The dirty war against file sharing

October 3, 2013 · Filed Under Civil & Digital Rights, In Depth 
This entry is part of the series The industry vs. P2P

In Depth - A merciless lens pointed on the hot topics, passionate and detailed retrospectives, reflections beyond the appearances More than four years have passed since the last time Sir Arthur’s Den dealt with the war against digital “piracy” on P2P networks, and in these few years the clash between the contents industry, users and promoters of the aforementioned contents free sharing became worse and worse. The united lobby of MAFIAA (and ideal yet scary fusion of RIAA and MPAA) did its worst by asking for monstrous monetary compensations, by throwing the releasers in jail and by trying to affirm the idea that “crime” against copyright doesn’t pay anymore.

I am the Law (of Copyright)

Taking into account what happened during the last year or little more, RIAA’s (Recording Industry Association of America) frantic activity in fighting digital piracy leaves no doubt: even if funds from the music majors have plummeted, even if the organization’s confidential reports classify P2P as a second or third-class phenomenon compared to the wider issue of music piracy, when the lobby catches someone sharing copyright-protected files on-line the axe of the inflexible USA justice and its Copyright Act is dropped.

RIAA’s axe inevitably and loudly hit Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota woman at the center of the first case of digital piracy (Capitol v. Thomas) that ever came before a jury in American courts. After more than 5 years of trials, appeals and out-of-scale fines, the case closed at the entrance of the Supreme Court: the highest judiciary institution of the USA refused to hear Thomas-Rasset’s complains on the unconstitutionality of a 222,000 dollars fine for having shared 24 pop music songs on Kazaa, stating that repaying every single song with a sum equal to 10,000-times the files actual cost if perfectly in line with the constitutional principles of the American democracy.

MAFIAA

The Supreme Court denial will surely please the Obama administration which moved to defend the previous federal courts’ verdicts, and now Jammie Thomas-Rasset has very few alternatives to choose from: either she pays RIAA, or she goes bankrupt. A third possibility, ie that she got involved with the organization’s anti-P2P propaganda to get a discount on the fine, has been seemingly ruled out by the woman.

An even tougher sentence came this Summer for Joel Tenenbaum, another unlucky victim of RIAA’s crusade against file sharing users in the Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum case: the young student from Boston also turned to the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of a 675,000 dollars fine for 30 audio tracks shared on Kazaa, and also in his case the court confirmed the validity of a sentence that has finally been sealed by the recent decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Joel Tenenbaum will have to pay, the court decided, because a sum of $22.500 per file is perfectly in line with the justice system of the Great American Democracy.

Not that outside the United States things are going any better, when it comes to enforce the idea that nobody is safe from the On-line Copyright Police: in Finland, for instance, the CIAPC anti-piracy lobby isn’t shy of seizing the laptop of a 9-year old girl because of the download of a song by the singer Chisu. The child’s father - owner of the Internet connection through which the horrible download crime was perpetrated - was offered a mafioso-style compensation for 600 euros, and in the end the case was closed with the payment of half the sum requested by the majors.

If RIAA’s fight against music piracy is relentless, the deeds of MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are even worse as for the punishments demanded for whom shares and releases on-line the Hollywood studios film productions: a man from Maryland has been sentenced to pay 1.5 million dollars of “damages” after having shared 7 adult films on BitTorrent, while the members of the well-known BitTorrent releaser group IMAGiNE will have to spend 23 months, 40 months or even 5 years in jail.

IMAGiNE’s operations were dismantled by the FBI in 2011 after an MPAA investigation, and another case opened by the organization years ago could reach peaks of financial nonsense worthy of a science fiction tale: the BitTorrent search engine isoHunt lost its legal fight against the Hollywood lobby, and now MPAA pretends to be paid 750 million dollars for copyright infringement over 5.000 films. The new trial could essentially mark a life sentence for the isoHunt founder Gary Fung, considering that the organization lawyers vow to stalk the Canadian entrepreneur in the effort to collect the largest compensation they can.

Censorship and threats

Resounding cases like the Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum ones are however destined to never happen again in the future, because the contents industry radically changed its strategy and instead of bringing the end users in court it is now focused on hitting the on-line piracy middlemen. One of the (new) tools employed by the majors to fight unauthorized downloads is blocking access to “pirate” web sites through judiciary orders, with the aforementioned isoHunt to serve once again as an example in Italy as a consequence of the FIMI actions (Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana).

Gary Fung’s portal is just the latest victim of a pretty popular censorship activity in the Italian courts, while in the United Kingdom MPA (MPAA’s international arm) and the local FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) forced the ISPs to censor proxy sites useful to access TV torrent portals. In Germany the authorities (and Universal Music Group) shot down H33t - which is however striking back - while where censorship isn’t enough intimidation is what is needed to put the well-known retrogaming private tracker Underground Gamer off-line.

The Underground Gamer staff vows its users - myself included - to come back to life, but the censorship action by the anti-piracy industry has thousand tentacles and the largest and most frequently used one is named DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act): the “takedown requests” tool provided by the aforementioned American law obliges Google to block tens of millions of “illegal” URLs on direct request by RIAA, BPI (British Recording Music Industry) and others, even though the advertising giant has so far refused to completely remove “pirate” sites from web search results and the Pirate Bay homepage like BPI wanted.

RIAA is

Takedown requests sent on behalf of giant corporations are often full of mistakes with embarrassing consequences, nonetheless Google goes on listening the majors’ wishes by tweaking its software algorithms as recently confirmed by an anonymous “G-man”. And yet all this isn’t enough, for RIAA the Mountain View cooperation in anti-piracy function is never enough and the organization CEO Cary Sherman demands the installation of browser filters, payments blocking and overall an even wider censorship extended to every level against sites promoting “illegal” contents.

According to MPAA Google must realize its own “responsibility” in (unintentionally) promoting the aforesaid pirate contents to users, hence the corporation must “step up its efforts to protect creators and innovators from having their content literally hijacked for mass distribution without permission or compensation“. All things considered, the final result of the censorship efforts by the industry - and of the NSA cloud techno control-fueled paranoia - is a growing interest for VPN providers among end users.

  1. Convicted and censored
  2. The Hydra against the MAFIAA
  3. View all

Series Navigation«Italy is ready for its own three strike lawSnapshots from the war against peer-to-peer»
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