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Dear Justice Vasuki,

I am writing to you with concern about the recent developments after an order of yours was used by Copyright Labs as a tool to block access to large parts of the internet. I really appreciate your clarification issued to the ISPs that the order was intended to only block specific urls and not entire sites. However, I have some concerns, that I would like to share with you.

It is my view that the Madras High Court order from you was deliberately misused by Copyright Labs to block off entire areas of the internet. In your order, you have not mentioned any websites. These websites were added by the lawyer of Copyright Labs, Advocate L H Harish Ram in his notice to ISPs demanding entire websites be blocked. It also isn't a minor request, but a huge list of 272 websites that Copyright Labs invented seemingly of their own accord.

Some of these websites have "tamil" in their name, which means their readership is significantly Indian, so they for all intents and purposes were supposed to be wiped out, because they "could" pirate the film. Other sites with large and diverse utilities were added to this list. VIMEO, for example is largely a site for independent filmmakers. To see pirated content, you are supposed to go to youtube, which (surprise!) isn't on this list. Maybe because Google does have lawyers in India and a tendency to expose bullshit censorship attempts. VIMEO has a lot of documentaries, independent films, instruction videos for applications, portfolios of personal work and more. VIMEO also has paid subscriptions for people who want to post more video content than the free option. Indian users who may have paid for it got harmed by the actions of this notice, because their payment did not result in their clients seeing their videos and additionally gave them a bad name for being blocked by the laws of the country - for no fault of their own. And then the ridiculous. At least one website on that list is completely incapable of hosting video content at all - pastebin is strictly text. How can it possibly host their pirated content? As you see, this was an arbitrary misuse and misrepresentation of your words.

Legal jargon can be difficult to understand, and it is easy for a layman to be confused by it or misunderstand the meaning of an order. However, Copyright Labs is a business specifically for protecting copyrights. Unless they are spectacularly incompetent, it is unlikely they did not understand the difference between your order and how they used it. Additionally, when people protested the blocks, they issued statements directly lying about their actions and said that they had not asked for entire sites to be blocked. In my view, that totally demolishes any possibility that they did not know what they were doing. It is an alarming thing for a business to be built around protection of copyright that silences entire swathes of the internet countrywide.

Even if every single Tamil internet film watcher saw only internet-pirated versions of their films, how many would they be among total number of Indians impacted by this action? This is like killing everyone in a village so that any militants among them are dead too or worse, killing all kids in a school, because they *could* grow up to be militants.

The question here is what will you do? Will there be any action taken against entities that use court orders as weapons against the fundamental rights of citizens for the sake of profit? Or will they enjoy impunity and be free to take such gambles knowing that it is a business profit if it works, and no loss if it fails? If so, why wouldn't people with money to burn continue to try to pervert our justice system for fun and profit?  Merely restoring access to the sites in question - as the situation currently stands, in my view is like being ok with a thief simply returning stolen goods if caught.

I have some suggestions.

  • Why make protections for specific films? Is it ok to pirate the others?
  • When such protections are provided that impact millions of lay people, a layman's version should be provided, which may not be legally binding without the very specific legal jargon, but helps the common man understand what the court really means from a trustworthy source in normal language so there is no possibility for crooks to invent their own interpretations. Anyone interested in details or legal aspects can study the actual order document for the legally accountable version.
  • Deliberate misrepresentation of the court's words, particularly against the rights of citizens should be punishable.

I have the common man's idealistic vision of our courts. I want to see the hero put the bad guys in jail at the end of the film, not merely recover the loot and set them free to bully the bastiwalahs again.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Vidyut

AamJanata

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I have been following the exploits of Anonymous for a while now, and the question of Intellectual Property is one that keeps coming up, even though the Anons in Operation India categorically deny any support for piracy. Whatever the stand of Operation India is, I find the idea of intellectual property very dysfunctional.

Mankind has evolved on knowledge and innovation. "Intellectual property" is at the fundamentals of everything in life, from the right way to burp a baby to some important patent. It is existing knowledge that forms the foundation for future knowledge. The idea that some kinds of knowledge can be registered so that the effort and expense invested in them forms a kind of permanent hen laying golden eggs is a vast injustice to the abundance of life affirming knowledge all around. For that matter, could the people patenting their intellectual property afford to even sustain their effort, let alone profit from it if they were to pay intellectual property charges for the knowledge that is not registered and made private? From the rights to the recipe of tea served in their canteen to the use of language, numbers, smaller research that is now established practice making their work possible?

In my view, the idea that knowledge can be owned by a few and allowed use in return for monetary compensation is an exploitative one. Why should people be allowed to enrich their lives from thousands of years of evolving knowledge, but refuse to return their  contributions to the wild? What does it mean for our evolution as mankind, if the next step is forever private and requires people to keep inventing it or pay? What does it mean to ventures that are not commercially profitable to not have access to knowledge because they can't afford it? What does it mean to the divide between the rich and the poor, if elite discoveries are priced to forever be out of the reach of much of the population? To me, it seems like caging ideas is caging progress.

It is years now that I have  supported open source efforts and promoted them, so that access is not a bar for people. But this isn't about software alone. There are patents for life saving medicines that are priced way beyond the reach of those needing them.

