is a ban on everybody else from sharing information. The same is true for patents and all so-called intellectual property (IP). Government doesn’t fight monopolies. It creates them to control producers.

Copying is not stealing. If you took my bicycle, I wouldn’t have a bicycle anymore. That’s stealing. But if you copy my article, I still have my copy. That’s not stealing. Contrary to the assertion in the forum center, piracy doesn’t cost anything. IP costs consumers billions every year by transferring wealth from consumers to producers, and by hindering the exchange of ideas, impedes the advance of civilization. IP is corporate welfare for the purpose of corporate control.

People are using the internet to expose the fraud of government, and those predatory dinosaurs will do everything in their power to stop them. Fortunately smart people are designing a decentralized internet that can resist government control.

Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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