14 May 2007

Civil Disobedience: When The Law Is An Ass

Disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales yesterday boasted to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about extraditing Aussie citizen Hew Griffiths:
Now, I don't have to tell anyone in this audience how important IP protection is to our economy and to preserving America's competitive position in the global marketplace...

While crimes like IP theft may appear harmless to some, we know that the reality is much different. Imagine a heart patient undergoing emergency surgery at a hospital that unknowingly purchased substandard counterfeit surgical equipment or medications...

A few weeks ago we had a milestone case of international cooperation on IP crime when Hew Raymond Griffiths of Australia pled guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Griffiths was the leader of one of the oldest and most renowned Internet piracy groups, called DrinkOrDie, and he was the first person ever to be extradited to the United States or online software piracy.

This criminal ring was estimated to have caused the illegal reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth of pirated software, movies, games and music. Griffiths boasted that he was beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

It took several years, and a lot of hard work by dedicated professionals, but we showed that just as the pirates and counterfeiters can operate beyond borders, so can we.
Will such US scare tactics work? Will making an example of individuals like Griffiths (who never profited from his endeavours) really stop the global tide in software pirating? Or will this be just another long, never-ending, politically-expedient "war" that soaks up taxpayer funds with little real hope of success?

This excellent SMH article by Dylan Bushell-embling provides more food for thought:
Thousands of global netizens have been deliberately violating the law by posting a decryption key all over the internet. The code is one of a number of keys which can be used to crack the Advanced Access Content System copy protection used by HD DVD and Blu-Ray discs.

Dr Matthew Rimmer, a senior lecturer at the Australian National University, said the risk of prosecution is slight, given the number of protesters...

The key and several others were uncovered by a poster at the forums of site Doom9.org in December. The key spread across the internet, including in multiple postings to social bookmarking site Digg.com.

The AACS licensing administrator began issuing cease-and-desist notices to a number of websites, including Digg. Digg began deleting posts containing the key earlier this month.

Incensed, Digg users posted the key in droves; for some time every single story on the front page had the code. Other protesters have joined the fray - a Google search for the key yields more than 1.6 million results.

Still, experts suggest there is safety in numbers in this case. "The Digg protest kind of reminds me of Grey Tuesday," Dr Rimmer said. On Grey Tuesday, hundreds of websites hosted DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album (a mash-up of the Beatles' White Album and rapper Jay-Z's Black Album) after record label EMI tried to prevent its circulation.

"The copyright owners were unable through legal means to stop such a mass civil disobedience," Dr Rimmer said.
The article provides the following links for more info:

- www.blog.digg.com/?p=74

- forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=121866

- www.badmouth.net/free-speech-flag

- www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9HaNbsIfp0