There is art going out of reach. India as a country is special in the music that flows in its veins. Take any random Indian, and they are sure to have absorbed over hundreds of songs from just living - we have songs everywhere. From every film having songs, to children playing antakshari, to ceremonies and festivals being made more enjoyable with them. Our country is one where over 90% of the population lives on under one dollar a day. What does it mean for them to have the intellectual property of songs enforced? To lose legal access to one of the few joys available to them, because someone made that song?

Do a google search for images to put in a blog post, and you run into copyright infringement. Either make your own graphics and click your own photographs, or have a blog without images, because whoever heard of a blogger able to buy images for use?

Intellectual property defends itself as an investment that needs to be recovered. Yet, in reality it serves as a permanent asset often making millions of times the investment made in its creation. Think for example a song created for a film. The song maker got paid. The producer recovered expenses from the film, yet the song is intellectual property, seeking to squeeze money out of music lovers who can't make ends meet already. Who does such a concept serve and what is its purpose beyond creating money for those placed to claim ownership?

At the same time, it is true that many things cannot be created for free. Research investments need recovered. Efforts need compensated. Are there better ways to achieve this than caging creations and refusing free access to those who could gain from them? A few things come to mind.

  • The idea of a default of rights being restricted should be abolished. On the contrary, if there are costs that need recovered, then the registration should be applied for specifically.
  • The idea of forever being compensated should be dropped. Once the investment is recovered, continuing to "recover" it is absurd. Possibly recovering up to twice the investment makes sense as an incentive for investing in endeavors.
  • For life saving inventions governments or corporations should take on the investment in return for development of the country or for corporates, the profits from the fruits of it.
  • Where an investment is made, it makes sense to have an additional charge till it is recovered, which should be reversed when recovery is made.
  • Alternative ways of earning from the creation should be encouraged where possible. For example most open source software coders earn from services related to them - either customizing it or installing/trouble shooting.
  • The idea of having done something in the past being entitlement to earn from it forever without doing anything at all should be stopped.
  • Sure, some things will be exceptions - things that need continuing research and updates, for example.
  • However, this is about the money. Other rights, as to the creation being attributed correctly, for example, are important to uphold. Forever. Because it is that person's contribution to mankind.
  • The main goal should be to not restrict access to knowledge, or if any restrictions are needed for recovering investment, they should be minimal and monitored closely. So you may have a music album releasing for a certain price first, and then again at lower cost in a few months or year (depending on how it sells). Copying of the music itself should be free (remember you already earned from the film?)

A master carpenter works with as much skill as a musician. A sculptor works with as much dedicated attention and skill as a software coder. Yet he sells his chair or statue once. The musician being able to sell duplicates of his creation many times must not mean unequal financial compensation, if we expect tangibles to grow in our world as opposed to easily duplicated things. Why would a person want to earn once from his efforts if he can earn many times by doing something else? Does that mean shoes or grain is less important than a software? Or that life saving drugs should be available to only those who can afford them?

Unless we are able to look at income as a compensation for work as opposed to a payment for past work, we will never be able to overcome the divisive barriers between the haves and have nots. Worse, we will bring thousands of years of evolution to stagnation by narrowing access to further innovation.

In any case, piracy is thriving to extents where curbing it is  impossible without serious erosion of the rights of many innocents. It is time to use piracy and turn it into distribution and find more realistic ways of earning.

Note that these are thoughts, not well evaluated decisions and obviously many considerations will be important. The idea is to trigger thinking not promote one master fix.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT

Fight for the Future

Tiffiniy Cheng

Holmes Wilson

press@fightforthefuture.org

(614) 465-6371

(508) 474-5248

 

May 24, 2012

 

Internet Freedom Group Fight for the Future Responds to Google's Transparency Report

 

Google's latest transparency report reveals that copyright holders are taking down over 250,000 URL's*, more than the total for all of 2009.

 

Even more troubling, these numbers include cases where companies abused copyright to silence legitimate speech: criticism of their products, for example.

 

In 2011, Greenpeace uploaded a video to YouTube criticizing Nestle for its unfriendly environmental practices. Nestle lobbied to have the video removed on grounds of copyright infringement. [source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20000805-36.html]

 

"Copyright law is insanely out of date-- it's even illegal for kids to lip sync pop songs on Youtube." said Fight for the Future's Holmes Wilson, "Worse, we know there are many cases where companies have abused copyright law to silence legitimate criticism and political speech."

 

“Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (MCA) got sued days after his death for a sample he used decades ago," said Wilson,  "Today's young artists are more likely to live in fear of copyright law than think they will benefit from it-- and these are the people copyright was intended to support."

 

Examples of copyright holders overstepping their ownership online include cases like Brian Kamer, whose video was taken from YouTube, shown on The Jay Leno Show without his permission, and subsequently removed from YouTube with a copyright claim from Jay Leno’s parent company NBC Universal.

 

Kamer’s open letter to Jay Leno is currently going viral:

 

http://splitsider.com/2012/05/an-open-letter-to-jay-leno-about-stealing-my-video-and-then-getting-it-removed-from-youtube/